This quotation is currently making the rounds on the web, especially on Facebook, and it is being attributed to the writer George Orwell.
The quotation has various iterations — such as “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.” — and its origination has been attributed to people like William Randolph Hearst and Lord Northcliff (a.k.a. Alfred Harmsworth, the British publishing magnate of the early 20th century).
A discussion of the quote’s possible sources can be found here: Talk: George Orwell – Wikiquote
Beyond the source, how useful is the sentiment expressed in this bromide? Does it do a good job in defining what is and isn’t journalism?
I don’t think it does.
Yes, there are certainly things that people — particularly those in power — want covered up, and those things should be exposed. That is part of the journalist’s job, and in that sense, the quotation appeals to the anti-authoritarian in all of us.
But I am hesitant to say that this is what journalism is all about. To me, journalism is telling ourselves about ourselves — and doing it with accuracy, clarity, and efficiency. Sometimes that will include items that some people want covered up, but it doesn’t have to in order to qualify as journalism.
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