History of American Journalism/Chapter 19

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History of American Journalism by James Melvin Lee
Chapter 19: Period of Social Readjustment




With what is said to be characteristic candor, Henry Watterson, the veteran editor of The Louisville Courier-Journal, thus summed up the conditions obtaining at the opening of the Period of Social Readjustment:

Journalism is without any code of ethics or system of self-restraint and self-respect. It has no sure standards of either work or duty. Its intellectual landscapes are anonymous, its moral destination confused. The country doctor, the village lawyer, knows his place and keeps it, having the consciousness of superiority. The journalist has few, if any, mental perspectives to fix his horizon; neither chart of precedent nor map of discovery upon which his sailing lines and travel lines have been marked.


Practically every newspaper before 1900 had been, as Mr. Watterson asserted, a law unto itself, without standards of either work or duty: its code of ethics, not yet codified like those of medicine and of law, had been, like its stylebook, individualistic in character. The most important change to leave its mark upon the journalism of the period was not in the gathering of news, not in the speed with which it could be placed before the public, not in the ownership and control of the journal from the individual to the incorporated company, but in the ethical advance made in all departments of the newspaper. New standards of ethics were established, not only for the editorial, but also for the advertising and circulation departments. Yet the press but reflected again the trend of the times, for it was an era of moral awakening. Collier's Weekly in "taking stock" asserted:—

Fifty years from now, when some writer brings Woodrow Wilson's "History of the American People" up to date, we think he will say that the ten years ending about January 1, 1914, was the period of the greatest ethical advance made by this nation in any decade.


Another change was what might be called feminizing the newspaper. To a certain extent it was doubtless the reaction of the suffrage movement, or, to be more exact, the movement whereby women widened their activities, social, commercial, and political. The time came when every page, possibly with the exception of that devoted to sports, had to be written so that the intelligent woman could understand it. Even the advertising columns were prepared to appeal to women as merchants learned that the housewife made the purchases for the home. Dorothy Dix in a journalism lecture at New York University emphasized this point when she said:

Women spend the money of the world. Except for his vices and his outside clothes, the average man does not handle a penny of the money he earns. His wife spends it. She buys the groceries, the furniture, the piano, the jewelry, everything that is advertised in the newspapers, and the advertisers, of course, support the paper. Therefore, surprising as it may seem to the uninitiated, it is the women readers and not the men who are considered first in the make-up of a paper.


The period also saw numerous regulations of the press by both state and national legislation. While most of the bills presented, and a great majority of those passed by legislators, related to advertising, some were aimed at the reportorial and editorial columns, especially in handling the news about crime and in the attacks on personal character. More drastic libel laws were passed by numerous States. In several instances, the courts held that newspapers, in printing privileged matter such as the reports of divorce and criminal cases, must not overemphasize such accounts either by sensational headlines or by emphasis upon sordid details in order to increase street sales, and construed such action as constructive malice. Most of the regulations, however, affecting the newspapers came from the Postal Department.

These three changes were so closely interwoven, both objectively and subjectively, that it is almost impossible to separate them. Every one, however, was so important that each deserves discussion somewhat more in detail.


The first advertising advance was made when the immoral personal advertisement was thrown into the hellbox the technical name in the newspaper office for the receptacle in which rubbish and other waste matter is deposited. Previously such advertisements formed practically a directory of the houses of ill-fame to be found hi the red-lighted streets of the city tenderloin. In 1907 the United States District Attorney forced one newspaper to pay a fine of about $30,000 for publishing such obscene matter in its advertising columns devoted to "personals." The Daily News and The Tribune, of Chicago, were among the leaders to exclude such advertising, which in that city had been so cunningly designed that it deceived many readers as to its true character. The stylebook of several newspapers now contains paragraphs about classified advertisements which are based upon regulations adopted by The Chicago Daily News and which specify kinds of advertising which under no condition may be accepted for publication and about others which must be rejected unless O.K.'d by a responsible member of the advertising staff who has made a personal investigation of the advertiser. Another ethical advance was the exclusion from the newspapers of what The Journal, of Minneapolis, called "the filthy, dangerous, fraudulent medicinal, and near-medicinal advertising." A few newspapers have gone so far as to exclude all medicinal advertising. Others, like The North American, of Philadelphia, accept no medicinal advertising which would promote a drug-forming habit, or which guarantees to cure an incurable disease, such as cancer, etc. Many conflicting opinions exist about the advertising of patent medicines. The code of ethics of the better newspapers on this point suggests that the newspaper may insert the advertising of any patent medicine which the publisher of the paper is willing to use in his own home. The suggestion of medical societies, that the press should exclude all patent medicine advertising, is not well accepted. A newspaper is inclined to believe that physicians are not entirely unselfish in such a desire and suggests that the doctor pay more attention to the ethics of his own profession and less to that of the press. The manufacturers of medicines of merit maintain that it is just as honorable to advertise a product which will relieve a stomach of an ache as it is to advertise a mincemeat that puts an ache in the stomach: that it is as ethical to describe the merits of a corn plaster to take corns away as it is to sell shoes which make corns. Whatever opinion may be held about these matters there can be no question that the American newspaper is no longer a directory of patent medicine manufacturers of products of no merit.


While it took newspaper publishers some time to learn that Gresham's law, of the good driving out the bad, applied as well to advertising as to money, they had no difficulty to read the handwriting when it appeared on the walls of the countingroom. Especially was this true of financial advertising. The advertisement of the swindler was weighed in the balance and found wanting and the press refused to be a partner in selling a hole in the ground for a gold mine or a swamp-lake for real estate. The modern code of ethics demands that any financial advertising which promises an unusually high rate of interest should be carefully investigated before appearing in print. It also demands the exclusion of the announcement of that advertiser who, dealing previously in gilt-edged securities, "changes his line" and seeks to insert the announcement of "gold brick mining schemes." The Tribune, of Chicago, once set a very good precedent: it received by telegraph an order for the insertion of a page advertisement which in flamboyant words predicted immediate wealth through the purchase of stocks advertised, but instead of publishing the advertisement, The Tribune gave a whole page with something like the following printed in the center, "Mr. Blank telegraphed last night that he wished a page in The Tribune in which to print an advertisement of the So-and-So mines. The Tribune is through with Mr. Blank. It will print no more of his advertising and takes this method of announcing its position to its readers."

The ethical advance extended to other advertising columns. The copy for fire and bankruptcy sales were among those to be revised. Even department stores were urged to do away with the evils of comparative prices. At about the time the editorial columns were conducting a national campaign of "Swat the Fly! "advertising clubs all over the country were demanding that the newspapers "Swat the Lie!" whenever it occurred in any form of advertisement. A few newspapers positively guaranteed the reliability of assertions in the advertising columns. The Tribune, of New York, went so far as to offer to refund to its readers in case of dissatisfaction whatever had been paid for purchase of products advertised in its columns. It did so whether the purchase was of a pair of stockings or of an automobile. The amount that it had to refund, however, was very small when compared with the total amount of purchases made.


Whether the efforts on the part of newspapers to reach women readers were due to commercial reasons or to a sincere desire to be of social service, may be a debatable question about which to make a specific generalization. The Tribune, of Chicago, accepted the view that the modern newspaper "must not only help in the fight for a clean city, but must aid the clergy and others to fight for a clean home, and in entering the everyday life of its readers, it must, like the parish priest, be guide, counselor, and friend." It was while speaking on this point that the general manager of The Tribune said: "I have often thought that a newspaper can most closely realize its real mission the nearer it comes to attaining the ideals of the parish priest and the clergyman in his ministrations to his flock. And the newspaper's flock is often numbered in the hundreds of thousands."

Academic and pedantic critics have made no end of fun of newspaper departments conducted under such headlines as " Advice to the Lovelorn" or "First Aid to Wounded Hearts." Positive proof exists, however, that such departments conducted by Dorothy Dix, Laura Jean Libbey, etc., in spite of protests over the modern desecration and decadence of the American newspaper, have played no mean part in the social service of the press. James Keeley, when general manager of The Tribune, of Chicago, left this testimonial to the value of such departments:

In a little over two years Miss Libbey has received fifty thousand letters asking advice, and if you could have read the letters, as I did, not all, but hundreds, you would have felt as I did, that she was, to use that trite saying, "filling a long-felt want." They were from lonely human beings with human problems. Over two hundred girls and young women have written and acknowledged that her words of warning saved them from taking the irretrievable false step which often confronts the friendless girl in a large city. Almost as many have testified that she has prevented the wrecking of homes in a divorce court. Several hundreds of her readers have written her that she saved them from the folly of an elopement which would have been accursed. Other hundreds have written that she straightened out the kinks in then* affairs, and sent wedding invitations or announcements with thanks to her that they are established happily. Probably the most interesting thing revealed in Miss Libbey 's journalistic career is that it has brought to light so many persons hopping heedlessly in the direction of a bad finish, when a sharp word from a woman professionally engaged in giving advice would bring them to their senses.

