“Hail the ink-stained wretches” – unlikely inspiration from the Columbia Journalism Review’s back page

Saw this in an ad for The Dallas Morning News on the back of the Columbia Journalism Review today. Figured I’d pass it along.


Hail the ink-stained wretches. The reporters, those tireless tradesmen , who claw at the TRUTH buried under the soundbites, who sweat not from SPOTLIGHTS, but deadlines, who devote their lives to the ENDLESS TASK OF PUSHING and PUSHING and PUSHING, not just sources, but understanding; not just for WHO and WHAT, but for WHY, wrist-deep in raw fact and quick-scribbled INSIGHT. They work for the NEWS, but answer to the TRUTH.

It’s strange, yes, to draw inspiration from the back page of an issue that includes accounts of what it’s like to report and file stories in the journalist’s nightmare that is Sierra Leone and the Wonderland-esque North Korea, among other gems. But it stuck with me all day.

No word on the origin of the quote, by the way. Although while scouring Google I came across a few other zingers on the Wikiquote for “journalism.” Like:

Never forget that if you don’t hit a newspaper reader between the eyes with your first sentence, there is no need of writing a second one.

-Arthur Brisbane

I suppose, in the end, we journalists try – or should try – to be the first impartial witnesses of history. If we have any reason for our existence, the least must be our ability to report history as it happens so that no one can say: “We didn’t know – no one told us.”

-Robert Fisk


About spencerbuell

Editor-in-Chief, The Gatepost student newspaper at Framingham State University.
This entry was posted in Journalism wisdom from the pros and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Hail the ink-stained wretches” – unlikely inspiration from the Columbia Journalism Review’s back page

  1. Spencer,
    I really like this post. All the work that goes into producing a student newspaper and also being a STUDENT can be overwhelming to say the least. Sometimes all it takes to remind me that it’s worth it is a good article or quote.

    • spencerbuell says:

      Absolutely! We’re students first – at least that’s what our syllabi would have us believe. But we’re journalists (read: ink-stained wretches) in our blood. And now, just as we will for the foreseeable future, we also answer to the TRUTH.

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