A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 23, 2009
“First draft of history” (journalism)

It’s often said that newspapers publish “the first (rough) draft of history.” Washington (DC) Post publisher Phil Graham (1915-1963) is frequently credited with the saying, but he didn’t coin it.

“Rough draft of history” was cited in print in 1905 and “first draft of history” was cited in 1914. “First rough draft of history” has been cited since at least 1943. The Atlantic used the abbreviation “FDOH” in 2009.


Wikipedia: Phil Graham
Philip Leslie Graham (July 18, 1915 – August 3, 1963) was an American publisher and businessman. He was the publisher (from 1946 until his death) and co-owner (from 1948) of The Washington Post. He was married to Katharine Graham, the daughter of Eugene Meyer, the previous owner of The Washington Post.
(...)
“First rough draft of history”
In April 1963, Graham delivered a speech to the overseas correspondents of Newsweek in London, which continues to be quoted — though widely misattributed, even by Helen Thomas in her own memoir First Row at the White House:

“So let us today drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never really be completed about a world we can never really understand…” [Emphasis added]
(...)
1. Thomas, Helen (2000). Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times. Simon and Schuster. p. 383. ISBN 0684845687.  Thomas attributes the quote to Ben Bradlee.

Wikipedia: George Helgesen Fitch
George Helgesen Fitch (1877-August 9, 1915) was an American author, humorist, and journalist perhaps best known for his stories about fictional Siwash College.

Fitch was born in Galva, Illinois. He graduated from Knox College in 1897. He worked as a reporter for a number of midwest newspapers and eventually became frequently published in national magazines, breaking in with his popular “Megaphone” series satirizing urban America. He also penned a syndicated column called “Vest Pocket Essays”. He was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1912.

5 December 1905, The State (Columbia, SC), “The Educational Value of ‘News,’” pg. 5, col. 4:
The newspapers are making morning after morning the rough draft of history. Later, the historian will come, take down the old files, and transform the crude but sincere and accurate annals of editors and reporters into history, into literature. The modern school must study the daily newspaper.

3 July 1914, Lincoln (NE) Daily Star, “The Reporter” by George Fitch, pg. 6, col. 4:
A reporter is a young man who blocks out the first draft of history each day on a rheumatic typewriter.

Google Books
The New Republic
v. 108
1943
Pg. 677: 
News is only the first rough draft of history. One can imagine that the draft will be revised and the title of his Autobiography refuted when obituaries at last come to be written for Harold Ickes.
ALAN BARTH
(The Autobiography of a Curmudgeon by Harold LeClair Ickes—ed.)

19 September 1951, New York (NY) Times, “More Newspapers Send Best Wishes” (New York Times Centennial), pg. 24:
THE NEW YORK POST—TO THE NEW YORK TIMES on its one hundredth birthday: a friendly salute, a warm typewriter toast. You would not want us to pretend that we always love you but as Americans and as journalists we can hardly imagine living without you. The man who said that a newspaper is the first draft of history was obviously referring to THE TIMES; as long as there is any activity stirring on this planet, we are sure there will be a conscientious TIMES man on hand to cover the big and little details. Happy birthday!

Google Books
The Age of Suspicion
By James Arthur Wechsler
New York, NY: Random House
1953
Pg. 241:
A newspaper is the first draft of history; it is the record of how people lived, exulted and suffered in every phase of their existence.

Time magazine
Television: First Draft of History
Monday, Feb. 10, 1958
(...)
From the rest, except for some locutions too salty for U.S. living rooms, Murrow and Co-Producer Fred W. Friendly had a chance to cull “a first draft of history.” Says Friendly: “The material is so rich we could have done another hour-long show just as good as this one—and we’ll probably do it.”

Google Books
The Fourth Branch of Government
By Douglass Cater
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin
1959
Pg. 3:
The wire-service employee scarcely conforms to old-fashioned notions of the reporter as one who each twenty-four hourse dictates a first draft of history
Pg. 52:
Access to the news writers provides the Congressman a chance to contribute his interpretation to the first draft of history, which he hopes will in turn help shape the course history takes.

16 July 1960, Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) Free Press, “Possible GOP Reply to Democrat Ticket” by Harry Ashmore, pg. 16, col. 1: 
LOS ANGELES (Special-NYHT)—Those newspapermen who like to think they write the first draft of history, and may, are busy trying to put together the details of how the emarkable Kennedy-Johnson ticket was arranged.

2 December 1962, Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, “Intimate of Ike Take Unfair Advantage of Fact in New Book” by Eric Sevareid, pg. 4, col. 7:
Journalism may be “the first draft of history,” but there is such a thing as a draft that is too soon, with too much.

