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In America, the President reigns for four years, and journalism governs for ever and ever. ~Oscar Wilde

Journalism is the discipline of gathering, writing and reporting news, and broadly it includes the process of editing and presenting the news articles. Journalism applies to various media, but is not limited to newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. While under pressure to be the first to publish its stories, each news media organization adheres to its own standards of accuracy, quality, and style — usually editing and proofreading its reports prior to publication. Many news organizations claim proud traditions of holding government officials and institutions accountable to the public, while media critics have raised questions on the accountability of the press. The word journalism is taken from the French journal which in turn comes from the Latin diurnal or daily. The Acta Diurna, a handwritten bulletin, was put up daily in the Forum, the main public square in ancient Rome, and was the world's first newspaper.

Going to where the silence is. That is the responsibility of a journalist: giving a voice to those who have been forgotten, forsaken, and beaten down by the powerful. ~Amy Goodman

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We are creating a space behind us that permits a form of journalism which lives up to the name that journalism has always tried to establish for itself. We are creating that space because we are taking on the criticism that comes from robust exposure of powerful groups. ~Julian Assange
Great is journalism. Is not every able editor a ruler of the world, being the persuader of it? ~Thomas Carlyle
  • Anonymous leaking is an ancient art and many websites publish documents from sources they cannot identify. What Wikileaks has done is to professionalise the operation. They have created a standard procedure for receiving, processing and publishing leaks.
    • Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' (FAS) Project on Government Secrecy — reported in Marks, Paul (May 10, 2008). "A fail-safe way to embarrass people in high places: Whistle-blowers can tell all without being traced, thanks to websites that anonymise their details". New Scientist (Reed Business Information): p. 28, Volume 198; Issue 2655. 
  • My work as a journalist has been fundamental in my literary creations. Journalism taught me to know and love words, the tools of my trade, the material of my craft. Journalism taught me to search for truth and to try to be objective, how to capture the reader and to hold him firmly and not let him escape. It taught me to synthesize ideas and to be precise about events. And above all, it rid me of any fear of the blank page.
    • 1984 interview included in Conversations with Isabel Allende (1999), translated from the Spanish by Cola Franzen
  • Under established First Amendment law, prior restraints, if constitutional at all, are permissible only in the most extraordinary circumstances. In this case, you have court orders that effectively shut down a Web site that has been at the forefront of exposing corruption in governments and corporations around the world and enjoin anyone who reads the order from publishing or even linking to the documents.


  • Experience has shown, contrary to general expectation, that newspapers are one of the best means of directing opinion—of quieting feverish movements—of causing the lies and artificial rumours, by which the enemies of the state may attempt to carry on their evil designs, to vanish. In these public papers, instruction may descend from the government to the people, or ascend from the people to the government: the greater the freedom allowed, the more correctly may a judgment be formed upon the course of opinion—with so much the greater certainty will it act.
    • Jeremy Bentham, Principles of Penal Law; part III, "Of Indirect Methods of Preventing Crimes"; ch. XIX, "Uses to be drawn from from the power of Instruction". Google Books
  • You go all over America and you see small papers that do really good jobs in their communities of reporting. The modern New York Times, the modern Washington Post, the modern Wall Street Journal are better papers than they were at the time of Watergate in most respects. But if you look at the rest of the field, … real news based on the best obtainable version of the truth was becoming less and less a commodity, less and less a real part of our journalistic institutions.
  • REPORTER, n. A writer who guesses his way to the truth and dispels it with a tempest of words.
  • In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the public. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.
  • It has been assumed that journalists are not permanently impacted by the events they cover. Exposure to the traumatic events they report on has been viewed as within their job description and a standard hazard of the profession, similar to an emergency room doctor or a firefighter. Many have viewed the journalists who cover death and destruction as unusually tough, somehow immune to the reverberating impact of the human suffering they witness. Until recently, journalists felt that if they publicly acknowledged that reporting experiences might affect them long-term, the journalist would be thought of as weak and less capable than his or her colleagues.
  • Never forget that if you don't hit a newspaper reader between the eyes with your first sentence, there is no need of writing a second one.
    • Arthur Brisbane (c. 1900) quoted in Carlson, Oliver (1937). Brisbane: A Candid Biography. pp. Chapter 5. 
  • Time was when men of Horse Watson’s profession typically never slept sober, and died with their livers eroded. It must have been fun to watch the literate swashbucklers make fools of themselves in the frontier saloons, indulging in horsewhippings and shoot-outs with rival journalists and their partisans. But who stopped to think what it was to have the power of words and publication, to discover that an entire town and territory would judge, condemn, act, reprieve and glorify because of something you had slugged together the night before? Because of something you had handset into type, smudging your fingertips with metal poisons that inexorably began their journey through your bloodstream? For the sake of the power, you turned your liver and kidneys into spongy, irascible masses; you tainted the tissue of your brain with heavy metal ions until it became a house haunted by stumbling visions. Alcohol would temporarily overcome the effect. So you became an alcoholic, and purchased sanity one day at a time, and made a spectacle of yourself. It was neither funny nor tragic in the end—it was simply a fact of life that operated more slowly on the mediocre, because the mediocre could turn themselves off and go to sleep whether they had done the night’s job to their own satisfaction or not.
  • Journalism may not dare too much. It can be gently humorous and ironic, very lightly touched by idiosyncrasy, but it must not repel readers by digging too deeply. This is especially true of its approach to language: the conventions are not questioned.
    • Anthony Burgess, A Mouthful of Air: Language and Languages, Especially English (1992).
  • A would-be satirist, a hired buffoon,
    A monthly scribbler of some low lampoon,
    Condemn'd to drudge, the meanest of the mean,
    And furbish falsehoods for a magazine.
    • Lord Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809), line 975.


