The Birth of a Slogan – by Brian Flaherty

On this day, February 10, 1897, page one of The New York Times first carried the slogan, “All the news that’s fit to print,” coined by its owner Adolph Ochs. At the time, the paper sold for a penny.

It may be hard to imagine today, but there was a time when “the news” meant one of two things:

• A daily paper that would arrive once or twice a day on your front porch with a thud—or crash—depending on the aim of your paper carrier

• A nightly evening network newscast—one time: 6:30 pm Eastern; four networks: ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS.

Today, “all the news” can be found among myriad choices on multiple platforms catering to nearly every point of view. But do Americans think it’s fit?

The Pew View: A Nation Divided

Pew Research Center reported last month that no single news source is trusted by a majority of U.S. adults. Pew surveyed over 12,000 adults in late 2019, breaking down the news sources they rely upon to get their news and which ones they trust the most.

• Republicans rely on Fox News to get their news and Democrats rely on CNN the most. That said, GOP respondents rely far more exclusively on Fox than the Democrats do on CNN or any other source.

• Democrats’ trust levels in CNN are on par with Republicans’ trust in Fox.

• Of 30 specific news sources cited in the survey, Democrats expressed trust in 22 of them; Republicans distrusted more than 20 of them.

Does that mean conservatives aren’t watching CNN? Not so, according to Nieman Journalism Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen, in a great analysis tying the Pew report to another survey it conducted in 2014.

That survey showed that 78% of the respondents said they got news “only from outlets they trust or ones they neither trust nor distrust.” No surprise there.

However, conservatives were more willing to hear from another point of view. Some 26% of those with consistently conservative points of view reported consuming news from at least one source that they distrusted—while only 14% of those with consistently liberal points of view reported doing the same.

The Grey Lady Beats a Deadline

To be sure, news-hungry Knickerbockers in 1897 had choices, too. If The Times wasn’t their cup of tea, there was always the New York Journal and The New York Herald.

How fares “The Grey Lady” today?

While the paper’s newsstand price has climbed $2.50, the paper closed 2019 reporting $800 million in digital revenue, reaching that goal—double its 2015 figure—one year ahead of schedule.

As Nieman reported last week, despite a 10 percent drop in online and print advertising revenue, The Times had a banner year.

“The paper of record added 1 million new digital-only subscribers and ended the year with a total of 5.25 million total subscriptions across all of their digital and print products. Both were new records for the paper.”

Nieman’s Sarah Scire quoted CEO Mark Thompson on the paper’s year-end earnings, saying the key to success was “the decision to give more autonomy to teams working on the publication’s various digital products.”

And signifying good news for veteran crossword-builder, successful publican and Fairfield University alum Joe DiPietro, The Times gained some 40,000 crossword subscriptions in 2019.

Incidentally, when Ochs debuted “All the news that’s fit to print” on this day 123 years ago, the paper offered a $100 prize to anyone who could come up with a better slogan of 10 words or less.

To date, no one has.

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