Quote of the Day – Newspapers – Walter Lippman 1922

Rereading Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann. The Lippmann quotes below on newspapers were written in 1922 (yes, that long ago). What is interesting to me is wondering how they relate to citizen media.

The insistent and ancient belief that trust is not earned, but inspired, revealed, supplied gratis, comes out very plainly in our economic prejudices as readers of newspapers. We expect the newspaper to serve us with truth however unprofitable the truth may be. – pg 203

The citizen will pay for his telephone, his railroad rides, his motor car, his entertainment. But he does not pay openly for his news. – pg 204

Circulation is, therefore, the means to an end. It becomes an asset only when it can be sold to the advertiser, who buys it with revenues secured through indirect taxation of the reader. The kind of news the advertiser will buy depends on what he has to sell. It may be "quality" or "mass." – pg 204

Therefore, whenever you find a newspaper betraying its readers for the sake of an advertiser, you can be fairly certain either that the publisher sincerely shares the views of the advertiser, or that he thinks, perhaps mistakenly, he cannot count up on the support of his readers if he openly resists dictation. It is a question of whether the readers, who do not pay in cash for their news, will pay for it in loyalty. – 206

Citizen journalists are writing articles to post on their sites, posting on blogs, watching their traffic and counting their adwords revenue. Are they not also, are we not also, trying to please our unpaying readership? Do I digg my own articles? – that is the question.

Walter Lippman image from cspan.