Of the department, "Marion Harland's Helping Hand," Mr. Keeley said:

It is a department through which a great exchange is conducted reaching from coast to coast. Actually hundreds of old trusses, abdominal belts, invalid chairs, and crutches, as well as other articles discarded by those who no longer need them, have been sent to those who do, and not only have a dozen encyclopaedias been given to those who need them, but half a dozen typewriters and one piano have found places where they would be of real value. Over a dozen orphans have found homes through her efforts. Mrs. Harland has three secretaries, and together they sort the applications from those who want and the offers from those who have and use their best efforts that the helping hand shall be extended to those deserving. Queer work, the old-time editor would think. But it is real work.


The social service work of The Tribune, of Chicago, has been selected for illustration chiefly because that newspaper was a pioneer in the field and blazed a trail along which many other papers followed. An examination of the dailies in the larger cities, especially of the evening papers, will show that almost every edition has numerous departments which aim to make bad homes good and good homes better. There can be no question that the introduction of such features has made the newspapers better advertising mediums and doubtless numerous newspapers adopted them for that reason. The late Mayor Gaynor, of New York, knew whereof he spoke when he said to a gathering of Gotham newspaper men, "A paper going into the home is worth a hundred littering the streets or clogging the sewers of the city." Advertisers also know this fact. In addition, a newspaper which goes into the home must have the ethics of a gentleman or the good American housewife puts the sheet into the kitchen range.


When the Postal Department first began to enforce the sections of the Revised Statutes which forbid the delivery of mail and the payment of money orders to concerns which advertise fraudulent schemes to obtain money under false pretenses and promises, there was a distinct lack of cooperation in work on the part of many newspapers. The reason was undoubtedly the enormous amount such concerns paid for newspaper advertising which was often their greatest item of expense. In commenting on this fact an official report of the Solicitor of the Postal Department asserted:—

In one case the evidence showed that several hundred thousand dollars had been paid for advertising during a period of eighteen months, as high as fifty thousand dollars having been paid in a single month; and it was developed in a number of cases that fabulous amounts have been spent for this purpose. It will be readily seen, therefore, that the financial interests of some publications will be seriously affected by the loss of this class of advertising if the loss is not made up in another way, and it is not expected that hearty cooperation can be enlisted at once from all publishers.

This lack of cooperation was shown in the suppression of news relating to the issuance of fraud orders by the Postal Department. On this point the report to which reference has just been made said:—

The reasons assigned for this course by some of such newspapers is that they fear libel suits; but it is difficult to understand wherein the liability for the publication of such news differs from the liability, if any, for the publication of the action of public officers in other classes of cases or of court proceedings, which are generally published and frequently command front-page space. As a matter of fact, a number of newspapers do give the greatest publicity to these fraud orders, and I have yet to hear of any civil or criminal action being attempted against them for the publication of such news.

Yet such conditions did not obtain long, for the ethics of newspaper-making demanded a new standard. With the higher standard and the broader vision the old common-law doctrine of et the buyer beware" (caveat emptor) was discarded by many of the better newspapers. A report of the Solicitor to the Postal Department recorded the movement to free newspapers from fraudulent advertising as follows:—

Another and very striking effect of the policy of this administration with respect to fraudulent operations through the mails is that the leading organizations of advertising men and newspaper proprietors throughout the country have inaugurated and are now actively carrying out plans to "clean up" all false and fraudulent advertising. It is strongly urged by those behind this movement that the public will have more faith in advertising matter generally and that it will patronize the advertising columns to a greater extent when advertisements are uniformly honest, and that the standing of the newspapers themselves will soon be rated by the character of the advertisements they carry. Many newspapers now make it a rule to accept none but absolutely clean and true advertisements, and some papers even go so far as to guarantee the truth of the representations contained in their advertisements and to offer to reimburse any one defrauded by having placed reliance upon them.


Then came the coöperation recorded a year later (1916):—

The movement for truthful advertising among publishers of newspapers and advertising clubs and associations, to which reference was made in my last annual report, has continued with undiminished vigor. This office has lent every proper assistance to the movement by keeping in touch with its leaders, supplying them with information with reference to fraud orders and acting upon complaints filed by them. The movement has been encouraged from its inception by this office in the realization that practically every fraudulent scheme depends upon false advertisements and that the withdrawal of such means of reaching the public would greatly handicap their operation. This campaign for truthful advertising is resulting in a great change in the nature of advertisements carried by many newspapers and in the conservative tone which is becoming more and more a characteristic of the advertising of legitimate business. Its effect is also to be seen in the fraudulent advertising laws which have recently been passed by many State legislatures and by Congress in legislating for the District of Columbia. It may be stated in this connection that widespread public interest has been aroused in this fraud-order work which has formed a subject for numerous syndicated articles of a highly commendatory character published throughout the country, as well as many favorable editorials, some by the leading daily metropolitan papers of all shades of political opinion. There have been no adverse newspaper comments so far as I have observed.

For the passage of the honest advertising laws mentioned in the paragraph just quoted especial credit should be given to Printer's Ink, a weekly journal published in the interest of advertising, and to the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World.


By an act of August 24, 1912, it was provided:—

It shall be the duty of the editor, publisher, business manager, or owner of every newspaper, magazine, periodical, or other publication to file with the Postmaster-General and the postmaster at the office at which said publication is entered, not later than the first day of April and the first day of October of each year, on blanks furnished by the Post-Office Department, a sworn statement setting forth the names and post-office addresses of the editor and managing editor, publisher, business managers, and owners, and, in addition, the stockholders, if the publication be owned by a corporation; and also the names of known bondholders, mortgagees, or other security-holders; and also, in the case of daily newspapers, there shall be included in such statement the average of the number of copies of each issue of such publication sold or distributed to paid subscribers during the preceding six months. Any such publication shall be denied the privileges of the mail if it shall fail to comply with the provisions of this paragraph within ten days after notice by registered letter of such failure.

This regulation was somewhat bitterly attacked on the part of both rural and metropolitan journalism. There appeared shortly after it went into effect numerous editorials similar in vein to the following quoted from The Record, of Bushnell, Illinois:—

Uncle Samuel is keeping a fatherly and watchful eye on the newspaper boys. Just why the old gentleman has any more right to poke his venerable nose into the private affairs of a man who runs a newspaper than he has to interfere with a grocer, a butcher, a dry-goods man, or a manufacturer has not yet been explained. As will be noted by the statement published this week, a paternal government has been given some weighty and important information about The Record—and it is hoped the country has thereby been saved.

While Uncle Sam is prying into private affairs that are none of his business, perhaps it might be in order to inform him that The Record man is a brunette and a Republican; he has a pretty bad corn on his left foot and his hair shows signs of falling out; he has only one good eye and walks a little splay-footed; he has a wife, a daughter, a couple of grandchildren, an alleged automobile, a horse, a Jersey calf, and a peg-legged cat. He thought he was running for the Legislature last fall, but he found out he wasn't even walking. He hopes to be able to keep on making an honest living without having to stop every little while and answer impertinent questions, as he is neither a criminal nor a dependent.

Metropolitan papers questioned the legality of the act and took the matter to the Supreme Court of the United States. The latter declared that no act had been enacted to abridge the freedom of the press, as newspapers might still continue to print editions if so desired, and were simply deprived of the use of the mails for distribution of copies if they did not obey the regulation. Later publishers came to accept the regulation as guaranteeing "full-weight" circulation just as the Government had insisted upon "full-weight" packages.


Another act of August 24, 1912, was still more revolutionary, for it provided:—

All editorial or other reading matter published in any such newspaper, magazine, or periodical for the publication of which money or other valuable consideration is paid, accepted, or promised shall be plainly marked "advertisement." Any editor or publisher printing editorial or other reading matter for which compensation is paid, accepted, or promised, without so marking the same, shall, upon conviction in any court having jurisdiction, be fined not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).