  • Despite the many problems with the mainstream press, journalism as an institution remains one of the most effective methods of resisting, and at times, ending wars. Even those distrustful of the press should be willing to oppose attacks on the right to a free press when such attacks occur. It is the guarantee of press freedom that enables anti-war reporting to make its way into the mainstream at times, shifting people's understanding of what their government does.
  • A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up.
    • Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, A History (1837), Part I, Book VI, Chapter 5.
  • Great is journalism. Is not every able editor a ruler of the world, being the persuader of it?
    • Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, A History (1837), Part II, Book I, Chapter 4.
  • Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, - very momentous to us in these times.
    • Thomas Carlyle (1859). On Heroes, Hero-worship, and the Heroic in History: Six Lectures: Reported. Wiley & Halsted. pp. 147, Lect. V: "The Hero as Man of Letters". 
  • The journalists would appear to be in an almost literal sense the priests of the modern world... the corruption of the priesthood occurred at the precise moment in which it changed from a minority organised to impart knowledge into a minority organised to withhold it. The great danger of decadence in journalism is almost exactly the same. Journalism possesses in itself the potentiality of becoming one of the most frightful monstrosities and delusions that have ever cursed mankind. This horrible transformation will occur at the exact instant at which journalists realise that they can become an aristocracy.
  • Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers another.
    • G. K. Chesterton, "On the Cryptic and the Elliptic", All Things Considered (1908)
  • I know that journalism largely consists in saying 'Lord Jones Dead' to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.
  • It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, "Mr Wilkinson Still Safe," or "Mr Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet." They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complete picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority.
  • If Wikileaks were a print publication, the injunction would be unthinkable. … What distinguishes this case is that the allegedly intolerable materials were published on the Internet instead of on paper. But that's a poor reason to abandon the principles that protect those who want to publish -- as well as those who want to read. Censorship is censorship, no matter the medium.
    • Editorial (February 26, 2008). "Electronic censorship". Chicago Tribune (Chicago Tribune Company): p. 14. 
  • The duty of journalists is to tell the truth. Journalism means you go back to the actual facts, you look at the documents, you discover what the record is, and you report it that way.
  • The real purpose of state secrecy is to enable governments to establish their own self-interested and often mendacious version of the truth by the careful selection of “facts” to be passed on to the public. They feel enraged by any revelation of what they really know, or by any alternative source of information. Such threats to their control of the news agenda must be suppressed where possible and, where not, those responsible must be pursued and punished.
    Revealing important information about the Yemen war – in which at least 70,000 people have been killed – is the reason why the US government is persecuting both Assange and Zikry.
  • I was in Kabul a decade ago when WikiLeaks released a massive tranche of US government documents about the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. On the day of the release, I was arranging by phone to meet an American official... He was intensely interested and asked me what was known about the degree of classification of the files. When I told him, he said in a relieved tone: “No real secrets, then.”
  • Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this. [...]
    Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. [...] You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. [...] You read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.


