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Media Quotes



Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.

~ Joseph Pulitzer, Hungarian-American publisher


The smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. [For] to a degree, people read the press to inform themselves-and the better the teacher, the better the student body.

~ Warren Buffett, American businessman


Even in a new era, journalism has one responsibility other forms of communication and entertainment do not: To provide citizens with the information they need to navigate the society. That does not preclude being entertaining or profitable — or publishing something merely because it's interesting. But it does imply a commitment to comprehensiveness, to offering certain information about democratic institutions, and to ordering information in some relationship to its significance so that people can use it as a map to travel through the culture.

~ The Project for Excellence in Journalism


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, American journalist


But I have become increasingly unnerved by the depth of corruption that exists at many different levels. I’m less upset with politicians than the media. I feel like politicians — the way I explain it, is when you go to a zoo and a monkey throws feces, it’s a monkey. But when the zookeeper is standing right there and he doesn’t say, "Bad monkey" — somebody’s gotta be the zookeeper. I feel much more strongly about the abdication of responsibility by the media than by political advocates.

~ Jon Stewart, comedian and host of "The Daily Show"


I think the news people no longer have any idea of what covering the news is.

~ Bill Maher, commentator, comedian and TV host


I think smart aggregation is a service to readers. And we do it, too ... . Whether it's a politics page and you want Dan Balz to tell you what is he reading, what does he think are the smartest articles today on the elections or the primaries. So, I think aggregation is great ... . So I'm all for aggregation. And the more eyeballs we can get to our content, the better. We do want readers to be educated and to understand the difference between, what is a source that you can trust as opposed to just rumors out there. And the difference between just repurposing content and not crediting it.

~ Katharine Weymouth, Washington Post publisher


You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgments about what is going on.

~ Harry S. Truman, former U.S. president


The less you know, the more you believe.

~ Bono, musician


What I'm advocating is that the media come work for us again. Remove themselves from the symbiotic relationship that they have developed with the power structure of corporations and of the politicians. I think there's a responsibility within the media to help. But you could create a paradigm of a media organization that is geared towards "No bullshit."

~ Jon Stewart, comedian and host of "The Daily Show"


Increasingly, the profession seems overwhelmed by the sheer size of the media, by hidebound habits, by infotainment, by the quest for sensation and gossip, by the imperatives of the stock market or by a pursuit of ever-fragmenting audiences that lead us ever-farther from home.

~ The Project for Excellence in Journalism


This is a terrible time. It is a bleak and fallow time. I've been going to ASNE [the American Society of Newspaper Editors] annual meetings for 52 years of my life. I have never seen a time of more dispirit, more discomfort, more frustration, more fear, more resignation, more cynicism. That is not a set of adjectives we wish to apply to our business, to our calling. There is a whole set of other words that you want, and they were said by Steve, and they were said by so many of you today: passion, commitment, belief, community, context, continuity. We are, finally, the custodians of something much better than our jobs.

~ Hodding Carter III, award-winning journalist and regular guest on CBS, PBS, CNN and ABC


New Rule: News organizations have to stop using the phrase: "We go beyond the headlines." That's your job, dummy. You don't see American Airlines saying, "We land our jets on the runway"!

~ Bill Maher, commentator, comedian and TV host


The fact is, however, that there is a very great deal that the press is not telling you, and you ought to be deeply worried about that. That is what I am here to persuade you of. For all sorts of reasons timidity, self-satisfaction, greed, inappropriate desire to belong, incompetence, prudishness; for all these reasons and more, there is an awful lot that the press keeps from you. And since you are part of a democracy, that is, a government that purports to be by the people and of the people and for the people, you ought to consider ignorance a great threat. Yet, you as a public not only don't criticize the press for not printing something, you are one of the main reasons that the press continues to keep you in the dark.

~ Geneva Overholser, former editor of the Des Moines Register, ombudsman at the Washington Post and chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board


Why can't you hire people that care about the truth? You know them, I know them, they're good. You got people on blogs that are fact-checking as things happen. Some of those people are conspiracy theorists, some of them are really smart — have somebody at the center of it, who can be an arbiter of what's real and what's not. And make that reactive to the devastating game of strategy that's being played in Washington. I think it would make a shit-load of money, and not only that, you'd be able to sleep at night.

