Quotes

Sections:

  • And a pox on both
  • Bad Writing
  • Electronic Media
  • From Our Own Mouths
  • Journalists writers
  • New media
  • Not so noble profession
  • Ouch
  • Politicians on the press
  • Power of words
  • Reporters editors
  • Secrets of the trade
  • White lies
  • Whose side are you on

 

And a pox on both

"It's inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians."
Henrik Ibsen, writer (1826 – 1906)

 

Bad Writing

“Jake liked his women the way he liked his kiwi fruit; sweet yet tart, firm-fleshed yet yielding to the touch, and covered with short brown fuzzy hair.”
Gretchen Schmidt, entry in San Jose State University’s bad writing contest, 1989 - Current world champion (nominations invited).

"The point of good writing is knowing when to stop."
L.M. Montgomery, author

How to Write Good
"No sentence fragments.
It behooves us to avoid archaisms.
Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
Don't use no double negatives.
If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, 'Resist hyperbole.'
Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Writing carefully, dangling participles should not be used.
Kill all exclamation points!!! Never use a long word with a diminutive one will do.
Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
Take the bull by the hand and don't mix metaphors.
Don't verb nouns.
Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague."
William Safire, US author and columnist

Electronic Media

 
"When he [Man] ceased any longer to heed the words of the seers and prophets, Science lovingly brought forth the Radio Commentator."
Jean Giraudoux, writer, 1933

"Some view the difference between the talk shows and traditional journalism in political terms, as a simple quarrel between left and right, between liberal and conservative. Those differences exist, but they're not of great consequence. What we're seeing is a difference between journalism and pseudo-journalism, between journalism and propaganda. The former seeks earnestly to serve the public. The latter seeks to manipulate it."
John Carroll, Editor, Los Angeles Times, 2004

“When he (Man) ceased any longer to heed the words of the seers and prophets, Science lovingly brought forth the Radio Commentator.”
Jean Giraudoux, 1933, The Enchanted

“Words, isolated in the velvet of radio, took on a jeweled particularity. Television has quite the opposite effect. Words are drowned in the visual soup in which they are obliged to be served.”
Frederic Raphael, writer, 1980

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against igorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful."
Edward R. Murrow, American TV news pioneer, 1958

"I've invented a new definition for TV," he mutterred gloomily. 'I've decided it's a device for hindering communication between the artist and the audience.'"
Arthur C. Clarke, writer, 1953

"I learned that television wasn't about conveying information, but about glorifying the conveyor of the information -- the star. When I asked a young producer the secret of success for a print reporter going into television, he replied, 'Sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made.'"
Daniel Schorr, NPR senior news analyst and newspaper columnist, reflecting on six decades as a print, TV and radio journalist, September 2003.

"Television is more pernicious than merely wires in a box. In the main, television has acted, in the words of the fire marshals, as an accelerant in the great bonfire of our vanities. Of these vanities the greatest is the belief that the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of material well-being are the same. Within that belief is our faith and reliance upon choice in a free market, which democracy both sustains and requires. But not everything the market offers is good and not everything that is good is for sale."
Peter McGhee, former Public Broadcasting Service (US) executive, 2002

"Television is such a staple of modern society that for most voters,
it's not real unless it's on the tube."
Ed Rollins, US political consultant, 1996

From Our Own Mouths

"Many monikers have been attached to me during the five decades of investigative reporting in Washington, but muckraker is the one I like the best... My mentor and partner Drew Pearson wore the label with pride, raking up things as they were in the constant hope that it would bring reform. Lest anyone think he wasn't proud of his calling, Drew entered into a side business selling manure generated by the cows at his gentleman's farm along the Potomac River. His mail-order advertisement hailed the manure as 'better than the column.'"
Jack Anderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning muckraking journalist (1922-2005)

"Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar."
Edward R. Murrow, US newsman (1908-1965)

"People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news."
A. J. Liebling, US journalist (1904-1963)

“I like to do my principal research in bars, where people are more likely to tell the truth or, at least, lie less convincingly than they do in briefings and books.”
P. J. O’Rourke

“Journalism is, in fact, history on the run.”
Thomas Griffith, editor

“No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch newspaper.”
Mike Royko, before resigning from the Chicago Sun-Times when the paper was sold to Rupert Murdoch.

