Training And Opportunity
( Originally Published 1916 )
WHAT does a newspaper career hold out to young men m the way of interest and advantage? This can be answered generally: It offers an education greater than any college or university can afford ; it puts them in close touch with the great affairs of the universe ; it makes them broadminded and rouses an intellectual activity not inspired in any other profession or trade.
The newspaper is the mirror of modern life in which all phases of thought and activity are reflected. To become competent in the employ of a newspaper means that a man must educate himself in advance of the rest of the world, in order that he may elucidate and exploit the happenings of the day intelligently. Unlike education as it is provided in schools and colleges, this learning is picked up automatically under pressure. If the youth is fitted to become a newspaper worker he absorbs ideas and intelligence with his day's work; he becomes thoroughly grounded in the widest possible range of knowledge, until his mind shows radio-activity.
Primarily, the newspaper office is not a place where a good living is to be had by the mere performance of a day's work. Many other lines of exertion are easier to master and much more certain in their steady financial productivity.
To enjoy life truly one must find something more than money in his task. When old Omar wondered if the winesellers could buy with the proceeds of their vintages any-thing one-half so precious as the stuff they sell, he expressed a deep idea. The item called a newspaper, book or magazine, produced by eager brains and willing hands, is much more precious to mankind than any money its sale brings to the producer!
This thought must be in the mind of every one who adopts the art of lettersóthe Art Preservative-for a livelihood. To grasp what the ordinary mind does not, and to relate it so that the ordinary mind will perceive and understand, is a great achievement. Many people. go through life with limited observation. It is the privilege, therefore of the newspaper worker to see for the unseeing and to become a public observer for the benefit of those who cannot observe.
The trade is a refreshing and engaging occupation. It appeals to the young and vigorous intellect. It affords a deep involvement in public affairs, for patriotic and public endeavors, most agreeable to the independent American mind. Through long years of unpopularity in a social sense the profession has reached a rank high in general esteem. The old attitude of scorn for the newspaper passed away with the Jefferson Bricks and the penny-a-liner, expelled by the public acceptance of the newspaper's value to the community and a realization of the great place it fills in the common welfare.
The American rarely picks out his course systematically in life. He tries many things at, great waste of time and effort before he " lands." It is reckoned that only five out of one hundred succeed at the thing undertaken in the first instance. This is the natural result of dwelling in a land of opportunity, where changing chances fascinate and lead away from early purposes. The great test under way in Germany before the nation turned to war, to assist natural selection at an early stage and thus curtail waste, seemed logical and promised effectivenessóbut'how far even the wisest Herr Professor could not say. In a Democratic country it does not seem possible to do more than hold open many doors with free and easy entrances for all.
The printing office is a very inviting place ; the selling of newspapers a readily undertaken occupation. The printers are talented, adventurous souls, who stand close to the editors in sense and intelligence. They form agreeable acquaintances for the boy with an eager mind. From selling papers to making them is a common and early step; from printing to owning is another. Everybody in America ought to master a trade. The boy who has a mind for journalism should learn to finger type or feed a press if he really wishes to reach the top. That it is done without these accomplishments cannot be gainsaid, but the journey up is much more pleasant to him who knows type, ink and presses!
Naturally with the closeness of the relationship most editors and publishers are drawn from the lower grades of the trade. More than one successful sheet was evolved as a side issue of the printing office. The very prosperous Brooklyn Eagle was established by Isaac Van Anden to keep the printers busy between jobs and Benjamin Day started the New York Sun in 1833 for a similar reason. The Buffalo News, a notable publication, started as a Sunday paper, " set up " by two brothers, Edward II. and J. Ambrose Butler, who ate their meals out of a pail and worked day and night' to make the paper go, though strangely enough after the Sunday had bred a great evening edition, it faded out and was finally abandoned, with the effect of strengthening the prosperity of its offspring. The Utica Press a model country daily, was born of a printers' strike!
How to begin save at the bottom, as a printer's boy, is the question first asked and most difficult to answer. Nearly all trades and professions have an orderly process of preparation and introduction. The newspaper trade has been left among the last to haphazard and natural selection. The establishment of the School of Journalism by Joseph Pulitzer, at Columbia University, New York, and the taking up of the idea by other institutions of learning, now affords a plate for beginning, with some definite chance for education and training in advance of experience. There now exist, besides the special school at Columbia, classes bearing on phases of newspaper training in the New York University School of Commerce, conducted by James Melvin Lee ; the University of Pennsylvania; University of Chicago; Northwestern University the University of Missouri; University of Texas, University of Washington University of Minnesota; University of Montana; De Pauw University; University of Oregon; Indiana University ; Toledo (O.) University, University of Maine; Iowa State College; University of Southern California; Brooklyn, N. Y., Commercial High School; St. Xavier College, New York; University of Kansas.