This second regulation was also assailed on the ground that if the letter of the law was enforced book reviews and dramatic criticisms would have to bear an advertising label. The Evening Post, of New York, was somewhat facetious in its comment:—

When book reviews and dramatic criticisms are duly labeled "Advertisement," as the Post-Office authorities would have it, H. Sillingsbee Jones, author of the original novel, "Heartache," may find notices of the following nature in his weekly envelope from the clipping bureau:—

"Heartache" is a fairly appropriate title for this latest story from the pen of Mr. H. Sillingsbee Jones, but "Headache" would have been better. There may have been a reason why this book should have been inflicted on a long-suffering public, but the reason, like the author's grammar, is not obvious. If the possession of nothing to say, and an utter inability to say it, constitute a call to authorship, then Mr. Jones is divinely inspired. There may be worse books than this in print, but we do not know where they are to be found. In all seriousness, why should labor and money be wasted on stuff like this? Advertisement.

Such a postal regulation, however, did much to help codify the code of ethics for newspapers,—a code which, at the beginning of the period, was without form,—and imposed by law a self-restraint and self-respect upon newspapers outside the straight and narrow way. No attempt has been made to make it apply either to literary or to dramatic criticism.


The Prohibition movement found a prompt reaction in the press. As time went on, one newspaper after another began to exclude advertisements of spirituous liquors. As one section after another became dry, numerous complaints were made that distillers and brewers were using the columns of the newspapers to market liquors in sections where their sale was prohibited by law. Protests were so numerous that Congress passed a law—approved March 3, 1917, and effective July 1, 1917—which, according to Liquor Bulletin No. 1, issued by the Postal Department and mailed to publishers and news agents, provided:—

No letter, postal card, circular, newspaper, pamphlet, or publication of any kind containing any advertisement of spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors of any kind, or containing a solicitation of an order or orders for said liquors, or any of them, shall be deposited in or carried by the mails of the United States, or be delivered by any postmaster or letter-carrier, when addressed or directed to any person, firm, corporation, or association, or other addressee, at any place or point in any State or Territory of the United States at which it is, by the law in force in the State or Territory at that time, unlawful to advertise or solicit orders for such liquors, or any of them, respectively.

If the publisher of any newspaper or other publication or the agent of such publisher, or if any dealer in such liquors or his agent, shall knowingly deposit or cause to be deposited, or shall knowingly send or cause to be sent, anything to be conveyed or delivered by mail in violation of the provisions of this section, or shall knowingly deliver or cause to be delivered by mail anything herein forbidden to be carried by mail, shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than six months, or both; and for any subsequent offense shall be imprisoned not more than one year. Any person violating any provision of this section may be tried and punished, either in the district in which the unlawful matter or publication was mailed or to which it was carried by mail for delivery, according to direction thereon, or in which it was caused to be delivered by mail to the person to whom it was addressed.

Before the passage of the national legislation, regulation in some of the States had been very strict about the insertion of advertisements of liquors. In Texas, for example, there appeared under every advertisement of whiskey, beer, wine, etc., a notice to the effect: "No orders solicited in, filled in, or shipped into prohibited territory in violation of the Texas laws." In "wet" territory, the exclusion of liquor advertising by newspapers was usually due to agitation started by women who somehow knew how to establish a boycott without breaking the state law. Other papers voluntarily excluded liquor advertising because they thought that newer standards demanded that the paper going into the home should be without the odor, or, to be more exact, the suggestion, of the alcoholic beverage. Unquestionably the decision of magazine publishers, who were the first to exclude liquor advertising, had much to do with the policies adopted by the newspapers. The change in editorial attitude of magazines and newspapers on the temperance question was one of the most remarkable total reversions of policy in journalism history.


That the period was one devoted to social readjustment may be seen by the attention which civic leagues paid to local newspapers. From these leagues came a constant demand for improvement in the advertising and news columns. In Denver, for example, was organized the Citizens' Protective League with purposes thus outlined by one of the Colorado papers published outside that city:—

One hundred leading citizens of Denver have organized the Citizens' Protective League, which has for its only purpose the squelching of the knocking and blackmailing newspaper. The most remarkable feature of this action is the length of time it required to awaken Denver's substantial citizenry to a realization that the newspaper condition was the heaviest millstone that beautiful but benighted city has been carrying for a dozen years.

It is common knowledge that certain newspapers there have had the business men of Denver—and there is no more abject coward on earth than the average business man—at their mercy through fear of attack, and even blackmail. This situation is incomprehensible when one stops to think that a combined stand against any newspaper by its patrons could put it out of business in six months.

Citizens of Denver, you have it in your power to make good Indians of the Denver newspapers, and if it is necessary to adopt the measures used to make good Indians of the aborigines, you are justified in the light of past experience. There is no newspaper published in Denver that is so absolutely necessary to your existence that you must stand for everything. And an occasional penance is not enough. Make them behave, as decent citizens are expected to do, all the time.

The press and the people of the interior are with you.

The official platform of the Citizens' Protective League was thus stated in advertisements published in Denver newspapers:—

  1. That no news story, editorial, or advertisement be published which is unfit for a fifteen-year-old boy or girl to read.
  2. That fake stories, misrepresentations, and exaggerations of all kinds be eliminated.
  3. That stories of divorce, murder, suicide, and other forms of crime and immorality be kept in the background.
  4. That the petty quarrels and constant warfare between the newspapers be permanently discontinued.
  5. That stories which, though having some basis of fact, might be hurtful to Colorado or to any city in Colorado, should not be exploited in a sensational manner.
  6. That malicious or unwarranted statements injurious to Colorado, or to any city or citizen of Colorado, or to any legitimate industry of Colorado be barred from publication.

Similar organizations in other cities did much to help codify that code of ethics the absence of which Henry Watterson so much regretted.


In 1908 William Bayard Hale sold to The Century Magazine, of New York, an article which contained an interview with the German Kaiser. After the article had been put into type and was actually on the press, the German Foreign Office requested its suppression a request which the publishers of The Century granted, even though the act necessitated a stopping of the presses and the substitution of another article and a delay in the publication of the number. When the news of its suppression leaked out, the public became very much interested in the suppression and was unusually anxious to know what the Kaiser had said. The World, of New York, gave a wild guess which it published on November 21, 1908. Immediately upon the appearance of what purported to be a synopsis of The Century article, Mr. Hale gave to the press the following statement:

I repudiate absolutely the story which The New York World this morning published purporting to tell what passed at my audience with the German Emperor. It is pure falsification from beginning to end and I so declared to The World reporter who showed it to me before publication.

The World was then forced to admit that it had imposed upon its readers in the publication of the article. The reaction which followed undoubtedly had something to do with the establishment by The World of its Bureau of Accuracy and Fair Play, the object of which was thus stated by Ralph Pulitzer, who succeeded his father on The World:

To promote accuracy and fair play, to correct carelessness, and to stamp out fakes and fakers.

Isaac Deforest White, head of the Legal Department of The World, was placed in charge of the Bureau. He then sent to the various correspondents of The World the following declaration of policy:

The World aims to be accurate. It aims to be fair and just to every person who reads it and to every person whose name it prints.

Accuracy and fair play are inseparable in journalism. Inaccuracy often means injury to innocent persons. A newspaper's influence is measured by the number of people who read it AND BELIEVE IN IT.

The words "accuracy and fair play" sum up the law of libel. If what is published is true and fair, the writer need not worry about the libel law, civil or criminal.

All complaints about inaccuracy of news items or about unjust treatment of persons mentioned in the columns are promptly turned over to this Bureau, which makes a careful investigation to determine whether there is any foundation for the complaint, and if so, where the responsibility lies. During the first year of its establishment, two hundred and sixty-two complaints were sustained and one hundred and sixty-four corrections were published in the newspaper.

A more liberal policy in the matter of making corrections or offering apologies, adopted by newspapers all over the country, marked the passing of the so-called infallibility of the press. Even such a conscientious editor as Samuel Bowles, of The Republican, of Springfield, Massachusetts, always hesitated to make corrections in his paper. The story is told that a man whose death had been recorded in The Republican appeared before the editor and demanded a correction. Upon being told the policy of the paper, he exclaimed, "But I am not dead, as you can see." To this the editor replied, "We cannot print a correction, but as your case demands some attention, we will bring you back to life by putting your name in the birth column." Whether this story be fact or fiction, it recorded an attitude taken by many newspaper publishers before the Period of Social Readjustment.

