The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Updated with image — From Knoxville paper boy to owner of the NYT: Panel and plaque to highlight local roots of Adolph Ochs

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Adolph Ochs plaque

KNOXVILLE — Adolph Ochs’s path to running The New York Times started in downtown Knoxville, and local organizations and educators will recognize the historical significance with a panel discussion and dedication of a historic plaque.

The East Tennessee chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (ETSPJ); University of Tennessee School of Journalism and Electronic Media (UTJEM); Knoxville History Project; and Front Page Foundation (FPF) have teamed up for two events that are free and open to the public. 

A panel co-sponsored by UT and ETSPJ, “What Would Ochs Have to Say?,” is set for Wednesday, Sept. 28, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay St. The panelists include Alex S. Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and historian; Jack Neely, author and executive director of the Knoxville History Project; and Dr. Michael Martinez, media historian and assistant professor at the University of Tennessee School of Journalism and Electronic Media.

The event is billed as “an evening of discussion on the legacy of The New York Times owner and publisher Adolph Ochs and how he might view the current state of U.S. news media.”

On Thursday, Sept. 29, at 12 p.m. a historical plaque will be dedicated on Wall Avenue outside 36 Market Square near the site of the Knoxville Chronicle office where Ochs began his career as a carrier boy at age 11. Over the next six years, he became an office boy, apprentice and journeyman printer at The Knoxville Tribune and then left for a newspaper job in Chattanooga at the age of 17. In 1878, he took control of the Chattanooga Times. In 1896 at age 38, he acquired The New York Times and in his inaugural edition made the famous pledge to report the news without “fear or favor.”

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon will present a proclamation in recognition of journalism history in Knoxville and unveil the plaque. The effort to honor Ochs and the historical significance for Knoxville journalism also is being supported in kind by downtown entrepreneurs Scott and Bernadette West, who own the building where the plaque is to be placed and paid for it to be affixed to the wall.

The national Society of Professional Journalists named 36 Market Square as an Historic Site in Journalism last year, one of only two designations in Tennessee. The other is in Memphis and recognizes the Christian Index, the second-oldest Black religious newspaper in the country.

Georgiana Vines, a charter member of ETSPJ and a former national SPJ president spearheaded the effort to recognize Ochs’s Knoxville origins.

— ETSPJ

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