I very much enjoyed the several essays on the press in the October American Heritage . In the principal one, “The Press,” there’s a subheading that says: “The Press Is Inaccurate.” Then it cites Ben Bradlee as the fellow who coined that wonderful phrase describing the newspaper as “the first rough draft of history.” Rather it was, I do believe you’ll find, the late publisher of the Washington Post , Philip L. Graham, who said that.
It came, I understand, from a speech he made in 1963 in London before Newsweek foreign correspondents. There, he said: “So let us drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of a history that will never be completed about a world we can never understand.”
There’s a wonderful old, not-meant-to-be-mean expression in this business: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!”