Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter on the Free Press.

September 02, 1938

My dear Mr. Schroth:

I congratulate you upon the great opportunity for constructive service which becomes yours as publisher of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. It is an opportunity which carries with it a grave responsibility, for in these fateful times there is vital need for a strong, fearless and free press.

By a free press I mean a press which is untrammeled by prejudice and unfettered by selfish bias, which will serve no cause but that of truth and which will recognize no master but justice. I think you have in the Brooklyn Eagle a happy medium through which to exemplify the highest ideals of American journalism. The paper has had a long history and has commanded the services of men of character and insight and vision. It has chronicled great events in our national life which have been a part of the broader life of the world at large.

As it has its own history and has witnessed so many changes, the thought occurs to me that in the present transition it can and should play an important part. These times, it seems to me, demand above all else truth in the news, for it is corollary of our democracy that the public can be depended upon to assess problems and policies at their true value if facts are presented as facts, and opinion as opinion—each in its true light. We are governed by public opinion. We cannot lay too much stress on the importance of truth in news.

Once the public realizes that its newspaper serves no interest save that of truth it will give that paper an allegiance that neither depression nor ill-fortune nor any form of hard times can weaken. I have faith in the American press just as I have faith in the American people and in our democratic institutions. I venture the opinion that the straightforward pursuit of truth and justice points one way to prosperity and large influence of American newspapers both great and small.

To you falls the privilege of assuming direction of a paper with a great past, a living tradition. Times change but the essentials of life remain. Ours is the task of seeking a new approach to the solution of age old problems which present new phases to changing generations. In all this he who serves the cause of truth will best serve the national interest.

Very sincerely yours,

Mr. Frank D. Schroth,

Publisher, Brooklyn Daily Eagle,

Brooklyn, New York.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on the Free Press. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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