THE GATHERING, HANDLING AND WRITING OF NEWS STORIES
M. LYLE SPENCER, PH.D.
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, LAWRENCE COLLEGE ON THE STAFF OF "THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL"
D. C. HEATH & CO., PUBLISHERS BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY D. C. HEATH & CO.
TO THOMAS B. REID DEAN OF THE WISCONSIN NEWSPAPER MEN
The first week of a reporter's work is generally the most nerve-racking of his journalistic experience. Unacquainted with his associates, ignorant of his duties, embarrassed because of his ignorance, he wastes more time in useless effort, dissipates more energy in worry, and grows more despondent over his work and his career than during any month of his later years. Yet most of his depression would be unnecessary if he knew his duties.
To acquaint the prospective reporter with these duties and their proper performance is the purpose of this volume, which has been written as a practical guide for beginners in news writing. Its dominating purpose is practicalness. If it fails in this, its main purpose will be lost.
Because of this practical aim the attempt has been made to approach the work of the reporter as he will meet it on beginning his first morning's duties in the news office. After an introductory division explaining the organization of a newspaper and acquainting the beginner with his fellows and superiors in the editorial rooms, the book opens with an exposition of news. It then takes up sources of news, methods of getting stories, and the preparation of copy for the city desk.
In discussing the writing of the story, it has seemed necessary to devote much attention to the lead, experience showing that the point of greatest difficulty in handling a story lies in the choice of a proper and effectively worded lead. Likewise, it has been necessary to discuss the sentence at great length and to touch the paragraph only lightly, because the one is so much a matter of individual judgment, the other subject to such definite laws,—laws of which, however, most cub reporters are grossly ignorant. In some classes in news writing the instructor will find it possible and advisable to pass hastily over the chapter on The Sentence, but as a rule he will find a careful study of it profitable. In Part III, that dealing with types of stories, emphasis has been laid on interview, crime, and sports stories, because it is these that the cub reporter must be most familiar with on taking up his work in the newspaper office. For the same practical reasons the volume omits editorial and copy reading, and makes no attempt to teach the beginner to be a dramatic critic or a city editor. It aims to give him only those details and that instruction which shall make him a competent, reliable reporter for the city editor who first employs his services.
The book is written also with the belief, based on practical experience, that news writing as a craft can be taught. It is not contended that schools can produce star reporters. The newspaper office is the only place where they can be developed. But it is maintained that the college can send to the city room men and women who have been guided beyond the discouraging defeats of mere cub reporting, just as schools of law, medicine, and commerce can graduate lawyers, doctors, and business men who know the rudiments of their professions. And this contention is based on experience. During the last four years the studies here offered have been followed closely in the class room, from which students have been graduated who are now holding positions of first rank on leading American dailies. Some too, though not all, had had no previous experience in newspaper work.
All the illustrations and exercises except two are taken from published news articles, most of the stories being unchanged. In some, however, fictitious names and addresses, for obvious reasons, have been substituted.
For aid in the preparation of this volume my thanks are due to Mr. C. O. Skinrood of The Milwaukee Journal, Mr. Warren B. Bullock of The Milwaukee Sentinel, and Mr. Paul F. Hunter of The Sheboygan Press, who have made numerous criticisms upon the book during its different stages. Their suggestions have been invaluable. For permission to reprint stories from their columns my thanks also are due to the Appleton Post, Atlanta Constitution, Boston Transcript, Chicago American, Chicago Herald, Chicago Tribune, Des Moines Register, Indianapolis News, Kansas City Star, Los Angeles Times, Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee Sentinel, Minneapolis Tribune, New York Herald, New York Sun, New York Times, New York Tribune, New York World, Omaha News, Philadelphia Public Ledger, and the Washington Post.
M. L. S APPLETON, WISCONSIN March 12, 1917
ORGANIZATION OF THE PAPER
I. INTRODUCTION 3
II. THE EDITORIAL ROOMS 5
III. THE MECHANICAL DEPARTMENT 13
IV. THE BUSINESS DEPARTMENT 20
THE NEWS STORY
V. WHAT NEWS IS 25
VI. NEWS SOURCES 34
VII. GETTING THE STORY 42
VIII. ORGANIZATION OF THE STORY 57
IX. THE LEAD 68
X. THE BODY OF THE STORY 84
XI. THE PARAGRAPH 97
XII. THE SENTENCE 99
XIII. WORDS 116
TYPES OF STORIES
XIV. INTERVIEWS, SPEECHES, COURTS 125
XV. ACCIDENT, CRIME 149
XVI. SPORTS 164
XVII. SOCIETY 199
XVIII. FOLLOW-UPS, REWRITES 212
XIX. FEATURE STORIES 224
XX. CORRESPONDENCE STORIES 235
STYLE BOOK 249
MARKS USED IN CORRECTING COPY 273
CORRECTED COPY 275
SPECIMEN PROOF 276
ORGANIZATION OF THE PAPER
ORGANIZATION OF THE PAPER
1. The City Room.—The city room is the place where a reporter presents himself for work the first day. It is impossible to give an exact description of this room, because no two editorial offices are ever alike. If the reporter has allied himself with a country weekly, he may find the city room and the business office in one, with the owner of the paper and himself as the sole dependence for village news. If he has obtained work on a small daily, he may find a diminutive office, perhaps twelve by fifteen feet, with the city editor the only other reporter. If he has been employed by a metropolitan journal, he will probably find one large room and several smaller adjoining offices, and an editorial force of twenty to thirty or forty helpers, depending upon the size of the paper.
2. Metropolitan Papers.—The metropolitan paper, of course, is the most complex in organization, and is therefore the one for a beginner to examine. The chances are two to one that the cub will have to begin on a so-called country daily, but if he knows the organization of a large paper, he will experience little trouble in learning the less complicated system of a small one. For this reason the reader is given in Part I an explanation of the organization of a representative metropolitan newspaper.
3. All Papers Different.—The reader is cautioned, however, against taking this exposition as an explanation of anything more than a typical newspaper. The details of organization of various papers will be found to differ somewhat. The number of editors and their precise duties will vary. One journal will be a morning, another an afternoon, paper; a third will be a twenty-four-hour daily, employing a double shift of men and having one city editor with day and night assistants. One paper will have a universal copy desk with a single copy editor handling all departments. Another will have, instead of a state editor, a section editor, a man who handles all special matter not carried by the press service from possibly half a dozen states. Thus the organizations vary in certain minor details, sometimes materially so; but, on the whole, one general system will prevail. And it is to give the student an understanding of a typical newspaper plant that Part I is written.
II. THE EDITORIAL ROOMS
4. Beginning Work.—As stated in the preceding chapter, the place at which the reporter presents himself for work the first day is the city room. Before coming, he will have seen the city editor and received instructions as to the time. If the office is that of a morning paper, he will probably be required to come some time between noon and six P.M. If it is that of an afternoon paper, he will be asked to report at six or seven A.M. Let us suppose it is a metropolitan afternoon journal and that he is requested to be in the office at seven, the hour when the city editor appears. The ambitious reporter will always be in his place not later than 6:45, so that he may see the city editor enter.
5. Copy Readers.—When a reporter appears on his first morning, he will find a big, desk-crowded room, deserted except for two or three silent workers reading and clipping papers at a long table. These men are known variously as the gas-house gang, the lobster shift, the morning stars, etc. They are the reporters and copy readers who read the morning papers for stories that may be rewritten or followed up for publication during the day. They have been on duty since two or three in the morning and have prepared most of the material for the bull-dog edition, the morning issue printed some time between 7:00 and 10:00 A.M. and mainly rewritten from the morning papers. On the entrance of the new reporter they will look up, direct him to a chair where he may sit until the city editor comes, and pay no more attention to him. They, or others who take their places, edit all the news stories. They correct spelling and punctuation, rewrite a story when the reporter has missed the main feature, reconstruct the lead, cut out contradictions, duplications, and libelous statements, and in general make the article conform to the length and style demanded by the paper; and having carefully revised the story, they write the headlines and chute it to the composing room. On the whole, these men are the most unpopular on the force, since they are subject to double criticism, from the editors above them and the reporters whose copy they correct. The city editor and the managing editor hold them responsible for poor headlines, libelous statements, involved sentences, and errors generally; the reporters blame them for pruning down their stories, changing leads, and often destroying what they regard as the very point of what they had to say.
