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New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, August 05, 1906, Image 21

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OURNALISM
By Lincoln Steffens
ONE day in : week of my service
in an c\- .■• i-o>ition ■>n a New
York news; r. the ollice boy came
up grim ■ v desk, and mumbling,
"Wants a laid down a card. I
tbosgfct he was arau> I the reat number of
aaJßcants that had ■ . I that day. so took no
notice of his humor ■ : ••' the name on the card,
b-.t hurried duwn to ih< i:l to look the "cul>" over,
fe'iras a shabby, pra ■h:iiri*d old man of perhaps
fitT«ioL I was the ■"cub."
"What is it you want?"
"Anything, everythii office boy. reporter,
fok man — any old t iir.u-— something a week —
i job.*:
"But what can y< ■•: ■ : - .-st ? What have you
cknf?"
He smile<i. "Wt-11, '.■: ■ see. I was a reporter
an ' The Blank,' I have U-eri a desk man on ' The
jjmll,' iiight ' editor oi "I'lie Courier,*; city editor of
The Mirror.' Sunday <• it or 'of The Appeal. 1 I
»is—'" He paused xi ..:>:. He nodded across
the roorriul of youn^ ;r.<n, and the smile dried up
was managing editor lure once,'' he said.
He spoke softly, and c looked at each i ither eye
toeyefora second, the l:e turned away and disap
peared.
AN er Story
At Park
tv, a
' ' ■ the rising
■ ■ • ■ editor bid
' ' ■ • • old duffer in
fa job, the
11 are walk
tay « i iuld have
• Ik .>'■■ mt before me
■ me to
utter and
and such
hen the fall
ntally. moi illy, physi
1 „!id since there
■ ted or divertible skill
reek i : lete and
lined -■'•■• of t hese
•■ own
rirld that iv< iuld be
■ ■ ted, I sup
■ : . ' : hard after
! • ruth also.
■ ■". are n< >i i iften in a
• • ■ ■ ■ tition of their
■■•und the
They were fit.
• - of them, some
• our with disap
rten. at
little
urii '■ iif am >nvmit y ;
• lit; the epheme
ral nature of all a man's work; the exhaustion that
comes of the daily j;rind.
All ot these are fair counts in the indictment.
Fortunes are made in journalism, but very lew; the
proportion is much less than in any profession I can
think of except teaching and correct jK>litics. And
the men who jjrow rich on daily newspapers are usu
ally business men who would do as well managing
almost any other big business. High salaries are
paid -as much as twenty thousand dollars — but
these again go to the managers of the papers, who,
though they buy and sell news and opinions — yes
and literature- are executive minds who could deal
as profitably in any other class of goods. Such pos
sibilities must be considered on the fair side of the
case; but this cannot be set off against the fact that,
lor from lour to ten thousand a year, newspapers
have the services of men with talent and character
which in law. medicine, or railroading would bring
in twenty thousand to a hundred thousand dollars
or more a \ ear.
What Reporters Are Paid
TH ERE is in> rule of remuneration on newspapers.
Beginners in New York are put sometimes on
space, and make from nothing up to u-n dollars the
tirst week; and 7n«>r<- and more, as they learn, till
they may earn one hundred dollars. Sometimes they
are started on a salary of five, n^lu, ten. and twelve
dollars. The other large cities pay less, and the
country very little at any time. A country reporter
may get three dollars a week at first, twenty dollars
in his prime; his chief may not make more than
twenty-live or forty dollars.
Whether to begin in a city, town, or village is a
question of circumstances. It doesn't matter much
to a strong character. The country newspaper man
learns the whole business at once, which is a great
advantage, and if he has power he succeeds there,
and perhaps outgrows the place. The big city is
I'i-t for light-weight, clever fellows, who may be
made by their surroundings. Certainly great papers,
which, however, are scattered all about the land.
pick out ability more quickly and foster it. The
thing to do is to start anywhere, and then "watch
• iiit": run away from men and places which stop
th, and start wherever progress is possible.
This money question is all the more important
■ i- it is not pressing at first. Young men often
think they don't want money—other things are so
much better. Hut as they go along in life they find,
or their wives find, that money either gets the other
things '>r adds to the enjoyment of them. At any
rate, the old newspaper men who were young once
often rue bitterly the reckless enthusiasm with \\ hich
they chose their profession. And as for the young
men who go into journalism because they want
y, they, too, repent too late when they learn
that the first salaries are the best. Young doctors
nearly starve for a year or two, young lawyers some
pay for the privilege of working in an office,
young architects and artists work ior wages or noth
ing; while the youngest reporter on a New- York
paper gets a few dollars a week, and the rise to
twenty-live, thirty, forty, dollars may l>e rapid.
Five thousand a year may be attained before the
men in the other professions are, making a fair living.
Those others, however, have been building all for
themselves, developing their practice, their art.
The journalist has been building somebody's else
property. He is helping to make fame and fortune
for his paper. His own abilities develop truly, and
his market value increases; but the market Jn nar
row, and his efforts have not been cumulative. By
the time a bank president is tired out, he owns the
bank; when the artist's mind softens, the artist has
a name. The newspaper man tires first, and when
he drops, nothing drips; he is a sucked orange.
Anonymity, too, palls not at first, but later, when
the enthusiasm which might carry a man's head up
through it has died away. It is enough at first to
se<- your own language in print. Your most inti
mate friends know which is your work, and the men
about \<>u in the office and those who have been
doing the same things for other papers; all these .ire
for awhile a sufficient audience. Hut by and by a
man becomes a man of the world in a sense. He
sees his stories or his editorials having an effect in
public interesi <>r opinion. It is convincing to him
that more or less fame or advertisement might be his.
and that it would be not alone a satisfaction to ln>
self-love but a means to social, political, and financial
advancement .
His Individuality Stitleu
I KNOW a man who once was sufficiently gratified
to have his editorials mistaken for his chief 's, one
of the three or four editors whose personalities have
so shone through their newspapers that their names
are known as will as tin- names of their papers.
Now this associate editor is unhappy because no one
can tell by his page that the chief is in Europe. He
is aggrieved for two reasons: first, because his genius
ami labor j^o to another man's credit; second, be
cause that is right, since his personality has been
molded, as his style was modeled, on another man's.
There. I think, is an essential tragedy of journal
ism. Money difficulties art- comedy in comparison,
and the vanity crushed by anonymity is farce; but
tlie annihilation of an individuality which comes of
feeling, thinking, writing, and being like and for
another man is as serious as life and death. And
the case I have in mind is typical; in the editorial
rooms of American newspapers it is commonplace.
<>t course, not all the cases of this sort are tragic. I
know of a man who during a presidential campaign
was engaged by two papers of opposite political
faiths to write 1 heir leaders. He was ag< >od editorial
writer. Indeed, lie was chosen by the second paper
because of the effectiveness of his work on the tirst,
and though he was cynical and witty about his
double part, he seemed to be a bit proud of it and
well pleased with the admiration he had from many
of his fellow-craft smell. I believe, however, that
if this man could be caught off his guard in a sincere
moment his wit would be found secreting gall ; what

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