The Media

The media in the United States enjoys freedom unprecendented in other countries, even those with democratic governments. The language of the First Amendment to the Constitution implies such a virtually unlimited freedom. Such a lack of restrictions has been consistently upheld in the courts except for several narrow areas, notably national security.

The press has traditionally been regarded as a watchdog of democracy. The theory is that only by making facts and information widely available can democratic decisions be wisely made.

Since the Vietnam War, however, many Americans have become disillusioned with the media. As the major organs of the media -- the networks, The New York Times, The Washington Post -- have shifted to the political left, they have separated themselves from the American mainstream.

The press does have a clear leftist bias. It is not an overt bias. Stories are fact-checked and most news stories are relatively free from errors of fact. There does exist a selectivity bias, however. Editors decide to pursue certain stories in depth and not others. Accusations are given large play while defenses or even retractions appear in the back pages if at all. The quarrel is not with the facts, but with how the facts are presented and which facts are presented.

The fact is, with journalism as with other things, personal prejudices and beliefs affect even the best-intended actions. The political allegiances of the press are left of center. In 1972, the year the nation overwhelmingly rejected the Democratic candidate George McGovern for president, he was the favorite of the press. These personal prejudices end up in the newspapers and on the evening newscasts for there is no such thing as an absolute truth in news reporting. Rather, the truth is what a subset of a set of possibly accurate information appears to point to in the mind of the reporter.

Television is democracy at its ugliest.
Paddy Chayefsky, scriptwriter of the film Network

Journalism: a profession whose business it is to explain to others what it personally does not understand.
Lord Northcliffe

Photographers are the only dictators in America.
Celal Bayar, former Turkish president

Journalists say a thing that they know isn't true, in the hope that if they keep on saying it long enough it will be true.
Bennet Arnold

Running a liberal paper is like feeding melted butter on the end of an awl to a wild cat.
Oscar Ameringer

Only a few reporters...discerned that Anderson really combined Carter's ineptness with Reagan's simplicities.
Edwin Diamond

In Halberstram's fun house, television elected John F. Kennedy in 1960 (presumably Richard J. Daley and his precinct captains were at home on election night watching the Cook County ballots being counted on television).
Edwin Diamond, on David Halberstram's book The Powers That Be

If a theology student in Iowa should get up at a PTA luncheon in Sioux City and attack the President's Vietnam policy, my guess is that you would probably find it reported somewhere the next morning in the New York Times. But when 300 Congressmen endorse the President's Vietnam policy, the next morning it is apparently not considered news fit to print.
Spiro Agnew

If this sort of thing [the network coverage of the primaries] keeps up, by 1984 Howard Cossell will be deciding the nomination on the commercial break of the Laverne and Shirley show.
George Bush, during the 1980 primaries

A Pulitzer Prize is awaiting the journalist who can find an American who dies of hunger, and probably the Nobel Prize for literature as well.
Tom Bethell

If one person in America had starved over the last 20 years, you, reader, would know his name. The media would see to that. It would be the most thoroughly documented death since John Kennedy's.
Joe Sobran

Old ladies photographed by CBS who announced that they would die of malnutrition if Reagan's bill were passed could probably have saved themselves their impending penury by the simple device of applying to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for scale every time they were featured by Dan Rather or whoever.
William F. Buckley Jr.

This damn thing is going to cost us ten million dollars. Who wants to listen to news? If I had my way we'd have some guy come on at 11 p.m. and say, "The following six guys made horses' asses of themselves at the Republican Convention," and he'd give the six names and that would be it.
James Aubrey, on CBS's 1964 convention coverage

Of the press coverage of the Sandanistas: Probably not since Spain has there been a more open love affair.
Shirley Christian, Washington Journalism Review

The coverage of Central America in recent months points up one of the ugly truths about the American press: the better the news, the less of it you get. As the war began to turn against the Communist guerillas in El Salvador, there was a palpable dip in the attention paid to it.
Fred Barnes, national political reporter for the Baltimore Sun

People's Democrat, anti-Democrat. These words mean nothing except to people with deadlines to meet and editors to please.
PBS Frontline, on labels the press has given to various Democrats

I've often said that if I hadn't known Barry Goldwater in 1964 and I had to depend on the press and the cartoons, I'd have voted against the son of a bitch.
Barry Goldwater

The public life of our culture tends to be stylistically a kind of New York Times editorial; it's sober, pious, responsible and insincerely egalitarian.
Jeffrey Hart

It has reached the point where the CIA has to reveal its sources and the New York Times doesn't.
I. Mee

The New York Times is the official leak of the State Department.
Mort Sahl

I don't think the intelligence reports are all that hot. Some days I get more out of the New York Times.
John F. Kennedy

The New York Times, whose editorial department sounds like Cotton Mather rewriting Eleanor Roosevelt...
William F. Buckley Jr.