6. Other Reporters.—As the new reporter waits by the city editor's desk, he will notice the arrival of the other members of the staff, who immediately begin their work for the day. One of these is the labor reporter. His business is to obtain and write news relating to labor and unions. Another is the marine reporter. He handles all news relating to shipping, clearing and docking of vessels, etc. Another reporter handles all stories coming from the police court. Another watches the morgue and the hospitals. Another, usually a woman, obtains society news. Still another visits the hotels. And so the division of reporters continues until all the sources of news have been parceled out.
7. The City Editor.—Then the city editor enters. If the reporter wishes to make good, let him love the law of the city editor. He is the man to whom all the reporters and some of the copy readers are responsible, and who in turn is responsible to the managing editor for the gathering and preparation of city news. He must know where news can be found, direct the getting of news, and see that it is put into the paper properly. When news is abundant, he must decide which stories shall be discarded, and on those rarer occasions when all the world—the good and the bad—seems to have gone to sleep, he must know how to make news. Every story written in the city room is first passed on by the city editor, who turns it over to the copy readers for correction. Even the length of each story is determined by him, and often the nature of it, whether it shall be humorous, pathetic, tragic, or mysterious. To his desires and idiosyncrasies the reporter must learn quickly to adapt himself. Sometimes the city editor may err. Sometimes, during his absence, he may put in authority eccentric substitutes, smaller men who issue arbitrary commands and require stories entirely different in style and character from what is regularly required. But the cub's first lesson must be in adaptability, willingness to obey orders and to accept news policies determined by those in authority. He must therefore follow to the letter the wishes of the city editor (or his assistants) and must always be loyal to him and his plans.
 For an admirable exposition of the way in which the city editor handles his men and big stories, the student is advised to read two excellent articles by Alex. McD. Stoddart: "When a Gaynor is Shot," Independent, August 25, 1910, and "Telling the Tale of the Titanic," Independent, May 2, 1912.
8. The News Editor.—As a reporter's acquaintance grows, he will come to know other editors in the city room,—the news, telegraph, state, market, sporting, literary, dramatic, and other editors. Of these the news editor, sometimes known also as the make-up or the assistant managing editor, is most important. He handles all the telegraph and cable copy and much of what is sent in by mail. He decides what position the stories shall take in the paper, which articles shall have big heads and which little ones, which shall be thrown out, and in general determines the make-up of the pages. The news editor is always a bright man of wide knowledge, thoroughly conversant with state and national social and political movements, and more or less intimately acquainted with all sections of the United States.
9. Telegraph Editor.—Next to the news editor, and usually his chief assistant, is the telegraph editor. On some papers the two positions are combined. This man handles all telegraph copy from without the state, including that of the press bureaus and special correspondents in important American and European cities. Frequently in the largest news offices there are as many as a dozen telegraph operators who take his stories over direct wires. Like the news editor, he must be a man of wide acquaintance in order to know the value of a story from a distant section of the United States or the world. Since the outbreak of the European war, his has been an unusually responsible position because of the immense amount of war news and the necessity of knowing the exact importance of the capture of a certain city or the fall of a fort.
10. State Editor.—Next comes the state editor, who is responsible for all the state news and helps with the telegraph copy and local news when it becomes too bulky for the other copy readers to handle. The state editor manages the correspondents throughout the state and is particularly valuable when his paper is in the capital city or the metropolis of the state. Most of his copy comes by mail or long-distance telephone from correspondents residing or traveling in the state. Nearly all this copy needs editing, coming as it does largely from correspondents on country dailies and weeklies. In addition to editing stories sent in by correspondents, the state editor keeps a space book, from which he makes to the cashier in the business office a weekly or monthly report of the amount of material contributed by each correspondent.
11. Sporting Editor.—Unless given a place in the sporting department, the reporter will not soon meet the sporting editor, who, with his assistants, is usually honored with a room to himself and is independent of the city editor. But some day, by accident perhaps, the cub will get a peep through a door across the hallway into a veritable den. That is the sporting room. The four walls are covered with cuts of Willard, Gotch, Johnston, Matthewson, Travers, Hoppe, and dozens of other celebrities in the realm of sports. There the sporting editor—often a man who has been prominent in college athletics—reigns. Because of the intense interest in sports he must publish the news of his department promptly, and in consequence he often is privileged to make expenditures more freely than other editors. The sporting editor of a big daily must be an authority in athletic matters and should be able to decide on the instant, without looking up the book of regulations, any question relating to athletic rules or records.
12. Exchange Editor.—Another editor, who usually will be discovered in a room by himself, is the exchange editor. He will be found all but buried in piles of exchanges, now and then clipping a story not covered on the wires, an editorial, a criticism of his own paper, or a comment of any kind that may be worth copying or following up. He must know thoroughly the bias of his paper, to know what to clip and publish. Favorable references to his paper he reprints. Criticisms he refers to the managing editor, who reads them and throws them into the waste basket, or else keeps them for a reply in a later issue. Most of the jokes, anecdotes of famous men and women, stories of minor inventions and discoveries, and timely articles relating to current events, fashions, beliefs, etc., published on the editorial page and in the feature sections of the Sunday issue, are the result of the exchange editor's long hours of patient reading of newspapers mailed from every section of the United States.
13. The Morgue.—One of the chief duties of many exchange editors is to supply the morgue with material for its files. The morgue, sometimes called the library, is an important adjunct of every newspaper office. In it are kept, perhaps ready for printing, obituaries of well-known men, stories of their rise to prominence, pictures of them and their families, accounts of great discoveries, inventions, and disasters, and facts on every conceivable newspaper topic,—all ready for hasty reference or use. If the President of the United States were to drop dead from apoplexy, the papers would have on the streets in a quarter of an hour's time columns of stories giving his whole career. When the steamer Eastland turned over in the Chicago River, causing the death of 900 persons, the papers published in their regular editions boxed summaries of all previous ship disasters. When Willard knocked out Johnson at Havana, reviews of Willard's and Johnson's ring careers were printed in numerous dailies. All such stories are procured from the morgue, from files supplied mainly by the exchange editor. In some of the larger offices, however, these files are maintained independently of the exchange editor, and are under the charge of the librarian and a staff of assistants who keep catalogued lists of all maps, cuts, photographs, and clippings. On a moment's notice these may be obtained for use in the paper.
14. Other Editors.—Other editors, who may be passed with brief mention because of their minor importance in this volume, are the market, dramatic, literary, and society editors, and the editorial writers. The market editor handles all matters of a financial nature. Sometimes on the largest dailies there are both a market and a financial editor, but usually the work is combined under a single man whose duties are to keep in close touch with markets, banks, manufactories, and large mercantile companies, and to write up simply and accurately from day to day the financial condition of the city and the country. The duty of the literary editor is often little more than book reviewing. Frequently he does not have an office in the building, and on small papers his only remuneration is the gift of the book he reviews. The society editor, in addition to reporting notes of the social world, generally handles fashion stories, answers letters regarding etiquette, love, and marriage, and edits all material for the woman's page. The work of the editorial writers is explained by their name. They quit work at all sorts of hours, take two hours off for lunch, and are known in the city room as "highbrows." But many an editorial writer who comes to work at nine in the morning has worked very late the night before, searching for facts utilized in a half-column of editorial matter.
15. Cartoonists and Photographers.—The business of the cartoonist is to draw one cartoon a day upon some timely civic or political subject. He is responsible to the managing editor. Under him are other cartoonists who illustrate individual stories or do cartoon work for special departments of the paper. The sporting editor has one such man, and the city editor has one or two. Finally, there are the photographers, subject to the city editor, who rush hither and thither to all parts of the city and state, taking scenes valuable for cuts.
