On the Business of America, Calvin Coolidge, and Business Journalism

Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge

In response to an editor’s note about the perhaps unlikely, widespread appeal of “business stories,” a loyal correspondent writes:

My fellow Vermonter, Calvin Coolidge, is much maligned for saying, “The business of America is business.” But he didn’t actually say that. In more complete context, while addressing the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1925, he said:

There does not seem to be cause for alarm in the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise. Rather, it is probably that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences. After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of opinion that the great majority of people will always find these are moving impulses of our life.

Over my years as a newspaper publisher I often quoted this to editors while exhorting them to do more coverage of local businesses (in response to their general attitude that covering a business was “sales promotion” and the businesses should just buy ads). We might disagree with many other things Coolidge said in that speech, but I think his point about the “business of the American people” is that most of us spend most of our waking timing doing business, whether it’s non-profit, for-profit or governmental business — and therefore it is important for journalists to cover business and for us to follow that coverage. So keep reading the “business pages.”

Martin Langeveld, Vernon, Vt.






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