Monthly Archives: January 2019

RIGHT TO KNOW POPULARIZED

The Associated Press’s Kent Cooper, sitting beside four telephones in his office. (Photograph by Bernard Hoffman, The LIFE Picture Collection, Getty Images)

January 22, 1945 – Associated Press executive director Kent Cooper popularized the phrase the “right to know” during a speech at Temple Emanu-El in New York.1Editorial, “The Right to Know,” New York Times, January 22, 1945.

In the years before that speech, Cooper worried about how the three major foreign news agencies of the time – Havas in France, Reuters in the United Kingdom, and Wolff in Germany – had divided the world into spheres of influence where each had monopolistic control over the foreign news that came in and out of them.2David Anderson,“For World Press Freedom,” Bakersfield Californian, March 24, 1943. He was also concerned about how those news agencies had become carriers of government propaganda, which he blamed for the First and Second World Wars.3Kent Cooper, Barriers Down: The Story of the News Agency Epoch (New York, NY: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942), 315; Kent Cooper, “Freedom of Information: Head of Associated Press Calls for Unhampered Flow of World News,” Life, November 13, 1944.

As a result, Cooper came to the conclusion that the American “principle of true and unbiased news” should be “given to the world in a militant effort to improve international relations.”4Kent Cooper, “Kent Cooper’s Address on the Methods of Insuring World-Wide Press Freedom,” New York Times, January 22, 1945. Underpinning this conclusion was the belief that people who truthfully know one another don’t go to war with one another. That meant establishing a “worldwide free press, a worldwide communications system, and the necessary facilities for news men to do their work everywhere without interference.” It also meant the United States should impose on its enemies, as well as any country receiving its postwar aid, the acceptance of this “right to know.”5Kent Cooper, “Kent Cooper’s Address on the Methods of Insuring World-Wide Press Freedom,” New York Times, January 22, 1945.

Following Cooper’s speech, a New York Times’s editorial called that saying a “good new phrase for an old freedom” – even though others had used it before.6Editorial, “The Right to Know,” New York Times, January 22, 1945.

This post is part of a series of articles documenting major events in the history of freedom of information in Canada. To see the complete version of that developing timeline, click here.

References   [ + ]

1, 6. Editorial, “The Right to Know,” New York Times, January 22, 1945.
2. David Anderson,“For World Press Freedom,” Bakersfield Californian, March 24, 1943.
3. Kent Cooper, Barriers Down: The Story of the News Agency Epoch (New York, NY: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942), 315; Kent Cooper, “Freedom of Information: Head of Associated Press Calls for Unhampered Flow of World News,” Life, November 13, 1944.
4, 5. Kent Cooper, “Kent Cooper’s Address on the Methods of Insuring World-Wide Press Freedom,” New York Times, January 22, 1945.