Journalism Dies in Self-Importance

I suppose it’s true that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as the Washington Post’s slogan says. But journalism may also die, by morphing into forms that can no longer be described as journalism. Journalism may come to mean a crooked scandal sheet, or high-minded propaganda. Sometimes squalor and self-righteousness are equally disreputable.

The Post’s apothegm, somehow off-kilter, with its alliteration and self-importance, was a purposeful bit of branding, designed to claim high ground and to poke a thumb in President Trump’s eye every morning. Such partisan intent detracts from the slogan’s claim to universality. The self-serving implication—the notion that, against the Darkness, the Washington Post represents the Light—invites the reader to respond (as readers have always responded to the Chicago Tribune’s slogan, “The World’s Greatest Newspaper”) by muttering, “I’ll be the judge of that, pal.”

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