“Without Fear or Favor”: the Adolph S. Ochs Story

6 months ago Triangle 0


Written by: Devin Burrow, senior editor


Adolph S. Ochs died after 57 years of dedicating himself  to objectivity as a leader in the world of journalism. Several newspapers such as The New York Times and Chattanooga Times Free Press, which he owned detailed his life. As an entrepreneur of impartiality, Ochs stands out as a founder of a common theme of modern news sources: “To give the news impartially, without fear or favor.” These words are still printed on page one of The Chattanooga Times Free Press as a goal for journalists.

Ochs’ journey began in Cincinnati, Ohio.

On March 12, 1858, Julius Ochs and Bertha Levy, two Germans, had a child they named Adolph Simon Ochs.

At age 11, Ochs began his first job in the newspaper business. When Ochs was young, his family packed up from Cincinnati to Knoxville. He was an office boy for an older civil war captain, William Rule, the editor of The Knoxville Chronicle. Office boys (known today as secretaries) performed various basic administrative duties, such as serving beverages to the guests or staff, handling papers, greeting visitors and other administrative responsibilities.

In 1872, Ochs was promoted to printer’s devil- an apprentice of a printing establishment.

Ochs was a student at Bradford’s Hampden-Sydney Academy, a day school in Knoxville, Tenn. After graduating, Ochs left the Chronicle and went to attend what is now known as the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Upon graduating, Ochs wanted to go somewhere else.

At the age of 20, Ochs left his family and previous life at the Chronicle to find a life in news in California. This was short lived due to homesickness.

His desire to be somewhere different, but closer to home landed him in Louisville, Kentucky, where he dabbled in news work as a reporter and occasionally a paperboy. This wasn’t enough for him and Ochs soon found himself in a familiar city, Chattanooga.

Ochs spent many family trips to Chattanooga inspecting the small cityscape and the old fashioned buildings. He spent years developing a taste for the growing city.

On July 2, 1878, Ochs became the publisher of the troubled Chattanooga Times.

The Times was riddled with problems, from financial struggles to political issues. It was known for having trouble relating to a mixed readership and picking a side of the political aisle to lean towards.

Then Ochs stepped in.

He had experience in the newsroom and  experience in nearly every other job that applied to the industry. But, he also knew something that little to no one knew about: objectivity.

Ochs was known for scouring profiles of political candidates for each party. In this process, he would even make sure that each piece had the exact same word count. Ochs was way ahead of his time.

This new shift in reporting, writing and publishing landed the Times in a completely different ballpark than just years prior.

Ochs had other side businesses such as real estate and investment firms. In 1896, Ochs packed up and left for New York after a bad investment in real estate in Chattanooga. Upon arrival, Ochs bought The New York Times for $5,000.

It was here that he first coined the now famous phrase, “Without fear, or favor.”

Ochs turned the financially struggling NYT around and helped the paper become one of the most read newspapers in the U.S.

Later, Ochs returned to Chattanooga to resume his duties as publisher of The Chattanooga Times.

In 1935, Ochs passed away, but the focal point of his work still lives on the first page of The Chattanooga Times Free Press.



Devin Burrow is the senior editor for BryanTriangle.com. He is a junior communications major with an emphasis in digital media. Devin serves as a resident assistant at Bryan College.