Today in Media History: Mr. Dooley: ‘The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’
One of the most famous quotes about the press comes from a fictional 19th century Irish bartender named Mr. Dooley.
On October 7, 1893, Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne introduced his readers to the character of Mr. Dooley in a newspaper column.
Dunne’s weekly column, which featured Dooley’s satirical sayings about the political and social issues of the day, became a syndicated feature for Harper's Weekly and Collier's Weekly.
In the following one-man play we are introduced to Finley Peter Dunne and Mr. Dooley.
Here is how Mr. Dooley’s famous journalism quote is usually remembered:
“The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
However the original quote, which appeared in the 1902 book "Observations by Mr. Dooley," is much different and critical of the press. (The fictional Irish bartender was critical of just about everybody.)
“Th' newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward.”
Charles Fanning wrote about Finley Peter Dunne in the Heath Anthology of American Literature.
“Born to Irish immigrants on Chicago's West Side in 1867, Finley Peter Dunne began a career as a newspaperman in the city in 1884. After working on six different dailies, he settled in as the precocious editorial chair at the Chicago Evening Post in 1892. There, he imagined himself into the character of Martin Dooley, whose 750-word monologues became a Chicago tradition.
…. Mr. Dooley's perspective was consistently skeptical and critical. The salutary effect of most pieces was the exposure of affectation and hypocrisy through undercutting humor and common sense. The most frequently quoted Dooleyisms indicate this thrust.
…. his pioneering realistic sketches … includes some of the best social and political commentary ever written in America.”
And the following comes from the Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt:
“Dunne's sly humor and political acumen won the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, a frequent target of Mr. Dooley's barbs. Indeed Dunne's sketches became so popular and such a litmus test of public opinion that selections from Dooley were read at meetings of the presidential cabinet.
Theodore Roosevelt was a fan, despite the fact that he was one of Dunne's favorite targets.
….Roosevelt wrote to Dunne: ‘I regret to state that my family and intimate friends are delighted with your review of my book. Now I think you owe me one; and I shall expect that when you next come east you pay me a visit. I have long wanted the chance of making your acquaintance.’
The two finally met at the Republican Convention in 1900, where Roosevelt gave him a news scoop -- he would accept the nomination as vice presidential candidate.”