“It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news, and raise hell.”
Wilbur F. Storey, Editor, Chicago Times

“We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks; they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”
John Swinton, Editor, New York Sun

“At certain times each year, we journalists do almost nothing except apply for the Pulitzers and several dozen other major prizes. During these times you could walk right into most newsrooms and commit a multiple axe murder naked, and it wouldn’t get reported in the paper because the reporters and editors would all be too busy filling out prize applications.”
Dave Barry

“I ain’t no lady. I’m a newspaperwoman.”
Hazel Brannon Smith, journalist

“We don’t write the truth. We write what people say. Sometimes we know it’s not the truth.”
Wayne Phaneuf, editor

“Newspapermen, as journalists used to be called, have long been charged with the sin of cynicism… a characterisation that many of us encourage to deflect attention from our far more widespread flaw, incorrigible sentimentalism.”
Robert Manning, former editor, Atlantic

“The press can only be a mirror – albeit a distorting mirror, according to its politics or the smallness of its purpose – but it rarely lies because it dare not.”
James Cameron, British journalist

“I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on the newspapers for information.”
Christopher Hitchens, British journalist

The First Law of Journalism: to confirm existing prejudice, rather than contradict it.”
Alexander Cockburn, British journalist

There is now and will be a monster explosion in the means of disseminating material… but there’s still something to be said for sitting on the stoop reading a daily newspaper.”
Chuck Ward, publisher

“Journalists by definition are malcontents.”
Jonathan Alter, editor, media critic

“Unhappiness with the media is nothing new; the messenger has always caught hell for bringing bad news.”
J. Herbert Altschull, journalist

“We journalists don’t have to step on roaches. All we have to do is turn on the kitchen light and watch the critters scurry.”
P. J. O’Rourke

“I don’t know. The editor did it when I was away.”
Rupert Murdoch, when asked why he had allowed Page 3 (girls) to develop.

“We work in the toy department.”
Jimmy Cannon, on sports writers

“Let’s face it, sports writers, we’re not hanging around with brain surgeons.”
Jimmy Cannon

“I think it well to remember that, when writing for the newspapers, we are writing for an elderly lady in Hastings who has two cats of which she is passionately fond. Unless our stuff can successfully compete for her interest with those cats, it is no good.”
Willmott Lewis, ‘In Time of Trouble’

“Today’s sorry newsrooms – silent, smokeless, boozeless, cursor-cursed funeral parlors – bear no resemblance to the divine hell-holes that persisted at newspapers and wire services until the mid-1970s. They were seas of grunge and debris, rackety with the clatter and jingle of teletypes and typewriters. Their mostly male, adrenaline-high, Masters of Slot and Spike rules a universe of controlled chaos, suspended in a perpetual stinking fog of cigarette smoke and worse.”
Diane McLellan, opening a book review in the Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2001

 

Journalist writers

   
"Writing a good story is like having a crush. You're excited about it, interested in it, give it your attention and want to know as much as you can. Then, you move on. Really great stories are like love affairs, they engulf you and maybe even define your career. Journalism is like life that way, you should have some crushes and everyone should be lucky enough to have a great love affair."
Jerry Kammer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in the US, Copley News Service, Oct. 2, 2007

"Remind the politicians you interview that you pay them, that they are public servants. Remember every question is legitimate. And don't give up. There's always a leak. There's always someone who's trying to save the country."
Helen Thomas, veteran Washington UPI newswoman, 2004

“The politician is trained in the art of inexactitude. His words tend to be blunt or rounded, because if they have a cutting edge they may later return to wound him.”
Edward R. Murrow

“Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
George Orwell, 1946, Politics and the English Language

 

New media

   
"The people formerly known as the audience [are] too busy making content to consume much of it.... The medium is not the message; the messages are the media."
David Carr, media critic, New York Times, March 18, 2009

 

Not so noble profession

   
"The way I had it is all gone now. The bars are gone, the drinkers, gone. There remain the smartest, healthiest newspeople in the history of the business. And they are so boring that they kill the business right in front of you."
Jimmy Breslin, veteran US newspaper columnist, 1996

"A newspaper is a device unable to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization."
George Bernard Shaw, writer (1856-1950)

