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Johanna Maurice: The Daily Mail’s goals for 100 years

“Without, or with, offence to friends and foes, we sketch your world exactly as it goes.”

That slogan appeared on the Daily Mail’s editorial page for most of its 100 years. It reflects what Daily Mail tries to do – give people the information they need to make up their own minds.

That is journalism, which is essential to self-government by a free people.

In a world full of media dedicated to serving political parties, journalism that seeks to clear away spin and empower people with facts is a rare commodity.

Gov. Walter Eli Clark drew the distinction clearly. On the editorial page, the Daily Mail would be Republican, “mightily” so, he said.

But in forwarding conservative values – limited government that empowers people -- it would never simply shill for a political party.

The Daily Mail’s roots go deeper.

History is full of people who, contemptuous of others, think an elite should take charge.

Whatever the form – monarchy, oligarchy, fascism, collectivism – government that rejects limits to its power is oppressive. Rather than serve ordinary people, it turns them into servants of the state instead.

The idea that those who seek to govern should be accountable to the governed is radical. The Founding Fathers’ limitation of the powers of government so as to empower citizens themselves is the most liberal idea ever.

Preserving the freedoms expressed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights is what conservatism is all about. Freedom has lifted more people out of poverty than oppressive government ever will.

The editorial page of The Chicago Tribune puts these views well. It says, in part:

“The Tribune believes in the traditional principles of limited government; maximum individual responsibility; and minimum restriction of personal liberty, opportunity and enterprise. It believes in free markets, free will and freedom of expression.”

The Daily Mail has most often found that commitment shared by the Republican Party, but it has much in common with Democrats who share those values.

But freedom must constantly be defended against those who seek power for self-serving reasons. After all, the American economy is the richest prize on Earth.

And selling political ideas is like marketing anything else. The unscrupulous use deceptive branding, misleading statistics and character assassination in an effort to prevail, so it pays to be a sharp-minded consumer.

Whom do candidates seek to empower – you or themselves?

The Daily Mail tries to make the truth easier to discern.

Newspapers are businesses, but local owners are powerfully committed to their communities. Gov. Clark; his widow, Juliet Clay Stanton Clark; and her son, Lyell Clay, all shared that value, as did publishers John McGee, David Greenfield, Sam Hindman and Nanya Friend.

A long line of Daily Mailers – William Dawson, Jack Maurice, Bob Mellace, Charlie Connor, Rex Woodford, Richard Grimes, William P. Cheshire, Paul Akers, Paul Owens, Bob Kelly, Don Surber – and now Publisher/Editor Brad McElhinny and Editorial Page Editor Kelly Merritt – have focused on West Virginians’ best interests.

What works to relieve poverty? Endless growth of government and ever-higher taxes? Or healthy economic growth that puts money in people’s pockets?

Preservation of free speech or government control of political speech?

A strong defense, or short-sightedness that leaves Americans vulnerable?

The Daily Mail tries to find the facts behind issues. It makes observations not in the expectation that everyone will agree, but in the hope that readers will ask questions also.

Editorial writers can’t tell people what to think. They do suggest what people might think about.

Anyone who tries to write about the values of an institution draws on personal experience, and the evolution of the views of my father is the story I know best.

He understood the liberal values of the Founders. He was greatly inspired by W. Page Pitt, professor of journalism at Marshall University, whose high standards shaped many professional journalists.

Service in World War II introduced my father to Americans of all kinds. This only deepened his admiration for the people the Founders sought to empower. He considered the job a privilege, and the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing icing on the cake.

The Daily Mail‘s core value is respect for ordinary people, who are not ordinary at all.

It is they who make America. They deserve government that preserves their liberty, amplifies their opportunities, and manages their resources wisely.

The Daily Mail seeks to serve those goals.

Maurice joined the Daily Mail as a business writer in 1978 and retired as editorial page editor in 2013. Her father, John Daniell Maurice, joined the paper in 1938, and was editor from 1950 to 1978. She may be reached at 304-343-4024 or hanna.m1913@gmail.com.


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