In 1896, a Tennessee publisher named Adolph Ochs became the majority stockholder of The New York Times, and in a short few paragraphs under the heading “Business Announcement,” he outlined his plans for the paper. One sentence, burned into the brains of journalists throughout the intervening century, announced his aim for the paper “to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect or interests involved.”Without fear or favor. This was, and remains, a good guiding principle for this profession. Journalists young and old heed it regularly. You swallow your fear of a powerful CEO or politician, dial a phone number, ask the tough questions, and demand a real answer. You force yourself to examine your own biases, to not fall prey to the likability of a subject or a source, to not assume there are good guys and bad guys, and to meet every question with clear-eyed scrutiny.
These are ideals, and by definition, we don’t always meet them. But we strive, and on our best days, we succeed.