Flagpole, February 11, 1998, pp. 12-13


Last month marked the centennial anniversary of the greatest newspaper article of all time. Strangely, the American print and broadcast media barely mentioned the article or its importance or the astonishing story surrounding it. The article, by Emile Zola, the great French novelist, appeared in a Paris literary newspaper, L'Aurore (The Dawn) on Thursday, Jan. 13, 1898, "an essential date in the history of journalism," according to historian Jean-Denis Bredin. Written in the form of an open letter to the President of France, the 4,000 word article, entitled J'Accuse! (I Accuse!), rightly has been judged a "masterpiece" of polemics and a literary achievement "of imperishable beauty." No other newspaper article has ever provoked such public debate and controversy or had such an impact on law, justice, and society.

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