Not only did many papers establish complaint departments, but a number adopted the policy of submitting, before publication, any item reflecting on a man's character to the man self, that false or incorrect statements might be corrected. It is but justice to The Evening Post, of New York, to say that that paper was among the first thus to safeguard the accuracy of its news of this character. With the movement "Safety First!" in railroading came that of "Accuracy First!" in newspaper-making.


With the "purified publicity" there came occasionally a discussion of the advisability of licensing newspaper men. Attention was called to the fact that before a man could practice at the bar, enter the pulpit, teach in the schools, run an automobile, etc., he must take out a license to demonstrate his ability and proficiency, but that any one might start a newspaper if possessed of the necessary capital. Lieutenant-Governor Barratt O'Hara introduced into the Illinois Legislature a bill which provided for the licensing of journalists. Though it failed to pass and become a law, its introduction drew forth much comment in the press. The ablest presentation, however, of the dangers of a free press and unlicensed printing came, not from the pen of an American, but from that of the Russian publicist, Pobiedenostseff:—

Any vagabond babbler or unacknowledged genius, any enterprising tradesman, with his own money, or with the money of others, may found a newspaper, even a great newspaper. He may attract a host of writers and feuilletonists, ready to deliver judgment on any subject at a moment's notice; he may hire illiterate reporters to keep him supplied with rumors and scandals. His staff is then complete. From that day he sits in judgment on all the world, on ministers and administrators, on literature and art, on finance and industry. It is true that the new journal becomes a power only when it is sold on the market that is, when it circulates among the public. For this talent is needed and the matter published must be attractive and congenial for the readers. Here, we might think, was some guarantee of the moral value of the undertaking men of talent will not serve a feeble or contemptible editor or publisher; the public will not support a newspaper which is not a faithful echo of public opinion.

This guarantee is fictitious. Experience proves that money will attract talent under any conditions, and that talent is ready to write as its paymaster requires. Experience proves that the most contemptible persons retired money-lenders, Jewish factors, news-venders, and bankrupt gamblers may found newspapers, secure the services of talented writers and place their editions on the market as organs of public opinion. The healthy taste of the public is not to be relied upon. The great mass of readers, idlers for the most part, is ruled less by a few healthy instincts than by a base and despicable hankering for idle amusement, and the support of the people may be secured by any editor who provides for the satisfaction of these hankerings, for the love of scandal, and for intellectual pruriency of the basest kind. Of this we meet with evidence daily; even in our capital no search is necessary to find it; it is enough to note the supply and demand of the news-venders' shops and at the railway stations.

Such a paper may nourish, attain consideration as an organ of public opinion, and be immensely remunerative to its owners, while no paper conducted upon firm moral principles or founded to meet the healthier instincts of the people could compete with it for a moment.

The full text of this criticism of journalism by Pobiedenostseff will be found in the appendix of Albert J. Beveridge's book entitled "Russian Advance."


Preceding chapters have recorded the relationship which Horace Greeley, of The New York Tribune, bore to his daily contemporaries. Yet Greeley exerted such a tremendous influence over the country weekly that it still bears his imprint. The latchstring of his editorial sanctum in New York was ever out for the country editor who cared to call, no matter whether he wanted to talk about the present coming presidential election or to discuss the squash or pumpkin crop in his own county; for Greeley was always prepared to give advice on either topic. Of all the New York editors of his time, Greeley was the most willing to send his paper to, or to exchange with, country publishers, and no matter how busy he might be he always found time to give advice about country weeklies. One such letter, which was extensively published, so influenced the making of the country weekly that it ought, in spite of its length, to be reproduced in this chapter. On April 3, 1860, Greeley penned the following letter:—

Friend Fletcher: I have a line from you, informing me that you are about to start a paper at Sparta, and hinting that a line from me for its first issue would be acceptable. Allow me, then, as one who spent his most hopeful and observant years in a country printing-office, and who sincerely believes that the art of conducting country (or city) newspapers has not yet obtained its ultimate perfection, to set before you a few hints on making up an interesting and popular gazette for a rural district like yours.

I. Begin with a clear conception that the subject of deepest interest to an average human being is himself; next to that, he is most concerned about his neighbors. Asia and the Tongo Islands stand a long way after these in his regard. It does seem to me that most country journals are oblivious as to these vital truths. If you will, so soon as may be, secure a wide-awake, judicious correspondent in each village and township of your county,—some young lawyer, doctor, clerk in a store, or assistant in a post-office,—who will promptly send you whatever of moment occurs in his vicinity, and will make up at least half your journal of local matter thus collected, nobody in the county can long do without it. Do not let a new church be organized, or new members be added to one already existing, a farm be sold, a new house be raised, a mill be set in motion, a store be opened, nor anything of interest to a dozen families occur, without having the fact duly though briefly chronicled in your columns. If a farmer cuts a big tree, or grows a mammoth beet, or harvests a bounteous yield of wheat or corn, set forth the fact as concisely and unexceptionably as possible. In due time, obtain and print a brief historical and statistical account of each township, who first settled in it, who have been its prominent citizens, who attained advanced years therein, &c. Record every birth as well as every marriage and death. In short, make your paper a perfect mirror of everything done in your county that its citizens ought to know; and whenever a farm is sold, try to ascertain what it brought at previous sales, and how it has been managed meantime. One year of this, faithfully followed up, will fix the value of each farm in the county, and render it as easily determined as that of a bushel of corn.

II. Take an earnest and active, if not a leading, part in the advancement of home industry. Do your utmost to promote not only an annual county Fair, but town Fairs as well. Persuade each farmer and mechanic to send something to such Fairs, though it be a pair of wellmade shoes from the one or a good ear of corn from the other. If any one undertakes a new branch of industry in the county, especially if it be a manufacture, do not wait to be solicited, but hasten to give him a helping hand. Ask the people to buy his flour, or starch, or woollens, or boots, or whatever may be his product, if it be good, in preference to any that may be brought into the county to compete with him. Encourage and aid him to the best of your ability. By persevering in this course a few years, you will largely increase the population of your county and the value of every acre of its soil.

III. Don't let the politicians and aspirants of the county own you. They may be clever fellows, as they often are; but, if you keep your eyes open, you will see something that they seem blind to, and must speak out accordingly. Do your best to keep the number of public trusts, the amount of official emoluments, and the consequent rate of taxation other than for common schools as low as may be. Remember that—in addition to the radical righteousness of the thing—the tax-payers take many more papers than the tax-consumers.

I would like to say more, but am busied excessively. That you may deserve and achieve success is the earnest prayer of

Yours truly,

Horace Greeley.

In view of Greeley's prominence in the journalism world, this letter was taken as a guidebook by the country publisher, who ever since has tried to follow all the advice given save that mentioned in the last paragraph. For some reason, the country weekly could not break away from partisan bias—something that Greeley himself was unable to do. The party "pap" which politicians handed out to local papers undoubtedly had something to do with this allegiance of party and country press. The printing of the session laws of the State, the insertion of announcements about sales by the sheriff, the publishing of the calendar of the county court, etc., were too profitable to the country publisher to make him independent of party allegiance. In addition, the printing of the campaign literature always went to a party publisher in spite of the fact that the independent printer would do the job cheaper. Only in recent years has the country publisher learned that "the taxpayers take more papers than the tax consumers," and the lesson has not been very well learned yet, as any newspaper directory will show.

Country weeklies of which there are now more than twenty thousand, have on the whole been closer to readers than the daily papers. The suggestion given by Greeley and followed by rural editors partly explains the fact, for the weekly became the printed diary of the home town. No finer tribute has been paid to rural journalism than that which came from the pen of William Allen White, editor of The Gazette, of Emporia, Kansas:—

Our papers, our little country papers, seem drab and miserably provincial to strangers; yet we who read them read in their lines the sweet, intimate story of life. And all these touches of nature make us wondrous kind. It is the country newspaper, bringing together daily the threads of the town's life, weaving them into something rich and strange, and setting the pattern as it weaves, directing the loom, and giving the cloth its color by mixing the lives of all the people in its color-pot—it is this country newspaper that reveals us to ourselves, that keeps our country hearts quick and our country minds open and our country faith strong.

The country press has not been without its influence. The Independent of New York City once offered a prize for the most meritorious essay describing "The Best Thing in Our Town." It was awarded to a preacher in a Missouri town who told about the local weekly of his parish. The country weekly often is just that—the best thing in our town.


