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Student Handout

Group Quotations

 

"It is so difficult to draw a clear line of separation between the abuse and the wholesome use of the press, that as yet we have found it better to trust the public judgment, rather than the magistrate [ruler], with the discrimination between truth and falsehood. And hitherto [therefore] the public judgment has performed that office with wonderful correctness."

Thomas Jefferson, 1803

Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

Discuss the meaning of Jefferson's quote. With regard to the media, what important principle does Jefferson emphasize?

 

"We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows."

Katherine Graham, 1988, "Secrecy and the Press"

Katherine Graham was the publisher of The Washington Post from 1963-1993. She was publisher during the Watergate scandal, when her newspaper broke the scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.

Discuss the meaning of Graham's quote. With regard to the media, what important principle does Graham emphasize?

 

"... There were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, ... Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable. ..."

Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881, English author

This quote references a statement allegedly made by Edmund Burke, an English statesman.

Discuss the meaning of Carlyle's quote. With regard to the media, what important principle does Carlyle emphasize?

 

"The function of the press is very high. It is almost holy. It ought to serve as a forum for the people, through which the people may freely know what is going on. To misstate or suppress the news is a breach of trust."

Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Justice Louis D. Brandeis served on the United States Supreme Court from 1916-1939.

Discuss the meaning of Brandeis' quote. With regard to the media, what important principle does Brandeis emphasize?

 

"The greatest felony in the news business today is to be behind, or to miss a big story. So speed and quantity substitute for thoroughness and quality, for accuracy and context. The pressure to compete, the fear somebody else will make the splash first, creates a frenzied environment in which a blizzard of information is presented and serious questions may not be raised."

Carl Bernstein, 1992

Carl Bernstein is a journalist. When working for The Washington Post, he and Bob Woodward broke the Watergate scandal about the Nixon Administration.

Discuss the meaning of Bernstein's quote. With regard to the media, what important principle does Bernstein emphasize?

 

"The first duty of a newspaper is to be accurate. If it be accurate, it follows that it is fair."

Herbert Bayard Swope, 1958

Herbert Bayard Swope was an editor and journalist.

Discuss the meaning of Bayer Swope's quote. With regard to the media, what important principle does Bayer Swope emphasize?

 

"If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed."

Benjamin Franklin, c. 1730

Benjamin Franklin, one of America's founding fathers, was also one of the American colonies' earliest printers. He was a printer's apprentice at 12 years old and eventually published The Pennsylvania Gazette.

Discuss the meaning of Franklin's quote. With regard to the media, what important principle does Franklin emphasize?