James Ottaway’s Dow Jones Odyssey

In the mid-50’s after graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy, Mr. Ottaway matriculated to Yale University where he majored in European history, arts, and letters. But he spent the bulk of his time writing for the Yale Daily News. His senior year, he was elected chairman of the paper. Despite the prestige of the position, he did not join Skull and Bones or any other senior society.

“I created my own senior society by getting married between my junior and senior years to my wife Mary,” said Mr. Ottaway. “I thought I was busy enough on Sunday nights.”

Years ago, Robert Semple Jr., the Pulitzer-Prize winning editorial page editor for the New York Times, worked alongside Mr. Ottaway at the Yale Daily News. He recalled Mr. Ottaway as being preternaturally grown up.

“He was quite spectacularly mature for his age,” said Mr. Semple recently. “He had a highly developed moral conscious. He was a good editor. He wrote very sensible editorials. He took sensible positions. This was not a radical era in which to be in New Haven.”

According to Mr. Semple, Mr. Ottaway has never been one to dillydally with frivolous concerns.

“He’s not going to waste a lot of time watching the All-Star Game like I do,” said Mr. Semple. “Bill Borders [a longtime reporter and editor for The New York Times] once said of Jim Ottaway that he breaths different air than you and me. In other words, he’s a very noble fellow.”

Mr. Borders concurred.

“Jim was always an absolute symbol of right thinking, rectitude, and journalistic standards and ethics,” said Mr. Borders, who also worked with Mr. Ottaway at the Yale Daily News in the late ‘50s. “And that was when we were all kids. Now we’re not kids anymore. He’s absolutely on the same side he was on in 1959.”

“His journalistic and ethical standards were then, what they are now,” added Mr. Borders. “I’d have known 45 years ago that he would take a principled stand on behalf of the Wall Street Journal against Rupert Murdoch. Jim said it better than I could, but Murdoch symbolizes everything that’s wrong and threatening about journalism. Jim now is resisting it just as much as I would have predicted all those years ago.”

In 1960, Mr. Ottaway graduated from college. Afterwards, he did what everyone expected. He went to work for his father. “Journalism seemed to me like the most exciting thing you could do to earn a living,” said Mr. Ottaway.

Ten years later, Dow Jones purchased the Ottaway group of community newspapers. Mr. Ottaway the Younger supported the merger. “I thought it would be very exciting to work with some of the best journalists in the world and that it would expand my horizons,” said Mr. Ottaway. “I thought I would learn a lot more about the business. They would help us grow much faster than we could as a small family company, which they certainly did.”

Mr. Ottaway worked for Dow Jones in various capacities for the next 36 years. Last year, after serving 17 years on the company’s board of directors, he retired.

During one stretch of his career, Mr. Ottaway worked as the president of the Dow Jones international group of publications, which included the European and Asian editions of The Wall Street Journal. At one point, the government of Singapore banned the Dow Jones publications for being distributed in their country. The prohibition further inflamed Mr. Ottaway’s belief in a free press. Not to mention his missionary tendencies. In 1996, he became the chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the liberty of the press at home and abroad.

James Ottaway’s Dow Jones Odyssey