A libel suit brought by the United States Government against The World of New York and against The News of Indianapolis attracted much attention. On December 15, 1908, President Roosevelt sent to Congress a special message upon the purchase of the Panama Canal Right for forty million dollars in which he asserted that the Government authorities should bring suit for libel for the intimation that the money was not paid to the French Government, but to an American syndicate, which had purchased the effects of the Panama Canal Company. President Taft, who went into office on March 4, 1909, kept aloof from the matter, but the Government continued its prosecution of the two papers on the grounds that it was their purpose to "stir up disorder among the people." The charge against The World was that it circulated twenty-nine copies containing the item "within the fort and military reservation of West Point." The World fought the suit on technical grounds, for reasons best known to itself, and resisted the pretense of the Federal authorities that they had a coordinate jurisdiction with the State authorities in prosecuting libel. No action was taken by the Government to bring the suit to the District of Columbia. The matter came up for trial in the United States Circuit Court of New York City on July 25, 1910, and the Court ordered that a judgment be entered quashing the indictment because it was not authorized by the statute upon which it rested. The World then urged that the matter be taken to the Supreme Court, which the Department of Justice did on January 3, 1911. Judge Hough handed down an opinion in which he quashed the indictment on the ground that the Federal Government had no jurisdiction. On January 4, 1911, The World thus summed up the results:—

The unanimous decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court yesterday in the Roosevelt-Panama libel case against The World is the most sweeping victory won for freedom of speech and of the press in this country since the American people destroyed the Federalist Party more than a century ago for enacting the infamous Sedition Law.


The Period of Social Readjustment saw many experiments in journalism. When the United States undertook to dig a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, it later found itself also engaged in quite a different thing that of publishing a newspaper. Employees who worked on "the big ditch" had to have news printed in English. There was nothing else for the Government to do but to establish The Canal Record. This paper, practically a country weekly for the Isthmus, was a letter from home and a diary of local events. It was distributed without charge to all the Government employees engaged in any sort of work on the Canal. Other new ventures in the field of journalism are outlined somewhat more in detail in the paragraphs which follow.


The endowed newspaper and the "adless" newspaper have frequently been the subject of academic discussion. No attempt has been made to establish the former and but one of the latter. On September 28, 1911, The Day Book, an adless daily newspaper, appeared in Chicago. Several issues were published before it was placed on sale and the circulation was kept to two hundred divided between two routes of one hundred each. With the carrier on Saturday went a personal representative of the paper to talk with the subscribers. Its object was to secure all its revenue from its readers in order that the paper might be under no obligation to anybody save to them. In December, 1912, The Day Book was gradually put on the newsstands with a corresponding increase in circulation which was as follows: 1912, 3446; 1913, 7886; 1914, 15,762; 1915, 19,562; for the six months ending September 30, 1916, 20,742. The daily average for October of that year was 22,938, but when on November 20 the retail price was raised from one to two cents there was a fallingoff in circulation. At the higher rate The Day Book might possibly have been successful had there not been the very rapid increase in the cost of white paper due to the Great European War. With the increased cost of production, the paper, however, was forced either to raise its rates again or to suspend publication. The latter course was adopted. The Day Book did not prove very popular with the women, chiefly because it did not advertise the bargains of the department stores. How necessary store news is to the modern newspaper, Samuel Hopkins Adams has outlined in his novel, "The Clarion." The only substitute for such store advertising seems to be to hire a special reporter to report the news of shopping centers. The adless newspaper may possibly be a part of the journalism of to-morrow, if fifty thousand people will be willing to pay ten cents per copy for their daily paper and will agree not to cancel their subscription orders even though displeased with the presentation of the news or offended at the editorial policy adopted by the editors.


The endowed newspaper has often been advocated. Hamilton Holt, editor of The Independent, of New York City, once outlined, before a National Newspaper Conference held under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Wisconsin, somewhat in detail just how an endowed newspaper should be conducted.

However ideal the endowed newspaper may be in theory, practical newspaper men like Don C. Seitz, business manager of The New York World, and James Keeley, editor and publisher of The Chicago Herald, do not think the scheme practical. Mr. Keeley once expressed himself as follows:—

An ideal paper, broadly speaking, is impractical. The people can endow a newspaper. No one else can. There are too many men of many minds in this as in every other land to make an ideal paper possible. Oatmeal may be the ideal breakfast food from a dietetic point of view, but it never has been universally adopted and never will be until all palates are set in the same gustatory key. So what might be the ideal mental oatmeal to some would prove caviar to the general multitude. Even class and technical papers, which one would think should speak with unanimity and authority, do not long remain as oracles in sole possession of their fields. Opposition develops and competitors appear expressing divergent views. One man's physical food is another man's poison, and until all think alike the ideal paper cannot come into being. And may it never come, for when all men think alike the spice of life will be gone, initiative will be smothered, and the world will be reduced to a dull level of mediocrity.

The nearest that the endowed newspaper has come to a realization in America was the partial promise of Andrew Carnegie to be one of ten men to finance such a venture. It would take just about ten men of Mr. Carnegie's wealth to establish successfully an endowed daily newspaper.


The most pretentious attempt to publish a municipal newspaper was tried in Los Angeles, California, in 1912, when The Municipal News was started to publish the facts concerning the city's business and to give fully and accurately the arguments of contending sides. It was published weekly and circulated sixty thousand copies which were distributed by newsboys every Wednesday afternoon absolutely free throughout the residence sections of the city. One copy was left at every house regardless of whether the resident desired the paper or not. The paper was under the control of the Municipal Newspaper Commission, composed of three citizens who served without pay, and who were appointed by the mayor subject to confirmation by the city council. Each commissioner held office for four years, subject to recall by the voters at any time and to removal at any time by the mayor, subject to the referendum. Special columns were set aside solely for the use of political parties which furnished the items for insertion. Financial support came from two sources; first, there was the appropriation of $36,000 set aside by the city of Los Angeles; second, there was the revenue derived from advertising, for which the rates were one dollar an inch for one insertion. In addition to the municipal news, there was a page intended primarily to interest pupils attending city schools. The weekly expenses for publishing The News amounted to a little over a thousand dollars a week. The remarkable fact about The Municipal News was that in spite of the fact that it went into the home with its free distribution, it carried no department store advertising, except for four weeks when one proprietor, against the wish of his advertising manager, announced the special bargains offered at his store. A referendum vote, a vote by which the paper was established, later ordered the discontinuance of the sheet, chiefly on account of the financial cost.

The Municipal News did not compete with the daily papers of Los Angeles, California, because it printed no telegraphic intelligence. It was restricted by the ordinance which created the paper from printing any editorial opinion or argument about a religious question or any political question which pertained to National or State politics. A political party polling three per cent of the vote of Los Angeles had the right without charge to one column each issue in which it might set forth its views on public questions. The local committee of each party selected its own editor to edit its own column, which was free from censorship by the editor of the paper on the condition that matter submitted must be lawful for publication. The mayor or any member of the city council could have half a column in any issue of the paper.

In discussing the possibilities of a daily newspaper publicly owned, George H. Dunlop, manager of The Municipal News, once expressed his views as follows:—

The publicly owned daily newspaper, covering the entire field of journalism, must be a very high grade paper if it is to be of value. Its news must be accurate, its arguments fair, and its style interesting. It must not present the weaknesses of mankind as worthy, nor the vices of mankind as amusing, nor the virtues of mankind as stupid. It must not rely on scandal and vice, the improprieties of the stage and pictures of perfect women, as the means for interesting its readers. It will not seek to ingratiate itself with the childhood of the community with comic pictures whose humor is in inverse proportion to their general "smartaleckness" and downright depravity. Above all, it must not preach the gospel of hate and try to make each half of the community believe the other hah" is the bitter foe of all progress and of their fellow-men. No one can say when we shall see a publicly owned daily newspaper of this kind, but I venture to say that the necessity for such a publicly owned newspaper lies in the very nature of things, and that in the inevitable course of events, it is on its way. The day is coming when it will arrive.