“The life of the journalist is poor, nasty, brutish and short. So is his style.”
Stella Gibbons, 1932, Cold Comfort Farm, Foreword

“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.”
Humbert Wolfe, ‘The Uncelestial City’

“I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.”
Gandhi

“There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”
Oscar Wilde

“I’m with you on the free press. It’s the newspapers I can’t stand.”
Tom Stoppard

“Some of the press who speak loudly about the freedom of the press are themselves the enemies of freedom. Countless people dare not say a thing because they know it will be picked up and made a song of by the press. That limits freedom.”
Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury

“The newspapers chronicle with degrading avidity the sins of the second-rate, and with the conscientiousness of the illiterate give us accurate and prosaic details of the doings of people of absolutely no interest whatever.”
Oscar Wilde

“I read the newspapers avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction.”
Aneurin Bevan

“Journalism justifies its own existence by the great Darwinian principle of the survival of the vulgarist.”
Oscar Wilde

“Journalism consists largely in saying ‘Lord Jones died’ to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.”
G. K. Chesterton

“You should always believe all you read in the newspapers, as this makes them more interesting.”
Rose Macaulay

“Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.”
Ben Hecht

“If a man makes money by publishing a newspaper, by poisoning the wells of information, by feeding the people a daily spiritual death, he is the greatest criminal I can conceive.”
Ferdinand Lassalle

“The indispensable requirement for a good newspaperman – as eager to tell a lie as the truth.”
Norman Mailer

“To say that the newspaper press represents public opinion is to administer insult to intelligent men. It is the property of speculators, political leaders, large contractors and railway directors.”
Karl Marx

“The media is almost wholly owned by corporations and almost wholly funded by advertising. And that puts… limits on the kinds of things the news can challenge.”
Jim Naureckas, editor

“There are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press.”
Mark Twain

“If a newspaper prints a sex crime, it is smut: but when the New York Times prints it, it is a sociological study.”
Adolph S. Ochs

“Journalism is unreadable, and literature is not read.”
Oscar Wilde, on the difference between journalism and literature

“The newspaper is the natural enemy of the book, as the whore is of the decent woman.”
The Goncourt Brothers, 1858

“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

“Freedom of the press in Britain means freedom to print such of the proprietor’s prejudices as the advertisers don’t object to.”
Hannen Swaffer

“Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady; but a newspaper can always print a retraction.”
Adlai Stevenson

“To be a working journalist one needs tact, aplomb, a wide general knowledge, an inventive mind, a faculty for quick action, a nose for news, an ear for scandal, and a mouth for drinking purposes. Also a pencil and some paper. The last three items are absolutely essential.”
Lennie Lower, ‘Journalists are Born, Not Paid’

“The newspapers! Sir, they are the most villainous, licentious, abominable, infernal – not that I ever read them – no – I make a rule never to look into a newspaper.”
Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), The Critic

“Newspapers, even, have degenerated. They may now be absolutely relied upon.”
Oscar Wilde (1865-1900) The Decay of Lying (1891)

“I buy newspapers to make money to buy more newspapers to make money. As for editorial content, that’s the stuff you separate ads with.”
Roy Thompson, Lord Thompson of Fleet, 1894-19

"The former Prime Minister of Singapore, lee Kwan Yew, once said 'Journalists are people who separate the wheat from the chaff and publish the chaff.' This is an outrageous lie. Most journalists are way too lazy to separate the wheat from the chaff, so they either publish a photo of a supermodel in front of the wheat field, or write about some 'expert' who says the wheat is bad for you."
Anonymous 2003

"Media corporations are getting bigger and democracy is losing.
Journalism has become dumbed-down entertainment, we are deluged by
advertising, and elections have become scripted horseraces instead of
forums for meaningful debate."
Robert McChesney, US media scholar, July 2003

"The awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America
by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at
ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to
the poorhouse."
Mark Twain, newspaperman, author (1835-1910)

"As a group, journalists seem to have the thinnest skin when it comes
to criticism. That is changing slowly as we admit we are not perfect,
but there are still too many out there who see any criticism from
outside our sacred profession as an attack on our freedoms. For a batch
of communicators, we really do a pretty rotten job communicating what .
. . we are."
Dan Kubiske, US journalist, 2003

 