~ Jon Stewart, comedian and host of "The Daily Show"


Were it a person, journalism would be diagnosed as depressed.

~ Richard Reeves, author and columnist


These days there's all too much coverage of pseudo-events about extraordinarily inauthentic people doing inauthentic things.

~ David Halberstam, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 12 bestsellers


News is what someone wants suppressed. Everything else is advertising. The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don’t print matter a lot.

~ Katharine Graham, Washington Post publisher


Democracy, taken in its narrower, purely political sense, suffers from the fact that those in economic and political power possess the means for molding public opinion to serve their own class interests.

~ Albert Einstein, physicist


If we expect this country to work, it depends on an informed, intelligent electorate. You know, Thomas Jefferson said very early on in our republic that the nation that expects to be ignorant and free expects it never can and never will be.


We're an ignorant nation right now. We're not really capable, I do not think, the majority of our people, of making the decisions that have to be made at election time and particularly in the selection of their legislatures and their Congress and the presidency, of course. I don't think we're bright enough to do the job that would preserve our democracy, our republic. I think we're in serious danger.

~ Walter Cronkite on "Larry King Live", 2005


There is a terrific disadvantage in not having the abrasive quality of the press applied to you daily. Even though we never like it, and even though we wish they didn't write it, and even though we disapprove, there isn't any doubt that we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.

~ John F. Kennedy, former U.S. president


A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself.

~ Arthur Miller, American dramatist


I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.

~ Tom Stoppard, Czech playwright


Journalism is a noble calling. The working journalist is to report, write, and explain in accordance with the highest standards of the profession.

~ World Journalism Institute


The country is in some trouble, because the media, which is supposed to provide a check and balance on government, has decided to stop doing that as a collective entity.

~ Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist


My understanding from talking to a lot of people in the business has been that it used to be that a newspaper was considered a community service. Now they're being run as profit centers, and they're trying to get pretty high profit margins. As a result, investigative reporting has been seen as a problem.

~ Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist


A profound transformation is happening here. The framers of our nation never envisioned these huge media giants; never imagined what could happen if big government, big publishing and big broadcasters ever saw eye-to-eye in putting the public's need for news second to their own interests. I approach the end of my own long run believing more strongly than ever that the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined ... .

~ Bill Moyers, journalist and host of "Now"


It concerns me that so many readers and viewers are now saying, "I'm going to tune you out because you're biased, you're unfair." Because if that were to continue and grow, our society isn't built to function with people saying, "We don't believe journalists."

~ Jerry Ceppos, former vice president for News at Knight Rider, the nation's second largest newspaper chain


While the spoken word can travel faster, you can't take it home in your hand. Only the written word can be absorbed wholly at the convenience of the reader.

~ Kingman Brewster, American educator and diplomat


There is room in this great and growing city for a journal that is not only cheap but bright, not only bright but large, not only large but truly democratic — dedicated to the cause of the people rather than that of the purse potentates — devoted more to the news of the New than the Old World — that will expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses — that will sever and battle for the people with earnest sincerity.

~ Joseph Pulitzer, Hungarian-American publisher


The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.

~ Marshall McLuhan, Canadian theorist, educator and writer


There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil remain detached from the great.

~ Walter Lippmann, American journalist


Journalism can never be silent; that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.

~ Henry Anatole Grunwald, Austrian-born journalist and diplomat


Journalism is in fact history on the run.

~ Thomas Griffith, former editor of TIME and LIFE Magazine


Oh press — must you spread hate? Can't you just stick to being wrong?

~ Jon Stewart, comedian and host of "The Daily Show"


Honesty and tenacity (and for that matter, the working class) seem to have taken backseats to the sort of "snappy news", sensationalism, scandal-for-the-sake of scandal crap that sells. This is not a uniquely Tribune or even newspaper industry problem: this is true from the Atlanta mixing rooms of CNN to Sulzberger's offices in Times Square. Profits: that's what it's all about now. But you just can't realize annual profit returns of more than 30 percent by methodically laying out the truth in a dignified, accessible manner. And it's damned tough to find that truth every day with a mere skeleton crew of reporters and editors.


