Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The role of newspapers

I spotted an article written by a newspaper editor wherein he voiced his hopes and fears for the newspaper industry. He decried the growing trend of newspapers to amalgamate and laid out his personal views on what the role of newspapers should be.

A newspaper is of necessity something of a monopoly, and its first duty is to shun the temptations of monopoly. Its primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted. Neither in what it gives, nor in what it does not give, nor in the mode of presentation must the unclouded face of truth suffer wrong. Comment is free, but facts are sacred.
One of the virtues, perhaps almost the chief virtue, of a newspaper is its independence. Whatever its position or character, at least it should have a soul of its own. But the tendency of newspapers, as of other businesses, in these days is towards amalgamation. As organisation grows personality may tend to disappear. It is much to control one newspaper well; it is perhaps beyond the reach of any man, or any body of men, to control half a dozen with equal success.
To the man, whatever his place on the paper, whether on the editorial or business, or even what may be regarded as the mechanical side - this also vitally important in its place - nothing should satisfy short of the best, and the best must always seem a little ahead of the actual. It is here that ability counts and that character counts, and it is on these that a newspaper, like every great undertaking, if it is to be worthy of its power and duty, must rely.
What’s the punch line you ask? The article was written 85 years ago on May 5, 1921 on the 100th anniversary of the Manchester Guardian (now known as The Guardian). The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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