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Journalism

  • We do not precisely enjoy liberty at the Figaro. M. de Latouche, our worthy director (ah! you should know the fellow), is always hanging over us, cutting, pruning, right or wrong, imposing upon us his whims, his aberrations, his fancies, and we have to write as he bids ...

    • George Sand,
    • 1831, in Raphaël Ledos de Beaufort, ed., Letters of George Sand, vol. 1 ()
  • I've heard it said that the first law of journalism is to confirm existing prejudice, rather than contradict it.

  • ... fact that is fact every day is not news; it's truth. We report news, not truth.

  • When there is good news, and it is news, we do report it, but usually news is a record of human failure. Those wanting to celebrate human accomplishment are, as someone said, advised to go to the sports section.

  • Some of the qualities that go into making a good reporter — aggressiveness, a certain sneakiness, a secretive nature, nosiness, the ability to find out that which someone wants hidden, the inability to take 'no' with any sort of grace, a taste for gossip, rudeness, a fair disdain for what people will think of you and an occasional and calculated disregard for rules — are also qualities that go into making a very antisocial human being.

  • ... I always warn aspiring reporters to observe three basic rules: 1. Never trust an editor. 2. Never trust an editor. 3. Never trust an editor.

  • ... the heaviest restriction upon the freedom of public opinion is not the official censorship of the Press, but the unofficial censorship by a Press which exists not so much to express opinion as to manufacture it.

  • News is like food; it is the cooking and serving that makes it acceptable, not the material itself.

    • Rose Macaulay,
    • "Problems of a Journalist's Life," A Casual Commentary ()
  • It is very difficult to have a free, fair and honest press anywhere in the world. In the first place, as a rule, papers are largely supported by advertising, and that immediately gives the advertisers a certain hold over the medium which they use.

  • Never joke with the press. Irony does not translate into newsprint.

  • ... the whole point of muck-raking, apart from all the jokes, is to try to do something about what you've been writing about. You may not be able to change the world but at least you can embarrass the guilty.

  • I often plagiarize from myself. I like to think of this as ecological journalism: I recycle.

  • ... the purpose of journalism is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

  • [On journalists:] They are as disruptive a menace to the public body: as grating turds in the intestines are to the private body.

  • [On journalists:] They are the scavengers of society who, possessing no guts of their own, tear out the guts of celebrities. They have the sycophantic, false enthusing gush of maiden aunts: who are accustomed to being trampled on doormats.

  • [On journalists:] ... however lyingly libellous they may be: nobody can seriously hurt the reputation of a Great person. If he is hurt: he is not Great. They can but scratch at his skin with their mice nails.

  • ... the systematic abuse with which the newspapers of one side assail every candidate coming forward on the other, is the cause of many honorable men, who have a regard to their reputation, being deterred from entering public life; and of the people being thus deprived of some better servants than any they have.

  • But that is journalism — an ability to meet the challenge of filling space.

  • Being a reporter is as much a diagnosis as a job description. It is a strange business, making a living off other people's misfortunes, standing in the rubble with a press card as a nominal shield, writing in a crabbed hand notes no one else can read, riding an adrenaline surge that ends in a product at once flimsy and influential.

  • The fact of being reported increases the apparent extent of a deplorable development by a factor of ten.

  • The Press wants facts, but it don't want plain facts. It wants facts viewed through the medium of imagination. ... You take a handful of dry stones ... and put them at the bottom of a stream and let the water run over them, and what have you got? They're still facts — you're not going to deny that. They're just as much facts as they were when you'd got them dry in your hand — but you're not yawning over them any more — they're not dry any more — they're a handful of jewels — they've got light and color, and movement — the water's made them come alive. Well, that's what imagination does to facts — it makes them come alive. And the Press wants live facts — not dead ones that are going to make people yawn their heads off.

  • Truth is the hardest substance in the world to pin down. But the one certainty is the awesome penalty exacted sooner or later from a society whose reporters stop trying.

    • Flora Lewis,
    • in Julia Edwards, Women of the World: The Great Foreign Correspondents ()
  • Working as a journalist is exactly like being a wallflower at an orgy.

  • [To the editor of the Harlan, Kentucky, Daily Enterprise, as a kindergartener:] I know everything that goes on in this town, and if you give me a job so will you.

    • Maxine Cheshire,
    • in Maxine Cheshire, with John Greenya, Maxine Cheshire, Reporter ()
  • Journalism at its best and most effective is education. Apparently people would not learn for themselves, nor from others.

  • In today's amphetamine world of news junkies, speed trumps thoughtfulness too often.

  • In journalism there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right.

  • On television, journalists now routinely appear on talk-shows-with-an-attitude where they are encouraged to say what they think about something they may not have finished thinking about.

  • The only thing which can keep journalism alive — journalism, which is born of the moment, serves the moment, and, as a rule, dies with the moment — is — again the Stevensonian secret! — charm.

  • I learned early in life not to judge others. We outcasts are very happy and content to leave that job to our social superiors.

    • Ethel Waters,
    • in Ethel Waters with Charles Samuels, His Eye Is on the Sparrow ()
  • The Press nowadays is not a literary press; classic diction and brilliancy of style do not distinguish it by any means.

  • Angry and frustrated, the journalists set about making bricks without straw ...

  • Journalism encourages haste ... and haste is the enemy of art.