16. The Managing Editor.—The men whose work we have been discussing thus far are those whom the reporter meets in his daily work. Above all these is an executive officer whom the cub reporter rarely sees,—the managing editor, who has general supervision over all the news and editorial departments of the paper. He does little writing or editing himself, his time being taken up with administrative duties. All unusual expenditures are submitted for his approval. The size and make-up of the paper, which varies greatly from day to day on the large dailies, is a matter for his final decision. The cartoonist submits to him rough drafts of contemplated drawings. The city, telegraph, and news editors confer with him about getting important stories. The Sunday editor consults with him with regard to special features. To him is submitted a proof of every story, which he reads for possible libel and for general effectiveness. Now and then he returns a story to the city editor to be lengthened or to be pruned down. Occasionally he may kill an article. Always he is working at top speed, from the time he gets to his office at 8:00 A.M., or 2:00 P.M., until he sits down to compare his paper with the first edition of rival publications. For the managing editor scrutinizes with minute care every daily in the city, and when he finds anything to his paper's discredit, he begins an immediate investigation to learn how the slip happened and who was responsible.
17. Editor-in-Chief.—Above the managing editor is the editor-in-chief, often the owner of the paper. Of him the sub-editors say that his chief business is playing golf and smoking fat cigars. As a matter of fact, his duties are at once the most and the least exacting of any on the paper. He is either the owner or the personal representative of the owner, who looks to him for the execution of his policies. But since such policies necessarily must be subject to the most liberal interpretation, the final responsibility of the editorial rooms falls on the shoulders of the editor-in-chief. To make known the plans of the paper, the editor-in-chief holds with the editorial writers, the managing editor, and the city editor weekly, sometimes daily, meetings, at which are discussed all matters of doubt or dissatisfaction relating to the editorial rooms.
18. Conclusion.—In conclusion, then, we have the editor-in-chief, who is responsible for the general policies of the paper. Immediately beneath him is the managing editor, who executes the editor-in-chief's orders. Responsible to the editor-in-chief or the managing editor are the editorial writers, the news, city, sporting, exchange, literary, and dramatic editors, and the cartoonist. Beneath the city editor are a few of the copy readers and all the reporters. Such is the organization of the editorial staff of a typical metropolitan newspaper.
III. THE MECHANICAL DEPARTMENT
19. Division.—Beyond the editorial rooms is the mechanical department, with which every reporter should be, but rarely ever is, acquainted. Because of the heavy machinery necessary for preparing and printing a paper, the mechanical department is often found in the basement. This department is divisible into three sub-departments, the composing room, the stereotyping room, and the press room.
20. The Copy Cutter.—When a story has been revised by the copy reader and given proper headlines, it is turned over to the head copy reader or the news editor, who glances over it hastily to see that all is rightly done and chutes it in a pneumatic tube to the basket on the copy cutter's table or desk in the composing room. The copy cutter in turn glances at the headlines and the two or three pages of copy, and records the story upon a ruled blank on his desk. Then he clips the headlines and sends them by a copy distributor to the headline machine to be set up. The two or three pages of copy he cuts into three or four or five "takes," puts the slug number or name on each, and sends the "takes" to different compositors, so that the whole story may be set up more quickly than if it were given all to one man. If the time before going to press is very short, the pages may be cut into more takes. The slug names, sometimes called guide or catch lines, are marked on each take to enable the bank-men to assemble readily all the parts after they have been set in type.
21. The Linotype Machine.—Each compositor on receiving his take places it on the copy-holder of his linotype or monotype machine and begins composing it into type. The linotype machine consists of a keyboard not unlike that of the typewriter, which actuates a magazine containing matrices or countersunk letter molds, together with a casting mechanism for producing lines or bars of words. By touching the keys, the compositor releases letter by letter an entire line of matrices, which are mustered automatically into the assembling-stick at the left and above the keyboard, ready to be molded into a line of type. When the assembling-stick is full of matrices, enough to make a full line, the operator is warned, as on the typewriter, by the ringing of a tiny bell. The machinist then pulls a lever, which releases molten lead on the line of matrices and casts a slug of metal representing the letters he has just touched on the keys. The machine cuts and trims this slug of lead to an exact size, conveys it to the receiving galley for finished lines, and returns the matrices to their proper places in the magazine for use in a succeeding line. When the operator has composed twenty or twenty-five of these slugs, his take is completed. He then removes the slugs from their holder, wraps them in the manuscript, and sends them to the bank to be assembled with the other takes of the same story. The proof of the compositor's take looks something like the matter at the top of the next page.
The big three's are the compositor's slug number. This take was set up by the workman operating machine number 3. The Loops is the catch line, or slug name, by which the story is known, every take of the story being named Loops, so that the bank-men may easily get the parts of the story together. The letters at the right of Loops, in the same line, are merely any letters that the compositor has set up at random by tapping the linotype keys to fill out the line.
———————————————————— THREE THREE ————————————————————
LOOPS... ... ... ...) rna..8an........
ARMY BIRDMEN BREAK RECORDS FOR LOOPS
San Diego, Cal., Sept. 25.—Sergt. William Ocher and Corporal Albert Smith, attached to the United States army aviation corps at North Island, made fifteen loops each while engaged in flights, shattering army and navy aviation records. Both officers used the same machine equipped with a ninety horsepower motor, and designed for long distance flying.
This take, which was picked up at random in the editorial rooms of the Milwaukee Journal, was followed by this:
———————————————————— SEVEN SEVEN ————————————————————
FALLS 1,000 FEET, UNHURT.
Omaha, Sept. 25.—Francis Hoover, Chicago aviator, fell 1,000 feet at David City, Neb. He alighted in a big tank and was not injured.
The compositor in this case was at machine number 7, and the slug name given the story was Folo Loops: that is, it was a follow story, to come after the one slugged Loops.
22. The Proofs.—On receipt of the different takes by the bank-man, the various parts of the story are assembled, with the proper head, in a long brass receptacle called a galley, and the first, or galley, proof is "pulled" on the proof press, a small hand machine. Three proofs are made. One goes to the managing editor, on whom rests responsibility for every story in the paper; one to the news editor; and one, with the original copy, to the head proofreader, who is responsible for all typographical errors. The head proofreader in turn gives the proof to an assistant and the manuscript to a copyholder, who reads the story to the assistant for the detection of typographical errors. A corrected galley proof will be returned in the form shown in the specimen proof sheet printed on page 276.
23. The Form.—After all corrections have been made and the position of the story in the paper has been determined by the news editor, it is inserted in its proper place among other articles which together make up a page of type, or what printers know as a form. This form is locked in an enveloping steel frame, called a chase, and carried to the stereotyping room, the second department in the mechanical composition of the paper. In the small newspaper offices, the sheet is printed directly from the form. But since the leaden letters begin to blur after 15,000 impressions have been made, and since it has been found impossible to do fast printing from flat surfaces, it is necessary for the larger papers to cast from four to twelve stereotyped plates of each page.
24. Stereotyping Process.—These stereotyped plates are circular or semicircular in shape, so that they fit snugly on the press cylinders. They are made in the following way: When the form is brought into the stereotyping room, it is placed, face up, on the flat bed of a strongly built press. Over the face of the columns of type are spread several layers of tissue paper pasted together. Upon the paper is laid a damp blanket, and a heavy revolving steel drum subjects the whole to hundreds of pounds of pressure, thus squeezing the face of the type into the texture of the moist paper. Intense heat is then applied by a steam drier, so that within a few seconds the moisture has been baked entirely from the paper, which emerges a stiff flat matrix of the type in the form.
25. The Autoplate.—This matrix in turn is bent to the shape of the impressing cylinder that later stamps the page, and is put into an autoplate, or casting machine, which presses molten metal upon the paper matrix, cools the metal, and turns out in a few moments the finished, cylindrical plates ready to be put on the press for printing. Duplicates follow at intervals of from fifteen to twenty seconds, so that several impressions of the same page may be made at once in the press room and the whole paper printed more quickly than if a single impression of a page were made at one time.
