“If Christ returned to the world today,” the Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote in 1849, “there can be no doubt that it would not be the high priests that he pilloried, it would be the journalists.”
In 1863, Ferdinand Lassalle, founder of Germany’s first independent labour party, identified the point when the press was transformed into a speculative enterprise whose primary aim was profit:
“From that moment on, the newspaper became a highly lucrative investment for those with a talent for making money or for publishers wanting to gain a fortune… From that moment on, then, newspapers, while still retaining the appearance of being campaigners for ideas, changed from being educators and teachers of the people into lickspittles of the wealthy and subscribing bourgeoisie and of its tastes; some newspapers thus have their hands tied by their current subscribers, others by those whom they wish to gain, but both are always shackled by the real financial foundation of the business – advertisements. From that moment on, therefore, newspapers became not only the commonest of vulgar commercial operations, no different from any other, but also they became something much worse, namely totally hypocritical businesses, run with the pretence of fighting for great ideas and the good of the people.”
Quotes taken from John Theobald’s new book, The Media and the Making of History (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2004).
Courtesy MEDIA LENS