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   Chapter 1 The Newspaper

Practical English Composition: Book II. / For the Second Year of the High School By Edwin L. Miller Characters: 6289

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The modern city newspaper is a complicated machine. At its head is usually a general manager, who may be one of its owners. Directly responsible to him are the business manager, the superintendent of the mechanical department, and the managing editor.

The business manager has under him three sub-departments: (1) Advertising; (2) Circulation; (3) Auditing. To the first of these is entrusted the duty of taking care of those small advertisements which, owing to the fact that each occupies only a line or two, are called "liners"; the management of a corps of solicitors; and the maintenance of amicable relations with the business men of the community. The circulation department includes not only the management of local and foreign circulation, but also the collection of money from subscribers, dealers, and newsboys. The auditor keeps the books, has charge of the cash, and manages the payroll.

The superintendent of the mechanical department has three subordinates. These are the foreman of the composing-room, the foreman of the pressroom, and the foreman of the stereotyping-room. Each, of course, always has several assistants and often many.

The managing editor has charge of the collection and distribution of news. He has no routine duties, but is responsible for the conduct of his subordinates, for the character of the paper, and for its success as a business enterprise. The relation of the paper to the public is in his keeping. Not infrequently he has serious differences of opinion with the business manager, especially when he publishes news which does not please important advertisers. Among his chief occupations are devising methods of getting news and avoiding libel suits. The subordinates who report directly to him are the writers of special columns, the cartoonists, the editorial writers, the editor of the Sunday paper, and the assistant managing editor, or news editor. It is with the latter and his staff that we are at present chiefly concerned.

The news editor, or night editor, as he is called on a morning paper, has charge of all the routine that is involved in the production of the paper. Its make-up is in his hands. An autocrat on space and place, he is seldom praised, but must take the blame for everything that goes wrong. Under him are: (1) A telegraph editor, whose business it is to handle news from outside the State; (2) a State editor, who directs as best he may a horde of local correspondents who represent the paper in the rural and semi-rural districts; (3) one or more "rewrite men" or copy-readers, whose business it is to write out the news sent in by telephone, to correct the errors of illiterate reporters, and to rewrite articles when necessary; and (4) the city editor.

This last functionary is frequently the most important man on the paper. He is responsible for gathering nearly all of the original news that goes into its columns. To be able to do this he must have a wide and exact knowledge of the people and the history of the city. He works like a slave; and the reporters, who are under his direct control, find in him a stern but appreciative taskmaster.

These reporters, or news-gatherers, lead a strenuous but not unhappy life. It is somewhat like that of the huntsman, their business being to stalk news, which is perhaps the biggest and certainly the most elusive game which the world produces. Their lives are sometimes, their liberty oftener, and their jobs always, in danger. If one of them permits a rival paper to get a "scoop," he is apt to find himself in the situation of the warrior described in Shakespeare's sonnet:

"The painful warrior, famous?d for fight,

After a thousand victories once foiled,

Is from the book of honour raz?d quite,

And all the rest forgot for which he toiled."

Some reporters hunt everywhere; others are assigned to special "beats." Of the latter the city hall is the most important, but the central police station yields the largest number of good stories, because it is there that tales of human folly, crime, and tragedy are most promptly known. On most papers the law courts, politics, sport, drama, religion, education, marine affairs, and society provide other "beats."

The organization thus briefly sketched is fairly typical, though by no means universal. The outline on page 5 may make it a little clearer.

[Textual representation of diagram.]

Good reporters are not numerous. The reason is that, to succeed in this work, a man or a woman must be able to gather news and to write. There are plenty of people who can do either, but few who can do both.

In order to get news one must be physically tireless, fond of adventure, persistent, unabashed, polite, courageous, and resourceful in the highest degree. To the successful reporter an impossibility is only an opportunity in disguise. In his lexicon there is no such word as "fail." He must know how to make and keep friends. He must have that kind of originality which is called "initiative." Above all, he must be scrupulously honest. He must be actuated by a fixed determination to get the news, the whole news, and nothing but the news.

In order to write well one must be able to spell, punctuate, and capitalize; know the laws of grammar and how to apply them; be familiar with the principles of rhetoric; and have a wide acquaintance with good books. These qualities are not usually found in company with those which make a successful news-gatherer. A person who has both is therefore worth his weight in gold to a newspaper. The fact that this combination of qualities is so rare leads many papers to employ special rewrite men whose business it is to put into good English the raw material furnished by the news-gatherer.

One other newspaper functionary remains to be noticed, the writer of editorials. News items are confined to facts. Editorials contain expressions of opinion. Everybody reads news, because it speaks for itself. Editorials are designed to mould public opinion. Unless they are characterized by extreme good sense or brilliancy, nobody heeds them, though, if he makes a mistake in one, the writer of editorials is apt to conclude that everybody reads them. The writer of editorials must therefore be a person of exceptional qualifications.

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