Ouch

“All the faults of the age come from Christianity and Journalism.”
Frank Harris

“The newspapers! Sir, they are the most villainous – licentious – abominable – infernal – Not that I ever read them – No – I make it a rule never to look into a newspaper.”
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, ‘The Critic’

“Instead of monopolizing the seat of judgment, journalism should be apologizing in the dock.”
Oscar Wilde

“Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists.”
James G. Watt

“Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers is another.”
G. K. Chesterton

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

“Rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.”
Frank Zappa

“Blessed are they who never read a newspaper, for they shall see Nature and, through her, God.”
Henry David Thoreau, author

“There is one deadly, damning account against the daily newspaper as it is coming to be; namely, it doesn’t give the news.”
Edward Alsworth Ross

 

Politicians on the press

 

"I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."
Will Rogers, straight man (1879-1935)

"We've uncovered some embarrassing ancestors in the not-too-distant past. Some horse thieves, and some people killed on Saturday nights. One of my relatives, unfortunately, was even in the newspaper business."
Former US President Jimmy Carter

“I thank God we have no free schools or printing, and I hope that we shall not have these for a hundred years. For learning has brought disobediences and heresy and sects into the world; and printing has divulged them and libels against the government. God keep us from both.”
Sir William Berkeley, Governor, Virginia Colony, 1671

“On the whole, I would not say that our Press is obscene. I would say that it trembles on the brink of obscenity.”
Lord Longford, British politician

“I read a great number of press reports and find comfort in the fact that they are nearly always conflicting.”
Harold MacMillan, British Prime Minister

“I won’t say that the papers misquote me, but I sometimes wonder where Christianity would be today if some of those reporters had been Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”
Barry M. Goldwater, U.S. Senator

“I read the newspaper avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction.”
Aneurin Bevan, British politician

“Why are newspaper reporters so frequently crude, illiterate and lazy? Pride of craftsmanship seems to be dying out fast among these people who once…essayed to style themselves as a profession. How can that be a profession which connotes neither training, scholarship, real intelligence or independence.”
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies (c 1935) quoted in The Age, July 14, 1982

“Years ago, a South Australian Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, told me : ’You never get into trouble for what you don’t say.' There’s a good deal of truth in that, though in my experience what you don’t say is frequently reported.”
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, quoted in The Wit of Sir Robert Menzies (1966)

"I've been trying to tame our press corps ever since I got into politics, and I've failed miserably. They get to express their opinions--sometimes in the form of news."
President George W. Bush, 2001
Stoppard

"The president of the United States will not stand and be questioned like a chicken thief by men whose names he does not even know."
US President Herbert Hoover

"I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of a good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news. And I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."
President George W. Bush, interview on Fox News, 2003

"To say that the newspaper press represents public opinion is to administer insult to intelligent men. It is the property of speculators, political leaders, large contractors and railway directors."
Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Power of words

"An honest, fearless press is the public's first protection against gangsterism--local or international."
Humphrey Bogart, actor, in "Deadline--USA", 1952

“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”
Tom Stoppard

“A journalist is a grumbler, a censurer, a giver of advice, a regent of sovereigns, a tutor of nations. Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”
Napoleon

“I believe that in this country the press exerts a greater and more pernicious influence than the church. We are not a religious people, but we are a nation of politicians. We do not care for, do not read the bible, but we do care for and do read the newspapers.”
Henry David Thoreau

“The press is our chief ideological weapon.”
Nikita Khrushchev

“Whoever controls the media – the images – controls the culture.”
Allen Ginsberg

“Words are the dress of thoughts, which should no more be presented in rags, tatters and dirt than your person should.”
Lord Chesterfield, British statesman, essayist

“The process of writing, any form of creativity, is a power intensifying life.”
Rita Mae Brown, author

“For one reason or another there has gathered about the newspaperman’s job an atmosphere of mystery or romance, a sort of glamour that has an unfailing appeal for youth on the quest for a vocation.”
George Fox Mott, US educator, 1937

"The beauty of words in a democracy is that anyone can offer them up, and they live or die not by a ruler's dictate, but by their ability to permeate hearts and minds, to ignite passions, and to provoke actions. Throughout our history we have learned that words with enough resonance--whether from a slave, a student, or a songwriter--can change history as dramatically as any decree."
Joannie Fischer, US journalist, Sept. 22, 2003.