All across America news organizations have been devoured by massive corporations, and allegiance to stockholders, the drive for higher share prices, and push for larger dividend returns trumps everything that the grunts in the newsrooms consider their missions.

~ Laurie Garrett, widely regarded former Newsday reporter


A lot of publishers have close relationships with people in power. So the press, which used to speak truth to power, doesn't. The big result of that has been the erosion of trust.

~ Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist


On behalf of the newspaper industry (new, cost-cutting motto: "All the News That"), I wish to announce some changes we're making to serve you better. When I say "serve you better," I mean "increase our profits." We newspapers are very big on profits these days. We're a business, just like any other business, except that we employ English majors.

~ Dave Barry, author and columnist


Whoever controls the media — the images — controls the culture.

~ Allen Ginsberg, American Beat poet


Apparently the only time the press gets it right is when the White House illegally leaks it to them.

~ Jon Stewart, comedian and host of "The Daily Show"


When Dick Cheney says, "I never said that," and then we play the tape, why did we do it? Why wasn't it done broadly? Because he wasn't speaking about something inconsequential. It wasn't like we were playing gotcha journalism over some quibble. It was over weapons of mass destruction. That's not advocacy journalism. That's objectivity in its most raw form.

~ Stephen Colbert, comedian and host of "The Colbert Report"


I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.

~ Henry R. Luce, American publisher


This is terrible for democracy. I have been in 47 states of the USA since 9/11, and I can attest to the horrible impact the deterioration of journalism has had on the national psyche. I have found America a place of great and confused fearfulness, in which cynically placed bits of misinformation (e.g. Cheney's, "If John Kerry had been President during the Cold War we would have had thermonuclear war.") fall on ears that absorb all, without filtration or fact-checking. Leading journalists have tried to defend their mission, pointing to the paucity of accurate, edited coverage found in blogs, internet sites, Fox-TV and talk radio. They argue that good old-fashioned newspaper editing is the key to providing America with credible information, forming the basis for wise voting and enlightened governance. But their claims have been undermined by Jayson Blair's blatant fabrications, Judy Miller's bogus weapons of mass destruction coverage, the media's inaccurate and inappropriate convictions of Wen Ho Lee, Richard Jewell and Steven Hatfill, CBS' failure to smell a con job regarding Bush's Texas Air Guard career and, sadly, so on.

~ Laurie Garrett, widely regarded former Newsday reporter


The number of times plagiarism has come up makes me say that we don't know what's going on out there. I hate to say this, but I guarantee you that in every newsroom in America there's some plagiarism.

~ Jerry Ceppos, former vice president for News at Knight Rider, the nation's second largest newspaper chain


Most Americans don't know about environmental problems, because we have in our country a negligent and indolent press. The biggest lie that the right wing holds in our country is that there is such a thing as a liberal media. Americans are getting their news from the right-wing media.

~ Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the son of the former U.S. Attorney General, an environmentalist


Let's start with some of the reasons that the press holds its tongue and some of the things that you don't know because of this. We'll begin with squeamishness, prudishness, timidity and an overdeveloped fear of offending someone... So much for squeamishness and prudishness. There are many other reasons that we editors fail you in this pact you and we have. Let me name a few more: Orthodoxy, conventional thinking, a misplaced pleasure at being on the inside, incompetence and laziness.

~ Geneva Overholser, former editor of the Des Moines Register, ombudsman at the Washington Post and chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board


And all of you, all your lives, should be telling those of us in the media leadership positions to tell the whole truth and calling us to complain when we don't. Break this know-nothing pact now and you will have taken as mighty a step as you can as an individual to help see to it that we as a nation move together toward a lively, hopeful, confident, and all-embracing future.

~ Geneva Overholser, former editor of the Des Moines Register, ombudsman at the Washington Post and chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board


Virtually all the trends that matter are making a mockery of the industry's ritual incantations about the values and virtues of a free press in a free society.

~ Hodding Carter III, award-winning journalist and regular guest on CBS, PBS, CNN and ABC


In journalistic debuts of this kind many talk of principle — political principle, party principle — as a sort of steel trap to catch the public. We disdain all principle, as it is called, all party, all politics. Our only guide shall be good, sound, practical common sense, applicable to the business and bosoms of men engaged in every-day life.