I got my job through the New York Times. [Written underneath:] So did Castro.
Poster From Graffiti by Robert Reisner

The more boring a newspaper is, the more it is respected. The most respected newspaper in the United States is The New York Times, which has thousands of reporters constantly producing enormous front-page stories about bauxite...The [New York] Post would write about bauxite only if famous celebrites were arrested for snorting it in an exclusive Manhattan nightclub.
Dave Barry

The New York Times will tell you what is going on in Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa. But it is no exaggeration that The New York Times has more people in India than they have in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is a borough of two million people. They're not a Bloomingdale's people, not trendy, sophisticated, the quiche and Volvo set. The New York Times does not serve those people.
Edwin Diamond

If a newspaper prints a sex crime, it's smut, but when The New York Times prints it, it's a sociological study.
Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of The New York Times

One cardinal rule of American journalism is that The New York Times Sunday Magazine is a chore, a bore, and a penance to be endured.
Martin Nolan

The New York Times is a bitter, savage and proscriptive organ of the bitter savage remnant of the Ultra-Sectional part of the party of Eternal Hate in the Northeastern states.
The Washington Post, 1878

Some newspapers dispose of their garbage by printing it.
Spiro Agnew

Popular journalists resort to the name Nixon to galvanize feelings that remain at rest even when the name Stalin is mentioned.
R. Emmett Tyrrell

The longest word in the world is "a word from our sponsor."
Sam Levenson

Editorials are written by people who have agreed to have several strong opinions a day and to write them down, provided they do not have to sign their names.
Dave Barry

Television has borrowed from the carnival midway the barker's tease: "Coming Up Next: a Perfect 10" (Sex? Bo Derek? No, the weatherman comes on to say that tomorrow will be nice).
Edwin Diamond

"You wanna deliver papers in a big city?" an expert with a bent nose told me, "then you gotta shake the trees to find the gorillas to do it..."
Edwin Diamond

The ABC show [The Day After] might have had a very different beginning. It could have started with the success of anti-nuclear protests in Europe, preventing the deployment of the Pershing missiles...leading to Soviet overconfidence, agressiveness...and the same nuclear holocaust. The audience could look back and think, if only we'd been strong enough not to back down...we'd be alive and free today. If that's what The Day After had said, it would have been denounced as one-sided propoganda designed to weaken the protest movement and support missile deployment -- and an improper TV show to use as a lesson for young people.
Albert Shanker, President, American Federation of Teachers

To get on American television is one of the highest priorities on the KGB agenda.
John Weisman, author of "Why American TV is So Vulnerable to Foreign Propoganda"

I personally thought it [The Day After] was a two and a half hour commercial for the Kremlin and they didn't even have to put KGB actors in it.
Resident of Lawrence, Kansas

The smartest people in Washington are the political reporters. They write about their inferiors.
Joseph Heller

Too often, newspapers view what they do as too arcane for the public to understand or as a state secret which is none of their business.
David Shaw, LA Times

The news media in general are liberal. If you want to be a reporter, you are going to see poverty and misery, and you have to be involved in the human condition.
Barbara Walters

He who attacks the fundamentals of the American system [of broadcasting], attacks democracy itself.
William Paley, CBS

Is there any other industry [than the press] in this country which seeks to presume so completely to give the customer what he does not want?
Rupert Murdoch

The journalist's job is to get the story by breaking into their offices, by bribing, by seducing people, by lying, by anything else to break through the palace guard.
Robert Scheer

Our job is to give people not what they want, but what we decide they should have.
Richard Salant, former president CBS News

To me, what the American people think about whether or not the press was excluded is irrelevant...I do consider myself a surrogate for the American people.
Joseph C. Spears, Author of Presidents and the Press speaking of public acceptance of the press exclusion from Grenada

We tried to do the news without frills, without fluffy hairdos, without graphics. It does say something about our business that is not very pretty. It didn't matter how good the show was. What counted was money.
Linda Ellerbee, co-anchor of NBC News Overnight when the show was cancelled

