( Originally Published 1916 )
THE distance between " upstairs " and " downstairs " is far greater than the physical measurement implies. To the force assigned to take care of the material side of a news- per establishment " the people upstairs " are a strange and inexplicable lot. The academic critic is often heard with acute accusations against " business office " control. These critics could never have tried the experiment. " Controlling " an editor is about as easy as picking live eels out of a puddle of water. Indeed the average editor can hardly " control himself. His hunting instincts are so keenly developed as to leave no place in his mind for any considerations other than getting out the very best paper he can. He is after the news, after the thing of 'interest. If he does not supply this the business office, even if it were inclined to repress, would soon find itself without an occupation. There is amazingly little acquaintance between the rank and file of the two departments, each attending to its respective functions according to requirements and usually in conflict over the size of the paper and the " placing " of advertisements. Size regulates all expenses in a newspaper office. Two pages more or less a day may often represent the difference between a proper profit and none at all. So the paper is rarely big enough for the editor or small enough for the business end. The " placing " of advertisements is an endless source of difficulty. The editor loves a " clean page" where he can let his " story " run. The business office regards a page as a place for intensive cultivation, and the more high-priced position advertising it can tuck away the better the balance sheet looks.
Beside there is an incessant pressure from the advertisers for better positions. This is energetically voiced by the advertising solicitor, who by the rule that we all take on the color of our surroundings, is always more eager to promote the interest of the advertiser than the convenience or profit of the office. This makes the lot of the advertising manager, who has to placate the editor and please the advertisers, a very unhappy one.
The editors have always been contemptuous of the business office, regarding it only as a place where the salaries are paid, but with very little respect for the struggle to gather in the wherewithal to pay them. In the early days of the trade, there was no business office organization, only a clerk or two and the man who handed out and received the money for the circulation. Sometimes the editor himself stood behind the counter when the rush was on. Mr. Pulitzer used to humble his business managers by remarking that when " he was active, he had no business office," which was in a measure true. But the growth of the business made management necessary and, like most things needed, it arrived and filled its place.
The New York newspapers of the middle decades of the nineteenth century had no advertising departments, indeed, did not control the sale of their advertising but farmed it out. The late Gordon L. Ford, of Brooklyn, made a fortune out of the columns of the New York Tribune, which he controlled, and as late as 1884 the Brooklyn Eagle sold much of its space through an outside agent. The early editor was not thinking business, he wanted to express himself, but when he did this powerfully, circulation followed and on the head of circulation came advertising.
Yet advertising in the modern, sense developed slowly. Even in 1893, when the World celebrated its tenth anniversary under Mr. Pulitzer's ownership, the largest department store advertisement in the columns of the 100-page edition issued in honor of the event was but three columns. The newspapers of the fifties and sixties printed little advertising from retailers. Their columns were much used by wholesale merchants, shipping men, with announcements of a purely commercial character, and a liberal representation of the ever-present medicine man, but the retailer was mostly absent. The late A. T. Stewart, first and greatest of New York's retail merchants, was quite content with an advertisement 150 lines deep across two columns.
One thing that delayed the development of the display advertiser was the difficulty in printing any announcement that was in excess of a single column set in small type. For years the papers were printed from type presses where the matter had to be made up on " turtles " or sections of a cylinder. Each column was therefore slightly curved, and to insert a double column advertisement was a mechanical problem, involving as it did the breaking of the column rule and the use of type above the average size. To meet this exigency double price was usually charged for display lines or taking out the column rule. Most of the papers met the demand for larger display by Using logo-types, or letters made out of standard sizes of type, that is a large " A " would be built up out of agate or nonpareil " A's," and so more easily lent themselves to the curvature of the " turtle." With the advent of stereo-typing by the papier-maché proccss, which permitted the casting of a curved plate, the " turtle " gave way and the troublesome broken column ceased to bother, but the habit of double charges remained for many years ; in fact until the typesetting machine put the compositor on a weekly wage instead of the piece system, for he, too, was paid extra for broken column or tabular work, of which setting logotypes was a part. So strong is habit that the typefounders cast solid logo-types after the turtle " disappeared and many papers used this form of display letter long after the need of. it disappeared, the last to drop their use being the New York Herald, which clung to them until the end of the century.
Display advertising really dates from the advent of the penny evening newspaper, with its wide circulation and swift results. Morning paper advertising was much like the copy prevailing even today in England, that is, it was " sign " advertising, promoting the store rather than the goods. The evening paper introduced the daily sale and the bargain counter.
