[Ads-l] Journalism adage: If your mother says she loves you, check on it

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 27 10:27:56 UTC 2021

Both Edward H. Eulenberg and Arnold A. Dornfeld have received credit
for the expression in the subject line. They were demanding veteran
editors at the City News Bureau of Chicago.

A Quote Investigator article on this topic is available here:

The earliest match I have located appeared in the "Chicago Tribune" on
March 30, 1970. The article stated that Arnold A. Dornfeld who was
night editor of the City News Bureau of Chicago was retiring the next

[ref] 1970 March 30, Chicago Tribune, ‘Dory’ Ending 44 Years at City
News by John Maclean, Section 1A, Quote Page 2, Column 2, Chicago,
Illinois. (ProQuest) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
After 44 years with City News, Dornfeld has boiled down his advice on
journalism to a single sentence: "Chum, if your mother says she loves
you, check on it." That advice, which Dornfeld admits he borrowed from
another newsman, has been an icy baptism into reporting for many of
the "City Press kids."
[End excerpt]

Thus, Dornfeld popularized the saying, but he disclaimed authorship.
Dornfeld wrote a 1983 book titled "Behind the Front Page" in which he
attributed the saying to colleague Edward H. Eulenberg.

Interestingly, Eulenberg's 1988 obituary gave him credit for a harsher
expression of the same type: "If your mother tells you she loves you,
kick her smartly in the shins and make her prove it". I conjecture
that this statement was toned down to yield the motto mentioned by
Dornfeld. Previous researchers introduced this conjecture.

More information is available in the QI article.

[Begin acknowledgement]
Great thanks to Nick Plessas and Mary Brandt who sent QI a tweet and
an email respectively about this adage. This inspired QI to formulate
this question and perform this exploration. Brandt pointed to the
helpful 2018 piece by Susy Schultz. The hypothesis in this article was
previously voiced by Schultz in the 1990 citation. Additional thanks
to Barry Popik for his pioneering research on this topic. He found
citations beginning in 1974.
[End acknowledgement]

Feedback welcome

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