benjamin franklin

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Although Ben Franklin excelled as a businessman, scientist, diplomat, and inventor, he considered himself, first and foremost, a printer and publisher. As publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette, Franklin established a style of journalism that became the foundation for modern American news coverage.

Journalist Walter Isaacson believes that Franklin's success with the Pennsylvania Gazette can be attributed in great part to Franklin's desire to examine more than one side of an issue and to publish different points of view. Isaacson states, "Franklin is one of the first American publishers to understand that freedom of the press and tolerance are part of what it is to be a newspaper editor, and what it is to be a printer. And part of the genius of America is that we're open in our discourse."

Franklin was once criticized for printing something that went against the prevailing point of view. Franklin believed that he should print the truth, even if it was unpopular. Isaacson tells how Franklin responded to this criticism with an article in the Gazette "called 'Apology For Printers' where he writes, 'when truth and error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.'"

Isaacson says, "All of us in journalism get criticized for some of the things we print. And you always look back to Franklin's 'Apology For Printers,' where he justifies trying hard to give all sides to a story, not to be narrow in its view. That's the spirit of the open press in America. That's what you try to do in journalism, and that's why a free and open press is so important to this country."

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