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quotations about journalism

Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault.

HENRY ANATOLE GRUNWALD, Time Magazine's 60th anniversary issue, Fall 1983

Great is journalism. Is not every able editor a ruler of the world, being the persuader of it?

THOMAS CARLYLE, French Revolution

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, The Soul of Man Under Socialism

Journalism is the only thinkable alternative to working.

JEFFREY BERNARD, quoted in The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners

Only a newspaper! Quick read, quick lost, Who sums the treasure that it carries hence? Torn, trampled under feet, who counts thy cost, Star-eyed intelligence?


How shall I speak thee, or thy power address Thou God of our idolatry, the Press.... Like Eden's dead probationary tree, Knowledge of good and evil is from thee.

WILLIAM COWPER, Progress of Error

Journalism is merely history's first draft.

GEOFFREY C. WARD, quoted in Get Published Today! No More Rejections

The only qualities essential for real success in journalism are rat-like cunning, a plausible manner, and a little literary ability.

NICHOLAS TOMALIN, The Sunday Times Magazine, Oct. 26, 1969

Journalism without a moral position is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist. It’s absolutely unavoidable. A journalist is someone who looks at the world and the way it works, someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees, someone who represents the world, the event, for others. She cannot do her work without judging what she sees.

MARGUERITE DURAS, foreward, Outside: Selected Writings

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, The Critic as Artist

Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grasped at once.

CYRIL CONNOLLY, Enemies of Promise

Journalism is to politician as dog is to lamp-post.

H.L. MENCKEN, quoted in The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Quotations

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

G.K. CHESTERTON, All Things Considered

The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.

OSCAR WILDE, "The Critic as Artist"

Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.

JANET MALCOLM, The Journalist and the Murderer

The journalists have constructed for themselves a little wooden chapel, which they also call the Temple of Fame, in which they put up and take down portraits all day long and make such a hammering you can't hear yourself speak.


I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.

TOM STOPPARD, London Guardian, Mar. 18, 1988

Today’s journalism is obsessed with the kinds of things that tend to preoccupy thirteen-year-old boys: sports, sex, crime, and narcissism.

STEVEN STARK, Atlantic Monthly, Sep. 1994

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, quoted in Jewish Wit and Wisdom

Journalism is literature in a hurry.

MATTHEW ARNOLD, quoted in The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners

Journalism is unlike any other craft. It most closely resembles show business. There's an undeniable element of ego in journalism, and an equally undeniable element of self-sacrifice. Performers know the show must go on. Journalists know the paper has to come out on time.

DONALD L. FERGUSON, Opportunities in Journalism Careers

Reporters are faced with the daily choice of painstakingly researching stories or writing whatever people tell them. Both approaches pay the same.

SCOTT ADAMS, The Dilbert Principle

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

Whenever people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, quoted in The Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Journalism could be described as turning one’s enemies into money.

CRAIG BROWN, London Daily Telegraph, Sep. 28, 1990

In journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right.

ELLEN GOODMAN, Boston Globe, 1993

He comes, the herald of a noisy world, With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks; News from all nations lumbering at his back.


To write weekly, to write daily, to write shortly, to write for busy people catching trains in the morning or for tired people coming home in the evening, is a heartbreaking task for men who know good writing from bad. They do it, but instinctively draw out of harm's way anything precious that might be damaged by contact with the public, or anything sharp that might irritate its skin.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, The Common Reader

I got into journalism not to be a journalist but to try to change American foreign policy. I'm a corny person. I was a dreamer predating my journalistic life, so I got into journalism as a means to try to change the world.

SAMANTHA POWER, interview, Feb. 18, 2008

The press, like fire, is an excellent servant, but a terrible master.

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, The American Democrat


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