George Orwell? Alfred Harmsworth? William Randolph Hearst? L. E. Edwardson? Robert W. Sawyer? Mark Rhea Byers? Brian R. Roberts? Malcolm Muggeridge? Katharine Graham? Lord Rothermere? Lord Northcliffe? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: I have been trying to trace a popular saying about journalism which can be expressed in several ways. Here are four examples to show the core of the statement:
1) News is what somebody does not want you to print. All the rest is advertising.
2) News is something which somebody wants suppressed: all the rest is advertising
3) News is anything anybody wants to suppress; everything else is public relations.
4) Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.
These remarks do differ, but I think it makes sense to group them all together. Press baron William Randolph Hearst and renowned author George Orwell have both been credited with originating this saying. Could you explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: The earliest strongly matching expression found by QI was published in 1918 in a New York periodical called “The Fourth Estate: A Newspaper for the Makers of Newspapers”. The words were printed on a sign at a journalist’s desk, and no precise attribution was given. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
“Whatever a patron desires to get published is advertising; whatever he wants to keep out of the paper is news,” is the sentiment expressed in a little framed placard on the desk of L. E. Edwardson, day city editor of the Chicago Herald and Examiner.
In the following decades the saying evolved and instances were employed by or attributed to a wide variety of prominent news people including William Randolph Hearst, Alfred Harmsworth, Brian R. Roberts, and Katharine Graham.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1918 November 30, The Fourth Estate: A Newspaper for the Makers of Newspapers, (Filler item), Quote Page 18, Column 4, Publisher Ernest F, Birmingham, Fourth Estate Publishing Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- Website: The Big Apple, Article title: “If you want something in the paper, that’s advertising; you want something kept out, that’s news”, Date on website: July 11, 2014, Website description: Etymological dictionary with more than 10,000 entries. (Accessed barrypopik on January 10, 2015) link ↩