In December, 1904, an interesting journalism experiment was started in Detroit, Michigan. S. P. Hutchinson, who had already attracted notice through trading stamps which bore his name, along with that of his partner, conceived the idea that a newspaper which gave premiums for coupons cut out of the sheet would be very successful. Accordingly he had special presses constructed which could print in the upper right-hand corner of each newspaper a little tri-cornered red coupon and started The United States Daily. These little coupons could be exchanged for premiums which ranged all the way from oak rockers and marble clocks to bicycles and automobiles. In charge of The United States Daily was the well-known journalist, Willis J. Abbot, who had been chairman of the National Democratic Press Bureau. He secured many of the features which had proved successful in New York in attracting circulation. In addition, he surrounded himself with an exceptionally able editorial and art staff and produced a paper which would seemingly compare very favorably with the popular newspapers of the Atlantic Coast. But the venture did not prove successful; even the coupons failed to bring a circulation, and after a spectacular career of sixtyeight days The United States Daily was interred in the journalism graveyard at Detroit on February 22, 1905. Brief as was its career, it aroused the bitter opposition of the other newspapers in Detroit, especially that of The Journal, The Free Press, and The News, and it failed to secure the cooperation of local department stores which had previously taken kindly to the trading stamp idea.


Shortly before the period opened, the Reverend Charles Sheldon had published a book which had a nation-wide sale under the title of "In His Steps, or What Would Jesus Do?" The suggestion was made to The Daily Capital, of Topeka, Kansas, that it would be a good idea to turn the paper over to the Reverend Dr. Sheldon for a week to be conducted as he thought Jesus Christ would have edited it. The offer when made to Dr. Sheldon was accepted and the experiment began on March 13, 1900, and continued for a week. Dr. Sheldon had long held the view that the daily newspaper was as much bound to give readers the things they needed instead of what they wanted as was the pulpit to give what was needed instead of what was wanted. He once asserted, "I have as much right to go into my pulpit next Sunday and preach to my people the things they want in theology or moral living as editors have to print in their papers anything below the high standards that govern human beings, for the rules of moral conduct are the same for an editor as for a minister." The edition during the week of Mr. Sheldon's editorship of The Capital, of Topeka, was sold on the newsstands all over the country. The immediate result was that several editors offered to preach the Gospel as Christ would have preached it, if pulpits were provided. The latter offers, however, were not accepted by the clergy. Fourteen years later a number of distinguished Kansan editors occupied pulpits and preached lay sermons on journalism the Sunday preceding the meeting of a National Newspaper Conference held under the auspices of the University of Kansas, at Lawrence, Kansas. For that conference Melville E. Stone, general manager of the Associated Press, prepared a lay sermon, using for his text, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." (St. Luke, xu, 48.) The conclusion of the sermon thus summed up the text, as applied to the Associated Press:—

Obviously then, the very magnitude of the Associated Press work tends to make truthfulness and impartiality in the service imperative. It cannot be used for private aims, to serve any special interest, or to help any political party or faction or propaganda. I am not laying claim to any great virtue. I am saying that, under its system of operation and in view of the millions of critics passing upon its work, the Associated Press is automatically truthful and fair. If you hear a man whining that the Associated Press is run in the interest of this party or that you may put it down that what he wants is not fair play, but a leaning his way. As one evidence of the truthfulness of our reports, I direct your attention to the fact that during the life of the present organization we have never paid a dollar of damages in an action for libel, nor have we compromised any case. Thus do we aim to keep in mind our obligation, "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required."


In spite of unsuccessful attempts in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, etc., to establish daily religious newspapers, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, made up her mind that she would start a daily paper modeled along lines which had been suggesting themselves to her for a long time in connection with her work. Taking as her motto a Scriptural phrase about lifting up a standard which should be a light unto the people, she resolved that her newspaper, instead of being a mirror for reflecting destructive agencies, should be a journal to record achievements in every useful field of human endeavor. She accordingly started The Christian Science Monitor in Boston, November 25, 1908. From the start the paper was more international in scope than most rivals in the secular field. Special attention was paid to commercial conditions in foreign lands in general, and in South America in particular. Art and education were given prominent positions in the paper; its religious propaganda was limited to a daily article on one of the back pages. From the first issue the paper was successful, due largely to the wonderful cooperation of the church of which Mrs. Eddy was the visible head. It is but justice to The Monitor to say that no paper has a higher standard of ethics. Its circulation has not been confined by any means to members of the Christian Science Church. Even a distinguished Chicago journalist once remarked, "I have n't any more use for Christian Science than Hetty Green had for a poorhouse, but I consider The Christian Science Monitor one of the greatest dailies in America and I read it religiously, not for its propaganda, but for its secular news."


On May 23, 1900, the State of New York issued a charter to a corporation known as the Associated Press. The new organization was virtually a continuance of the Western Associated Press which had had its headquarters at Chicago. This change was doubtless made because the Supreme Court of Illinois, after a suit had been brought against the Associated Press by The Chicago Interocean to secure the news service of the Association, had handed down the following decision:—

The Associated Press from the time of its organization and establishment in business sold the news reports to various newspapers who became members, and the publication of that news became of vast importance to the public so that public interest is attached to the dissemination of that news. The manner in which that corporation has used its franchise has charged its business with a public interest. It has devoted its property to a public use, and has, in effect, granted to the public such an interest in its use that it must submit to be controlled by the public, for the common good, to the extent of the interest it has thus created in the public in its private property. The sole purpose for which news was gathered was that the same should be sold, and all newspaper publishers desiring to purchase such news for publication are entitled to purchase the same without discrimination against them. . . . The appellee corporation being engaged in a business upon which a public interest is engrafted, upon principles of justice it can make no distinction with respect to persons who wish to purchase information and news, for purposes of publication, which it was created to furnish. . . . The legal character of the corporation and its duties cannot be disregarded because of any stipulation incorporated in a contract that it should not be liable to discharge a public duty. Its obligation to serve the public is not one resting on contract, but grows out of the fact that it is in the discharge of a public duty, or a private duty which has been so conducted that a public interest has attached thereto.

The position taken by the Associated Press is that it has no monopoly of the news. Its general manager, Melville E. Stone, has explained the situation as follows:—

The output of the Associated Press is not the news; it is its own story of the news. There can be no monopoly in news. At the point of origin, Havana, the destruction of the Maine was known by every man, woman, and child. Any one could have written a story of it. The Associated Press men did. It was their own story. Who shall say that they, or those who employed them, were not entitled to its exclusive use? And is this not equally true, whether the employer be one man, or ten men, or nine hundred men acting in cooperation?

Charges of unfair play have on several occasions been brought against the Associated Press. Oswald Garrison Villard, president of The New York Evening Post, has drawn the following conclusion about these charges:—

I personally have examined one mare's nest after another, only to find that each was due to ignorance of the technique of the profession or of the facts. Most of them would never have been heard of had the suspicious ones gone to headquarters to inspect the records. It is only in the tenth or one hundredth case that I have found that there was a genuine error. And it goes without saying that I have yet to learn of a constructive suggestion as to something better to take the place of the Associated Press.

The Associated Press secured in 1917 a court decision which established the legality of its claims to ownership of its own story of the news. The comparison was made that the product of the organization was like ore which had been mined and refined. To make claims still stronger newspapers which were members of the Associated Press posted a notice on editorial pages to the effect:—

The Associated Press is exclusively entitled to the use for republication of all news dispatches credited to it or not otherwise credited in this paper and also the local news of spontaneous origin published herein. All rights of republication of all other matter herein are also reserved.


While the present United Press was organized in June, 1907, it really dates back to the breaking up of the old United Press in 1897, though between the two organizations there is no direct connection. At the time, however, that the discontinuance of the service of the old United Press was announced, several of its members were unable to join the Associated Press and others refused to do so. Among the latter was E. W. Scripps, one of the owners of the Scripps-McRae string of newspapers,
The Call - Chronicle - Examiner joint publication.png
published in the Middle West, which had been organized around a nucleus of The Cincinnati Post, The Cleveland Press, and The St. Louis Chronicle. Probably the reason that Scripps did not care to join the Associated Press was the fact that he thought that any papers which his company was planning to establish in other cities would be unable to secure franchises. So he started his own news-gathering organization at about the same time that the newspapers in the East, who were not members of the Associated Press, organized the Publishers' Press, with headquarters in New York. The latter organization was prepared to furnish its service to both morning and evening papers while the former limited its field to the evening dailies. A little later another organization came into existence which furnished a brief or "pony" report of the news to a string of small dailies stretching from Chicago to San Francisco. The three organizations after about ten years saw that strength was in union and organized the present United Press with John Vandercdck as president and general news manager. Upon his death, shortly after the union, Roy Howard succeeded him as manager. Whenever the Associated Press is attacked on the ground of having a monopoly of the news, it points to the claims of the United Press to show that it has a formidable rival in the field.

