On this day in 1897 the New York Times began printing the most famous slogan in journalism history and it still displays that slogan to this day: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”
The idea that slogan represents has never been more important than it is today. And yes to you Trump supporters, yes as a journalist I’m concerned about our president’s assault on a free press and I call it an assault. But the more things change, the more things stay the same.
I’m a little embarrassed I haven’t seen “The Post,” yet which chronicles what the Washington Post went through to continue the printing of the Pentagon Papers — after the New York Times had already started the process. But I have seen a documentary on Ben Bradlee, the famous Washington Post editor, who not only saw the Post through that saga but the saga of Carl Bernstein’s and Bob Woodward’s coverage of Watergate to this day.
One of my favorite parts of the documentary comes when Bradlee is debating Pat Buchanan, then a Richard Nixon aide, on the Dick Cavett Show (when it comes to “All the News That’s Fit to Print” civil discourse Cavett gave us is sorely lacking today) and Bradlee tells Buchanan “Richard Nixon doesn’t have the right to tell the Washington Post what it can print!” Amen!
Of course when two young unknown reporters began covering the Watergate scandal, the Post came under tremendous criticism and scrutiny for covering a “minor scandal” and Bradlee was told by many he was doing a disservice to this country and I’m sure he was accused of practicing “yellow journalism.”
It sounds self-serving but I too once covered a Watergate-scandal story on a much smaller scale, was told I was doing a disservice to the community and was practicing “yellow journalism.” I consider those accusations to be badges of honor to this day.
As Thomas Jefferson said, “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.”
Yes, providing “All the News That’s Fit to Print” is more important than ever.
— Charles Whisnand