[NBC News] Overnight was our finest hour, but the cost was much greater than the income.
Reuben Frank, President of NBC News

I'm somewhat diffident about cuffing television on its rabbit ears for not being something else.
Edwin Diamond

Covering politics is fun. It's covering government that's work.
PBS Frontline

They change scapegoats at the networks more regularly than some people change socks.
Harlan Ellsin

News is what someone wants to suppress, everything else is advertising.
Harold Evans, Editor of the London Times

The television anchorman Dan Rather turns up in rag-top native drag in Afghanistan, the surrogate of our culture with his camera crew, intrepid as Sir Richard Burton sneaking into Mecca.
Lance Morrow

Any man with ambition, integrity -- and $10,000,000 -- can start a daily newspaper.
Henry Morgan

All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced upon them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.
H.L. Mencken

The average newspaper, especially of the better sort, has the intelligence of a hillbilly evangelist, the courage of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-jumper, the information of a high-school janitor, the taste of a decorator of celluloid valen tines, and the honor of a police-station lawyer.
H.L. Mencken

The Press is not our daily bread but our daily sugar pill.
T.S. Matthews

...the indispensable requirement for a good newspaperman -- as eager to tell a lie as the truth.
Norman Mailer

You've got to be happy if they get your facts right. Since January I don't think I've recognized a damned thing that I've filed. I just pour everything out of the boot. Otherwise you get a phone call at three in the morning asking why you left out that the candidate had his teeth drilled that morning.
John Lindsay, of Newsweek of his editors

Conflagaration: A reporter's first fire.
Leonard Levinson

Television -- a medium. So called because it is neither rare nor well- done.
Ernie Kovacs

Remember son, many a good [newspaper] story has been ruined by oververification.
James Gordon Bennett

Just give me the facts, and I'll see what I can do with them.
Keeney Jones, The Dartmouth Review

Anyone who knows anything about journalism knows that reporters are rarely in a position to investigate anything. They lack the authority to subpoena witnesses, to cross-examine, to scrutinize official records. They are lucky to get their phone calls returned.
Irving Kristol, of the press's "investigative" journalism

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

Television news is to journalism as bumper stickers are to philosophy.
Richard M. Nixon

You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.
William Randolph Hearst, in a (probably apocryphal) cable to Frederic Remington in Cuba, 1898

A newspaper may somewhat arrogantly assert that it prints "all the news that's fit to print." But no newspaper yet has been moved to declare at the end of each edition, "That's the way it is," as Walter Cronkite does.
Eugene McCarthy

Journalism consists in buying white paper at two cents a pound and selling it at ten cents a pound.
Charles A. Dana

One Englishman is a story. Ten Frenchmen is a story. One hundred Germans is a story. One thousand Indians is a story. Nothing ever happens in Chile.
notice in London newsroom

The modern newspaper is half ads and the other half lies between the ads.

I think if you'd had television cameras at Gettysburg, this would be two nations today. People would not have put up with that carnage if they saw it up close. We'd have elected McClellan in 1864.
George Will

There are no indiscreet questions, there are only indiscreet answers.
Mike Wallace

A newspaper is a private enterprise, owing nothing to the public.
The Wall Street Journal, 1925

Of the 4,373,000 men who read the Wall Street Journal, 1,020,000 are women.
The Wall Street Journal

Anyone nitpicking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it.
Alvin Toffler

If words were invented to conceal thought, newspapers are a great improvement on a bad invention.
Henry David Thoreau

Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a lady, except that a newspaper can always print a retraction.
Adalai Stevenson

The best way to get thrown out of the columnists' club is to be uncertain about anything whatsoever on this earth.
Eric Sevareid

If you lose your temper at a newspaper columnist, he'll get rich or famous or both.
James Hagerty, press secretary to Eisenhower

I must not mix champage, whiskey, and gin. (Repeated fifty times to fill column.)
Westbrook Pegler, American syndicated columnist

The legend arose that a green correspondent [covering the Winnipeg flood in May 1950] cabled his London editor: God looked down from the Pembina Hills near Winnipeg today on an awesome scene of destruction...The editor wired back: Forget flood. Interview God.
Frank Rasky

Typesetters always correct intentional errors, but fail to correct unintentional errors.
Alan Otten

Why does baloney avoid the grinder?
William F. Buckley, after John F. Kennedy refused to appear on his TV show, Firing Line

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