26. The Press Room.—The press room, the third and final stage in the mechanical composition of the paper, is where the printing is done on highly complicated machines. The larger the number of pages of the paper printed, the more complicated the presses, the marvel of them being their adaptability to running full, or half, or third capacity, according to the needed output, or to printing a double or triple number of small sized papers in a third or half the usually required time. The large presses of the great dailies print, fold, cut, paste, and count, according to the size of the sheet, 50,000 to 125,000 papers an hour. A double sextuple press has a limit of 144,000 twelve-page papers an hour.
27. The Printing Press.—It is on the cylinders of these presses that the circular stereotyped plates are fitted, two plates filling nicely the round of the cylinder. All the plates for the inside pages of the paper are stereotyped and screwed on their cylinders a half-hour or more before press time, the pages with the latest news being held until the last possible moment. Usually the last page to come is the title page, and as soon as the last locking lever has been clamped, the wheels of the big press begin to turn. As the cylinders with their plates revolve, raised letters on the surface of the plate come in contact, first with the inked rollers, then with the paper, which is spun from large rolls and drawn through the press, obtaining as it goes the impression of the pages of type. As the printed ribbon of paper issues from beneath the cylinders, it is cut into pages, folded, and counted, ready for the circulation department. The whole period of time elapsing between the chute of the last story from the city room and the delivery of the printed pages to the newsboys will not have exceeded ten minutes.
28. Speed in Printing.—Even this brief time is materially cut when great stories break. The result of the Willard-Johnson fight in 1915 and all the details up to the last few rounds were cried on the streets of New York within two minutes after Johnson had been knocked out in Havana. This was made possible by means of the "fudge," a device especially designed for late news. This is a small printing cylinder, upon which is fitted a diminutive curved chase capable of holding a few linotype slugs. When the fudge is used, a stereotyped front page of the paper is ripped open and a prominent blank space left, so that if the press were to print now, the paper would appear with a large unprinted space on its front page. To this blank space, however, the fudge is keyed, so that as the web of paper passes the main cylinder, the little emergency cylinder makes its impression and the page appears to all appearances printed from a single cylinder.
29. Speed Devices.—The value of the fudge, of course, is that, by printing directly from the linotype slugs, it saves the time expended in stereotyping. Its speed, too, is increased by reason of the fact that every great newspaper has in the press room near the fudge a composing machine to which a special telegraph wire is run, and a special operator to read the news direct from the wire to the compositor. This enables the papers to meet the baseball crowd on its way home with extras giving full details of all the plays, and during the last quarter of the football game to sell in the bleachers a complete account to the end of the first half. But even this speed is not always sufficient. Where the outcome of a big piece of news may be predicted, advance headlines are set up and held ready to be clamped on the press. In the case of the Willard-Johnson fight, two heads were held awaiting the knockout: JESS WILLARD NEW CHAMPION and JACK JOHNSON RETAINS TITLE. When President McKinley died in September, 1901, one prominent Milwaukee newspaper man held locked on his presses from 8:00 A.M. until the President died at midnight the plates that would print the whole story of Mr. McKinley's life, assassination, and death. Then when the flash came announcing the dreaded event, the presses were started, and ten seconds afterward newsboys were crying the death of the President of the United States. Such are some of the devices editors use to publish news in the shortest possible time.
IV. THE BUSINESS DEPARTMENT
30. Divisions of the Business Department.—When the paper issues from the press, it passes into the hands of the circulation manager, whose duties are in an entirely different department of the newspaper organization,—the business department. This department is divided into two or three more or less closely connected divisions, presided over by the circulation manager, the advertising manager, and the cashier. Over all these is the business manager, who supervises the department as a whole.
31. The Circulation Manager.—The work of the circulation manager has been termed simple by outsiders. But the simplicity exists only for outsiders. The distribution of a hundred thousand to a million papers a day is not a small task in itself, particularly when one considers the scores of trains to be caught, the dozens of delivery wagons and wagon drivers to be guided, and the hundreds of newsboys and newsstands to be supplied with the very latest editions at the very earliest moment. Yet the circulation manager's duties are even more multifarious than this. All the canvassers for new subscriptions are under his supervision. The organization of the newsboys for selling his paper is his duty,—and it is marvelous how the good-will of the newsboys, even when they handle all rival publications, can boost the sales of some particular circulation manager's papers. The advertising of the paper's past and forthcoming news features, such as stories by special writers, exclusive dispatches, etc., are the brunt of his work, because in so far as he makes people believe in the superiority of his news, they will buy the papers. Even the outcries against public grievances and the publication of subscription lists for charitable purposes are often the thoughts of the circulation manager, because they invite more readers. Some managers, under the guise of helping the down-and-outs, even publish free all "Situations Wanted" advertisements, because they believe that the loss in advertising will be more than paid for by the gain in the number of readers, with the resultant possibility of higher advertising rates or more advertising in other departments because of the increased circulation.
32. The Advertising Manager.—Closely associated with the circulation manager is the advertising manager, who is dependent upon the former for his rates. It makes a great difference with the advertising manager's rates whether the circulation is a hundred thousand or a quarter of a million, and whether the circulation is double or one half that of the rival morning publication. The advertising manager's duties are as manifold as those of his associate. He directs the advertising solicitors and advises prospective advertisers about the place, prices, space, and character of their advertisements. A chewing tobacco ad is worth little in the column bordering the society section; the back page is far more valuable for advertising than the inside; and the columns next to reading matter are worth more than those on a page filled only with advertisements. The advertising manager, too, has the power of accepting or rejecting advertisements. Liquor, soothing syrup, and questionable ads are barred by many managers. Some will not even accept so-called personal ads. Yet at the same time that they are rejecting ads in this class, such managers are straining every point to gain desirable ones. One way of obtaining these is by advertising solicitors. Another is by advertising in one's own paper and in publications in other cities. Many of the metropolitan dailies exchange whole and half-page advertisements, directing attention to their circulation figures and the number of agate lines of advertising matter printed within the preceding month or year. Some of these papers publish audited statements, too, of the relative number of advertising lines printed by their own and rival publications. But the advantage is always in their own favor.
33. The Cashier.—The third division of the business department is the cashier's office, frequently known as the counting room. Briefly put, the cashier directs the pay-roll and all receipts and disbursements of the paper. He keeps the books of the publishing company. From him the reporter receives his pay envelop, and to him are sent all bills for paper, ink, machinery, telegraph and telephone messages, and similar expenses. Rarely has the cashier served an apprenticeship in the editorial department, but he knows thoroughly the business of bookkeeping, money changing, banking, and similar work, which is all that is required in his position.
THE NEWS STORY
THE NEWS STORY
V. WHAT NEWS IS
34. Essentials of News Writing.—To write successful news stories, four requisites are necessary: the power to estimate news values properly, the stories to write, the ability to work rapidly, and the power to present facts accurately and interestingly.
35. The "Nose for News."—Recognition of news values is put first in the tabulation of requirements for successful writing because without a "nose for news"—without the ability to recognize a story when one sees it—a reporter cannot hope to succeed. Editorial rooms all over the United States are full of stories of would-be reporters who have failed because they have not been able to recognize news. The following is a genuine first paragraph of a country correspondent's letter to a village weekly in Tennessee:
There is no news in this settlement to speak of. We did hear of a man whose head was blown off by a boiler explosion, but we didn't have time to learn his name. Anyhow he didn't have any kinfolk in this country, so it don't much matter.
Then follow the usual dull items about Henry Hawkins Sundaying in Adamsville and Tom Anderson autoing with a new girl.
36. Need of Knowing News.—The fault with this correspondent was that he did not know a good story. He lacked an intuitive knowledge of news values, and he had not been trained to recognize available news possibilities. A clear understanding of what news is, and an analysis of its more or less elusive qualities, is necessary, therefore, before one may attempt a search for it or may dare the writing of a newspaper story.