~ James Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald


Today we are beginning to notice that the new media are not just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion, but new languages with new and unique powers of expression.

~ Marshall McLuhan, Canadian theorist, educator and writer


Sure enough, as merger has followed merger, journalism has been driven further down the hierarchy of values in the huge conglomerates that dominate what we see, read and hear. And to feed the profit margins journalism has been directed to other priorities than "the news we need to know to keep our freedoms."

~ Bill Moyers, journalist and host of "Now"


We are so cleverly manipulated and influenced by the media and establishments on both the right and left, that the truth has become hopelessly lost in semantics.

~ Jules Carlysle, Canadian author and humorist


There are only two forces that can carry light to all the corners of the globe ... the sun in the heavens and the Associated Press down here.

~ Mark Twain, American writer and humorist


The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

~ Edward Bernays, one of the founding fathers of PR


You should spend more time with your families; write that novel you've always wanted to write. You know, the one about the fearless reporter who stands up to the administration. You know — fiction.

~ Stephen Colbert, comedian and host of "The Colbert Report", sarcastically addressing reporters in his keynote address at the White House Correspondents Dinner


All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.

~ William Bernbach, American advertising executive


All too many journalists seem to mistake scandal mongering for tenacious investigation, and far too many aspire to make themselves the story.

~ Laurie Garrett, widely regarded former Newsday reporter


It would be easy to descend into despair, not only about the state of journalism, but the future of American democracy. But giving up is not an option. There is too much at stake.

~ Laurie Garrett, widely regarded former Newsday reporter


For a politician to complain about the press is like a ship's captain complaining about the sea.

~ Enoch Powell, British politician


Let me just say something categorical. That we, to believe for one moment that a Wall Street which consecrated an Enron, which believed in Arthur Andersen, and which touted the dot-com bubble, is able to tell people in journalism what it is that the system of capitalism demands is a perversion of capitalism, it's a perversion of journalism, and it's a perversion of the notion of journalistic integrity. The truth of the matter is, as in most of the enterprises which Wall Street chooses to be an expert on, they neither understand nor care. They c.are about one thing, and those are levels of profit margin.

~ Hodding Carter III, award-winning journalist and regular guest on CBS, PBS, CNN and ABC


Let me just list one more set of tools in our know-nothing pact before the powerful, old white men in the audience get back at me. These we can call greed or we can call them commerce. Either way, they contribute mightily to your ignorance. The effects are various. There is the fact, for example, that too many papers by far do not wish to offend major advertisers. There is the fact that newspaper corporations typically retain truly remarkable profit margins: 30 percent is not unusual and the metro average has been somewhere around 17 percent. That's 17 cents on every dollar made as profit for the company, yet the average beginning salary for a newspaper reporter last year was $17,000. I happen to believe that we continue against all the odds to attract some of the brightest and best people in the country to my trade. But we should not be surprised given what we pay if we increasingly end up with reporters who are incompetent, lazy, lack fire in the belly, and are satisfied with doing less.

~ Geneva Overholser, former editor of the Des Moines Register, ombudsman at the Washington Post and chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board


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

~ Ellen Goodman, American journalist


Because systems of mass communication can communicate only officially acceptable levels of reality, no one can know the extent of the secret unconscious life. No one in America can know what will happen. No one is in real control.

~ Allen Ginsberg, American Beat poet


The truth is not that the problem is the newsroom does not understand capitalism. The problem is that the front office does not understand journalism. The problem is not that the average reporter does not understand what it is that's necessary to make the payroll, to make the good edifice, to make the thing that he wants. It is that in fact those who control too many of the edifices have actually come to believe that Wall Street has wisdom, and that that wisdom should instruct our business.

~ Hodding Carter III, award-winning journalist and regular guest on CBS, PBS, CNN and ABC


Ever since the Chandler Family plucked Mark Willes from General Foods, placing him at the helm of Times Mirror with a mandate to destroy the institutions in ways that would boost dividends, journalism has suffered at Newsday. The pain of the last year actually began a decade ago; the sad arc of greed has finally hit bottom. The leaders of Times Mirror and Tribune have proven to be mirrors of a general trend in the media world: They serve their stockholders first, Wall St. second and somewhere far down the list comes service to newspaper readerships. In 1996 I personally confronted Willes on that point, and he publicly confirmed that the new regime was one in which even the number of newspapers sold was irrelevant, so long as stock returns continued to rise.

