"The press [is] the only tocsin of a nation. [When it] is completely silenced... all means of a general effort [are] taken away." -- Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, Nov 29, 1802. (*) ME 10:341But perhaps you didn't know that the honorable gentleman from Virginia did not look favorably on the newspapers of his time :
"The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure." -- Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823. ME 15:491
"The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384
"The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false." --Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807. ME 11:225But newspapers were just about the only component of a "free press" in Jefferson's time. It seems he may have been hoping that the peoples would become better educated and that either the newspapers would respond by improving the quality of their reporting, or readers would have learned how to separate the facts from the fiction.
"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787. ME 6:57
"The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers... [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper." --Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp, Oct. 13, 1785. (*) ME 5:181, Papers 8:632
"I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens who, reading newspapers, live and die in the belief that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time, whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them... but no details can be relied on." --Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807. ME 11:224
Comforting in a way, is it not, that some things never change? The newspapers today (to include radio and TV news) are still as inaccurate and dishonest as they can be, and readers are still as uninformed and as gullible as ever.