Tag Archives: Eugene J. McCarthy

Like Blackbirds on a Telephone Line: As One Flies Away They All Fly Away, When One Comes Back, They All Come Back

Eugene J. McCarthy? Shana Alexander? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Leading journalists often display a surprising uniformity of judgement. An exasperated politician referred to reporters as birds who flocked together when deciding whether to alight on a telephone wire. Would you please explore this figurative expression?

Quote Investigator: In February 1963 U.S. Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota spoke before a convention of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, and a local newspaper quoted from McCarthy’s prepared remarks. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

There is the “ever-present disposition to oversimplification and to editorialize in the news reports.”

Columnists particularly “run to certain fads. They are like blackbirds on a telephone pole: As one flies away they all fly away, when one comes back, they all come back.”

McCarthy also included a version of this observation in his 1969 book “The Year of the People”. Details are given further below within the following collection of selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1963 February 22, The Minneapolis Star, Senator Sees Danger in Control of News, Quote Page 3A, Column 2, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Newspapers_com)