The United Press differs from the Associated Press in that its services are available to any newspaper which can pay the necessary charges for a leased wire, etc. There is no "power of protest" such as belongs to the Associated Press.


E. W. Scripps is the Benjamin Franklin of modern journalism. Just as Franklin used to furnish an apprentice with a printing outfit and send him to a newly settled section to start a paper, so Scripps puts out a bright young journalist and furnishes him the funds with which to establish under a partnership agreement a new paper in another field. There are some thirty-odd newspapers, large and small, in his string of papers, the distinguishing characteristic of which is said to be that they address themselves primarily to the interests of the working class. During the first decade of the twentieth century, the number of daily newspapers increased 16.8 per cent: in every geographic division of the United States there was an increase, except in New England, but the greatest increase both relative and absolute was in the Pacific and the West South Central divisions. In every State of New England there was a loss in the number of dailies during the first decade except in Rhode Island where conditions remained stationary.

According to the same statistics gathered for the Thirteenth Census of the United States, New York led among the individual States with a total daily circulation of over one fifth of that for the entire country. Pennsylvania came second with a little more than one eighth and Illinois third with about one tenth. The only other States which had over three per cent of the total daily circulation were California, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Ohio. New York reported the largest absolute increase in circulation and Louisiana the least; the highest per cent of gain was in Oklahoma, and the lowest in Louisiana.

By 1909 the circulation of the evening dailies exceeded that of the morning in eight of the nine main geographic divisions of the United States. The Mountain division was the only one where the morning circulation was greater than the evening.

The total circulation of the daily newspapers in the ten leading cities of the United States showed a decrease from 50.5 per cent in 1904 to forty-seven per cent in 1909, in comparison with that for the entire country. This fact proved that the circulation of dailies published outside the metropolitan centers increased the more rapidly. In 1909 the circulation of the daily papers of New York City was 16.9 per cent of that of all the dailies in the country; in 1904 it was 18.3 per cent. The census of 1910 showed that the preponderance of the evening circulation increased in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and Philadelphia, and that the morning circulation increased, but in decreasing proportion, in Baltimore and San Francisco. In St. Louis the evening papers had a larger circulation than the morning in 1909 a condition quite the reverse of that in 1904; the same condition obtained in Pittsburgh.

In the matter of Sunday newspapers there was an increase of twenty-nine for the five-year period 1904-09; though there was a decrease in number in the West North Central and the South Atlantic divisions there was an increase in the total circulation of the Sunday newspapers published therein. With the exception of the Middle Atlantic and the East North Central divisions there were increases both in number and in total circulation. The aggregate number of copies reported for 1909 was sufficient to furnish one copy for every fifth person who was ten years of age or over, and was able to read. The growth in circulation of the Sunday newspaper in the metropolitan cities was checked by the establishment of Sunday editions in smaller places. In only two of the ten leading cities, however, was there a distinct loss in circulation on Sunday—Baltimore and San Francisco.


Press dispatches told the American reading public of the effect of the war on European newspapers. The great struggle had scarcely begun when the French papers began either to suspend publication or to reduce their size, and those which continued publication for the most part confined themselves to a single edition a day and abolished all headline display. Americans who subscribe for London dailies noticed an immediate reduction in size as soon as war had been declared. A cablegram from Amsterdam announced that over eight hundred and fifty German newspapers, according to statistics gathered by the Postal Department, had suspended the first year of the war. Belgian journalism soon became a thing of the past, save that conducted under German supervision.

The effect of the war on American journalism has been even more pronounced, though along different lines. Size and circulation of papers in this country were not at first curtailed, but the amount spent by the American press to gather the news, even when all was quiet near Ypres, would, it is said on good authority, have bankrupted the journalism of Continental Europe. The increased sales of both regular and extra editions put additional financial burdens on the leading dailies. Those who think that the advertisers footed the bills could not be more mistaken in their deduction. While advertising rates were computed on the basis of circulation, no newspaper could advance its charge for advertisements on short notice, as contracts, often covering a term of months and in some cases years, prevented a sudden increase in rates. Advertisers, not the newspapers, profited by the increased circulation.

The most immediate effect of the war was noticed in the rapid advance in cable tolls, which, not only the news-gathering organization, but also the newspapers themselves, were forced to pay for the special war dispatches. So high were these tolls that newspapers pooled their interests. In New York City, for example, The World, The Times, and The Tribune used a joint cable service which reduced the tolls to one third for each newspaper. As the London newspapers sold their news service to anybody, the three papers just mentioned had been getting practically the same special war dispatches at three times the cost they later had to pay. In the beginning the British censors, however, were a source of much annoyance to American newspapers, for every one seemed a law unto himself. The proof-sheets of The London Daily Mail, for example, filed for transmission to American newspapers, would be blue-penciled one way by one censor and another by a second. Such irregularities in censorship did much to promote the newspaper combination just mentioned.

In spite of such combinations to improve the service and to reduce the cost in cabling, the newspapers found it impossible to print both the war news and the other routine news without increasing the size of the regular issues to such an extent that financial returns would not pay for the cost of production. Both local and national news was therefore reduced in quantity. Such reductions in the amount of local news printed released newspaper workers from many offices. The condition at Chicago, typical of that in metropolitan cities, was thus set forth in The Scoop, the official publication of the Chicago Press Club:—

The European War has created a condition in Chicago which has seriously affected the working newspapermen of the city. The great expense to which the newspapers are being subjected in heavy cable tolls, and the largely increased circulation without an adequate enlarged advertising revenue, have forced the newspapers to curtail costs, and a number of good men find themselves without employment, with winter staring them in the face. Some of the hustlers are willing to go out and create work for themselves in various ways. They will require printing, and may require credit from printing firms. The Scoop suggests to our printer members that in all such cases they apply the golden rule rather than the strict rule of commerce. Look up the record and personal standing of an applicant for credit, and if he be found worthy, extend a helping hand.

After the outbreak of the war the evening papers assumed a position never before held in the history of American journalism. Many of the papers of this class consisted in the past of a few pages which closely resembled in contents a bulletin board, a number of pages of special features which had no more news value than last year's almanac, and an editorial page of the human interest type. The war made a decided change by putting more news into the pages of the evening editions. The difference in time between America and Europe often gave the evening paper almost a monopoly of the war news: the late editions had not yet gone to press when the European armies bivouacked for the night. Consequently there was time—if the censor did not keep union hours—to get a report of the day's activities.

The war also produced a change in the routine handling of news. Previously newspapers had put first in the item either the most important or the most startling fact and had then hidden the source of the information in the middle of the first paragraph. After the war began the press was frequently criticized for printing misleading information. Such charges, however, were usually unfounded, as a careful perusal of the item would show some such assertion as "according to a bulletin issued yesterday." The bulletin may have contained assertions which were not true, but the press told the truth when it asserted that the bulletin contained such and such statements. Because responsibility was placed upon the newspaper rather than upon those who issued the bulletins and statements, the press usually protected itself by emphasizing in the opening sentence its source of information. Military necessity may have demanded the publication of misleading items, but military necessity must be willing to accept the responsibility for such publicity.


The war from the start did much to revive the interest in the editorial page the influence of which had declined very much in the Period of Financial Readjustment. Unfamiliar with European geography, unacquainted with the economic and political situations in the warring countries, readers found they must have the news interpreted through the editorial. The war made readers more thoughtful and the thoughtful reader has always been a reader of the editorial page. Once again American journalism found itself divided into two groups, one of which was pro-Ally, the other, pro-German, in its editorial sympathies. The editorial battles between the two developed military critics in the editorial sanctum. The entrance of America into the Great European War brought these two factors together into practically a harmonious press, with only here and there an exception to prove the general rule.

The attempt of certain newspapers, early in the war, to be strictly neutral in the publishing of the news, was rather amusing. The eighth edition of a metropolitan daily on a certain day stretched this streamer headline across the page:

Germans Fall Like Leaves at the Battle of Ypres.

The ninth edition of the same paper on the same day bore this headline:

Allies Fall Like Leaves at the Battle of Ypres.

Could any newspaper be more neutral?


The increase in the cost of white paper later made space more valuable. The result was that there was a noticeable condensation of news in all departments. Special features, instead of being set in rather large type, were made to occupy a rather smaller space through a change of font, or by the omission of leads between the lines. Headlines were reduced in size; though they often stretched across the page, they were in much smaller type than during the days of the American war with Spain when, as has already been mentioned, they sometimes, in extreme cases, practically filled half of the front page.

