“You shine a light in a dark corner and sometimes you see things
wiggle that the government doesn’t want you to see.” That’s how David R.
Jones, former National Editor of The New York Times, described what he
learned in his 14 years with the paper, when he spoke at Seton Hall
University on Tuesday, October 23, to commemorate Free Speech Week.
Jones urged the audience of students and faculty, to never take for
granted the First Amendment. In his experience with The New York Times,
he has met with lawyers on numerous occasions to discuss the risks of
running certain stories as well as seen reporters go to jail for not
revealing sources. Jones brought the audience into a reality that is not
often discussed, a reality for the media that the general public does
not always see.
As editor for the NYT, he often had to ask himself if the story he
was looking at was worth the consequences that would come with it. He
noted first hand, that the government, on many occasions, sued the
publication, and that advertisers pulled their ads all of the time
because of stories that did not favor them.
Out of the many times the government attempted to prove threats of
National Security were apparent through the stories portrayed in the
paper, in Jones’ opinion, that threat was never real. “Everyone should
stand up for what they believe in” said Jones. “Truth in this country is
a defense,” he continued.
Jones began his career at Penn State University where he majored in
journalism. After a quick two year run with the Air Force, he began
reporting in New York and Pittsburgh for the Wall Street Journal. He
expanded his career when he accepted the position of National Editor and
even went on to become Editor of the National Edition. With a cohesive
journalism background, the retired editor went on to pass along some key
advice for the students in attendance.
“Approach reporting with skepticism” Jones noted. He advised that
accuracy and truth always is the first priority of the media. “There has
always been tension between being right and being first.”
He went on to tell students that to make it in the field, you have to
be adventurous and be open to new opportunities. During the tenure of
his career, he found himself covering news not only in New York and
Pennsylvania but also in Detroit and Washington. He went on to point out
that anyone seeking to make it in the field should have some sense of
Through his personal experiences and advice, everyone in attendance
gained an in-depth insight into the world of journalism and how to be
successful in it. “Don’t miscount luck or good fortune,” Jones urged,
“Be prepared when good fortune comes around.”
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