This, I hope, is a hard challenge for every hack or journalist who as ever used a specific quote with the lead-in and lazy line: “George Orwell famously said…” without citing where and when he famously said it.
Equally, I hope it’ll be an easy challenge for any researcher better than I am or with great access to more correct indices or a better working knowledge of Orwell’s works. The quote in question is:
“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”
It’s a great quote because it seems idealistic and brave, straightforward and honest. It looks like something Orwell, who went to the Spanish Civil War and to the slums of Wigan and to the flophouses and kitchens of Paris and London to write about what other people didn’t want reported. Unfortunately George Orwell has been turned into a Saint by both sides of the political divide. This means that a quote that sounds like an Orwell ideal. However…
“News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.”
Is a very similar quote indeed. But this one is famously attributed to from William Randolph Hearst aka Citizen Kane. Hearst in his war with fellow newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer managed to drive the values of journalism to lows that are still prized in the tabloid press of today. At least Pulitzer had a change of heart and set-up the much-vaunted, face-saving journalism prize.
I can’t discover exactly where Hearst famously said his famous quote. Maybe you can?
Please feel free to email the sources for both quotes to: Tim.