1896 | ‘Without Fear or Favor’
Adolph S. Ochs's journalistic credo was reproduced — with a couple of mistakes — in a stairway niche off the lobby of The Times's headquarters at 229 West 43rd Street.The New York Times
By David W. Dunlap
Aug. 14, 2015
Political madness has surely gripped the nation when a Fox News journalist publicly embraces a 119-year-old guiding principle of The New York Times, as Megyn Kelly did this week by vowing — Donald Trump’s taunts notwithstanding — to “continue doing my job without fear or favor.”
Consciously or not, Ms. Kelly borrowed from one of the most venerable playbooks in the field: the modestly titled “Business Announcement” written by Adolph S. Ochs on April 18, 1896, after he had assumed control of The Times, and published on Page 4, the editorial page, the next morning:
The modest "Business Announcement" of August 1896 resounds to this day.
“It will be my earnest aim that THE NEW-YORK TIMES give the news, all the news, in concise and attractive form, in language that is parliamentary in good society, and give it as early, if not earlier, than it can be learned through any other reliable medium; to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved; to make the columns of THE NEW-YORK TIMES a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.”
Though the phrase “without fear or favor” is far older, the words in this context were the publisher’s, wrote Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones in “The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind The New York Times.” The announcement borrowed heavily from a speech Mr. Ochs had delivered five years earlier in St. Paul, Minn., on how to manage a country newspaper.
Mr. Ochs went on in his announcement to note that the editorial page, far from being impartial, would vigorously champion causes like the “lowest tax consistent with good government.”
When The Times set out in 1933 to enshrine the credo in the lobby of its headquarters at 229 West 43rd Street — as a kind of cloud of Roman type above a bust of the publisher by Vincenzo Miserendino — it misquoted Mr. Ochs’s announcement. Twice.
“To give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of any party, sect, or interest involved.”
Mr. Ochs had not used the word “any.” And he had rendered “interest” in the plural.
Though the typos could have been easily fixed when the bust was moved to another part of the lobby during a modernization in 1971, the error was perpetuated.
The bust and inscription were moved in 1971. So were the typos.A. J. Mast for The New York Times
The bust came with us to 620 Eighth Avenue and stands in the 40th Street side of the lobby. There is no inscription above it any longer. But we still try to abide by Mr. Ochs’s principles.
The bust today, in the lobby of 620 Eighth Avenue. No inscription, no errors.David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
As, apparently, does Ms. Kelly.
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