« НазадПродовжити »
no property in his journal. The consequence is, that there is scarcely an individual connected with a daily paper who is not compelled or tempted to eke out his ridiculous salary by other writing, to the injury of his health and the constant deterioration of his work. Every morning the public comes fresh and eager to the newspaper : fresh and eager minds should alone minister to it. No work done on this earth consumes vitality so fast as carefully executed composition, and consequently one of the main conditions of a man's writing his best is that he should write little and rest often. A good writer, moreover, is one of Nature's peculiar and very rare products. There is a mystery about the art of composition. Who shall explain to us why Charles Dickens can write about a three-legged stool in such a manner that the whole civilized world reads with pleasure ; while another man of a hundred times his knowledge and five times his quantity of mind cannot write on any subject so as to interest anybody ? The laws of supply and demand do not apply to this rarity ; for one man's writing cannot be compared with another's, there being no medium between valuable and worthless. How many overworked, under-paid men have we known in New York, really gifted with this inexplicable knack at writing, who, well commanded and justly compensated, lifted high and dry out of the slough of poor-devilism in which their powers were obscured and impaired, could almost have made the fortune of a newspaper ! Some of these Reporters of Genius are mere children in all the arts by which men prosper. A Journalist of Genius would know their value, understand their case, take care of their interest, seure their devotion, restrain their ardor, and turn their talent to rich account. We are ashamed to say, that for example of this kind of policy we should have to repair to the office named a moment since.
This subject, however, is beginning to be understood, and of late there has been some advance in the salaries of members of the press. Just as fast as the daily press advances in real inde. pendence and efficiency, the compensation of journalists will in. grease, until a great reporter will receive a reward in some slight degree proportioned to the rarity of the species and to the great
ness of the services of which he is the medium. By reporters, we mean, of course, the entire corps of news-givers, from the youth who relates the burning of a stable, to the philosopher who chronicles the last vagary of a German metaphysician. These laborious men will be appreciated in due time. By them all the great hits of journalism have been made, and the whole future of journalism is theirs.
So difficult is the reporter's art, that we can call to mind only two series of triumphant efforts in this department, - Mr. Russell's letters from the Crimea to the London Times, and N. P. Willis's “ Pencillings by the Way,” addressed to the New York Mirror. Each of these masters chanced to have a subject perfectly adapted to his taste and talents, and each of them made the most of his opportunity. Charles Dickens has produced a few exquisite reports. Many ignorant and dull men employed on the New York Herald have written good reports because they were dull and ignorant. In fact, there are two kinds of good reporters, - those who know too little, and those who know too much, to wander from the point and evolve a report from the depths of their own consciousness. The worst possidle reporter is one who has a little talent, and depends upon that to make up for the meagreness of his information. The best reporter is he whose sole object is to relate his event exactly as it occurred, and describe his scene just as it appeared ; and this kind of excellence is attainable by an honest plodder, and by a man of great and well-controlled talent. If we were forming a corps of twenty-five reporters, we should desire to have five of them men of great and highly trained ability, and the rest indefatigable, unimaginative, exact short-hand chroniclers, caring for nothing but to get their l'act and relate it in the plainest English.
There is one'custom, a relic of the past, still in vogue in the offices of daily papers, which is of an absurdity truly exquisite. It is the practice of paying by the column, or, in other words, paying a premium for verhosity, and imposing a fine upon conciseness. It will often happen that information which cost three days to procure can be well related in a paragraph, and which, if related in a paragraph, would be of very great value to the news paper printing it. But if the reporter should compress his facts into that space, he would receive for his three days' labor about what he expended in omnibus fare. Like a wise man, therefore, he spreads them out into three columns, and thus receives a compensation upon which life can be supported. If matter must be paid for by the column, we would respectfully suggest the following rates: For balf a column, or less, twenty dollars; for one column, ten dollars; for two columns, five dollars; for three columns, nothing; for any amount beyond three columns, no insertion.
To conclude with a brief recapitulation :
The commodity in which the publishers of daily newspapers deal is news, i. e. information respecting recent events in which the public take an interest, or in which an interest can be excited.
Newspapers, therefore, rank according to their excellence as newspapers ; and no other kind of excellence can make up for any deficiency in the one thing for which they exist.
Consequently, the art of editorship consists in forming, handling, and inspiring a corps of reporters; for inevitably that newspaper becomes the chief and favorite journal which has the best corps of reporters, and uses them best.
Editorial articles have their importance. They can be a powerful means of advancing the civilization of a country, and of hastening the triumph of good measures and good men; and upon the use an editor makes of his opportunity of addressing the public in this way depends his title to our esteem as a man and fellow-citizen. But, in a mere business point of view, they are of inferior importance. The best editorials cannot make, nor the worst editorials mar, the fortune of a paper. Burke and Macaulay would not add a tenth part as many subscribers to a daily paper as the addition to its corps of two well-trained, ably.com manded reporters.
It is not law which ever renders the press free and independent Nothing is free or independent in this world which is not power ful. Therefore, the editor who would conquer the opportunity of speaking his mind freely, must do it by making his paper so
excellent as a vehicle of news that the public will buy it though it is a daily disgust to them.
The Herald has thriven beyond all its competitors, because its proprietor comprehended these simple but fundamental truths of his vocation, and, upon the whole, has surpassed his rivals both in the getting and in the display of intelligence. We must pronounce him the best journalist and the worst editorialist this continent has ever known; and accordingly his paper is generally read and its proprietor universally disapproved.
And finally, this bad, good paper cannot be reduced to secondary rank except by being outdone in pure journalism. The interests of civilization and the honor of the United States require that this should be done. There are three papers now existing — the Times, the Tribune, and the World — which ought to do it; but if the conductors of neither of these able and spirited papers choose to devote themselves absolutely to this task, then we trust that soon another competitor may enter the field, conducted by a journalist proud enough of his profession to be satisfied with its honors. There were days last winter on which it
eemed as if the whole force of journalism in the city of New York was expended in tingeing and perverting intelligence on the greatest of all the topics of the time. We have read numbers of the World (which has talent and youthful energy enough for a splendid career) of which almost the entire contents — correspondence, telegrams, and editorials — were spoiled for all useful purposes by the determination of the whole corps of writers to make the news tell in favor of a political party. We can truly aver, that journalism, pure and simple, — journalism for its own Bake, - journalism, the dispassionate and single-eyed servant of the whole public, - does not exist in New York during a session of Congress. It ought to exist.