About The Inscriptions

Inscriptions on The Detroit News building.

Written in stone in the parapet of the former home of The Detroit News, the inscriptions by Fred Newton Scott encapsulate many values that modern journalism still embraces.

Scott was a rhetorician, author and professor at the University of Michigan. Among his students was Lee A. White, who went on to become editor of The Detroit News.

“The manner in which the Inscriptions have been treated pleases me very much,” Scott wrote, according to The Life and Legacy of Fred Newton Scott.

The Detroit News moved out of the building, at 615 W. Lafayette Blvd., in 2014.

Here they are:

… VOICE OF THE LOWLY AND OPPRESSED … ADVOCATE OF THE FRIENDLESS … RIGHTER OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE WRONGS.

… CHRONICLER OF FACTS … SIFTER OF RUMORS AND OPINIONS … MINISTER OF THE TRUTH THAT MAKES MEN FREE.

… BEARER OF INTELLIGENCE … DISPELLER OF IGNORANCE AND PREJUDICE … A LIGHT SHINING INTO ALL DARK PLACES.

… REFLECTOR OF EVERY HUMAN INTEREST … FRIEND OF EVERY RIGHTEOUS CAUSE … ENCOURAGER OF EVERY GENEROUS ACT.

… DEFENDER OF EVERY CIVIL LIBERTY … STRENGTHENER OF LOYALTY … PILLAR AND STAY OF DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT.

… MIRROR OF THE PUBLIC MIND … INTERPRETER OF THE PUBLIC INTENT … TROUBLER OF THE PUBLIC CONSCIENCE.

… REPORTER OF THE NEW … REMEMBRANCER OF THE OLD AND TRIED … HERALD OF WHAT IS TO COME.

… SCOURGE OF EVIL DOERS … EXPOSER OF SECRET INIQUITIES … UNRELENTING FOE OF PRIVILEGE AND CORRUPTION.

… PROMOTER OF CIVIC WELFARE AND CIVIC PRIDE … BOND OF CIVIC DUTY … PROTECTOR OF CIVIC RIGHTS.

… UPBUILDER OF THE HOME … NOURISHER OF THE COMMUNITY SPIRIT … ART, LETTERS AND SCIENCE OF THE COMMON PEOPLE.

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6 comments

  1. This led me to pull out a bookshelf collectible — “The Detroit News, 1873-1917,” illustrated by James Scripps Booth (eldest child of George G. Booth, then president of The Detroit News).

    A portion introducing the inscriptions quotes the senior Booth describing Scott’s words as “a reminder of service rendered and those ideals we are pledged to attain.”

    A few pages earlier, a passage says: “The publishers of The News view the newspaper as a semi-public institution, holding a tacit franchise from the people, and under the obligation to supply the reader with a truthful account of things happening, as well as interpretations of more complex events.”

    Then and now, technology provides tools. “Truthful” and “interpretations” remain “the obligation.”

    Apt framing for observations on journalism.

    1. Awesome, Alan! I appreciate the input on these values we try to live up to.

  2. […] where letters reading “The Detroit News” and “Detroit Free Press” span a half-moon arch. Raised inscriptions lining the parapet remind passersby of the building’s original intent: “SCOURGE OF EVIL […]

  3. […] entrance, where letters reading The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press span a half-moon arch. Raised inscriptions1 lining the parapet remind passersby of the building s original intent: SCOURGE OF EVIL DOERS, one […]

  4. “MINISTER OF THE TRUTH THAT MAKES MEN FREE.” Love this.

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