“I have a dream…” Washington Post virtually ignored the speech 50 years ago

Today was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered what is considered to be one of the great speeches of the 20th century, if not one of the best American speeches ever:

And it is easy in retrospect to assume that it was recognized immediately as a classic piece of American rhetoric.  But if you went back to look at the Washington Post from Aug. 29, 1963, you would see lots of stories about the March on Washington, but almost nothing about Dr. King’s speech.  Roberg G. Kaiser, an associate editor at the Post and a former managing editor of the paper, was a summer intern at the paper that year.  In an op/ed piece earlier this week, Kaiser writes:

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.”

In 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.”

Kaiser writes that no one has called the paper “on this bit of journalistic malpractice.  Perhaps this anniversary provides a good moment to cop a plea.  We blew it.”

You can see C-SPAN’s coverage of today’s 50th anniversary of the March here.


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One Response to “I have a dream…” Washington Post virtually ignored the speech 50 years ago

  1. Pingback: “Let Freedom Ring…” ‘I have a dream’ speech was 54 years ago today | Living in a Media World

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