This month’s The Ecologist magazine has a gem tucked away on the Letters page - a readers letter entitled 'Same Old Story'. It recounts a speech given in the 19th century at the prestigious New York Press Club by the chief of staff at The New York Times. Read it and bathe in the candour.
Same Old Story
Asked to give a toast before the prestigious New York Press Club. John Swinton, who in the 19th century was chief of staff at The New York Times, made this candid confession (it’s worth noting the Swinton was called ‘the dean of his profession’ by other newsmen):
‘There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print.
I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper before 24 hours my occupation would be gone.
The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting (the) independent press. 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.’