The increased cost of production raised the subscription rates of many daily newspapers all over the country — especially was this true of those selling at one cent. Even in the few cities where rates were not raised for local subscribers, rates were raised for those living outside the first zone: the farther zones were from the place of publication, the larger the price. Early in 1917, when the shortage of wood pulp paper was most acute, the papers not only limited the size of their editions, but frequently in so doing reduced the number. Notices similar to the following appeared:

Owing to the shortage of paper, the circulation of the morning edition of The World will be reduced to 350,000 copies daily. Beginning February 1st, until further notice, the paper will be absolutely nonreturnable.

When wood chips, which had been previously useful only as fuel or had been totally discarded, came also to be used to manufacture wood pulp paper, as the result of study made in the Forests Products Laboratory at Washington, and after numerous economies had been made in newspaper plants to utilize paper which had been previously thrown away, newspapers were able to print announcements similar to the following: —

The World having purchased the High Falls Pulp and Paper Company, and improved the conditions of its newsprint supply, is now able to more nearly approach meeting the demands of its readers by increasing the daily circulation on the morning edition to 375,000, but cannot exceed that figure, except on a day when news of extraordinary importance may justify a departure from this rule.


Shortly after the entrance of America into the war, President Wilson appointed a Committee on Public Information, the purposes of which were twofold: first, to be a clearing-house for the news of the various departments at Washington; second, to act as censors for war intelligence received from other sources. The committee consisted of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, and one civilian, George Creel. Owing to practically the united opposition of the press, Congress deprived the committee of its second function and limited it to the dissemination of information. The committee, however, did issue a pamphlet, based largely upon a similar publication put out by the Press Censor of Canada, which offered suggestions for voluntary censorship. The attitude of the press, The Tribune, of New York, expressed in the following editorial : —

Must every censor or would-be censor put on the clown's livery? Must he lose all sense of restraint and judgment, all touch with actuali- ties? Certainly there seems to be something in this perilous office which goes to a man's brains and makes him the easy victim of his own fatuity.

Mr. George Creel's latest promulgation is a case in point. He has just issued a new series of "voluntary" censorship regulations and de- clared them in effect from yesterday. They are "voluntary" regulations only in the sense that they have no warrant of law behind them. The newspapers have not volunteered to respect them. Nor could they consent to respect all of them without at the same time submitting to a dictatorship more fantastic and oppressive than exists in any other nation now at war. Even in Turkey, we fancy, newspapers may still do what Mr. Creel wants to prohibit American newspapers from doing.

The American press was doubtless influenced by the results of censorship in England, where papers like The London Times and The London Daily Mail had asserted that press censorship was pernicious and had been used solely to protect office-holders and blunderers from the penalties of their own stupidity and in- efficiency. "Secrecy helps these men," said Lord Northcliffe, owner of the two papers just mentioned, "to protect their false positions and to do damage to the nation. Publicity pricks the bubble; that is why so many of them hate publicity when it begins to be critical."

The Committee on Public Information, though deprived of all censorship save where newspapers voluntarily chose to submit news items for inspection, did excellent work in the matter of publicity for different branches of the Government. Had not the two functions, censorship and publicity, been joined at the start, the cooperation of the press would have been more complete.

When Congress passed in September, 1917, the Trading with the Enemy Act, it gave the Postmaster-General power not only to refuse the second-class entry privilege to newspapers publishing treasonable or seditious matter, but also to penalize papers reprinting articles from publications declared unmailable. The Postmaster-General thus outlined how he planned to administer the act which gave him so much power over the press:

This legislation is not to prevent criticism of the Government or the Administration or the Post-Office Department. It is not aimed against Socialist publications or any other kind of publications as a class. The newspapers can denounce the Postmaster-General or the Administra- tion all they like, and they can have such criticism circulated through the mails. But if we find newspapers preaching disloyalty, newspapers that are really German at heart and in secret sympathy with the Ger- man Government which we are fighting, newspapers which are trying to make the masses in this country believe that this is a capitalists' war and that the Government therefore ought not to be supported those publications we intend to suppress with a firm hand, because we are at war with the Imperial German Government. The country has declared war. Any one who deliberately sets afoot a propaganda to discourage support to the Government as against its enemies is doing a treasonable thing. We must win the war, and we cannot brook disloy- alty at home.


In exposing German intrigue The Journal of Providence led all other American newspapers and lived up to its reputation for enterprise established way back in the Revolutionary Period. During the first year, the exposures of The Journal were accepted by the press with natural reluctance, but so many of them became verified that newspapers, not merely in the United States,but also in England, France, and Italy, regularly reprinted the sensational disclosures of The Journal. A fitting tribute to that newspaper was thus given in The Evening Transcript of Boston:—

The Providence Journal is entitled to the thanks of the country for the remarkable success of the inquiries into the German spy system and the German propaganda in this country which it has conducted. The Journal's discoveries have been the basis for about three-quar- ters possibly a larger proportion than that of the Government's proceedings against the German plotters; the scalps of Boy-Ed and Von Papen hang at its tepee door; and it was upon The Journal's in- formation that most of the judicial proceedings now pending were taken. It has been a patriotic service to ferret out this plotting and treason and the work is by no means completed. There is not the slightest doubt that The Journal has a good many more sharp arrows in its quiver. It has taught the metropolitan press, and that of Boston, a lesson in enterprise; it has advertised itself quite legitimately through- out the world, for The Journal is now known in Downing Street and Wilhelmstrasse, as well as on Westminster Street; and it has performed a work that will be remembered in the history of the war.


The first American newspaper which had an army edition was The Tribune, of Chicago. On July 4, 1917, in spite of the paper scarcity, it started publishing a daily paper in Paris for the American soldiers "somewhere in France." As no young printers were available, most of the work was done by French women who did not understand English. In spite of this handi- cap, editions were fairly free from typographical errors. As there are few "y's" and "w's" in the French language, the supply was soon exhausted and editorial writers and reporters were forced to use English words which did not have these letters in their spelling. While the paper had many features of its namesake in Chicago, it gave most of its space to news of America. It sold for ten centimes or two cents per copy and its yearly rate was fixed at thirty francs or six dollars. Though designed primarily for cir- culation among the American soldiers quartered in France, the army edition of The Tribune built up a substantial circulation among the English and American residents in Paris. Joseph B. Pierson was its first editor.


In September, 1917, arrangements were made for the publica- tion of a soldiers' weekly newspaper in most National Army and National Guard camps. The paper to a certain extent was co- operative in that four of its pages were compiled and supplied by the central New York office. These four pages were then sent to the cooperating publisher in the local field. He added the news of the local camp and finished printing the sheet. Distribu- tion was secured through Y.M.C.A. headquarters.

Cooperation was secured from local newspapers because the soldiers' weekly did not carry advertising and was not sold and there could be no competition with other newspapers. To the credit of the South it should be said that its newspapers were among the first to cooperate in the plan. Early coöperation was secured from The News-Leader, of Richmond, Virginia; The News, of Birmingham, Alabama; The Advertiser, of Montgomery, Alabama; The Constitution, of Atlanta, Georgia; The Telegraph, of Macon, Georgia; The Courier-Journal, of Louisville, Kentucky.


Represented directly with the First Expeditionary Force to France were the following newspapers and associations:—

The Associated Press.
The United Press.
The International News Service.
The Associated Papers.
The Newspaper Enterprise Association.
The Philadelphia Ledger Syndicate.
The Munsey group of newspapers.
The New York Times and group of newspapers.
The New York Herald Syndicate.
The Chicago Tribune and group of newspapers.
The New York World and group of newspapers.
The New York Tribune.
The Philadelphia North American and group of newspapers.
The Denver Post.
Collier's Weekly.

In addition to these accredited correspondents in the field, a number were permitted to go to Paris with letters to the Maison de la Presse, commending them to the French Government and opening numerous news channels of considerable breadth for them. Included in this second category were numerous magazine writers, as well as newspaper correspondents.

This chapter must conclude with the unprinted line which appears in the last column of the last page of the daily newspaper:

To be continued to-morrow.

Though stopping at a time when the American newspaper is undergoing many changes, it must of necessity be an unfinished chapter to be edited and revised later. Of nothing can it more truthfully be said, that "no man knoweth what the day or hour may bring forth," than of the newspaper. But one need not be a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, to realize what has so often been stated in the pages of this book, that the newspaper is a motion picture of life's drama, with a plot furnished by the politics and the society of the times.