37. Definition of News.—In its final analysis, news may be defined as any accurate fact or idea that will interest a large number of readers; and of two stories the accurate one that interests the greater number of people is the better. The student should examine this definition with care as there is more in it than at first appears. Strangeness, abnormality, unexpectedness, nearness of the events, all add to the interest of a story, but none is essential. Even timeliness is not a prerequisite. If it were learned to-day that a member of the United States Senate had killed a man in 1912, the occurrence would be news and would be carried on the front page of every paper in America, even though the deed were committed years ago. And if it should transpire that Csolgosz was bribed by an American millionaire to assassinate President McKinley in 1901, the story would be good for a column in any paper. Freshness, enormity, departure from the normal, all are good and add to the value of news, but they are not essential. The only requirements are that the story shall be accurate and shall contain facts or ideas interesting to a considerable number of readers.
38. Accuracy.—The reason for emphasizing so particularly the need of accuracy in news requires little discussion. Accuracy First is the slogan of the modern newspaper. If a piece of news, no matter how thrilling, is untrue, it is worthless in the columns of a reputable journal. It is worse than worthless, because it makes the public lose confidence in the paper. And the ideal of all first-class newspapers to-day is never to be compelled to retract a published statement. This desire for accuracy does not bar a paper from publishing, for example, a rumor of the assassination of the German Crown Prince, but it does demand that the report be published only as an unverified rumor.
39. Interest.—The statement, however, that interest is the other requisite of news requires full explanation, because the demand immediately comes for an explanation of that elusive quality in news which makes it interesting. In other words, what constitutes interest? Any item of news, it may be defined, that will present a new problem, a new situation, that will provoke thought in the minds of a considerable number of readers, is interesting, and that story is most interesting which presents a new problem to the greatest number of people. It is a psychological truth that all men think only when they must. Yet they enjoy being made to think,—not too hard, but hard enough to engage their minds seriously. The first time they meet a problem they think over it, and think hard if need be. But when they meet that problem a second or a third time, they solve it automatically. A man learning to drive a car has presented to him a new problem about which he must think keenly. The steering wheel, the foot-brake, the accelerator, the brake and speed levers, the possibility of touching the wrong pedal,—all demand his undivided attention and keep him thinking every moment of the time. But having learned, having solved his problem, he can run his car without conscious thought, and meanwhile can devote his mind to problems of business or pleasure. As Professor Pitkin says:
Whatsoever we can manage through some other agency we do so manage. And, if thinking is imperative for a while, we make that while as brief as possible. The baby thinks in learning to walk, but as soon as his feet move surely he refrains from cogitation. He thinks over his speech, too, but quickly he outgrows that, transforming discourse from an intellectual performance to a reflex habit. And he never thinks about the order and choice of words again, unless they give rise to some new, unforeseen perplexity; as, for instance, they might, were he suddenly afflicted with stammering or stage fright. This is no scandal, it is a great convenience. Thanks to it, men are able to concern themselves with fresh enterprises and hence to progress. Indeed, civilization is a titanic monument to thoughtlessness, no less than to thought. The supreme triumph of mind is to dispense with itself. For what would intellect avail us, if we could not withdraw it from action in all the habitual encounters of daily life?
 Short Story Writing, pp. 64-65.
40. What Provokes Thought is News.—Men apply the same principle, too, in their news reading. Whatever presents a new problem, or injects a new motive or situation into an old one, will be interesting and will be read by those readers to whom the problem or situation is new. It is not, therefore, that American men and women are interested in the sins and misfortunes of others that they read stories of crime and unhallowed love, but that such stories present new problems, new life situations, or new phases of old problems and old situations. A story of innocence and hallowed love would be just as interesting. When the newspapers of the United States make the President's wedding the big story of the day, it is not that they think their patrons have never seen a wedding, but that a wedding under just such circumstances has never been presented before. And every published story of murder or divorce or struggle for victory offers new thought-provoking problems to newspaper readers. Men are continually searching for new situations that will present new problems. And any story that will provoke a reader's thought will be enjoyed as news.
41. Timeliness.—But there are certain definite features that add greatly to the interest of stories. Timeliness is the first of these. Indeed, timeliness is so important in a story that one prominent writer on journalism deems it an essential of a good story. Certainly it figures in ninety per cent of the published articles in our daily newspapers. The word yesterday has been relegated to the scrap heap. To-day, this morning, this afternoon should appear if possible in every story. And the divorce that was granted yesterday or the accident that happened last night must be viewed from such an angle that to-day shall appear in the write-up. Close competition and improved machinery have made freshness, timeliness, all but a requisite in every story.
 Professor Willard Grosvenor Bleyer. See his Newspaper Writing and Editing, p. 18.
42. Closeness of the Event.—Next to nearness in time comes nearness in place as a means of maintaining interest. Other things being equal, the worth of a story varies in inverse proportion to its closeness in time and place. A theft of ten dollars in one's home town is worth more space than a theft of a thousand in a city across the continent. A visit of Mrs. Gadabit, wife of the president of our city bank, to Neighborville twenty miles away is worth more space than a trip made by Mrs. Astor to Europe. Whenever possible, the good reporter seeks to localize his story and draw it close to the everyday lives of his readers. Even an accidental acquaintance of a man in town with the noted governor or the notorious criminal who has just been brought into the public eye—with a brief quotation of the local man's opinion of the other fellow, or how they chanced to meet,—is worth generous space in any paper. Oftentimes a resident man or woman's opinion of a statement made by some one else, or of a problem of civic, state, or national interest, is given an important place merely by reason of the fact that the story is associated with some locally prominent person. Always the effort is made to localize the news.
43. The Search for Extremes.—Again, say what one may, the American public loves extremes in its news stories. If a pumpkin can be made the largest ever grown in one's section, or a murder the foulest ever committed in the vicinity, or a robbery the boldest ever attempted in the block, or a race the fastest ever run on the track, or anything else the largest or the least ever registered in the community, it will be good for valuable space in the local news columns. A record breaker in anything is a new problem to the public, who will read with eager joy every detail concerning the attainment of the new record.
44. The Unusual.—The exceptional, the unusual, the abnormal is in a sense a record breaker and will be read about with zest. A burglar stealing a Bible or returning a baby's mite box, a calf with two heads, a dog committing suicide, a husband divorcing his wife so that she may marry a man whom she loves better,—such stories belong in the list with the unique and will be found of exceptional interest to readers.
45. Contests.—The description of a contest always makes interesting news. No matter whether the struggle is between athletic teams, business men, society women, race horses, or neighboring cities, if the element of struggle for supremacy can be injected into the story, it will be read with added zest. Such stories may be found in the search of politicians for office, in the struggles of business men for control of trade or for squeezing out competitors, in contests between capital and labor, in religious factions, in collegiate rivalry, and in many of the seemingly commonplace struggles of everyday life. The individual, elementary appeal that comes from struggle is always thrilling.
46. Helplessness.—Opposed to stories depicting struggle for supremacy are those portraying the joys or the sufferings of the very old or very young, or of those who are physically or mentally unable to struggle. The joy of an aged mother because her boy remembered her birthday, the undeserved sufferings of an old man, the cry of a child in pain, the distress of a helpless animal, all are full of interest to the average reader. Helplessness, particularly in its hours of suffering or its moments of unaccustomed pleasure, compels the sympathy of everyone, and every reporter is delighted with the opportunity to write a "sob story" picturing the friendlessness and the want of such unprivileged ones. These stories not only are read with interest, but often prove a practical means of helping those in distress.
47. Prominent Persons.—Directly opposed to stories about helpless persons or animals are those of prominent men and women. For some reason news about the great, no matter how trivial, is always of interest, and varies in direct proportion to the prominence of the person. If the President of the United States drives a golf ball into a robin's nest, if the oil king in the Middle West prefers a wig to baldness, if the millionaire automobile manufacturer never pays more than five cents for his cigars, the reading public is greatly interested in learning the fact. Nor is it essential that the reader shall have heard of the prominent man. It is sufficient that his position socially or professionally is high.