The usual editorial view is that there is something nefarious about the business office. It is just as mysterious a place to him as the editorial room is to the boys down stairs. The editor never can understand why the business office sells a page which he could use to better advantage for news or a feature. The business office folks cannot comprehend why the editors are always accumulating libel suits, or printing things offensive to advertisers; why a reporter can never ex, plain his expense account, or why the . size of the paper was raised after the card " went up,-the card being the business office estimate of what the size should be on the basis of business in hand. It makes no allowance for the unruliness of events with which the editor has to deal. It is this wholesome variance that ensures independent and reliable editing. Nothing could be more fatal to a newspaper than supine obedience on the part of " upstairs."
Business office opportunities are not so prompt in their rewards as the editorial.
Following the usual rule, business promotion is slow, but the employee keeps what he gets, which is not the case " upstairs," where the reward comes quickly but *here the competition is keener and where mistakes lead to sudden fatalities. The reporter or editor is always in peril of being " beaten" in the dews or becoming the victim of some error of judgment, which upsets his progress and often costs him his place. The clerical force, pure and simple, is no better or worse off than workers of other classes, though better ,paid as a rule than minor employees in banks and insurance companies. As in all other things the rewards go to the producers. The man who can develop circulation or procure advertising gets the bundle!
As the newspaper begins with the editor, editorial or reportorial experience is an in-valuable equipment for business office management. Unless there is knowledge below stairs of the fundamentals of newspaper making with an understanding that rules cannot provide success, there will be a good many painful moments for the man who takes up the task of management.
Not only should a business manager be in sympathy with the editorial impulse but be able to " stand for many vagaries, which would upset sound business judgment in other lines. He is a good deal like the captain of a ship, he must be ready to meet anything that comes along. The winds are not laid for his advantage nor can he compel a calm!
The mechanical cost of modern newspaper production is very great, due to high wages, short hours and much waste. The paper must always be on an emergency basis—prepared to throw away pages of matter at the last moment to care for something newer or more important. To meet this contingency the composing room force is always held at the maximum. Presses and power must be here, prepared in the same ratio.
The lot of the newspaper compositor has .been much improved by the invention of the typesetting machine. Under the perpetual emergency conditions that prevail, the cost of composition has not lessened over the hand days, though more work is done on a smaller floor space and with greater speed. The effect of the machine, however, has been to stabilize employment. In the hand days many men were necessarily on call to meet the irregular needs of the office. Only partially employed, with uncertain hours, the moral effect was unfortunate. Now the holder of a " situation " has a sort of frail chise worth from $1600 to $2000 per year. In New York the day scale for compositors is $30 per week of six 7½-hour days, the night $33, and the " lobster " shift, meaning men brought in at 2 A.M., $36, for 6 1/2 hours.
Stereotyping, long an art with little change in it, and for 40 years performed solely by hand labor, was advanced by Henry A. Wise Wood, who invented the auto-plate in 1899, following it later with the " junior auto-plate." The first machine was entirely automatic, the latter partly so. The effect of these machines was to save fully 2/3 of the time usually devoted to dressing presses, and thereby producing a large economy as well as improving press room productivity by increasing the running time of the machines. The stereotyper is another well paid mechanic. His night hours number six, clay 7½. For this his pay in New York is $30 per week, the year's total often mounting to $2000, counting in the overtime; which by reason of the short regular hours is not oppressive.
The ordinary press-hand in a press room receives by the New York standard $25 per week for six night hours, and 7½ day. The pressman in charge $30. In all sections of the country the trades employed on news-papers are usually paid above the' standard of other employments, while their regularity of employment averages much higher. This, of course, is even more important than a high scale of pay. It is the total income that counts.
The photo-engraver, a comparative newcomer, is also an important wage earner, ranking with the compositors and stereotypers. The ordinary mail hand is certain to earn $1200 a year in a New York office.
Recently an important economic advance has been made in the matter of standardizing newspaper size. Great waste in white paper and great cost in special machinery resulted from a haphazard fixing of size by publishers. Each machine turned out by the press builders had to be special and the paper maker was perpetually vexed to provide for oddities in size. Under the leadership of the late John Norris Chairman, at the time of the Paper Committee of the American Newspaper Publisher's Association, a move to standardize began in 1910. He regarded the 13 1/2 em column, eight to the page, introduced by the New York World in 1889. This makes possible the use of paper in 73-inch rolls, enabling the paper manufacturer to cover his machines more completely and further, making paper interchangeable between offices and so cutting down the stock on hand. Often, in the odd size days, much trouble followed shortages in varying widths. Now the papers in a city, having all the same width of roll, are much better insured in their supply, and the benefits to the manufacturer in increased production due to more complete covering of their wires are large. The news print capacity of American and Canadian mills reached in 1916 an output of 7081 tons per day!