The Pulitzer School of Journalism ignores business instruction and confines its efforts to reportorial and editorial training. The , purpose of the founder was to perfect the intellectual side of newspaper making and fit students for what he believed to be the highest form of public service. Harvard College, in its Graduate School of Business Administration, pays some attention to advertising under the head of " Marketing." For a number of years, Mr. Frank L. Blanchard has maintained successful classes in advertising at the Twenty-third Street Branch of the New York Young Men's Christian Association. He and Charles F. Southard, of the advertising class of the Brooklyn Commercial High School, can really be called the pioneers in the movement to prepare the young for a place in the Newspaper Trade. Instruction in advertising is, however, devoted to the construction of " copy" for the advertiser, something with which the newspaper has little to do. It is an adjunct to the trade, not a part of it. Instruction in soliciting advertising is, I fear, far too psychological to be acquired. It is a form of salesmanship to which the paper represented bears a greater part than the solicitor.
Good writing has gone out of fashion in our mile-a-minute age. There is no place in journalism today for the leisurely, reflective writer, carefully cultivating style. Speed governs. The newspaper is made up to the minute. So far as reflection is permitted it is allowed mainly for ideas, not expression. Even the few feeble weeklies, designed for general circulation, fail to maintain the old-time care for literary excellence. The less said about magazine English the better!
The man who is to become either an editor or reporter, must learn to think quickly and concretely and write rapidly and to the point. No room is given him to be ornate, or time for remodelling. Neither is there place for ignorance or slovenliness. Simplicity and directness are the chief desiderata.
How can these qualities be acquired by the would-be writer? Few do it in advance of the requirement. They must be beaten out under the pressure of actual conditions be-fore the true facility is attained. But there must be a beginning. I can think of nothing better than Benjamin Franklin's own ac-count of how he taught himself to write in an inimitable style that can be safely taken as a model for all comers. " About this e," he says, in his matchless autobiography, " I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. . . I thought the writing excellent, and wished if possible to imitate it. With that view I took some of the papers, and making short points of the sentiments in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then without looking at the book, tried to complete the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length and as fully as it had been expressed before, in many suit-able words that should occur to me. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them."
Franklin read widely and thought deeply. These are prerequisites for a truly successful journalist, who must possess knowledge far beyond that furnished by scanning the day's events. Like a good horse, he must have " bottom."' The editorial writer who cannot think up a topic until the newsproofs begin to come in from the composing room is poorly equipped for his job.
The Pulitzer School of Journalism undertakes to equip definitely a student for every form of editorial and reportorial work. It is required that the applicant shall be as well grounded as he would be for a regular college course. French, German, history, science, politics, philosophy and writing are included in the first year's course. The second year provides a continuation of much of the first year's programme, with practice in writing special articles and a study of current events.
The drill in newspaper technic begins in the third year, the first half of which is devoted to financial and commercial reporting-the dullest of routinesóbut impressing accuracy. Party government, and municipal affairs and economics, here and abroad, are included in the third year's curriculum. The fourth year gives a practical course in reporting and copyreading, to which are added international relations and a study of the elements of law.
The course is exacting. Necessarily the training is academic, modified so far as the trained newspaper men who are welded with the collegiate system are able to impress the practical. Teaching journalism is a good deal like teaching how to shoot. Much depends upon the conduct of the target!
For the would-be writer, whose instinct impels him toward journalism, the best move to make is first to study the characteristics of the newspaper or publication to which his inclination leans. They all have their moods and habits. It was easy to sell a snake or a sea story 'to the old Sun. The odd and the interesting have a market everywhere and news seldom has to knock twice for admission. Even the much congested magazines can make room for a refreshing narrative or a story with a new slant. The list of writers each year reveals many new names--those who have seen and conquered. Best sellers are not seldom the work of people who never before put pen to paper. " David Harum," the most successful book of the last twenty-five years, was written by Edward Noyes Westcott, who had been a bank cashier, while he lay dying from consumption, in a desperate hope that the work might provide for his family. Mrs. Stowe wrote " Uncle Tom's Cabin " while " keeping house " in Brunswick, Maine, where her husband was a Bowdoin College professor. Gene Stratton Porter, whose " Limberlost " books sell by the carload, had but the vision of an Indiana swamp before her. " O. Henry " ground out his admirable stories for a weekly dole from a Sunday newspaper, after, a turbid experience-in Texas. He was a product of the North Carolina upland. Rex Beach broke into Alaska and fame from clerking in a Chicago store!
The publishing world is always ready for a good product, but its views as to what constitute a good product vary. What fits one paper, magazine or book publisher, may fail another. The necessary discernment is no-where infallible. There are many tales in the publishing world of a manuscript rejected by one house making the fortune of another.