Reporters editors


   
"'Modern Journalism' was the theme discussed yesterday at the Pacific Coast Women's Press Association. The lady members discussing the subject were Mrs. Florence Richmond and Mrs. H. Heynemann, both of whom prefaced their discourses by the frank admission that they knew nothing about the subject. After saying what the public wants is an honest newspaper, Mrs. Richmond deplored the fact that the truth is frequently sacrificed in favor of dramatic effects and picturesque language."
From the San Francisco Chronicle's "Wayback Machine," compiled by Johnny Miller, March 15, 1910.

"Over and over again I would take out the five most important books on X subject, and then I'd go back to The New York Times, and by God, the story that was written the day after was by far the best source. Those reporters were writing with everything in the right perspective. Sometimes I think historians are a little like sauté chefs: they cook everything up and soften the edges."
Gene Weingarten, Washington Post blogger, columnist, author and 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winner (3/11/09)

If you haven't figured it out by now, working in the media is a pretty nice gig. Barring outright plagiarism or committing a crime, you don't have to be accountable if you don't want to. You can say what you want when you want and you don't really have to answer to anyone....?
Curt Shilling, Red Sox pitcher, 2007

"The idea that somewhere before it is a big story that there is some
young person ... putting themselves on the line morally, ethically,
journalistically, that is a great thing. I mean, that is what a free
society is about."
David Halberstam, (1934-2007), Pulitzer-winner for his Vietnam coverage and author of more than 20 books, on the role of courageous journalists.

"Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections in people and places. Gloom is their game, the spectacle their passion, normality their nemisis."
“More than one newspaper has been ruined by the brilliant writer in the editor’s chair.”
Lord Camrose

“Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders.”
Walter Bagehot, British economist

“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, and finally you do it for the money.”
Moliere, playwright

“Every reporter is a hope, every editor a disappointment.”
Joseph Pulitzer

“Some editors are failed writers, but then so are most writers.”
T.S.Eliot

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”
H.G.Wells (1866-1946)

“The relationship of editor to author is knife to throat”
Unknown

“A blank page is God’s way of showing you how hard it is to be God.”
Unknown

“Nice guys can’t write.”
Literary agent Knox Burger

“Writing books is certainly a most unpleasant occupation. It is lonesome, unsanitary, and maddening. Many authors go crazy.”
H.L.Mencken (1880-1956)

“Being a newspaper columnist is like being married to a nymphomaniac. It’s great for the first two weeks.”
Lewis Grizzard

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

“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Gene Fowler (1890-1960)

“I can write better than anyone who can write faster, and I can write faster than anyone who can write better.”
A.J.Liebling (1904-1963)

“He writes so well he makes me feel like putting my quill back in my goose.”
Fred Allen (1894-1956)

“Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.”
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

“Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”
Daphne Du Maurier

“Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamp-post how it feel about dogs.”
Christopher Hampton

“He once telephoned a semicolon from Moscow.”
James Bone: James Agate diary, 1935, on being asked whether George Mair was a fastiduous journalist

“A foreign correspondent is someone who flies around from hotel to hotel and thinks that the most interesting thing about any story is the fact that has has arrived to cover it.”
Tom Stoppard, British playwright

“As usual, to put it politely, Garry Wills erases the distinction between reporting and creative writing.”
Jeffrey Hart

"Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections in people and places. Gloom is their game, the spectacle their passion, normality their nemisis."
US Novelist Gay Talese, 1969

Secrets of the trade

“The skills we develop as gatekeepers of public information embody values that outreach simple explanation. We learn to make what is important interesting. We grade information, day by day, interview by interview, lie by lie—honing our talent for truth. We break into forbidden territory, challenging abuse of power and staring down the hypocrites. We try to give the public the facts, often when it is bad news—when they least want to know what they most need to know.”
Chris Masters, Australian journalist and author, 2008

"I want to know, and to write, about the places where disparate points of view rub together--the spaces in between. Not just between man and woman but also North and South; white and non-white;communal and individual; spiritual and carnal. I can think of no genetic or cultural credentials that could entitle a writer to do this--only a keen ear, empathy, caution, willingness to be criticized, and a passionate attraction to the subject."
Barbara Kingsolver, US essayist and author, 1995