Today's serious nonfiction writer is important to society because from a solid background of social sciences, combined with the journalistic skills of a reporter, one moves beyond the reporter function to the front edge of our emerging society. ~Betty Friedan
  • Th' newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward. They ain't annything it don't turn its hand to fr'm explainin' th' docthrine iv thransubstantiation to composin' saleratus biskit.




  • I suppose, in the end, we journalists try - or should try - to be the first impartial witnesses of history. If we have any reason for our existence, the least must be our ability to report history as it happens so that no one can say: 'We didn't know - no one told us.'


  • When journalese was at its rifest the Ministry of Health was established - possibly a coincidence.
    • John Galsworthy (July 1924) On Expression, Presidential Address to the English Association, p. 12. — Quote reproduced in Crystal, David; Hillary Crystal (2000). Words on Words: Quotations about Language and Languages. University of Chicago Press. pp. Page 276. ISBN 0226122018. 
  • Grassroots journalism is part of the wider phenomenon of citizen-generated media - of a global conversation that is growing in strength, complexity, and power. When people can express themselves, they will. When they can do so with powerful yet inexpensive tools, they take to the new-media realm quickly. When they can reach a potentially global audience, they literally can change the world.
  • Going to where the silence is. That is the responsibility of a journalist: giving a voice to those who have been forgotten, forsaken, and beaten down by the powerful....We must build a trickle-up media that reflects the true character of this country and its people.
  • Journalists are supposed to be the check and balance on power, not win popularity contests.
    • Amy Goodman, Introduction, Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America (2016)


Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. ~Thomas Jefferson
  • Editor: a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.
    • Elbert Hubbard (1914) The Roycroft Dictionary of Epigrams — quoted in ed. Shapiro, Fred R. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. pp. 374. ISBN 0300107986. 




  • The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (16 January 1787) Lipscomb & Bergh ed. 6:57.
  • To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, "by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only." Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of its benefits, than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. . . . I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.
  • I deplore with you the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed, and the malignity, the vulgarity, & mendacious spirit of those who write for them: and I enclose you a recent sample, the production of a New England judge, as a proof of the abyss of degradation into which we are fallen. These ordures are rapidly depraving the public taste and lessening its relish for sound food. As vehicles of information and a curb on our functionaries, they have rendered themselves useless by forfeiting all title to belief. That this has in a great degree been produced by the violence and malignity of party spirit I agree with you...
  • They lied about it! The enemy boils the ocean, cooks the sixth fleet and every man, woman and child within fifty miles of a shoreline - you could expect some coverage. What did they report? Minor soil erosion in the Florida Keys. They boiled the ocean, woman!
    • Arthur M. Jolly in the play After It's All Over, Original Works Press (2009).
  • What people outside do not appreciate is that a newspaper is like a soufflé, prepared in a hurry for immediate consumption. This of course is why whenever you read a newspaper account of some event of which you have personal knowledge it is nearly always inadequate or inaccurate. Journalists are as aware as anyone of this defect; it is simply that if the information is to reach as many readers as possible, something less than perfection has often to be accepted.


  • They were professional tantrum artists who only knew one thing: how to bludgeon the West to death with identity politics. And now, with the most arousing irony I have been witness to in years, we can safely say, "#TimesUp".
    • Raheem Kassam, "No, I Don't Feel Sorry For Journalists Who Have Lost Their Jobs — I'm Bloody Thrilled", Daily Caller, January 28, 2019
  • My problem, and our problem — I think this is a view that's pretty widely shared in the news business — is, you know, we, and I don't just mean The Times, are too ready to publish the blandest of quotes, or, sometimes, the idlest of gossip and innuendo, behind a cover of anonymity. I think it cheapens the currency of source protection.


  • Newspapers always excite curiosity. No one ever lays one down without a feeling of disappointment.
    • Charles Lamb (1833) "On Books and Reading", The Last Essays of Elia — Quote reproduced in Crystal, David; Hillary Crystal (2000). Words on Words: Quotations about Language and Languages. University of Chicago Press. pp. 276. ISBN 0226122018. 
  • The Seven Subjects of Sensational Journalism: crime, scandal, speculative science, insanity, superstitions such as numerology, monsters, and millionaires.
  • As to [General Douglas] Macarthur, I don't feel in a position to have clear opinions about anyone I know only from newspapers. You see, whenever they deal with anyone (or anything) I know myself, I find they're always a mass of lies & misunderstandings: so I conclude they're no better in the places where I don't know.
    • C. S. Lewis, letter to Mrs. Mary Van Deusen, April 30, 1951. Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, vol. 3, "Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy", 1950-1963. p. 114.


