Night and Day Highlights

Note: These are my two favorite scenes from the Tom Stoppard play Night and Day. This is a copyrighted work; do not reproduce without credit or for commercial benefit. No performance rights are granted or implied. For informational purposes only.

RUTH CARLSON, wife of expatriate copper mine manager: I'm with you on the free press. It's the newspapers I can't stand.

JACOB MILNE, idealistic young reporter: You don't have to tell me, I know it better than you-the celebration of inanity, and the way real tragedy is paraphrased into an inflationary spiral of hackneyed melodramas-Beauty Queen In Tug-of Love Baby Storm...Tug-of-Love Baby Mum In Pools Win. ..Pools Man In Beauty Queen Drug Quiz. I know. It's the price you pay for the part that matters.

MILNE. It's not easy to defend, but it's mainly attacked for the wrong reasons People think that rubbish journalism is produced by men of discrimination who are vaguely ashamed of truckling to the lowest taste. But it's not. It's produced by people doing their best work. Proud of their expertise with a limited number of cheap devices to put a shine on the shit. Sorry. I know what I'm talking about because I started off like that, admiring it, trying to be that good, looking up to Fleet Street stringers, London men sometimes, on big local stories. I thought it was great. Some of the best times in my life have been spent sitting in a clapped-out Ford Consul outside a suburban house with a packet of Polos and twenty Players waiting to grab a crooked landlord or a footballer's runaway wife who might be good for one front page between oblivion and oblivion. I felt part of a privileged group, inside society and yet outside it, wjth a licence to scourge it and a duty to defend it, night and day, the street of adventure, the fourth estate. And the thing is-I was dead right. That's what it was, and I was part of it because it's indivisible. Junk journalism is the evidence of a society that has got at least one thing right, that there should be nobody with the power to dictate where responsible journalism begins.




KAMBAWE PRESIDENT MAGEEBA. Please. ..please don't concern yourself. I enjoy a free and open debate. It is a luxury which a man in my position can seldom afford. And I admit that by the highest ideals the Daily Citizen is open to criticism. At the time of independence it was undoubtedly free. It was free to select the news it thought fit to print, to make much of it, or little, and free to make room for more and more girls wearing less and less underwear. You may smile, but does freedom of the press mean freedom to choose its own standards? Mrs. Carson?

RUTH. What's the alternative?

MAGEEBA. That was the question. Easy enough to shut the paper down, as I would have been obliged to do had it not been burned down during the state of emergency which followed independence. But what to put in its place? The English millionaire folded his singed tents and stole away the insurance money, which didn't belong to him since I had nationalized the paper well before the fire was out. Never mind the field was open. I did not believe a newspaper should be part of the apparatus of the state; we are not a totalitarian society. But neither could I afford a return to the whims of private enterprise. I had the immense and delicate task of restoring confidence in Kambawe. I could afford the naked women but not the naked skepticism, the carping and sniping and the public washing of dirty linen which represents freedom to an English editor. What then? A democratic committee of journalists?-- a thorn-bush for the editor to hide in. No, no-freedom with responsibility, that was the elusive formula we pondered all those years ago at the L.S.E. [London School of Economics]. And that is what I found. From the ashes there arose, by public subscription, a new Daily Citizen, responsible and relatively free. Do you know what I mean by a relatively free press, Mr. Wagner?

DICK WAGNER, veteran Australian-born British tabloid newspaper reporter: Not exactly, sir, no.

MAGEEBA. I mean a free press which is edited by one of my relatives.

(He throws back his head and laughs. WAGNER joins in uncertainly. RUTH smiles nervously. CARSON looks scared. MAGEEBA brings the weighted end of his stick down on WAGNER'S head. Shouting.)

MAGEEBA. So it doesn't go crawling to uppity niggers--so it doesn't let traitors shit on the front page!--so it doesn't go sucking up to liars and criminals! Yes sir, Colonel Shimbu, tell us about the exploitation of your people!-free speech for all here, Colonel Shimbu, tell us about the wonderful world you're going to build in that vulture's garbage dump you want to call a country"-yes, you tell us before you get a machine gun up your backside and your brains coming down your nostrils !-who's going to interview you then, Colonel, sir! (Evenly.) I'll give him equal space. Six foot long and six foot deep, just like any other traitor and communist jackal.

Some other quotes from the play:

MILNE. No matter how imperfect things are, if you've got a free press, everything is correctable. Without it, everything is concealable.

GEORGE GUTHRIE, veteran photographer: People do awful things to each other. But it's worse in places where everybody is kept in the dark. Information is light. Information, in itself, about anything, is light.

DICK'S EDITOR IN A CABLE: Upstick protest asswards.


"I was very interested in the idea of the war correspondent who fights for the privilege of being sent into an arena where he stands a good chance of being killed or wounded for what is, in the real world, a commercial enterprise."

"I think the glamour of bringing the news back from a distance place, especially a war, will always be interesting, it will always be dramatic."

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