Opinion: Lighten up on The Washington Post. It’s only a newspaper slogan

Headquarters of the Washington Post, which has adopted "Democracy Dies in Darkness" as its new motto.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

“Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Film at 11.

Actually, the quote above isn’t a local TV news headline; it’s the new motto of The Washington Post.

It was spotted Tuesday night under the paper’s masthead online (but not in the print edition) and quickly inspired speculation that it was a response to press-bashing by President Trump (the Post denied it), along with heaping helpings of ridicule.

On Twitter, media critic Jack Shafer said: “‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’ is something a sincere goofball would say in a Preston Sturges movie.” John Podhoretz expanded on the slogan in a way that took a dig at the Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos: “Democracy Dies in Darkness But I Got This Cute Little Night-Light at Amazon for Just $4.99 and It’s Free Shipping Because I Have Prime.”


Long before corporations hired wordsmiths to hammer out “mission statements,” newspapers slapped mottoes on their front or editorial pages. Everyone knows The New York Times’ “All the News That’s Fit To Print” (and the parody version, “All The News That Fits, We Print”). The Chicago Tribune is “The World’s Greatest Newspaper.” My colleague Doyle McManus called my attention to a 1912 Los Angeles Times front page declaring “For liberty under law, equal rights and industrial freedom,” the last a reference to the newspaper’s opposition to labor unions. (A shorter version, “Liberty under law, true industrial freedom” appeared on our masthead as late as 1970.)

I used to work for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “One of America’s Great Newspapers,” a boast it shared with its sister paper The Toledo Blade. The Blade was the hometown paper of National Lampoon editor P.J. O’Rourke, who abbreviated it to produce the motto for the fictitious Dacron Republican-Democrat – “One of America’s Newspapers.”

That remains my favorite newspaper motto – simple, to the point and impossible to contradict.

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