In our society, the journalist ranks with the philantropist as a person who has something extremely valuable to dispense (his currency is the strangely intoxicating substance called publicity), and who is consequently treated with a deference quite out of proportion to his merits as a person. ~Janet Malcolm
  • The Web sites of interest groups generally advance the cause of journalganda, in that everything is presented through the filter of the interest group. […] It is an odd, unreal world but very important because it's where partisans can go to have their thoughts re-enforced. There's nothing like journalganda to make you feel absolutely certain you are correct, no matter what your position. […] Real journalism can always be identified by the way it makes normal people sometimes feel very uncomfortable about the world.
  • 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. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction writing learns—when the article or book appears—his hard lesson. Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments. The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and "the public's right to know"; the least talented talk about Art; the seemliest murmur about earning a living.
  • In our society, the journalist ranks with the philantropist as a person who has something extremely valuable to dispense (his currency is the strangely intoxicating substance called publicity), and who is consequently treated with a deference quite out of proportion to his merits as a person. There are very few people in this country who do not regard with rapture the prospect of being written about or interviewed on a radio or television program.
    • Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer (1990). New York: Knopf, p. 58.
  • I have come to think […] the character called "I" in a work of journalism […] is unlike all the journalist's other characters in that he forms the exception to the rule that nothing may be invented: the "I" character in journalism is almost pure invention. Unlike the "I" of autobiography, who is meant to be seen as a representation of the writer, the "I" of journalism is connected to the writer only in a tenuous way—the way, say, that Superman is connected to Clark Kent. The journalistic "I" is an overreliable narrator, a functionary to whom crucial tasks of narration and argument and tone have been entrusted, an ad hoc creation, like the chorus of Greek tragedy. He is an emblematic figure, an embodiment of the idea of the dispassionate observer of life. Nevertheless, readers who readily accept the idea that the narrator in a work of fiction is not the same person as the author of the book will stubbornly resist the idea of the invented "I" of journalism; and even among journalists, there are those who have trouble sorting themselves out from the Supermen of their texts.
    • Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer (1990). New York: Knopf, pp. 159–160.
  • The moral ambiguity of journalism lies not in its texts but in the relationships out of which they arise—relationships that are invariably and inescapably lopsided. The "good" characters in a piece of journalism are no less a product of the writer's unholy power over another person than are the "bad" ones.[…] The fact that the subject may be trying to manipulate the journalist—and none but the most otherworldly of subjects is above at least some manipulativeness—does not offset the journalist's own sins against the libertarian spirit.[…] There is an infinite variety of ways in which journalists struggle with the moral impasse[…]. The wisest know that the best they can do […] is still not good enough. The not so wise, in their accustomed manner, choose to believe there is no problem and that they have solved it.
    • Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer (1990). New York: Knopf, pp. 162-163. (The last sentence is the last sentence of the book.)
  • As Michael Schudson pointed out in “Discovering the News” (1978), the notion that good journalism is “objective”—that is, nonpartisan and unopinionated—emerged only around the start of the twentieth century. Schudson thought that it arose as a response to growing skepticism about the whole idea of stable and reliable truths. The standard of objectivity, as he put it, “was not the final expression of a belief in facts but the assertion of a method designed for a world in which even facts could not be trusted. . . . Journalists came to believe in objectivity, to the extent that they did, because they wanted to, needed to, were forced by ordinary human aspiration to seek escape from their own deep convictions of doubt and drift.” In other words, objectivity was a problematic concept from the start... Lippmann’s argument was that journalism is not a profession. You don’t need a license or an academic credential to practice the trade. All sorts of people call themselves journalists. Are all of them providing the public with reliable and disinterested news goods?
  • Between 1945 and 1975, there was one woman in the Cabinet and one Black person. Each served for two years. On the press side, it was worse. Female and Black reporters were programmatically excluded. They had no entrée to certain press functions, and editors did not assign women to cover government affairs. Flat-out racism and sexism persisted much longer than seems believable today.
    The two main social organizations for Washington journalists were the Gridiron Club (founded in 1885) and the National Press Club (founded in 1908). The Gridiron invited members’ wives to a dinner in 1896, but a skit lampooning the suffrage movement did not go over well, and women were not allowed back until 1972. Into the nineteen-fifties, members performed in blackface for entertainment at Gridiron dinners. McGarr reports that the club’s signature tune was “The Watermelon Song,” sung in dialect.
    The National Press Club did not have a Black member until 1955, which was the first year that women were allowed to attend luncheons where members were briefed by officials. The women had to sit in the balcony and were not allowed to ask questions. The National Press Club did not have a woman member until 1971.
    The Washington Post hired its first Black reporter in 1951. He was assigned his own bathroom, and left the paper after two years. (McGarr says that the Post did not hire another Black reporter until 1972, but that’s incorrect: the paper hired Dorothy Gilliam in 1961, and Jack White in 1968.) Far into the civil-rights movement, the Times had very few Black reporters. The record of general-interest magazines, including this one, was hardly better.
  • Since there is no such thing as ideological truth, it follows that to the extent a reporter is a liberal reporter or a conservative reporter, or a Democratic or Communist or Republican reporter, he is no reporter at all.
  • The newspapers were beginning to get on to Jaycie now. They had ignored her at first. Put things down to anyone and everything else. After all, it was a bit awkward for them having to do with a woman who was beautiful but apparently had no sex life; they didn’t know what to try and smear her with.
    • Naomi Mitchison, “Mary and Joe” in Harry Harrison (ed.) Nova 1, p. 163.
  • Journalists who make mistakes get sued for libel; historians who make mistakes get to publish a revised edition.
    • Bill Moyers, "The Big Story", speech to the Texas State Historical Association, 7 March 1997, Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 131.
  • The freedom of speech and of the press, which are secured by the First Amendment against abridgment by the United States, are among the fundamental personal rights and liberties which are secured to all persons by the Fourteenth Amendment against abridgment by a state. The safeguarding of these rights to the ends that men may speak as they think on matters vital to them and that falsehoods may be exposed through the processes of education and discussion is essential to free government. Those who won our independence had confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning and communication of ideas to discover and spread political and economic truth.


