Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"so long as public welfare is at stake"

"If I Were An Editor"
Dr. Jesse Halsey

If I were an editor, I would ruin any paper in the land, except one. Because my changes would be so drastic, I doubt if a newspaper could pay its way. At least, all my friends connected with the fourth estate tell me that as things are, so they must remain and, with any changes in the direction of idealism, a paper would not pay, and, of course, beyond all else, a paper must be made to pay; otherwise, it has no legitimate objective!

So, my first job as an editor would be that of a salesman, to find someone who would subsidize the venture, just as the Yale boys who launched Time scraped enough together to make a dummy or two, and then set out to find the money to back their scheme. I am not clever enough to write hypothetical copy, as they did, three weeks in advance, dress it up and sell it. So I must wait until my patron comes along. When he does, our paper will be ordered somewhat as follows:

There will be no scare headlines, and there will be no need of then, for the best of the printer’s art will be engaged to make an interesting, legible page, balanced and attractive.

There will be a box here and there, occasionally a double column heading, but we won’t rely on thirty-six point type.

The paper will be a unity. Advertising must comport with decency. Our paper will do what advertisers talk about—“Tell the Truth in Advertising.” Liquor ads will not be accepted, though they are the biggest money-makers.

There will be no crime news on the front page. Details and methods of suicide will be eliminated. Consideration of those in trouble will be exercised. We will try to be as inclusive of world wide news as the New York Times, but as discriminating as The Christian Science Monitor. That’s the one paper I wouldn’t change.

It will be a “mugwump” paper, if that is the word to use; anti-organization, whether in politics or economics, fairplay and justice to all groups and individuals, fearless presentation of facts, regardless of where they may hit; so long as public welfare is at stake. The news will not be distorted; but propaganda will be eliminated as far as possible. The news columns will not willingly subvert the announced editorial policies, nor vice versa. Efficient, non-partisan government, the support of good men rather than old parties, some reasonably high literary standards, and a high ethical code will prevail. Fearless and keen political observers, like Walter Lippman and Frank Ken, will write for our columns, through a syndicate of course.

The editorial staff will be composed of men with literary ability and extensive scholastic and practical training. The news of the day will be editorially treated when it is significant news.

There will be a strong emphasis on matters international, believing that our world, because of swift means of communication and travel, has shrunk in size and needs to become a neighborhood in spirit.

There will be a home page, which will include culinary recipes. Every day there will be some book reviews. Discerning feature articles will be developed—things that show insight into life and its problems.

On Monday, there will be a sermon page, furnished each week by a non-sectarian committee, not with scare headlines, as if a sermon could or should contain flashy news, from a paper’s point of view; but headed by a text, as a sermon ought to be. Only one paper in this country, the Brooklyn Eagle, has ever approached religious subjects in that way.

Everything that is interesting and wholesome will be promoted. The things that are detrimental to personal and public good will be denounced and ridiculed. We do not believe that the publication of the details of crime is any deterrent, but rather that it promotes crime. There will be little food appeal, in our paper, for the morbid mind.

Could such a paper, granted that some genius, and not I, were the editor—could such a paper live for six months? I wonder.

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