48. Well-known Places.—The same interest attaches to noted or notorious places. A news item about Reno, Nevada, is worth more than one about Rome, Georgia, though the cities are of about the same size. A street traffic regulation in New York City is copied all over the United States, notwithstanding the fact that the same law may have been passed by the city council in Winchester, Kentucky, years before and gone unnoticed. And so with Coney Island or Niagara Falls or Death Valley, or any one of a hundred other places that might be named. The fashions they originate, the ideas for which they stand sponsors, the accidents that happen in their vicinity, all have specific interest by virtue of their previous note or notoriety. And if the reporter can fix the setting of his story in such a place, he may be assured of interested readers.
49. Personal and Financial Interests.—Finally, if a news story can be found that will bear directly on the personal or financial interests of the patrons of the paper, one may be sure of its cordial reception. If turkeys take the roup six weeks before Thanksgiving, or taxes promise a drop with the new year, or pork volplanes two or three cents, or an ice famine is threatened, or styles promise coats a few inches shorter or socks a few shades greener, the readers are eager to know and will applaud the vigilance of the editors. For this reason, a reporter can often pick up an extra story—and reporters are judged by the extra stories they place on the city editor's desk—by occasionally dropping in at markets, grocery stores, and similar business houses and inquiring casually for possible drops or rises in price. For the same reason, too, new styles as seen in the shop windows are always good for a half-column. And one cannot think of covering a dressmakers' convention, an automobile show, a jewelers' exhibition, or a similar gathering without playing up prominently the new styles. A clever San Francisco reporter covering a convention of insurance agents once produced a brilliant story on new styles in life insurance policies.
50. Summary.—By way of summary, then, it may be said that the only requirements of an event or an idea to make it good story material are that it be presented accurately and that it possess interest for a goodly number of readers; and any fact or idea which presents a situation or poses a problem differing, even slightly, from preceding situations or problems encountered by the readers of a paper is sure to possess interest. Timeliness is of vital worth, but is not a necessity. The geographical nearness of an event adds to its value, as does the fact that the event or the product or the result is a record breaker or is unique in its class. Contests of all sorts invariably possess interest, and stories of the helplessness of old persons, children, or animals never fail to have an emotional appeal. Any news item concerning a well-known person or place is likely to attract attention, and any story that touches the home or business interests of the public is sure to command interested readers. All these features are valuable, and any one will contribute much to the worth of a story, but none is essential. The prerequisite is that the news shall be true and shall present a new situation or problem, or a new phase of an old situation or problem.
VI. NEWS SOURCES
51. Second Essential of News Writing.—As explained in the preceding chapter, the first essential in news writing is a proper appreciation of news and news values. The second essential is the possession of a story to write. This chapter will discuss news sources, leaving for Chapter III an explanation of the methods of getting stories.
52. Gathering News.—The prospective reporter who supposes that newspaper men wander aimlessly up and down the streets of a city, watching and hoping for automobiles to collide and for men to shoot their enemies, will have his eyes opened soon after entering a news office. He will learn that a reporter never leaves the city room without a definite idea of where he is going. If newspapers had to police the streets with watchers for news as the city government assigns officers of the law, the cost of gathering news would be prohibitive.
53. Police as News Gatherers.—As a matter of fact, a paper has comparatively few paid men on its staff, though it has hundreds of non-paid watchers who are just as faithful. The police are the chief of these. As every reporter knows, a policeman is compelled to make to his captain a full and prompt report of every fire, robbery, murder, accident, or mishap involving loss of, or danger to, life or property occurring on his beat. This report is made to the local precinct or station, whence it is telephoned to police headquarters. At the central station the report is recorded in the daily record book of crime, known familiarly to the public as the "blotter." Not all of the reports recorded on the police blotter are made public, because hasty announcement of information received by the police oftentimes would forestall expected arrests; but such information as the desk sergeant is willing to utter is given out in brief bulletins, sometimes posted behind locked glass doors, sometimes simply written in a large ledger open to public inspection. Whether written in the ledger or displayed on a bulletin board, these bulletins are known always as slips, of which the following are typical examples:
Oct. 4 Suicide Attempt
Theodore Pavolovich, 24 yrs., arrested Oct. 1, 1915, fugitive, abandonment, Chicago, attempted suicide by stabbing with a fork while eating dinner. Sent to Emergency Hospital, ambulance 4. 12:50 P. M. Conway
Oct. 4 Clothing Found
Woman's coat, hat, and purse found on bank of Lake Michigan, foot of Pine St., 4:10 P. M. Skirt taken from water, same place, 4:30 P. M., by patrolman Heath. Clothing identified as Mrs. George Riley's, 18 Veazy St., missing since noon. 4:40 P. M. Nock
Oct. 18 Leg Broken
Mary Molinski, 40 yrs., single, 492 Grove St., fell down stairs, 7:05 P. M. Leg broken. Conveyed to St. Elizabeth Hospital by patrol 3. 7:30 P. M. Pct. 3.
Oct. 19 Calf Carcass Found
Calf carcass, black and white hide, weight about 85 pounds, found at 11th and Henry Ave. 6:30 A. M. Oper
These slips need little explanation. The name signed to each is that of the police officer reporting. The Pct. 3 signed after the third indicates merely the local precinct from which the report was made. The time at the end of each slip signifies the exact time at which the report was received at police headquarters.
54. Arrest Sheets.—In addition to the slips there are the "arrest sheets," on which all arrests are recorded. These sheets are open always to public inspection, as the public has a right to know of every arrest, lest a man be imprisoned unjustly. On page 37 is given a verbatim reproduction of the arrests recorded in a city in the Middle West. The M or S at the top of the fifth column stands for married or single, and R and W at the top of the eighth, for read and write. The D and D charge against the second offender is drunk and disorderly. It will be noted that the cases entered after ten o'clock had not been disposed of when this sheet was copied. From these arrest sheets and the slips, as the reader may readily see, the reporter is able to get a brief but prompt and accurate account of most of the accidents and crimes within the city. And with these advance notices in his possession he can follow up the event and get all available facts.
55. Other News Gatherers.—But there are numerous other non-paid news gatherers. Doctors are required to report to the health department every birth, death, and contagious disease to which they have been called in a professional capacity. To the coroner is reported every fatal accident, suicide, murder, or suspicious death. The county clerk keeps a record of every marriage license. The recorder of deeds has a register of all sales and transfers of property. The building inspector has a full account of buildings condemned, permits granted for new buildings, and fire devices required. The leading hotels have the names of important guests visiting or passing through the city. Thus by regular visitation of certain persons and places in the city, a newspaper through its representatives, the reporters, is able to get most of the news of its neighborhood.
AN ARREST SHEET
==================================================== Name Ad- Occu- A M Where C R Charge dress pation g or born o and e S l W o r - - - - - - John 16 Cook 32 S U.S. W Yes Vagrancy Glass Lake St. Chas. 124 Tailor 28 M " " " D and D King John St. Ben 50 Ped- 41 M " " " Violating Loti Third dler Health St. Laws Nell 38 House- 19 S " " " Drunk Smith West work Ave. Nick 1630 Barber 24 M " " " Abandonment White D St. Edw. 6 Broker 47 M " " " Violating Meyer Palm Speed Laws St. Jane 2935 House- 44 M " " " Keeping Gray Elm wife Disorderly St. House Peter 66 Line- 23 S Ger. " " Seduction Amt State man St. Alex St. But- 24 M U.S. " " Fugitive Bass Louis cher Geo. 1916 Watch- 31 M " " " Murder Holt 4th man St. - - - - - -
================================================== Name Comp- Officer Date Time Cell Disposition lainant & Pre- & cinct Ward - - - - - - John Jacobs Jacobs Oct. 8:00 6 3 10 Glass 3 15 AM days Chas. Hays Hays " " 8:30 7 3 Bound King 6 AM over Ben Jones Oper " " 10:40 8 3 Loti AM Nell Hays Hays " " 10:50 2 2 Smith 7 AM Nick Chief Olson " " 11:10 3 2 White Police, 3 AM Atlanta Edw. Thiel Thiel " " 3:25 4 2 Meyer 8 PM Jane J. B. Walker " " 11:10 7 1 Gray Katz 1 PM Peter Vera Towne " " 11:30 6 1 Amt Mann 4 PM Alex Chief Bower " " 11:45 5 1 Bass Police, 2 PM St. Louis Geo. Mrs. Owens " " 11:50 2 1 Holt Holt 3 PM - - - - - -
56. Regular News Sources.—Places that serve as news sources are known as "beats" or "runs." The chief ones and the kinds of news found at each are:
Associated Charities Headquarters: destitution, poverty, relief work.