  • The fat Russian agent was cornering all the foreign refugees in turn and explaining plausibly that this whole affair was an Anarchist plot. I watched him with some interest, for it was the first time that I had seen a person whose profession was telling lies—unless one counts journalists.
  • Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various "party lines".


  • Secretive power loathes journalists who do their job: who push back screens, peer behind façades, lift rocks. Opprobrium from on high is their badge of honour.
    • Pilger, John (2005). Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism That Changed the World. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. xv. ISBN 1560257865. 
  • We journalists... have to be brave enough to defy those who seek our collusion in selling their latest bloody adventure in someone else's country... That means always challenging the official story, however patriotic that story may appear, however seductive and insidious it is. For propaganda relies on us in the media to aim its deceptions not at a far away country but at you at home... In this age of endless imperial war, the lives of countless men, women and children depend on the truth or their blood is on us... Those whose job it is to keep the record straight ought to be the voice of people, not power.
    • John Pilger, The War You Don't See, ITV1 (UK), (14 December 2010)
  • To quote, without verifiable evidence, "western intelligence sources" is never journalism; it is almost always propaganda. I learned that as a reporter. The cold war drum beat of the BBC and others is leading us to a world war.
    • John Pilger, Twitter (22 July 2020)


It is my hope that future journalists will adhere to the true principles of the profession and understand that they play a vital role in helping to keep democracy and the exchange of free ideas alive at home and abroad. – Helen Thomas
  • A news sense is really a sense of what is important, what is vital, what has color and life — what people are interested in. That's journalism.
    • Burton Rascoe, as quoted in Useful Quotations : A Cyclopedia of Quotations (1933) edited by Tryon Edwards, C. N. Catrevas, and Jonathan Edwards
  • Controversy? You can't be any kind of reporter worthy of the name and avoid controversy completely. You can't be a good reporter and not be fairly regularly involved in some kind of controversy. And I don't think you can be a great reporter and avoid controversy very often, because one of the roles a good journalist plays is to tell the tough truths as well as the easy truths. And the tough truths will lead you to controversy, and even a search for the tough truths will cost you something. Please don't make this play or read as any complaint, it's trying to explain this goes with the territory if you're a journalist of integrity. That if you start out a journalist or if you reach a point in journalism where you say, "Listen, I'm just not going not touch anything that could possibly be controversial," then you ought to get out.
  • Good journalism questions the land of a thousand [forbidden topics] even at the risk of uncanny and disturbing findings. …Now, journalists are neither detectives nor spiritual preachers. It is enough when they do their job properly. But there is always also an investigative side to the journalistic profession, as well as an ethical one. Journalists are not detectives but through their job they can perform some measure of investigation; journalists are not detectives, but they can provide facts that detectives may somewhat use. Journalists are not even spiritual guides, but, properly doing their job, they can offer occasions and clues that can also help to somewhat nourish the soul of their readers. Let’s all wisely stay away from preaching journalism, but good journalists can at least avoid poisoning their own as well as their readers’ souls.
  • What a monstrous thing that a University should teach journalism! I thought that was only done at Oxford. This respect for the filthy multitude is ruining civilisation.