  • The tragedy of journalism lies in its impermanence; the very topicality which gives it brilliance condemns it to an early death. Too often it is a process of flinging bright balloons in the path of the hurricane, a casting of priceless petals upon the rushing surface of a stream.

  • Scribblers for newspapers don't always tell the truth.

  • [On the press:] I love working with children, and I have learned to be very patient with them.

  • Gathering news in Russia was like mining coal with a hat pin.

  • The Press blew, the public stared, hands flew out like a million little fishes after bread.

  • Dead news like dead love has no phoenix in its ashes.

  • ... writing had to take the form of journalism. Not for me the Shangri-la of fiction. The rewards, if any, would have been too little and too late, the bailiffs were at the door. ... Two large bailiffs, they were, who visited frequently and smiled like grand pianos, the only really reliable men in my life. They told me what they were going to do and if they did it, woe was me.

    • Jill Tweedie,
    • "Strange Places," in Michelene Wandor, ed., On Gender and Writing ()
  • ... the press is too often a distorting mirror, which deforms the people and events it represents, making them seem bigger or smaller than they really are.

  • No journalist of any standing will talk about his work or his standards without dropping the word 'objective' about fifty times ... I don't delude myself into thinking there must be some such thing as 'a fair representation of both sides of an issue.' The New York Times has just as much of a bias as, say, the Evergreen Review — it's just a more universally accepted bias.

    • Anne Zill,
    • in Joyce Teitz, What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? ()
  • ... perseverance and pull, the two essential P's in the alphabet of life of a budding reporter ...

  • Fidelity to the subject's thought and to his characteristic way of expressing himself is the sine qua non of journalistic quotation.

  • Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.

  • Among all the complaints you hear these days about the crimes of the media, it seems to me the critics miss the big one. It is that especially TV, but also we of the print press, tend to reduce mess and complexity and ambiguity to a simple story line that doesn't reflect reality so much as it distorts it. ... What bothers me about the journalistic tendency to reduce unmanageable reality to self-contained, movielike little dramas is not just that we falsify when we do this. It is also that we really miss the good story.

  • Journalism is an extraordinary and terrible privilege. Not by chance, if you are aware of it, does it consume you with a hundred feelings of inadequacy. Not by chance, when I find myself going through an event or an important encounter, does it seize me like anguish, a fear of not having enough eyes and enough ears and enough brains to look and listen and understand like a worm hidden in the wood of history.

  • Today's history is written the very moment it happens. ... For this reason I like journalism. For this reason I fear journalism.

  • Journalism combines adventure with culture.

  • Being a journalist seemed the ideal way of both having a job and experiencing the world, especially for anyone with a sense of adventure.

  • The life of the journalist is poor, nasty, brutish and short. So is his style.

  • I see journalists as the manual workers, the laborers of the word. Journalism can only be literature when it is passionate.

  • Journalism without a moral position is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist. It's absolutely unavoidable. A journalist is someone who looks at the world and the way it works, someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees, someone who represents the world, the event, for others. She cannot do her work without judging what she sees.

  • The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don't print matter a lot.

  • We live in a dirty and dangerous world! There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't. I believe the democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.

    • Katharine Graham,
    • in Doug Henwood, "The Washington Post: The Establishment's Paper," Extra ()
  • It is grievous to read the papers in most respects, I agree. More and more I skim the headlines only, for one can be sure what is carried beneath them quite automatically, if one has long been a reader of the press journalism.

  • In a nation of people increasingly informed by talk show rant on the right and the left, facts are incinerated in a blaze of rumor and accusation. If the accumulated charges burn brightly enough, the resulting smoke obscures any real truths. Lost in the haze of left- and right-wing polemics is real journalism. As the line between reporting and opinion becomes blurred, so do the definitions that used to be the touchstones of my profession. ... And with the proliferation of so many broadcast channels and twenty-four-hour cable news, individual programs can differentiate themselves only by being edgier than the competition. The morphing of television interview programs into verbal food fights is now nearly universal. For an anxious nation in a post-9/11 world, the media have become an echo chamber, reinforcing our misconceptions and exaggerating our differences, real and imagined.

  • ... journalism was for me more than a business or a profession. It was a way of living, of experiencing the world even as I instantly distanced myself from it, in order to recreate what I'd witnessed for the public.

  • What the reporters are like! They are mad with excitement at the thought of my approaching demise. Kind Sister Farquhar, my nurse, spends much of her time in throwing them downstairs. But one got in the other day, and asked me if I mind the fact that I must die.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1962, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • [On journalists:] We are a noisy, imperfect lot, struggling to scribble what has been called the first draft of history.

    • Maureen Dowd,
    • "Raffish and Rowdy," in Ladies' Home Journal ()
  • A friendship between reporter and source lasts only until it is profitable for one to betray the other.

    • Maureen Dowd,
    • "On Washington; Thou Shalt Not Leave a Paper Trail," in The New York Times ()
  • In Czechoslovakia there is no such thing as freedom of the press. In the United States there is no such thing as freedom from the press.

  • [To the colonel who said the 'young lady' must leave the war front because there might be trouble:] I wouldn't be here if there were no trouble. Trouble is news, and the gathering of news is my job.

  • All reporters have a stripe of irreverence in their mental makeup. It usually keeps them from turning into toadies, a danger for those who associate, even in an adversarial way, with the rich and powerful.

  • We go to remote war zones to report what is happening. The public have a right to know what our government, and our armed forces, are doing in our name. Our mission is to speak the truth to power. We send home that first rough draft of history.