Sir or Madam,
In their Chicago Tribune editorial, Thomas Geoghegan and James Warren misquoted Thomas Jefferson as saying, "If I had to choose between newspapers without government and government without newspapers, I'd choose the latter." That is not only incorrect, it completely reverses the intention of Jefferson's actual quote by asserting the primacy of the government over the press.
The actual quote was, " [W]ere 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." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 16 Jan. 1787, Papers 11:48-49.
In the future, I hope that the Tribune editorial page will trust that its readers can negotiate the actual language of Jefferson, which is only slightly more awkward than this unfortunate paraphrasing.
-- So-Called "Austin Mayor"
Update -- The Tribune regrets the errors:A Commentary page article Tuesday on newspapers and democracy misquoted Thomas Jefferson. A correct version is: "...and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without 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."
The quotation is attributed to a letter by Jefferson found in "The Papers of Thomas Jefferson," according to A Dictionary of Quotations, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress.
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