  • I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.
The Press is at once the eye and the ear and the tongue of the people. It is the visible speech, if not the voice, of the democracy. It is the phonograph of the world. – William Thomas Stead
  • The Press is at once the eye and the ear and the tongue of the people. It is the visible speech, if not the voice, of the democracy. It is the phonograph of the world.
  • Journalism (definition): The art, or science, of representing life as a series of clichés.


  • To be completely cured of newspapers, spend a year reading the previous week’s newspapers.
    • Nassim N. Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010), p. 21
  • I've always had standards about writing well. There is art in this business. There is potentially great art.
  • The art of a news reporter is to learn how to lull a victim, because all good reporters are confidence tricksters in embryo.
    • Derek Tangye, British author, Chapter VII, The Way to Minack (1968).
  • I do not think that journalism is a dying art. If anything, I believe it is more important than ever, and journalists worldwide are adapting to our modus operandi - to make public officials accountable to the people. The role of the journalist is indispensable, and as reviled as reporters may intermittently be, they are still highly respected when the pursue the truth and obtain positive results. It is my hope that future journalists will adhere to the true principles of the profession and understand that they play a vital role in helping to keep democracy and the exchange of free ideas alive at home and abroad.
  • So much for Objective Journalism. Don't bother to look for it here—not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.
  • "Why bother with newspapers, if this is all they offer? Agnew was right. The press is a gang of cruel faggots. Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits— a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage."


The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesmanlike habits, supplies their demands. ~ Oscar Wilde


  • News is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read. And it's only news until he's read it. After that it's dead.
    • Evelyn Waugh (1938) Scoop, I, Chapter 5, Sect. 1 — Quote reproduced in Crystal, David; Hillary Crystal (2000). Words on Words: Quotations about Language and Languages. University of Chicago Press. p. 277. ISBN 0226122018. 
  • It's a truism that denials never quite catch up with charges. Honest journalists who may have mistakenly printed false information know that the most prominent retraction never quite undoes the damage done by the original publication.
  • It was a fatal day when the public discovered that the pen is mightier than the paving-stone, and can be made as offensive as the brickbat. They at once sought for the journalist, found him, developed him, and made him their industrious and well-paid servant. It is greatly to be regretted, for both their sakes. Behind the barricade there may be much that is noble and heroic. But what is there behind the leading-article but prejudice, stupidity, cant, and twaddle? And when these four are joined together they make a terrible force, and constitute the new authority.
  • In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press. That is an Improvement certainly. but still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralising. Somebody - was it Burke? - called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time, no doubt. But at the present moment it really is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, The Lords Spiritual have nothing to say and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by journalism.
  • In America, the President reigns for four years, and journalism governs for ever and ever. Fortunately, in America journalism has carried its authority to the grossest and most brutal extreme. As a natural consequence it has begun to create a spirit of revolt, people are amused by it, or disgusted by it, according to their temperaments. but it is no longer the real force it was. It is not seriously treated. In England, journalism, except in a few well-known instances, not having been carried to such excesses of brutality, is still a great factor, a remarkable power. The tyranny that it proposes to exercise over people's private lives seems to me to be quite extraordinary.
  • Here we allow absolute freedom to the journalist and entirely limit the artist. English public opinion, that is to say, tries to constrain and impede and warp the man who makes things that are beautiful in effect, and compels the journalist to retail things that are ugly, or disgusting, or revolting in fact, so that we have the most serious journalists in the world and the most indecent newspapers.
  • There is much to be said in favor of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. By carefully chronicling the current events of contemporary life, it shows us of what very little importance such events really are. By invariably discussing the unnecessary, it makes us understand what things are requisite for culture, and what are not.
  • You cannot hope
    to bribe or twist,
    thank God! the
    British journalist.

    But, seeing what
    the man will do
    unbribed, there's
    no occasion to.


