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Media Quotes of the Year 2023

It was a year marked by reporters covering conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine, Rupert Murdoch stepping down, AI threatening journalists’ jobs and press freedom under pressure. Jon Slattery chooses his media quotes of the year.

By Jon Slattery

Media Quotes of the Year 2023
Top row (L-R): Lucy Frazer, Liz Gerard, Boris Johnson, Jane Mayer. Bottom row (L-R): Suzanne Moore, Rupert Murdoch, Clive Myrie, John Simpson.


The Committee to Protect Journalists: “The Israel-Gaza conflict has taken a severe toll on journalists since Hamas launched its unprecedented attack against Israel on October 7 and Israel declared war on the militant Palestinian group. CPJ has documented the deadliest period for journalists covering conflict since CPJ began tracking in 1992. From October 7-27, 2023, at least 29 journalists were among more than 8,000 dead on both sides since the war began… At this dark hour, we stand with journalists, with those truth seekers whose daily work keeps us informed with facts that shed light on the human condition and help to hold power to account.”

Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian on covering the Israel-Gaza conflict: “Beyond the timeless journalistic rule that no government deserves a free pass in wartime, what all this boils down to is a reminder that when the fog of war descends it pays to reserve judgment, await facts, count to 10 precisely when you most feel the red mist rising. Unfortunately, those are all skills that rolling news and adrenaline-spiked late nights on X push us irresistibly to forget.”

BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson on Twitter: “British politicians know perfectly well why the BBC avoids the word ‘terrorist’, and over the years plenty of them have privately agreed with it. Calling someone a terrorist means you’re taking sides and ceasing to treat the situation with due impartiality. The BBC’s job is to place the facts before its audience and let them decide what they think, honestly and without ranting.”

Anthony Bellanger, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists: “I call on journalists the world over not to fall into the trap of information overload, driven by social networks, where saying counts for more than what is said, writing counts for more than what is written, and showing counts for more than what is shown. Respect for the facts and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of the journalist.”

Rupert Murdoch steps down

Rupert Murdoch in a statement on stepping down as chairman of Fox and News Corp: “Our companies are in robust health, as am I. Our opportunities far exceed our commercial challenges. We have every reason to be optimistic about the coming years – I certainly am, and plan to be here to participate in them… Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.”

Alan Rusbridger in Prospect magazine: “However brutal and ugly the Wapping dispute was in the mid-80s – someone had to find a way to move newspaper production from the 19th-century methods of newspaper production to the computer typesetting now used the world over. Many tried and failed. It took a Murdoch to succeed… So, yes, journalism does owe him some sort of debt. It also has the absolute duty of holding him and his family to account. If the general public ever confused Murdoch’s general idea of news values and ethical standards with what journalism should be, then the news business really would be in trouble.”

Boris Johnson, quoted in The Times: “Hail Rupe! He not only built a media empire vast enough to intimidate politicians on every continent. Through constant technological innovation he did more than any press baron in the last 100 years to promote the cause of the global free media that is indispensable for democracy and progress.”

Nick Davies, quoted by Press Gazette: “Rupert Murdoch has trampled on the truth, undermined governments, distorted policy, left a legacy of chaos while stuffing his pockets with cash. There are plenty of lickspittle hacks who have taken his pieces of silver and who will try to excuse their own collusion by pretending he is a force for good. The truth contradicts them.”

Prince Harry and the press

Prince Harry on News UK CEO Rebekah Brooks in his book Spare: “Loathsome toad, I gathered. Everyone who knew her was in full agreement that she was an infected pustule on the arse of humanity, plus a shit excuse for a journalist. But none of that mattered, because she’d managed to wriggle her way into a position of great power and lately she was focusing all that power upon… me. She was hunting the Spare, straight out, and making no apologies for it. She wouldn’t stop until my balls were nailed to her office wall.”

The Sun in a leader: “Our once most popular Royal, Harry has become a pitiable figure consumed by anger. The narrative he has constructed – that he and his wife are victims of an oppressive institution and a supine media – is a fiction so flaky it even confuses him. Hence the countless discrepancies in his story. Friends are begging Harry to stop for his own good. He should listen. We fear, sadly, he’s already gone too far.”

Boris Johnson

James Mates on Twitter on Boris Johnson quitting as an MP: “Worth remembering today that Boris Johnson has only been brought to account by some exemplary journalism by @PaulBrandITV and @PippaCrerar. Don’t let anyone tell you that in a social media age, old fashioned reporting has had its day.”

