The Washington Post admits 50 years on - our coverage of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream speech' was a nightmare and 'we blew it'
Newspapers, particularly in the UK, are generally not very good at owning up to making mistakes - let alone confessing they messed up 50 years ago.
But, in the U.S. the Washington Post has admitted "we blew it" 50 years after its coverage of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech in Washington - one of the most famous ever made.
Robert G. Kaiser, a former managing editor at the Washington Post and
current associate editor and senior correspondent, has written an op-ed
for the paper describing how the Post was expecting a riotand missed the significance of the "I have a dream" speech.
He writes:"The main event that day was what
we now call the 'I Have a Dream' speech of Martin Luther King Jr., one
of the most important speeches in U.S. history. But on the day it was
given, The Post didn’t think so. We nearly failed to mention it at all.
"We were poised and ready for a riot, for trouble, for unexpected events — but not for history to be made. Baker’s 1,300-word lead story,
which began under a banner headline on the front page and summarized
the events of the day, did not mention King’s name or his speech. It did
note that the crowd easily exceeded 200,000, the biggest assemblage in
Washington “within memory” — and they all remained 'orderly.'
that paper of Aug. 29, 1963, The Post published two dozen stories about
the march. Every one missed the importance of King’s address. The words
“I have a dream” appeared in only one, a wrap-up of the day’s rhetoric
on Page A15 — in the fifth paragraph. We also printed brief excerpts
from the speeches, but the three paragraphs chosen from King’s speech
did not include 'I have a dream.'
"I’ve never seen anyone call us
on this bit of journalistic malpractice. Perhaps this anniversary
provides a good moment to cop a plea. We blew it."
I am a freelance journalist based in the UK and was deputy editor of Press Gazette, the journalists' magazine, from 1993 until 2006. I want to give an independent view on media matters.
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