Democracy Dies in Darkness

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The slogan as it appears on the Washington Post website

"Democracy Dies in Darkness" is the official slogan of the American newspaper The Washington Post, adopted in 2017. The slogan was introduced on the newspaper's website on February 22, 2017,[1] and was added to print copies a week later.[2] Upon its announcement, the slogan generated significant reaction – both positive and negative – from other news organizations and various media figures.


Bob Woodward popularized the phrase.

The Washington Post first unveiled the slogan via Snapchat on February 17, 2017, when it launched its Snapchat Discover platform intended for reaching younger readers, before adding it to its website under the newspaper title. Shani George, the newspaper's Communications Director, said that the phrase had been used internally within the company for years before being officially adopted.[3]

"Democracy Dies in Darkness" was the first slogan to be officially adopted by The Washington Post in its 140-year history.[2] According to the newspaper, the phrase was popularized by investigative journalist Bob Woodward.[3] Woodward used the phrase in a 2007 piece criticizing government secrecy,[4] and referenced the phrase during a 2015 presentation at a conference when he talked about The Last of the President's Men, his book about the Watergate scandal. Woodward said he did not coin the phrase himself, instead attributing the phrase to a judge ruling on a First Amendment case, believed to be from Circuit Judge Damon Keith. The paper's owner Jeff Bezos, who attended Woodward's 2015 presentation, also used the phrase in a May 2016 interview. The newspaper said it decided to adopt an official slogan in early 2016. This started a process which involved a small group of newspaper employees meeting to develop ideas for slogans. The group eventually settled on "Democracy Dies in Darkness" after brainstorming over 500 options.[2]

The slogan appeared at the end of the Post's Super Bowl commercial in 2019. Narrated by Tom Hanks, the commercial was the newspaper's first-ever Super Bowl ad.[5][6]


The slogan generated reaction on the Internet following its announcement.[7] On Twitter, writers at other media organizations mocked the slogan, while news organization ProPublica described the slogan as "awesome".[8] Online magazine Slate said the slogan sounded "like a catchphrase more befitting a doomsday prophet than a daily newspaper", and compared the slogan to the titles of fifteen heavy metal albums, saying that they were "less dark" than the Washington Post slogan.[4] Merriam-Webster dictionary recorded a surge in searches for the word "democracy" after the newspaper adopted the slogan.[1]

Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, said the slogan "sounds like the next Batman movie",[9] while journalist Jack Shafer called the slogan "heavy-handed".[10] Capitol Hill Citizen 's motto "Democracy Dies in Broad Daylight" is intended as a jab at what Politico's Ian Ward described as the Washington Post's "self-important motto Democracy Dies in Darkness".[11]


  1. ^ a b "Trending: 'Democracy Dies In Darkness'". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Farhi, Paul (February 24, 2017). "The Washington Post's new slogan turns out to be an old saying". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on January 11, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Bat, John (February 22, 2017). "Washington Post sells itself to readership with new slogan". CBS News. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Oremus, Will (February 22, 2017). "15 Metal Albums Whose Titles Are Less Dark Than the Washington Post's New Motto". Slate. Archived from the original on February 23, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  5. ^ Beresford, Trilby (February 3, 2019). "Washington Post Debuts Super Bowl Ad Narrated by Tom Hanks: "Democracy Dies in Darkness"". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  6. ^ "Washington Post "Democracy Dies in Darkness"". Ad Age. January 26, 2019. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  7. ^ Quinn, Rob (February 23, 2017). "A Lot of People Are Poking Fun at the Ominous New Slogan of the 'Washington Post'". Newser. Archived from the original on July 7, 2019. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  8. ^ Lejeune, Tristan (February 22, 2017). "The Washington Post: 'Democracy dies in darkness'". The Hill. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  9. ^ Ives, Nat (March 12, 2017). "'Failing New York Times' Editor Psychoanalyzes Trump, Grades WaPo Slogan at SXSW". Ad Age. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  10. ^ Jack Shafer [@jackshafer] (February 22, 2017). ""Democracy Dies in Darkness" is kinda heavy-handed for a newspaper motto" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  11. ^ Ian, Ward (September 4, 2022). "Ralph Nader Thinks People Aren't Paying Attention to His Progressive Agenda". Politico. Retrieved January 28, 2023.