  • I hate journalists. There is nothing in them but tittering jeering emptiness... The shallowest people on the ridge of the earth.
  • A Statesman is an easy man,
    He tells his lies by rote;
    A Journalist makes up his lies,
    And takes you by the throat.
  • Journalism today is for the most part gentlemanly and decorous, in so far as the relations among newspapers in the big cities are concerned. But in that day the New York dailies openly assailed one another's actions and motives with all the contempt that lily-white citizens might express toward horse-thieves and road agents. Dana of the Sun and Pulitzer of the World fought a long feud, widely talked about, and the World and Herald frequently snarled at each other.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 407-08.
  • I would * * * earnestly advise them for their good to order this paper to be punctually served up, and to be looked upon as a part of the tea equipage.
  • They consume a considerable quantity of our paper manufacture, employ our artisans in printing, and find business for great numbers of indigent persons.
  • Advertisements are of great use to the vulgar. First of all, as they are instruments of ambition. A man that is by no means big enough for the Gazette, may easily creep into the advertisements; by which means we often see an apothecary in the same paper of news with a plenipotentiary, or a running footman with an ambassador.
  • The great art in writing advertisements is the finding out a proper method to catch the reader's eye; without which a good thing may pass over unobserved, or be lost among commissions of bankrupt.
  • Ask how to live? Write, write, write, anything;
    The world's a fine believing world, write news.
  • [The opposition Press] which is in the hands of malecontents who have failed in their career.
  • Hear, land o' cakes, and brither Scots,
    Frae Maidenkirk to Johnny Groat's;
    If there's a hole in a' your coats,
    * I rede you tent it:
    A chiel's amang you taking notes,
    * And, faith, he'll prent it.
    • Robert Burns, On Capt. Grose's Peregrinations Through Scotland.
  • The editor sat in his sanctum, his countenance furrowed with care,
    His mind at the bottom of business, his feet at the top of a chair,
    His chair-arm an elbow supporting, his right hand upholding his head,
    His eyes on his dusty old table, with different documents spread.
  • Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporter's gallery yonder, there sat a fourth estate more important far than they all.
    • Thomas Carlyle, Heroes and Hero-Worship. Lecture V. Burke is credited with having invented the term, but it does not appear in his published works. The "three estates of the realm" are the Lords Spiritual, The Lords Temporal, and the Commons. David Lindslay—Ane pleasant satyre of the Three Estatis. (1535). Rabelais—in Pantagruel, 4–48 describes a monk, a falconer, a lawyer, and a husbandman called the "four estates of the island." (Les quatre estatz de l'isle).
  • A parliament speaking through reporters to Buncombe and the Twenty-seven millions, mostly fools.
  • Get your facts first, and then you can distort 'em as much as you please.
    • Mark Twain, Interview with Kipling, In From Sea to Sea, Epistle 37.
  • Only a newspaper! Quick read, quick lost,
    Who sums the treasure that it carries hence?
    Torn, trampled under feet, who counts thy cost,
    Star-eyed intelligence?
  • To serve thy generation, this thy fate:
    "Written in water," swiftly fades thy name;
    But he who loves his kind does, first and late,
    A work too great for fame.
  • I believe it has been said that one copy of the Times contains more useful information than the whole of the historical works of Thucydides.
    • Richard Cobden, speech at the Manchester Athenæum, Dec. 27, 1850. See The Times, Dec. 30, 1830, p. 7. Quoted in Morley's Life of Cobden. Note, Volume II, p. 429. Also reference to same, p. 428.
  • Did Charity prevail, the press would prove
    A vehicle of virtue, truth, and love.
  • How shall I speak thee, or thy power address,
    Thou God of our idolatry, the Press.
    * * * * *
    Like Eden's dead probationary tree,
    Knowledge of good and evil is from thee.
  • He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
    With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks;
    News from all nations lumbering at his back.
  • Miscellanists are the most popular writers among every people; for it is they who form a communication between the learned and the unlearned, and, as it were, throw a bridge between those two great divisions of the public.
  • None of our political writers … take notice of any more than three estates, namely, Kings, Lords and Commons … passing by in silence that very large and powerful body which form the fourth estate in the community … the Mob.
  • Caused by a dearth of scandal should the vapors
    Distress our fair ones—let them read the papers.
  • The liberty of the press is the palladium of all the civil, political, and religious rights of an Englishman.
    • Junius, Dedication to Letters.
  • The highest reach of a news-writer is an empty Reasoning on Policy, and vain Conjectures on the public Management.
  • The News-writer lies down at Night in great Tranquillity, upon a piece of News which corrupts before Morning, and which he is obliged to throw away as soon as he awakes.
  • Tout faiseur de journaux doit tribut au Malin.
    • Every newspaper editor owes tribute to the devil.
    • Jean de La Fontaine, Lettre à Simon de Troyes (1686).
  • Newspapers always excite curiosity. No one ever lays one down without a feeling of disappointment.
    • Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia, Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading.
  • Behold the whole huge earth sent to me hebdomadally in a brown paper wrapper.
  • I fear three newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets.
  • The penny-papers of New York do more to govern this country than the White House at Washington.
  • The press is like the air, a chartered libertine.
  • The mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease.
  • Cela est escrit. Il est vray.
  • Can it be maintained that a person of any education can learn anything worth knowing from a penny paper? It may be said that people may learn what is said in Parliament. Well, will that contribute to their education?
    • Salisbury (Lord Robert Cecil), Speeches. House of Commons, 1861. On the Repeal of the Paper Duties.
  • The newspapers! Sir, they are the most villanous—licentious—abominable—infernal—not that I ever read them—no—I make it a rule never to look into a newspaper.
  • Trade hardly deems the busy day begun
    Till his keen eye along the sheet has run;
    The blooming daughter throws her needle by,
    And reads her schoolmate's marriage with a sigh;
    While the grave mother puts her glasses on,
    And gives a tear to some old crony gone.
    The preacher, too, his Sunday theme lays down
    To know what last new folly fills the town;
    Lively or sad, life's meanest, mightiest things,
    The fate of fighting cocks, or fighting kings.
  • Here shall the Press the People's right maintain,
    Unawed by influence and unbribed by gain;
    Here Patriot Truth her glorious precepts draw,
    Pledged to Religion, Liberty, and Law.
    • Joseph Story, Motto of the Salem Register. Adopted 1802. Reported in William W. Story's Life of Joseph Story, Volume I, Chapter VI.


