‘Without fear or favor’ could be an exception in journalism’s history

2244_Cover_Adolph.jpgSome 117 years ago, Adolph Ochs, who began his career in Knoxville before buying a newspaper in Chattanooga, published a set of principles for his newest newspaper in which he said it would “to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.”

Ochs, but 38 at the time, wrote that in The New York Times. It was a winning business model. “Without fear or favor” became a journalism credo that served journalism and the business of media well for over 100 years.

But former Newsweek editor, Pulitzer Prize winner and historian Jon Meacham said the course Ochs set may turn out to be a brief exception for journalism. The media of the 1700s and 1800s was highly partisan and the media seems to be returning to those roots today. That is where revenue is flowing, Meacham said, and you go hunting “where the ducks are.”

Mecham’s comment was in response to a question about editor Francis Preston Blair following a speech he gave on President’s Day at a packed Bijou Theatre in Knoxville.

He didn’t mention them by name, but probably the biggest example of this trend are the news networks: Fox, MSNBC and CNN. CNN, which doesn’t align itself with either conservative or liberal political point of view, trails in the ratings to the other two, which have adopted strategies with strong political points of view.

Some suggest transparency is the new objectivity. Where do you see the ducks?

(A rare photo of Adolph Ochs, about the time he was beginning his career as a Knoxville journalist. Photo from Metro Pulse.)