Quotable Quotes

…selected quotations from my past work

General philosophy

Every experience in life is a test, and therefore should be welcomed.

In so many conflicts, the real battle is not with our enemies; it takes place within ourselves.
(Welcomat, 1984.)

Yesterday’s liberal ideas are today’s conservative ideas. What seems liberal today will seem conservative tomorrow.

In any issue, the critical question is: Compared to what? Smoking may be bad for people, but if you take away their cigarettes they may turn to even more harmful artificial stimulants, like drugs and booze. Guns may be dangerous, but the absence of guns may put the physically weak at the mercy of the physically strong. The mass media may be irresponsible, but the absence of mass media produced pogroms, witch trials and the Spanish Inquisition.

Change may be difficult, but it’s also inevitable.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, January 29, 1993.)

Four years in a therapy group taught me that anger has little to do with the situation at hand and everything to do with one’s early childhood.
(Broad Street Review, 2008.)

Every act committed since the dawn of time has somehow been preserved somewhere. (Portland (Ind.) Commercial-Review, May 11, 1968).

In any given situation, something’s probably going on that you’re not aware of. (Broad Street Review, October 8, 2013.)

Recognize the difference between brilliance (which is ephemeral) and wisdom (which endures). (The Education of a Journalist, 2022).

Conventional wisdom is usually wrong. .(The Education of a Journalist, 2022).

The media

A good editor keeps his bags packed. He should treat every issue as if it is his first, as well as his last.

At any publication, when the writers begin expending more creativity on internal memos than on the publication itself, that publication is in trouble.

People who complain about “media bias” are usually more biased than the media they complain about.

The power of public figures and their departures from power are rarely as dramatic as our celebrity-hungry society likes to believe.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, August 21, 1979. )

A broad canyon separates the public images and the private realities of most celebrities. Arthur Fiedler was a grouch, Kennedy was a womanizer, Lawrence Welk is a hard-headed businesssman and Dean Martin rarely drinks.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, August 21, 1979.)

Why do the world’s most pressing problems seem to steadfastly resist solution? Because the most important things in life are often the least interesting, and consequently the world’s attention wanders elsewhere.
(In the Kingdom of Coal, 2003.)

Information is like medicine: It does no good unless people swallow it. (Broad Street Review, 2006).

The trouble with TV is, you don’t have to think in order to watch it. By contrast, even a tabloid newspaper or a pornographic novel requires you to exercise your mind by converting abstract symbols— letters— into words and sentences. (Broad Street Review, 2006).

Publications, like people, are never fully formed at birth. They evolve over time in fascinating and totally unexpected directions. (Letter to Philadelphia Weekly, February 6, 2002).

Humor is often a more effective tool than anger or righteous indignation, and it’s often the only tool for winning an adversary over to your side. (The Education of a Journalist, 2022).

Never criticize or ridicule people for things beyond their control— like someone’s name, age, nationality, race, family background, relatives, and physical appearance. If you violate this rule, you’ll create sympathy for your target while reflecting poorly on yourself. (The Education of a Journalist, 2022).

Editors are like friends— not everyone is suited to you.  If you find an editor with whom you share good chemistry, cultivate that relationship, because editors usually last longer than publications— and wherever they move, they will turn to writers they know. (The Education of a Journalist, 2022).

For a writer, there’s no such thing as a bad career move. Every failure or disappointment becomes grist for a writer’s mill, or at least a useful learning experience. (The Education of a Journalist, 2022).

Don’t be misled by a dynamic façade. Remember the emperor’s new clothes. (The Education of a Journalist, 2022).

Your editor isn’t necessarily your friend. (The Education of a Journalist, 2022).


The more effective the business leader, the more disastrous the family leader. (The Outsider: Albert M. Greenfield and the Fall of the Protestant Establishment, 2014.)

Most financial and legal issues spring from emotional roots. That being the case, often you’re better off hiring a therapist than a lawyer. (The Inheritor’s Handbook.)

When anyone quits a job over a principle, usually you’ll find other considerations involved as well.

The minute employees of any company start saying to themselves, “I’ve got a job for life,” that company’s days are numbered. (Welcomat, March 6, 1985.)

The more seamless the business family appears on the outside, the greater the trauma inside. (Family Business, Autumn 2008.)

The mark of a good professional is his willingness to exercise his best independent judgment in behalf of his client or his employer, even to his own short-term detriment. (Broad Street Review, November 18, 2008.)

Success invariably plants the seeds of downfall… Because the world is constantly changing, entrenched organizations are especially vulnerable. (The Education of a Journalist, 2022.)


In the age of technology, the latest bird gets the worm, and the early bird becomes outdated. (Revolution On Wall Street, p. 253.)

People who are perfectly comfortable with technology that was new when they were kids feel terribly threatened by technology that’s new when their children are kids. (Broad Street Review, December 27, 2011.)

Politics and government

In politics, the right things often happen for the wrong reasons.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, February 6, 1993.)

Making war— complicated as it may be— is in fact the easiest task a government can perform. It pales beside the challenge of making peace or housing the homeless or eliminating bigotry or ignorance or drugs.
(Welcomat, January 23, 1991.)

The sexes

The essential difference between men and women: Men need to have sex in order to feel good; women need to feel good in order to have sex.
(Broad Street Review, July 2006.)

What others say about Dan Rottenberg


“As passionate and steadfast a defender of free speech as this town has seen in a long while.”
—Peter Watko, letter to Philadelphia Weekly, 2001.

“One of the brightest and most dependable and most straightforward gentlemen I’ve ever met…. The kind of guy you’d like to have your daughter come home and say she’d like to marry.”
—Philadelphia civic leader W. Thacher Longstreth, quoted in Philadelphia Inquirer, 1993.

