Poor Journalism? “I Have a Dream” Speech Completely Ignored by “The Washington Post” In 1963

August 26, 2013  |  

MSNBC’s coverage of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this weekend. via @MSNBC

Medgar Evers was just killed two months before the history-making March on Washington (Aug 28. 1963) that brought us the unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech. With an eye only for blood, sweat, and tears, The Washington Post actually missed Martin Luther King’s famous oration, the newspaper tells us.

Along with Evers’ assassination, non-violent protestors were brutally beaten by police in Birmingham, Al. that year as well. With such a racially-charged and high-tension climate, The Washington Post, just a provincial newspaper at the time, was ready to catch any kind of ruckus that erupted.

“We were poised and ready for a riot, for trouble, for unexpected events — but not for history to be made,” said Robert G. Kaiser, associate editor of The Post, who covered the March 50 years ago as an intern. “In that paper of Aug. 29, 1963, The Post published two dozen stories about the march. Every one missed the importance of King’s address.”

The big news story to Post was not Dr. Martin Luther King, but John Lewis, the youngest speaker at the rally. He was the leader of  Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was considered “a dangerous radical.” With such a notoriety, “he got a disproportionate share of attention from reporters and officials,” Kaiser added.

In a scramble to find “bad news”, The Washington Post completely overlooked the only memorable segment of The March on Washington that survived 50 years of time. Even with 60 reporters on site!

Kaiser continues to describe Washington Post‘s embarrassing mishap:

In that paper of Aug. 29, 1963, The Post published two dozen stories about the march. Every one missed the importance of King’s address. The words “I have a dream” appeared in only one, a wrap-up of the day’s rhetoric on Page A15 — in the fifth paragraph. We also printed brief excerpts from the speeches, but the three paragraphs chosen from King’s speech did not include “I have a dream.”

Calling it “journalistic malpractice”, Kaiser—on behalf of The Washington Post team—apologizes for the half-a-century-ago negligence and concludes: “We blew it.”

Last Friday marked  March on Washington’s 50-year anniversary. Unbelievable.

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