What are two things that might inhibit persons from seeking the truth?
Fear. Of what one will learn. Or, of those who do not want to be discovered.
Favor. Maybe those who don’t want the truth to out have nice carrots — not sticks! — for you.
But, as a whole, we as human beings can’t get away from matters of truth. As C.S. Lewis said:
Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with “normal life.”… The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward. Men are different. They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature.
Can this be the case for journalists as well? Does the idea of having “leather feet” still have significance? And can they really try to be, in most circumstances, as even-handed as possible? And if they think that they must, for the sake of conscience, take a side, can they a) push to get an op-ed column and/or b) maybe tip their hat merely by quoting their “side” last? Why not?!
Why not — without fear or favor?
An op-ed from Aug. 19, 1896, written in the New York Times (all bold and italics mine):
Exactly 100 years ago today, Adolph S. Ochs, the founding father of the modern Times, published a declaration of principles in these pages setting forth his goals for the respectable but failing newspaper he had just taken over. The 38-year-old publisher, who had already rescued a dying paper in Chattanooga, Tenn., now found himself pitted in New York against powerful, sensationalistic competitors in the heyday of yellow journalism. His statement envisioned a dignified and responsible alternative that would provide trustworthy news and opinion. One especially elegant and inspirational goal — ”to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved” — has held a place of honor at The Times ever since. Ochs’s statement, reprinted below, was widely quoted at the time and remains a worthy credo for journalists everywhere, however difficult to fulfill. [:]
To undertake the management of The New-York Times, with its great history for right doing, and to attempt to keep bright the lustre which Henry J. Raymond and George Jones [the paper’s founding publishers] have given it is an extraordinary task. But if a sincere desire to conduct a high-standard newspaper, clean, dignified, and trustworthy, requires honesty, watchfulness, earnestness, industry, and practical knowledge applied with common sense, I entertain the hope that I can succeed in maintaining the high estimate that thoughtful, pure-minded people have ever had of The New-York Times.
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 of 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.
There will be no radical changes in the personnel of the present efficient staff. Mr. Charles R. Miller, who has so ably for many years presided over the editorial pages, will continue to be the editor; nor will there be a departure from the general tone and character and policies pursued with relation to public questions that have distinguished The New-York Times as a non-partisan newspaper — unless it be, if possible, to intensify its devotion to the cause of sound money and tariff reform, opposition to wastefulness and peculation in administering public affairs, and in its advocacy of the lowest tax consistent with good government, and no more government than is absolutely necessary to protect society, maintain individual and vested rights, and assure the free exercise of a sound conscience.
ADOLPH S. OCHS, New-York, Aug. 18, 1896