“All the News That’s Fit to Print” first appeared on the cover of the New York Times on October 25, 1896. The newspaper’s publisher Adolph Ochs adopted the slogan for professional and business reasons.
Ochs wanted to set the Times apart from its more sensationalist competitors, filling the market niche of New York’s quality newspaper. Pursuing high quality journalism not only was a moral good, it could make money also, he believed.
The business model adopted by Ochs and other “quality” newspapers at the start of the 20th Century guided the empirical practices of the mainstream press for most of the last century, though tabloids in the United States and the “red tops” in the United Kingdom have never followed this code.
Over the last 25 years the Ochs model has been challenged by the advocacy press approach, where a newspaper reports on a story from an openly avowed ideological perspective. A French newspaper reader knows that when he reads about the same issue in Liberation, Le Monde, Le Figaro, La Croix and L’Humanite he will be presented with left, center left, center right, Catholic and Communist perspectives of an issue.
In and of itself, such an advocacy approach is not a bad thing.
Seeing a story from a variety of perspectives often allows the reader to gain a deeper understanding of the issues than that presented by a traditional newspaper following the “All the News That’s Fit to Print” model. So long as falsehoods are not presented, reading different “spins” or interpretations of the same event can enlighten readers by presenting to them different ways of thinking about an issue.
These musings on the nature of truth, cranks and newspaper reporting were prompted by an item that caught my eye in a story from News in English.no -- a website that carries English-language news stories from Norway. Its headline stated: “Abortion opponent disrupted bishop’s ceremony.” The article reported:
Anti-abortion activist Per Kørner demonstrated his views during Sunday’s ceremony in Tromsø consecrating the newest bishop of the Norwegian Church, Olav Øygard. Kørner was eventually seized by two civilian clad police who firmly escorted him out of the ceremony.
… Kørner disrupted the ceremony when he strode forth in the cathedral, sitting down close to the king until he was literally carried out, involuntarily, by the two policemen. Then the ceremony continued as normal.
Kørner told newspaper Aftenposten afterwards that he wanted “to challenge the church to fight on behalf of the most helpless members of society,” in his view, unborn children.
Intrigued I went to Aftenposten -- Norway’s largest “quality” newspaper. Struggling manfully through the article entitled “Abortmotstander kastet ut av kongens sikkerhetsvakter” with dictionary in hand, I found Aftenposten was telling a different story.
Continue reading "The Aftenposten and abortion in Norway" by George Conger.