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June 1914

Newspaper Morals: A Reply
by Ralph Pulitzer

Mr. Mencken … ‘assume[s] here, as an axiom too obvious to be argued, that the chief appeal of a newspaper … is not at all to the educated and reflective minority of citizens, but to the ignorant and unreflective majority.’ On the contrary, it is very far from being ‘too obvious to be argued.’ A great many persons of guaranteed education are sadly destitute of any reflectiveness whatsoever, while an appalling number of ‘the ignorant’ have the effrontery to be able to reflect very efficiently …

Granted that in the heat of battle [the press] fails to handle the cold conceptions of austere philosophers with proper scientific etiquette. Granted that it makes blunders in technical statements … Granted that it mixes its science and its sentiment in a manner to shock the gentlemen of disembodied intellects. Granted that the press has many more such intellectual peccadilloes on its conscience.

But if the press does these things honestly, it does them morally, and does not need to excuse them.

Vol. 113, No. 6, pp. 773–778

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