“Your lack of reasoning ability, worldly knowledge, understanding and tolerance of Hoosiers has been evident all along.”
—W. H. Cripe, letter to the editor, Portland (Ind.) Commercial-Review, May 16, 1968.

“You’re the only one in Philadelphia who understands what I’m trying to do!”
—Riccardo Muti, music director, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1992.

“You have reinforced my faith in the uncluttered mind.”
—Jeremiah Ford II, former athletic director, University of Pennsylvania, 1976.

“Dan’s a bright, able guy. Anything he’s associated with stands a chance for success.”
—Philadelphia advertising and marketing guru Elliott Curson, quoted in Philadelphia City Paper, Oct. 17, 1996.

“If I wasn’t a public figure, I’d rather make him eat a bundle of those articles covered with ketchup or mustard or whatever he likes.”
—Former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo, May 1982.

“You and I have one thing in common: Neither of us will ever win the Pulitzer Prize, because we are both very poor writers.”
—Thelma M. Tarter of Hartford City, Ind., letter to the editor, Portland (Ind.) Commercial-Review, January 22, 1965.

“What an amazing book! Cobbled together from next to nothing, by sheer determination and invincible curiosity and a genius for sleuthing. And, indispensably, a magnificent application for context…. I marvel at your artistry in crafting a coherent story out of incoherent fragments. I am in awe of your intelligence and restraint…”
— History Professor Michael Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania, on The Man Who Made Wall Street.


“Dan was always the kind of writer who could find a needle in a haystack and then jab it in.” —Muncie (Ind.) Star, 1970.

“Whether subscribers agreed or disagreed with Rottenberg, everyone waited for the evening paper to see what he was up to.”
— Jim Landberg, Dunkirk (Ind.) News & Sun, 1970.

“Dan Rottenberg, I have to tell you, is a serious man.”
— Columnist Dorthy Storck, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 1982.

“The man responsible for transforming the weekly Welcomat into a lively vehicle piloted by emerging and established free-lance writers— you never know where you’re going to end up, but the ride is always interesting.”
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Clark DeLeon, June 30, 1988.

“I don’t think he sees the other side. He sees four or five other sides.”
—Magazine writer Kiki Olson, quoted in Philadelphia Inquirer, 1993.

“A civic treasure who has created a unique forum for opinion in Philadelphia. Ben Franklin would be proud of him, and so should we be.”
—Drexel University professor Robert Zaller, 2010.

“I cannot thank Dan R. sufficiently for the opportunities he has given me to write about music in Philadelphia…. Dan should be, and I’m fairly sure, actually is proud of the remarkable journal he has created.”
—Dan Coren, music critic for Broad Street Review, in a letter to his high school classmates, 2010.

“An over-the-hill hack.”
—Author and journalist Buzz Bissinger, in The Player, July/August 1998.

“A responsible and committed voice in Philadelphia journalism for over 30 years.”
—Buzz Bissinger, Daily Pennsylvanian banquet address, 2009.

“As former chief editor of the Welcomat (now Philadelphia Weekly), Rottenberg stood his ground when challenged by militant ideologues in an age when challenging extreme leftist orthodoxies put one on editorial ‘no fly’ lists.”
—Thom Nickels in Literary Philadelphia: A History of Poetry and Prose in the City of Brotherly Love2015.

“It is time to celebrate a prophet who has not received anywhere near the honor he has earned…. Rottenberg’s exceptional predictions of unpresidential behavior deserve a shoutout.”
—Syndicated columnist Mark Shields, January 6, 2018. (Read the full text here.)

“Dan Rottenberg continues to stand for everything good about journalism and everything essential about professionalism.”
— Bruce Klauber, Broad Street Review, November 2018.

“Dan Rottenberg was the best young journalist I ever saw, and unlike most people who make such seemingly outlandish statements, I speak with authority: I worked for him twice, once when he was sports editor of the Daily Pennsylvanian at the University of Pennsylvania, and again when he was editor of the Commercial Review in Portland, Indiana. This qualifies as an ‘I’d follow him anywhere’ endorsement. He was awfully good as a grown-up journalist, too, a lifetime credit to his profession.”
—Alan Richman, Broad Street Review, November 2018.

When I grow up, I want to be just like Dan Rottenberg: evergreen, ever skeptical, ever playful, ever willing, ever decent, ever transparent. There was never anything murky about Dan Rottenberg’s writing or his editorial positions. He said what he meant and he expected others to do the same, especially writers for the publications he has edited, managed or owned during his long and seamlessly productive career in city journalism.”
— Clark DeLeon, Broad Street Review, December 2018.

“I hope Dan Rottenberg will forgive me for calling him an institution, but the title of his memoir— Education of a Journalist: My Seventy Years On the Frontiers of Free Speech— nods pretty forcefully in that direction.”
— John Prendergast, Pennsylvania Gazette, Sept/Oct. 2022


“Dan Rottenberg is, in our opinion, one of the ablest young newspapermen in America today.”
—Publisher Hugh Ronald, editorial, Portland (Ind.) Commercial-Review, June 5, 1968.

“Although this publication is only a year old— still a startup by most measures— [reader] response has encouraged us to increase our frequency from six to 10 issues a year and add more luster to our estimable editorial with new features from such power hitters as…. Dan Rottenberg….”
—Michael Bloomberg, publisher’s column, Bloomberg Wealth Manager, January/February 2000.

“One of our most constant critics, a decidedly downwardly mobile case named Dan Rottenberg. He began his career at the Wall Street Journal; he is ending it at something called the Welcomat.”
—D. Herbert Lipson, publisher’s column, Philadelphia Magazine, July 1988.