  • Knoll's Law of Media Accuracy: Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true — except for the rare story of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge.
  • In America the president reigns for four years, and journalism governs forever and ever.
    • Oscar Wilde — quoted in Janis, Lois August (2003). Voyage to Insight. CMJ Publishers and Distrib.. pp. Page 70. ISBN 1891280406. 
  • When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.
    • John B. Bogartto, New York Sun editor. Attributed in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 16th edition, 1992, p. 554. See also Man bites dog.
  • I do not care for the big 'ideas' of novelists. Novels are wonderful, of course, but I prefer newspapers.
    • Will Cuppy in Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft (eds.), Twentieth Century Authors, New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1942, p. 342.
  • Journalism is the first rough draft of history.
  • Originally stated in slightly different forms “News/The press [is the] … first rough draft of history”, this form dates at least to the 1940s, and was most likely popularized by Alan Barth, as an editorial writer for the Washington Post in the 1940s. The sentiment appears several times in the editorial pages of the Post in that era, with the earliest citation from Barth being 1943:
News is only the first rough draft of history.
  • Subsequent uses in the Post include:
Newspapers, after all, are the first drafts of history, or pretend they are.
  • Unsigned "Editor's Note" in The Washington Post (16 October 1944)
It is possible that a first rough draft of the History, down to 413, may have been sketched by Thucydides before 405.
  • (omits “news”, refers to specific text) 1902, Richard Claverhouse Jebb, Thucydides, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 10th Edition (1902) Cited by Babette Hogan in comments to Shafer 2010
The newspapers are making morning after morning the rough draft of history. Later, the historian will come, take down the old files, and transform the crude but sincere and accurate annals of editors and reporters into history, into literature. The modern school must study the daily newspaper.
A reporter is a young man who blocks out the first draft of history each day on a rheumatic typewriter.
  • (omits “rough”) 3 July 1914, Lincoln (NE) Daily Star, “The Reporter” by George Fitch, pg. 6, col. 4
So let us today drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never be completed about a world we can never really understand.
  • While this may have popularized the quote, earlier statements were given by others (as above), and even by Graham himself, including:
The inescapable hurry of the press inevitably means a certain degree of superficiality. It is neither within our power nor our province to be ultimately profound. We write 365 days a year the first rough draft of history, and that is a very great task.
  • Address to the American Society for Public Administration (8 March 1953) Published in “Public Administration and the Press”, Philip L. Graham, Public Administration Review, Volume 13, No. 2 (Spring, 1953), pp. 87–88

See also

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Journalism Quotes at the Fourth Estate