Not infrequently, too, men who have failed to rise on one journal make a mark on another. Again, the ambitious worker will seek out his ground, study the papers and fit himself to the most inviting. It is as natural to like writing for a certain paper as to prefer it for reading purposes.
The newspaper office is a world in itself.
Some great Metropolitan establishments employ as many as 2000 people. Offices with from one hundred to six hundred employees are plentiful. The tabulation given elsewhere indicates the departments. About one-third of the force will be mechanical, another third clerical, mail and delivery and miscellaneous, and the remainder be made up of editors, copy readers, reporters, correspondents and boys. The boy is a plentiful factor in all parts of the establishment, He is also the most volatile. It is to be doubted if one in a hundred " sticks."
The table of occupation also shows that there is a wide range for employment outside of the purely journalistic end. Many forms of professional or handicraft work are to be found. The trades cover composition, photo engraving, presswork, stereotyping, mailing, with adjuncts in electricians, engineers, firemen, mechanics and chauffeurs. Writers, reporters, artists, copy readers, form another class, with variants expressed in the table.
In the cities the trades unions dominate ,the offices and the opportunities for beginners are small. No matter how large the number of compositors, for example, but four apprentices are allowed by Typographical Union No. 6 in New York composing rooms. Four seems to be the limit in all trades. The stereotypers practically ban apprentices, re lying on out-of-town workmen to recruit their ranks. In the press rooms, two to three carrier boys to each machine have an ultimate opportunity to become pressmen, but not by any definite progression. They must await the will of the union.
Recently the Typographical Union, the Publishers' Association and the employing printers of New York, have united in supporting an apprentices' school for compositors. This does good work, but its instruction is limited to indentured apprentices. The door is not open, therefore, except by way of some job or newspaper office. The city opportunity to get into the newspaper trade through the mechanical side is therefore unduly circumscribed. The country boy is not held back by union restrictions and for him there is no better road into the trade than through the doorway of the rural printing office. There is no more delightful place to work than in such a shop.
He has the free run of the place and is treated as an equal by all hands. He has, often, more privileges than pay, but all the same he is a mighty important boy. He is being introduced to the mystery of letters and learning to see life in all its aspects and angles! There is no curb on his energies. He is permitted to do everything from washing rollers to sweeping out, and from collecting bills to picking up items. He learns much, from the printers. The journeyman in the smaller office is usually a wise fellow who has travelled far. There is something about him that makes him sensitive and he takes ready umbrage at the community or his employer and this keeps him moving. The printers scatter widely. Not long ago I found at Barstow, California, on the edge of Death Valley, a printer very familiar with - New York offices, who had drifted about until he lodged himself and a weak pair of lungs in this hole in the desert sand. He was quite happy, however. He had seen the world !
The printing office boy has a higher rank in the community than the one who works in a store or factory. Clerking in a store has always been looked down upon by those who believe in robust occupation, and working in a factory does not procure a very high place in the social scale. The farm lads are apt to be considered clodhoppers. But the boy in the printing office lives with grownups. He soon becomes familiar with the great. He knows the business men, the politicians, the lawyers and the sacred list called "leading citizens." He is not engaged in a sordid business, but in a trade and a profession combined, where ideals are superior to money and where the public side must rule above the private pocket. He is on terms of amity and co-interest with everybody in the office. He is not chained to a wheel, or worked in a grind. He has liberty of thought and expression. He must use his head as well as his hands, always with the privilege of going higher and further as his talents may compel! For women, the trade affords a number of excellent opportunities. To be a woman reporter is not especially agreeable, particularly under direction of an editor given to "freak " assignments. But the fashion writer, the society reporter and the producer of special articles is well employed. Salaries in the best places run from $2000 to $4500 per year. The woman is man's equal on a newspaper and is paid what she earns, not what she can get, as the rule seems to be in other occupations, The typewriting machine has led to the hiring of many young women in clerical departments at good pay and under easy working conditions. They fill these minor positions, from which promotion is slow, to better advantage than men. The men on the small jobs who cannot advance, grow less useful and become discontented as their years and needs increase The girls get married and so give way to others.
The ordinary salary of a subordinate editorial writer in a Metropolitan office will range from $2500 to $8000 a year, the chief from $10,000 to $15,000. The managing editor's pay will range from $7500 to $12,000. Some special talent is credited with earning as high as $30,000 a year, and one exceptional man of ideas receives $100,000 a year under an arrangement based upon a percentage of circulation results, tantamount to a partnership. Country offices and small cities pay much more modest salaries, but they are usually well abreast of professional returns ; they equal or exceed the pay of clergymen, school principals, or social' . service employees, and other intellectual employments.