Gabriel Pogrund on the Sunday Times scoop on BBC Chairman Richard Sharp having helped Boris Johnson get an £800,000 loan, which led to his resignation from the BBC: “Our reporting on Richard Sharp wouldn’t have happened without a team of editors and lawyers – as Johnson issued denials and white lies to deter us from publishing at all. A reminder that investigative journalism takes resources-and money!”

Will Lloyd in The Times on Boris Johnson joining GB News: “Its audience is deeply sceptical of mainstream politicians, which is how an anti-politician like Farage became its biggest star. After betraying almost every cause and ally he ever had, it is fitting that Johnson is setting himself up for the same fate. In the old days television made him. On GB News it’s much more likely to break him.”

No laughing matter

Liz Truss at the News Xchange conference on the Daily Star comparing her short-lived premiership to the life of a lettuce: “I don’t think it’s funny, I just think it’s puerile.”

Slapps taken to task

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer KC announcing a new taskforce to tackle Slapps [strategic lawsuits against public participation] used to silence journalists: “Slapps have led to journalists having to crowdfund their legal fees and some have even been forced to sell their homes – simply for doing their job. Working together with industry leaders, we will develop strong measures which enhance the freedom of the press to expose wrongdoing without fear of our justice system being abused to silence journalists.”

AI warning

News Corporation Chief Executive Robert Thomson predicting further newsroom job losses due to artificial intelligence: “We’re facing another wave, in this case, a tsunami of job losses because of the impact of AI… What you might find is that you have this ever-shrinking cycle of sanity surrounded by a reservoir of rubbish… It will evolve into essentially a maggot-ridden mind mould. We live in a world where there’s a surplus of subjectivity. And the problem with AI is it can recycle subjectivity and pretend that it’s objectivity.”

Tub thumpers

Liz Gerard on InPublishing on UK national newspapers: “The big hitters all have the same outlook on what they see as the key issues of the day (not necessarily the ones their readers most care about): migration, cancel culture, the folly of the ‘race to net zero’, gender wars. They thump these tubs so loudly that they pervade every area of public debate and drown out voices trying to raise other concerns.”

Joy of the newsroom

Jane Mayer, quoted in the New York Times praising being in newsrooms rather than working from home: “You could see history happening. People would cluster over a reporter’s desk, pile into the boss’s office, and sometimes break into incredibly loud fights. There were weirdos in newsrooms, and fabulous role models occasionally, and the spirit of being part of a motley entourage. Now, it’s just you and the little cursor on your screen.”

In memoriam

From The Times obit on ex-Sun news editor Tom Petrie: “He would use a brass megaphone to summon reporters to give them their latest assignment underneath a multicoloured plastic parrot that hovered over his desk. The megaphone would also alert his staff to breaking stories, while a squeaking doll of Margaret Thatcher was squeezed whenever a story phoned in by a reader was ‘stood up’ for publication.”

Suzanne Moore remembering advice from foreign correspondent Ann Leslie, who died in June: “I tell you where you should go, Suzanne – Chechnya. It’s fantastic. You can smoke everywhere there. You can smoke in an operating theatre in Chechnya.”

Threats to press freedom

Donald Trump on Truth Social threatens US media outlets like NBC: “I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events. Why should NBC, or any other of the corrupt & dishonest media companies, be entitled to use the very valuable Airwaves of the USA, FREE? They are a true threat to Democracy and are, in fact, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE! The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!”

The BBC’s Clive Myrie, speaking at the Society of Editors’ Media Freedom conference: “Freedom of the press and media isn’t any longer, for some people, a signifier of a healthy democracy. For the powerful, for the zealous true believers in any political party, for financial backers and influencers, freedom of the press is annoying, frustrating, even dangerous. A plurality of opinion is not what they want, they seek propaganda and the bolstering of their own narrow point of view. They seek affirmation, not debate. They want to shut down conversations, not open them up. They are the true enemies of the people. They are the true enemies of democracy.”

Picture credits: Lucy Frazer (Richard Townshend, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons), Boris Johnson (Ben Shread / Cabinet Office), Suzanne Moore (Sarah Lee / The Guardian), Rupert Murdoch (Eva Rinaldi, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons), Clive Myrie (President Of Ukraine from Україна, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons), John Simpson (Chatham House, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons).

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list to receive the magazine, please register here.