OCLC WorldCat record
A first draft of history: 125 years as reported by the Morning Star.
Publisher: [Wilmington, N.C. : Wilmington Star-News, 1992]
Edition/Format: Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
A first draft of history
Author: Ted Poston; Kathleen A Hauke
Publisher: Athens, Ga. [u.a.] : Univ. of Georgia Press, 2000.
Edition/Format: Book : EnglishView all editions and formats

mathewingram.com/work
Twitter: The first draft of history?
by Mathew on May 12, 2008
Like many others, I woke up this morning to Twitter messages about a disaster in China: a magnitude 7.8 (at last report) earthquake in the southwest, with thousands of people either dead or injured.

Slate
The David Bradley Prom
He teams with the Aspen Institute and the Newseum for the year’s most tedious event.

By Jack Shafer
Posted Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, at 4:43 PM ET
(...)
The most rankling thing about the “First Draft of History” has got to be its name. Only a moron could mistake a two-day session of star-studded gas-baggery for a draft of history. The sessions will produce barely enough substance to pad a publishable interview, let alone deserve history’s attention.

In cribbing the phrase first draft of history for their conference, the organizers demonstrate their ignorance of both history and of journalism. The original phrase was coined by former Washington Post Publisher Philip Graham, who delivered it to Newsweek correspondents in 1963, shortly after the Washington Post Co. purchased the magazine. Far from ballyhooing the greatness of the press and implying that historians owe it some debt, Graham staked a much more modest position. He acknowledged that much of journalism was “pure chaff” but said that “no one yet has been able to produce wheat without chaff.” He went on:

So let us today drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of a history that will never be completed about a world we can never really understand.
(...)
Note to Bradley and others: It’s “first rough draft of history,” not “first draft of history.” (See pages 323-24 of Katharine Graham’s Personal History for the Phil Graham anecdote.)

The Atlantic
Oct 2 2009, 8:00 am by Marc Ambinder
Live Coverage Of The First Draft Of History
It’s the first draft of history. Or, rather, The First Draft Of History.  Known as “F’DOH” internally.

Vital conversations, Thursday and Friday, between top journalists and top newsmakers, including Gen. David Petraeus, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, the chairman of AOL.... 

Also: Larry Summers, Carol Browner, John McCain, Vikram Pandit, Eric Schmidt and David Axelrod. 

The Atlantic - Live Blog
October 2, 2009
05:10PM
First Draft of History of #FDOH as we say in Twitterspeak is now over. We had a great time and hope you will, too, watching the videos you may have missed. Thanks.

Slate
Who Said It First?
Journalism is the “first rough draft of history.”

By Jack Shafer
Posted Monday, Aug. 30, 2010, at 8:04 PM ET
(...)
I consulted with Fred R. Shapiro, the editor of The Yale Book of Quotations, in which educator-author Douglass Cater is credited with this tamer version of the phrase: “The reporter [is] one who each twenty-four hours dictates a first draft of history.” Shapiro alerted me to a use of the full phrase earlier than the Graham speech in the June 13, 1948,
(...)
The lesser version of Graham’s phrase (sans the word rough) appears almost routinely on Post editorial pages in the 1940s, both before Graham became publisher in 1946 and after. Shapiro points me to the paper’s Oct. 16, 1944, editorial page, in which an unsigned “Editor’s Note” states, “Newspapers, after all, are the first drafts of history, or pretend they are.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Monday, November 23, 2009 • Permalink


Today is Monday, May 17, 2010 - 10:30PM CST.

I just watched an episode of the “Daily Show”.  The guest was John Meacham of Newsweek Magazine.

He recalls a quote attributed to Phil Graham as follows:

“News is the first rough draft of history.

In 1952, I was a freshman in DePaul University’s College of Commerce in Chicago, IL.

It was a 101 class in Management.  The professor was Mr. Masterson.

I quote him as follows:

“Newspapers are the first rough draft of history”.  His tone was that we be precautionary in hearing new information.  It also seemed he was quoting someone.

I don’t doubt Phil Graham said it in 1963, but I don’t believe he was the originator.

Nor can I find anything resembling it in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

Posted by Phillip Cosgrove  on  05/17  at  10:48 PM

I’m not sure why this quote is so debated, however I recently read an article from Barry Popik that stated: On March 8, 1953, Graham addressed the American Society for Public Administration on the subject of the press. In his remarks—reprinted in the spring 1953 edition of Public Administration Review(paid)—he states:

The inescapable hurry of the press inevitably means a certain degree of superficiality. It is neither within our power nor our province to be ultimately profound. We write 365 days a year the first rough draft of history, and that is a very great task.

Bringing more doubt, because this quote was from 10 years prior.  Who knows if we will really find the truth on this one.

Posted by resume service  on  12/15  at  01:35 PM

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