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Former Editor of the NY Times Speaks in Honor of Free Speech Week
Seton Hall > News & Events 

David Jones“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 curiosity.

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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