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  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Mottos for Journalism

Posted by James McPherson on April 25, 2008

Roy Peter Clarke at the Poynter Institute on Monday called for entries for a six-word motto for contemporary journalism. He got the idea from a similar contest for a new American motto, proposed by Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, and a friend of Dubner’s (The winner of that one, by the way: “Our worst critics prefer to stay.”)

Going for quantity over quality, I fired off 14 entries. This morning Clarke announced the top 10 and runners-up from among the hundreds submitted (suggesting he touched a nerve among journalists and journalism educators), and I found my name on the list five times. Some suggestions were better than any of mine, however (including Clarke’s own “Feed the watchdog, euthenize the lapdog”–which he was persuaded by popular demand to include among the finalists–and “Last one out, turn off the lights,” “Need more Knight, less Ridder” and “See no evil, write no story”). My other favorites include Ryan Kelly’s “Dirty commie latte-sipping liberal scum,” Ken Fuson’s “Doing more with less since 1690” and “We’re sorry about all the trees,”  and Lois Collins’ “We won’t bore you with context.” I’ll list them all here:

Top Ten Picks:

  • Doing more with less since 1690. Ken Fuson, Des Moines Register
  • We’ll always have Paris … or Britney — Jim McPherson, Whitworth University
  • It’s how I change the world. — Nick Escobar, The Elgin (Ill.) CourierNews
  • Get it right, write it tight. — Margaret McDonald, McDonald Wordsmith Communications
  • They’ll miss us when we’re gone. — Scott Powers, Patrick McGeehan, Matthew Jones, John Davenport
  • Feed the lapdog, euthanize the watchdog — Roy Peter Clark
  • Who, what, when, where, why, Web — Greg Phillips, The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer
  • Facts, schmacts … how is my hair? — Kathy Sweeney, anchor/investigative reporter, Heartland News
  • Dirty commie latte-sipping liberal scum — Ryan Kelly, Christopher Newport University
  • Please stop griping, now start typing. — Jeff Unger, University of Illinois


Honorable Mentions:

  • We’re sorry about all the trees — Ken Fuson
  • We checked: Our mother still loves us — Ken Fuson
  • Stop the presses! Oh, you did. — Jim McPherson
  • Information you can trust until tomorrow — Jim McPherson
  • No news is not good news — J. David Knepper and Leah Etling
  • Black and white, but not green enough — Robert Timmons
  • How many inches is the truth? — Casey Bartels
  • Got stry – will txt u asap — Lynn McMahon
  • Seek the truth, not the money — Angele’ Anderfuren
  • Not tonight, dear. I’m on deadline — Christopher Ortiz
  • We don’t make this shit up — Deb Sutton
  • Writers’ block is on Fleet Street — Anand Raj
  • Dead wood floats. So can we — Ray Martinez
  • A journalist’s work is never done — Randy Rogers
  • If we go, who will know? — Steve Riley
  • History’s first version, updated every minute — Rebecca Jones
  • Five Double You and One Age (Quinque Bi Tu Et Unum Aetas) — Sebastian Moraga
  • We break stuff. Like the news — Ryan Kelly
  • Critical thinking? We outsourced to India — Dennis Alchemist
  • It beats working for a living — Jim Naughton
  • Speak truth to power, or else — Peter Gates
  • Journalistic bias? There’s no stinking bias! — Tim Owens
  • Journalism lives where the truth lies — Daneja Kirkland
  • But this IS my day job! — Mike Gruss
  • We won’t bore you with context — Lois M. Collins
  • News now: We’ll fix it later — Lois M. Collins
  • Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy! No, seriously. Accuracy! — Tim Schulte
  • Every silver lining has a cloud — David Vossbrink
  • Must be readable on the crapper! — Michael Sweeney
  • Eye on the ball; ear on the ground — Peter Dannenberg
  • Mainstream media: We’re your grandfather’s blog — Jim McPherson
  • Filling the space between the ads — Jim McPherson
  • Write the truth between the lines — Lynn McMahon
  • Ding dong, the print is dead — Russel Nichols
  • There’s a period key. Use it. — Dan Close
  • Journalism: Sizing down, so bottom’s up! — Matthew Cate
  • Pyramids to blogosphere, and everywhere in between — Bill West

Incidentally, my other suggestions were:

  • “Buns of steel exercise plan: Interactivity.”
  • “Front page scoop, inside page correction.”
  • “Untruth, injustice and the American fray.”
  • “Tracking down YouTube’s best for you”
  • “Spanning the country for campaign gaffes.”
  • “Don’t hate us because we’re dutiful.”
  • “Poll says we should shut up.”
  • “Sobriety is for news, not journalists.”
  • “Telling you what to think about.” (for the agenda setting scholars)
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2 Responses to “Mottos for Journalism”

  1. […] with those of us who care about democracy–would do more in the words of Poynter’s Roy Peter Clarke to “feed the watchdog, euthenize the lapdog.” But I suspect the media will continue […]

  2. Someone said

    Even though it’s not 6 words, how about, “Us outsiders need to think inside the box”?
    Because journalist are always out there, sometimes hidden just to get the info, news, facts, leads. So to get those they must be like pavement artists. They’re not seen but they are there (“outsider”). But all the info they need is on the inside of people and are and can be in plain sight. So journalists basically have to dig in instead of dig out.

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