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962), on Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961), on
William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962)

“Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely necessary.”
Jessamyn West, author

“Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe in the second, and hold him against the wall until the tag line.”
O’Neil’s Law (Paul O’Neil)

“The only qualities essential for real success in journalism are rat-like cunning, a plausible manner, and a little literary ability.”
Nicholas Tomalin, British journalist

“There is another reason journalists like to drink and eat together: they simply cannot think of better company.”
Osborn Elliott

“When newspapers became solvent they lost a good deal of their old venality, but at the same time they became increasingly cautious, for capital is always timid.”
H. L. Mencken

“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, ‘The Roycroft Dictionary’

“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. Bogart

“What’s missing [from today’s newspapers] is the spice that used to be offered by the misfits of society who became journalists, by the iconoclasts who became journalists, even the drunks who became journalists.”
Marion Lewenstein, communications professor

“Harmony seldom makes a headline.”
Silas Bent

“Good prose is the selection of the best words; poetry is the best words in the best order; and journalese is any old words in any old order.”
Anonymous, quoted by Adam Brewer, 21 August 1987, letter to The Times

“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 Oliver Carlson, Brisbane : A Candid Biography(1837)

“The art of newspaper paragraphing is to stroke a platitude until it purrs like an epigram.”
Don Marquis, in E. Anthony, 1962

"Hemingway got something wonderful out of journalism and it shows inhis novels. Yes, one of the greatest American novelists of all time was, indeed, a journalist. But generally speaking journalism is sloppy writing, and unless you have a real talent, it can injure you to write too quickly, come to too many conclusions. It's frantic and hysterical. Lots of journalism writing is bad because the pressure of being a good writer is not the first talent you need to be a good journalist. The first talent you need is the emotional readiness to introduce yourself to strangers and pick their brains."
Norman Mailer, author, 2004

White lies


   
“Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to tell a lie well.”
Samuel Butler (1835-1902), The Note-books of Samuel Butler (1912)

“Affirm, verb transitive. To declare with suspicious gravity when one is not compelled to wholly discredit himself with an oath.”
Ambrose Bierce, 1911, The Devil’s Dictionary

“Defame, verb transitive. To lie about another. To Tell the truth about another.”
Ambrose Bierce, 1911, The Devil’s Dictionary

“Diplomacy, noun. The patriotic art of lying for one’s country.”
Ambrose Bierce, 1911, The Devil’s Dictionary

“Falsehood, noun. A truth to which the facts are loosely adjusted to an imperfect conformity.”
Ambrose Bierce,1911, The Devil’s Dictionary

“Fib, noun. A lie that has not cut its teeth. An habitual liar’s nearest approach to truth; the perigree of his eccentric orbit.”
Ambrose Bierce, 1911, The Devil’s Dictionary

“Prevaricator, noun. A liar in the caterpillar state.”
Ambrose Bierce,1911, The Devil’s Dictionary

“And after all what is a lie? ‘Tis but / The truth in masquerade.”
Lord Byron, 1819-24, Don Juan

“An exaggeration is a truth that has lost its temper.”
Kahlil Gibran, 1926, Sand and Foam

“To me the truth is something which cannot be told in a few words, and those who simplify the universe only reduce the expansion of its meaning.”
Anaise Nin, The Diary of Anaise Nin, 1931-32

“The greater amount of truth is impulsively uttered; thus the greater amount is spoken, not written.”
Edgar Allan Poe, 1844-99, Marginalia, Ch. 1

“Lies are essential to humanity. They play perhaps as great a role as the pursuit of pleasure, and are indeed controlled by this pursuit.”
Marcel Proust, 1925, Albertine disparue

“The slanderer kills a thousand times; the assassin but once.”
Proverbial Chinese

“A lie is an abomination unto the Lord, and a very present help when in trouble.”
Adlai Stevenson, January 1951, speech in Washington

Whose side are you on


   
"In order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberty of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils that it creates."
Alexis de Tocqueville, French commentator on the American experiment, 1835

“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

“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”
Thomas Jefferson

“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is clearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”
Thomas Jefferson

“Our citizens may be deceived for a while, and have been deceived; but as long as the presses can be protected, we may trust them for light.”
Thomas Jefferson

“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”
Thomas Jefferson