Boards of Trade, Brokers, Commission Men: market quotations; sales of grain, stocks, and bonds; financial outlook.
Boxing Commission: boxing permissions and regulations.
Building Department, Real Estate Dealers, Architects: new buildings, unsafe buildings.
Caterers: banquets, society dinners.
Civic Organizations: reform movements, speakers, etc.
Civil Courts: complaints, trials, decisions.
Commercial Club: business news.
Coroner's Office: fatal accidents, murders, suicides, suspicious deaths.
County Clerk: marriage licenses, county statistics.
County Jail: arrests, crimes, executions.
Criminal Courts: arraignments, trials, verdicts.
Delicatessen Stores: banquets, society dinners.
Fire Department Headquarters: fires, fire losses, fire regulations, condemned buildings.
Florists: banquets, dinners, receptions, social functions.
Health Department: births, deaths, contagious diseases, reports on sanitation.
Hospitals: accidents, illnesses, deaths.
Hotels: important guests, banquets, dinners, social functions.
Labor Union Headquarters: labor news.
Morgue: unidentified corpses.
Police Headquarters: accidents, arrests, crimes, fires, lost and found articles, missing persons, suicides, sudden or suspicious deaths.
Political Clubs and Headquarters: county, state, and national political news.
Probate Office: estates, wills.
Public Works Department: civic improvements.
Railway Offices: new rates, general shipping news.
Referee in Bankruptcy: assignments, failures, creditors' meetings, appointments of receivers, settlements.
Register of Deeds: real estate sales and transfers.
Shipping Offices: departure and docking of vessels; cargoes, shipping rates, passenger lists.
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: arrests, complaints, animal stories.
Superintendent of Schools: educational news.
Vice Commission: arrests, complaints, raids.
57. News Runs.—These runs are distributed among the different reporters, sometimes only one, sometimes three or four to a person. On a small paper all of the runs, or all to be found in that town, may be given to one reporter, the number assigned depending upon the size of the town, the nature of the territory covered, and the willingness or unwillingness of the owners to spend money in getting news. On the larger papers, however, police headquarters generally provide work for one man alone, known as the "watcher." In many cases he does no writing at all, but merely watches the slips and the sheets for reports and arrests, which he telephones to the city editor, who assigns other reporters to get the details and write the stories. Another reporter watches the city clerk's office and perhaps all the other departments in the city hall, which he visits at random intervals during the day, but without such close attention to any one office as is given to police headquarters. Still another goes to the shipping offices and two or three other places which he will visit ordinarily not more than once a day. But whether he goes five times a day or only once, a reporter is held responsible for all the news occurring on his run; and if he falls short in his duty or lets some more nimble-witted reporter scoop him on the news of his beat, he had better begin making himself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness to receive him into their habitations; for a scoop, even of a few minutes, by a rival publication is the unpardonable sin with the city editor. The wise reporter never neglects any news source on his run.
58. Dark Runs.—Before we take up methods of getting stories, one other news source should be noted,—what reporters know as "dark runs," runs that are consistently productive of news, but which must be kept "dark." Such places are garages, delicatessen stores, florists' shops, and similar shops providing flowers, cakes, and luxuries for private dinners and receptions. An unwritten law of trade makes it a breach of professional etiquette for a shopkeeper to tell the names of purchasers of goods, but many a proprietor, as a matter of business pride, is glad to recount the names of his patrons on Lakeside Drive and their splendid orders just given. Garage men, too, wishing it known that millionaire automobile owners patronize their shops, often are willing to tell of battered cars repaired by their men. All such sources are fertile with stories. Many a rich man's automobile crashes into a culvert or a telegraph pole and nobody knows of it but the mechanic in the repair shop. Many a prominent club-man indulges in orgies of revelry and dissipation of which none knows but the caterer and a few chosen, non-committal friends. Many a society leader plans receptions and dinners of which the florist learns before the friends who are to be invited. And by skilfully encouraging the friendship of these tradesmen, a shrewd reporter can obtain exclusive facts about prominent persons who cannot understand, when they see their names in the morning paper, how the information was made public. These "dark runs" justify diligent attention. They produce news, and valuable is the reporter who can include successfully a number of such sources in his daily rounds.
59. Value of Wide Acquaintance.—Attention may be directed, too, to the need of deliberately cultivating friendships and acquaintances, not only on these "dark runs," but wherever one goes—both on and off duty. In the stores, along the street, on the cars, at the club, the alert reporter gathers many an important news item. The merchant, the cabman, the preacher, the barkeeper, the patrolman, the thug, the club-man, the porter, all make valuable acquaintances, as they are able often to give one stories or clues to the solution of problems that are all but invaluable to the paper. And such facts as they present are given solely because of their interest in the reporter. One should guard zealously, however, against betraying the confidence of such friends. The reporter must distinguish the difference between publishing a story gained from a stranger by dint of shrewd interviewing, and printing the same story obtained from a fellow club-man more or less confidentially over the cigars and coffee. The stranger's information the reporter must publish. No newspaper man has a right to suppress news obtained while on duty or to accept the confidence of anyone, if by such confidence he is precluded the right to publish certain facts. The publication or non-publication of such news is a matter for the city editor's decision alone. But a story obtained confidentially from a friend at the club or in the home of a neighbor may not be used except with the express permission of those persons. Many a man has seen himself and his paper scooped because he was too honorable to betray the trust of his friends; but such a single scoop is worth nothing in comparison with the continued confidence of one's friends and their later prejudiced assistance. Personal and professional integrity is a newspaper man's first principle.
VII. GETTING THE STORY
60. Starting for a Story.—In the preceding chapter attention was directed to news sources, to definite places for obtaining news. The reporter's situation changes radically, however, when he is sent for a story and is told merely that somebody at Grove and Spring streets has been shot. There are four corners at Grove and Spring streets, and the shooting may have occurred, not on the corner, but at the second or third house from any one of the four corners, and maybe in a rear apartment. On such an assignment one should have on hand cards and plenty of paper and pencils. Every reporter should keep several sharp, soft lead pencils. Folded copy paper is sufficient for note-taking. The stage journalist appears always with conspicuous pencil and notebook, but the practical newspaper man displays these insignia of his profession as little as possible. A neat, engraved business card is necessary because often it is the only means of admittance to a house.
61. Use of the Telephone.—If the name of the person shot at Spring and Grove streets has been given him, the reporter may look it up in the telephone and city directories, in order to get some idea of the man and his profession. If the house has a telephone, the reporter may sometimes use this means of getting information, but this step generally is not advisable, as the telephone cannot be trusted on important stories. A person can ring off too easily if he prefers not to answer questions, and his gestures and facial expressions, emphasizing or denying the statements that his lips make, cannot be seen. The telephone is rather to be used for running down rumors and tips, for obtaining unimportant interviews, and for getting stories which the persons concerned wish to have appear in the paper. If in this case the reporter has doubts about the shooting, he may telephone to a nearby bakery or meat market to verify the rumor, but he had better not telephone the house. Let him go there in person.
62. City Maps.—If the reporter does not know the name of the individual shot or the location of Grove and Spring streets, he should consult his city map to learn precisely where he is going. If he is in a hurry, he may examine the map on his way to the car line, or while he is calling a taxi. Actually he ought to know the city so well that he need not consult a map at all (and the man whose ambition is to be a first-class reporter will soon acquire that knowledge), but to a beginner, a map is valuable.
