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"Democracy dies in darkness"

December 6, 2017

 

“Democracy Dies in Darkness”: a motto that today is still on the front page of the Washington Post’s newspapers. The phrase immediately trended back in February when the Washington Post placed the phrase under its masthead.

From several accounts all over the United States to a newspaper from China, Twitter flooded with opinions of the Washington Post’s new motto. The motto received mixed feedback using adjectives like “ominous,” “dark” and “heavy-handed.”

Because the expression appeared around the same time Trump took office and the president’s claims of fake news, people thought this new motto was an indirect reply to him.

However, that was not the case. The Washington Post, for the past year, determined they needed a maxim, before Trump was even a Republican nominee. The executive editor of the Washington Post, Martin Baron, interviewed the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who used the phrase in the interview speaking of his reason for buying the paper.

“I think a lot of us believe this, that democracy dies in darkness, that certain institutions have a very important role in making sure that there is light,” Bezos said.

Bezos claims no credit for coining the phrase and points to Robert Woodward, a reporter for the Washington Post back in 1971. Woodard used “Democracy Dies in Darkness” for years in relation to Richard Nixon in his investigation of Watergate.

A document from the Washington Post commented on the motto and its meaning.

“The goal of the paper’s slogan would be to communicate that the post has a long-standing reputation for providing news and information with unparalleled analysis and insight…. Our position must be conveyed ‘disruptively’ so we can shake consumers out of their news-as-commodity mindset,” it said.

The document also says the slogan needs to be striking and leave a minor amount of discomfort for the Post’s readers.

I was perplexed by this motto over thanksgiving break when I saw a caption below the Washington Post masthead. The quote gave off a sinister vibe when I first read it.

However, I understood the message it was sending to online viewers and subscribers.

It’s a clear statement saying that everything the government does in secret in an attempt to hide from the public, someone or something must be there to bring it to light.

The Post wants to be that leading institution to shed light on what the government wants to leave in the dark.

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