Weeks after Adolph S. Ochs bought The New York Times in 1896, “All the news that’s fit to print” was first used to describe the paper. The ad slogan originally appeared on a sign above Madison Square. Soon after, the paper had a contest “offering $100 for the phrase of 10 words or fewer that ‘more aptly’ captured the newspaper’s ‘distinguishing characteristics’ than ‘All the news that’s fit to print.’ ” Contenders included: “Full of meat, clean and neat” and “A decent newspaper for decent people.” These were an attempt to distinguish the Times from its tabloid competitors. But the original slogan stuck, though it has faced challenges, as American University professor W. Joseph Campbell reports:
In 1960 Wright Patman, a US congressman from Texas, asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether “All the news that’s fit to print” amounted to false and misleading advertising.
“Surely this questionable claim has a tendency to make the public believe, and probably does make the public believe, that the New York Times is superior to other newspapers,” Patman wrote.
The Trade Commission declined to investigate, saying: “We do not believe there are any apparent objective standards by which to measure whether ‘news’ is or is not ‘fit to print’.”