63. Finding the Place.—Having arrived at Grove and Spring streets, the reporter should go first to the policeman on the beat. Unless the shooting is one that for some reason has been hushed up, the policeman will know all the main details. Usually, too, if approached courteously, he will be glad to point out the house and tell what he knows. If he knows nothing or pretends ignorance, the reporter must seek the house itself; nor must he be discouraged if he fails to get his information at the first, second, or third house, nor indeed after he has inquired at every door in the adjacent blocks. There are still left the neighborhood stores,—the groceries, bakeries, saloons, meat markets, and barber shops,—and maybe in the last one of these, the barber shop, a customer with his coat off, waiting for a shave, will remember that he heard somebody say a man by the name of Davis was shot "around the corner." But he does not know what corner, or where the man lives, or his initials, or who gave him his information.
64. Regular Reports to the City Editor.—The reporter's first step now is to go to the corner drugstore and examine the telephone and city directories for every Davis living in the neighborhood. While in the drugstore he may call up the city editor and report progress on the story. When away on an assignment there is need always of reporting regularly, particularly if one is working on an afternoon paper. Some city editors require a man to telephone every hour whether he has any news or not. A big story may break and the city editor may have nobody to handle it, or the office may have fuller information about the story which the reporter is investigating. Besides, on an afternoon paper where an edition is appearing every hour or so, every fresh detail, though small, may be of interest to readers following the story.
65. Retracing One's Work.—If no Davises are listed in the city or telephone directories, or none of those whose names appear knows anything of the shooting, the reporter's work of inquiry is still unfinished. He must go back to the patrolman on the beat and inquire if any person by the name of Davis has recently moved into the neighborhood,—since, for instance, the last city directory was published. Failing again, he must make once more the rounds of the houses on or near the four corners and of the neighborhood shops, inquiring in each instance for Mr. Davis. If there is a grocery store, a bakery, or a laundry in the vicinity, he must be sure to inquire there, particularly at the laundry, as the proprietors of those places are the first to get the names of newcomers in a neighborhood. The laundries must have names and addresses for deliveries, while housewives exchange gossip daily in the other places between purchases of vegetables and yeast cakes.
66. Need of Determination.—If the reporter still fails, he must not give up even yet without first resorting to every other measure that the special circumstances of the case make possible. There is never a story without some way to unearth it, and every such story is potentially a great one. A telephone message to the leading hospitals may bring results. Inquiry at the corner houses in the four adjoining blocks may disclose a Mr. Davis. Inquiry of the children skating along the sidewalk may unearth him. But in any event, the reporter must not give up until he has investigated every available clue. The city editor does not want and will not take excuses for failures to bring back stories; he wants stories.
67. Gaining Access for an Interview.—If at his last place of inquiry, perhaps from one of the skating children, the reporter learns it was not Mr. Davis at all who was shot, but Mr. Davidson, who may be found three blocks down at Spring and Grosvenor streets, his task now immediately changes to gaining access to Mr. Davidson, or to Mrs. Davidson, or to some one in the building who can give him the facts. Here is where his card may serve. If Mr. Davidson has rooms in a hotel, he may send his card up by a bellboy; if in a club, he may give it to the porter at the door. If the house at Spring and Grosvenor streets, however, is plainly one where a card would be out of place, he may simply inquire for Mr. Davidson. It is not at all improbable that Mr. Davidson was only slightly injured and one may be permitted to see him. If, however, the person answering the door states that Mr. Davidson cannot be seen, as he was injured that morning, the reporter may express his interest and inquire the cause, thus making a natural and easy step toward what newspaper men generally consider the most difficult phase of reporting,—the interview.
68. Requirements for Interviewing.—Broadly speaking, there are six requirements for successful interviewing: a pleasing presence, the ability to question judiciously, a quick perception of news even in chance remarks, a retentive memory, the power to detect falsehood readily, and the ability to single out characteristic phrases. Technically, an interview is a consultation with a man of rank for the sake of publishing his opinions. In practice, however, because the term man of rank is hazy in its inclusiveness, the word has come to mean consultation with any person for the purpose of reporting his views. And in this sense the word interview will be used in this volume.
69. A Pleasing Presence.—The first requisite for successful interviewing, a pleasing presence, must be interpreted broadly. In the term are included immaculacy of person and linen, as well as tact, courtesy, and all those qualities that make for ease of mind while conversing. Clothes may not make a man, but the lack of them will ruin a reporter. An unshaven face or a collar of yesterday's wear will do a newspaper man so much harm in some persons' eyes that all the shrewd questions he can ask during the interview will be of little value. Lack of tact in approaching or addressing a man will have the same unfortunate result. Many reporters think that by resorting to flattery they can induce men to talk; then they wonder why they fail. A reporter must keep in mind that the persons he interviews usually possess as keen intellects as his own and mere flattery will be quickly detected and resented.
70. Courtesy.—Above all things in his purpose to present a pleasing presence, the interviewer must possess unfailing courtesy. He must never forget that he is a gentleman, no matter what the other person may be. He cannot afford to permit himself even to become angry. Anger does not pay, for two reasons. In the first place, when a reporter loses his temper, he immediately loses his head. He becomes so absorbed in his own emotions that he cannot question shrewdly or remember clearly what is said by the man from whom he would extract information. In the second place, anger creates hostility, and a hostile man or woman not only does not willingly give information, but will be an enemy of the paper forever afterward. Always, therefore, the interviewer must be courteous, knowing that kindness begets kindness and that the other fellow, if approached rightly, will respond in the end to his own mood.
71. Asking Questions.—Concerning the second requirement for interviewing, judicious questioning, only general precepts can be given. The reporter must rely largely on himself. As a rule, however, the personal equation should be considered. Every man is interested in himself and his work, and the interviewer often may start him talking by beginning on work. The essential thing is to get some topic that will launch him into easy, natural conversation. Then, with his man started, the interviewer may well keep silent. Only a cub reporter will interrupt the natural flow of conversation for the sake merely of giving his own views. If the man runs too far afield, the reporter may guide the conversation back to the original topic; but he may well subject himself to much irrelevant talk for the sake of guiding his informer back gracefully to the topic of interest.
72. Persons Seeking Advertisement.—From the standpoint of the newspaper man, there are three classes of persons one encounters in interviewing: those who talk, those who will not, and those who do not know they are divulging secrets. Concerning the first little need be said. Such persons talk because they enjoy seeing their names in print. It is a marvel how many men and women object with seeming sincerity to their names being made public property, yet at the same time give the reporter full details for the story he wishes and hand him their cards so that he may spell their names correctly. Many such celebrities will stand for any kind of interview, so that the reporter need only determine in advance what he would have them say to make a good story. With them advertisement is so much personal gain; they are glad to accede to any sort of odd statement for the sake of possible public notice. Such persons are to be avoided; advertisements are written by the advertising manager or his helpers and fixed prices are charged.
73. Persons Refusing to Talk.—With the second and third classes, however, the interviewer must be careful, particularly with the second. Men who will not talk are usually well acquainted with the world. Sometimes they may be forced into making statements by asking them questions that will almost certainly arouse their anger and so make them speak hastily, but the reporter himself must be doubly careful in such cases to keep his own temper sweet. Oftentimes such men, particularly society criminals and others who possess an especial fear of having their wrong-doing known among their friends, try to keep from being written up by saying they are unwilling to make any kind of statement for publication, but that they will do so in court if anything is published about them. The reporter will not let such a threat daunt him. He will get the facts and present them to the city editor with the person's hint of criminal action, then let the city editor determine the problem of publication.
74. Persons Divulging Secrets.—Frequently a person of the second class may be slyly converted into the group of those who do not know they are divulging secrets, by the reporter deliberately leading away from the topic about which he has come for an interview, then circling round to the hazardous subject when the person interviewed is off his guard. Probably the most ticklish situation in all reporting is here. To make a person tell what he knows without knowing that he is telling is the pinnacle of the art of interviewing. As Mr. Richard Harding Davis has so exactly expressed it: