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New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, August 05, 1906, Image 22

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Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1906-08-05/ed-1/seq-22/

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is cynicism in acr »wd is often sorrow in secret. At
any rate. n<> man, unless he is merely clever, would
be willing to set out to !.«■ just that and nothing more,
shallow and shiny, SiilfuJ and a menial think.
But take the masters of the profession. All pro
fessions and businesses are disapj>ointing t; the un
successful practitionsrs of them. Journalism alone,
I think, is unsatisfying to many of its leaders. The
editor I had in mind when I spoke of his aggrieved
imitator has said that he regretted hi ; devotion to a
newspaper, because, though it had become a force in
the land and had accomplished a great deal that was
good, it had buried its editor's work. The idea was
that if he had written in some more permanent
literary form, he might have produced something
that was art and an influence forever.
That seems trivial, perhaps nothing more than
the final wish of man for immortality. But Robert
Browning makes this seem important in "Saul."
And even if it is the last resort of mortal man bound
to he unhappy toward the close of a successful
career here below, I want to have it reckoned with
by those who are looking hankcringly along the road
" we" are going.
Joys „f the Sm'.l Conceit
THEN, too, these remoter sorrows are the very kind
that account in my theory for the disappointment
of success in journalism. The profession attracts
the men who are subject to tine griefs. Those of our
"great " newspaper men who handle newspapers as a
business and make them dividend payers, are not
melancholy because their thoughts die in the tiles.
They have the great joys of the small conceit that
crowns the career of the self-made man in all lines of
trade. The young men who come to journalism for
their lifework are the idealists. They do not care
for money; power is better. They do not seek
fame; the free expression of great ideas is good
enough. Of course, much of this is crude poppy
cock, but the fact remains that the tine fellows who
want to do the tine things consider the newspa|>er
when they are looking for a field.
And they are the men "we" want or need. The
commercial journalist will laugh and the cynical
editor will grin as he thinks of the rough descent to
eartli of the boy who thinks to set the world afire.
Well, the boy dot's have to come down to earth, but
he needn't land hard, and he needn't become com
mercial or cynical. All that is necessary for him to
have is some foresight of the commercialism and the
cynicism he is going to run into, of the profession as
a business as it is. And, by the way. if law, medi
cine, theology any other vocation except that of
politics which is pretty well exposed — was more
frequently aired on the under, material side, they
would be healthier, and the intelligent men in them
would be happier though less pretentious; prepared,
they would not be shocked into hypocrisy and such
willing wrong-doing.
All newspapers are conducted to make money.
Now and then a great financial interest or a political
party will run a paper t'<>r some other purpose, ami
many, very many, papers are unprofitable, but all
are trying to pay. The business spirit permeates
all departments and affects all j>ersoiis, however
great, however small. On a lar*;e proportion of
newspapers the counting-room is supreme. Busi
ness men control journalism, and, being business
men, they keep an eye <>n everybody and every
thing. It is folly to ignore them, futile to avoid
<>r tijjht their influence, because in the second
place they own the papers, and in the tirst place
they are in the main ri^ht. I used to say that there
were better things in journalism than success, and I
meant that failure might be one of them.
In Vain Unless It Pays
BIT the newspaper that does not pay is unhealthy
in fact, and in theory I think it would be immoral
or in vain, it would not be of the hard, practical
world, and. without the readers who make its suc
cess, it would serve the purpose only of the few men
who wrote it. Bernard Shaw, tin- eccentric English
critic, once said to some of his friends that he would
like to have a paper all his own. to write for it him
self everything in it. He was describing his plans
at j^'reat length, when Max Beerbohm asked
him what he would tall his sheet.
Why, anything, he answered —
" I'd give it my
OW II name "
" How would
I>< ilnn. And not
SUNDAY MAGAZINE FOR ALuLSI ... 1 :M»o
publisher, business manager, editor-in-chief, news
editor, critic, correspondent, rejH.rter. CM these
the first is the greatest in opportunity. Proprietor
ship does not come, however, to many young men,
and it is the aim of very few who take to
journalism.
1 he first thing for the would-be editor to do is
what all newspaper men should do earlier than is
now the practice. They should pick their specialty.
Their choice may not be final, tor in a profession, as
in life, the specialty seems often to pick the man.
Still, you can force your way v little, and news
papers are all broken up into departments. The all
round general man is useful and highly prized for
awhile, but by and by he tires out and goes down.
The duller writer who, pushed aside, masters a
branch of the trade, such as railroad news, finance,
sjHjrts, politics, is retained for years after the man
aging editor has decided that he will get some
younger man in his place. Then, too, an expert
in criticism may pass on to essay writing, the mak
ing of books or of plays; the financial critic may
get into finance either as a well-paid accountant,
drawer up of reports, or into banking. Political
re|H>rters often enter politics. And the prospect of
a career across journalism, serving on a newspaper
a i>eriod of learning and then slipping out of it into
other callings, is a consideration always to be
weighed in looking over the newspaper field.
The young man who insists upon editorial writing
may become an editor-in-chief. Let him then aim
also at control, either by partnership, in which case
he cannot let slip any opportunities to learn the
details of the business department; or by contract.
And to prepare for the work, seek light, avoid
opinions. There is something radically bad in the
colleges which till graduates with so many con
clusions. The better the college the worse its men
in this respect. Some men never can get over their
university.
Intellectual curiosity is what a young newspaper
writer wants. He can use as aids all the systems oi
philosophy as points of view from which to watch the
world turn, be night tentatively prefer one or so
much of one as he understands. But to start out
with all things settled is to give up the chief joy of
journalism, the observation of things objectively,
the contemplative attitude of the appreciative spec
tator. And the fresh mind ought to be ready for
the newest, the slightest, possibly the very best, im
pressions.
College Men Know Too Much
JUST as you avoid opinions eschew also knowl
edge. College men know too much. Remember
where to get the facts and the inspiration, the ideas
and the dates, but don't come to journalism crammed
with information. Keep room for the news, for that
is what you have to write about, and then be able to
put your hand on the book and your finger on the
page where the history is buried. A newspaper man,
especially an editorial writer, has to use reference
books ten times and the tiles of newspapers twenty
times a day, and few colleges train students for this
work.
The best beginning in actual journalism is rejnirt
ing. No matter what the preparation may have
been, anil no matter what the end may be, the ap
prenticeship is to gather the news and write it.
That is a privilege and a pleasure, anyway, and it is
the only possible school of journalism. It compels
a man to see life, inculcates in an intelligent mind
humility before facts, and teaches a writer depend
ence upon them for all effect, whether of controversy,
criticism, or art. The most effective editorial is a
logical arrangement of facts, and though the force of
them may be heightened by wit. beauty, imagina
tion, or any other artistic emotion or device, the
solid body of the idea is in the plain statement of the
facts. The interpretation is obvious, and the feeling
to be aroused -wrath, pity, amusement is surest
if the writer does not himself express it. This is a
simple rule of rhetoric, but it is learned late by many
editorial writers who will insist upon cooling by ex
cessive expression the heat they wish to communi
cate. The New York newspapers "roasted" the
police department as corrupt and political for years
without changing any considerable number of votes;
but when the Lexow committee produced the facts
Tammany was turned out.
But the facts of lite and journalism have color.
They are complex, and blood beats in them. The
editorial writer requires tremendous imagination to
see them alive from the little >tall where he sits
cooped up to write about the events of the day.
And no imagination is enough alone to picture a
crisis unless the man has seen with his own eyes the
nun and the movements of similar situations. |f he
has been a reporter he will recall the details and the
circumstances winch not only make the atmosphere
oi the scene, but which make it inevitable >>r possi
ble. The men who take part in the situation will
long after that Shaw
retired from jour
nalism.
JournaKsm is not
one career; it is many
in one: proprietor,
not be mere names or symbol \ II
Tammany newspaper has ■ ;. :r i ends f T <-:
many by attributing to the I ;. TS of that '"^
tion faults which they have ji •
Once when New York. i. | ;., receive
princess this paper editor: a described ia«A^
the clumsy manners an<i -„:. boorish erh "^
ment of the Irish-American ? ; ; r -w " a ? J *
see the rncongi ot puttin eh a man in J"
office/; it said. Everybody , n the fcbSg
office, ,t>a.d.
a ridiculous scene. When ;'.,.■ : rinctss arrivrf"'
Mayor, was quite equal to the occasion jj r
dignitied, simple, polite, fri :> without ur.r**
formal without restraint. Hi ... v.ords of ufr
were just right, and, of c- the reaction ht
favor was altogether to the . o - o f the news^
which called attention to the scene. The \N C
had his faults, his crimes, . so have the '';.
Tammany chiefs; but bee. iv c editorial a2[
never see the: they arc so : presented— s'-'^
ficiaHy— as to dress, manners . •. : 'spirit, that ~v£
ever they go among string. -■ he judgment is "" t C
"Tammany isn't so bad." . ;he corollary of
is that "American papers 1 . "
Shortcomings of Editorial Writers
THIS is a trivial instance. I it is typical. The
reporter can hit his man re it will hurt ft,
editorial writers seldom d<>. i .k thereisachaae
for an able man to make a •': rture in jfjurr->' ; v—
by reporting till he knows | ■y or the cow^
as he does his refer i lifcrar; then in prepant ; c" j
for his editorials go about s< ;Jie men. heah-" |
at first hand their views and n aing full of i-^
material to pass judgment .V false things th :
are said or editorial pages would not be said, azi
more important still, man} t things would C
said that would kill.
But reporting itself as a sej :..- trade is theks;
if a man goes about it aware ol its limitations and cf
his own. In the course of the first year he will prob
ably be tried on nearly every tvj ical branch of am
getting, from tires and crimt . poEtics, finance,
and criticism. Editors want . : men. Itisoftst
hard for beginners to get a place; the city editor
has all the force he requires. 7 :is what hesav=
and it is usually true. Ai the same time the citr
editor may be afraid he is letting slip a chance to
secure the kind of man that is always in decani
He isn't looking for a friend or a friend's friend, bet
for an eye, a brain, and style. Can you see for fifty
thousand readers? Can you understand all sorts of
doings? Can you tell what yon have seen so thai
the fifty thousand will see, hear, smell, and under
stand it? It you can, you may pick your paper and
demand your price. But nobody cares what you
think about anything, at least not now.
An artist contributed a great deal to the beaen:
and pleasure I got from a journey over Europe once
by advising me to start out with a blank mind; to
have no prepossession of places or peoples, asd
no theories of art whicl would disturb the im
pressionability of my senses. And I remember well
the shock I had upon arri in Venice to find that
it stank and was dirty. I did m>* enjoy Venice, till
I went there a second time with my ii priori notions
dead and my first impressions tailing. Then I took
in what came, and what came was beautiful. The
advice is the best that any n ; orter, any artist, any
spectator, can have. Then are no trivial assign
ments on a newspa] The cub reporter gets the
worst, but he will probably look back after a year
or so and see that he missed gi • i stories because he
did not tind what he was looking for.
Shouldn't Look for Anything
HE had no business to look f r anything. He is
sent where it is suppose*] ' ■ re is information,
and he has the first few questi< : r.lv to start bin.
Take a case. You go to a ton :ent-house where
there is a suicide, and no one t' ■ ■ knows anything
about the man or his tragedy. .: is a story, and
a reporter with the instinct ot a : clist onceiradea
sketch that was literature by so r« i ting the answer
" Don't know" from the r.< r^ that their
attitude toward the dead man . his end brought
out the utter loneliness of a si; er in a crowded
tenement. It almost accounti ! the suicide.
The poini is the reporter,
and no one in the country,
has the chance
to make his
living by writ
ing literature if
he has it in
him. He is not
required to do
A • tn i . \ : ■>■
:• r. and ti
he >
i'"rr> ct !'. :.. '.

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