~ Laurie Garrett, widely regarded former Newsday reporter


In America journalism is apt to be regarded as an extension of history; in Britain, as an extension of conversation.

~ Anthony Sampson, British writer


The passionate controversies of one era are viewed as sterile preoccupations by another, for knowledge alters what we seek as well as what we find.

~ Freda Adler, U.S. author, educator and theorist


I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.

~ Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist and author


Words give you a medium, if you will, and make your message part of the human thought process. Words are as portable as the human being who hears them.

~ James J. Jordan, Jr., American publicist


A reporter is always concerned with tomorrow. There's nothing tangible of yesterday. All I can say I've done is agitate the air ten or fifteen minutes and then boom — it's gone.

~ Edward R. Murrow, American journalist


In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for ever and ever.

~ Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright


We journalists make it a point to know very little about an extremely wide variety of topics; this is how we stay objective.

~ Dave Barry, author and columnist


The most common thing that real reporters say to me is, "I wish I could say what you say." What I don't understand is, why can't they say what I say, even in their own way? Does that mean they want to be able to name certain bald contradictions or hypocrisies that politicians have?

~ Stephen Colbert, comedian and host of "The Colbert Report", The Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2005


Keep in mind, the news media are not independent; they are a sort of bulletin board and public relations firm for the ruling class — the people who run things. Those who decide what news you will or will not hear are paid by, and tolerated purely at the whim of, those who hold economic power. If the parent corporation doesn't want you to know something, it won't be on the news. Period. Or, at the very least, it will be slanted to suit them, and then rarely followed up. Enjoy the snooze.

~ George Carlin, comedian


By now, the corporations that dominate our media, like alcoholic fat cats, treat this situation as theirs by right. Their concept of a diversity of views is the full range of politics and social values from center to far right. The American audience, having been exposed to a narrowing range of ideas over the decades, often assumes that what they see and hear in the major media is all there is. It is no way to maintain a lively marketplace of ideas, which is to say it is no way to maintain a democracy.

~ Ben Bagdikian, educator and journalist


But what we know, we who are either observers of a business we once were in and loved, or are people within it now, our business as a whole, when it is not obsessed with the business of business, is eaten up with a form of cultural conservatism which is truly amazing. Indeed, more often than not it is eaten up with pure reactionary-ism.

~ Hodding Carter III, award-winning journalist and regular guest on CBS, PBS, CNN and ABC


We suffer from a terrible poverty of civic discourse in this country. Surely, it is outside of America's best traditions to send the signal that patriotism is mindless emotion, that leadership is avoiding saying tough things, that citizenship is toeing the line. But such is the result of a lack of openness, our nervousness with debate.

~ Geneva Overholser, former editor of the Des Moines Register, ombudsman at the Washington Post and chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board


The press, that goiter of the world, swells up with the desire for conquest and bursts with the achievements which every day brings. A week has room for the boldest climax of the human drive for expansion.

~ Karl Kraus, Austrian satirist


What does it mean when even journalists consider comedian Jon — "This is a fake news show, People!" — Stewart one of the most reliable sources of "news"?

~ Laurie Garrett, widely regarded former Newsday reporter


There's an assumption that if someone writes in the first person it's self-indulgent and self-regarding. I just look at it as a tool to understand the world and my experience in it. It's not a tool to understand myself.

~ Michael Pollan, author and journalist


Without free speech, no search for truth is possible ... no discovery of truth is useful ... . Better a thousand-fold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race.

~ Charles Bradlaugh, English political activist


I think that we have created a new kind of person in a way. We have created a child who will be so exposed to the media that he will be lost to his parents by the time he is 12.

~ David Bowie, musician


I'm not sure I want popular opinion on my side — I've noticed those with the most opinions often have the fewest facts."

~ Bethania McKenstry, American activist


Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.

~ Russel Lynes, American art historian and author


People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

~ Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian


The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.

~ Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright


Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.

~ Ted Koppel, broadcast journalist


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