=51. Second Essential of News Writing
As explained in the preceding
chapter, the first essential in news writing is a proper appreciation of
news and news values. The second essential is the possession of a story
to write. This chapter will discuss news sources, leaving for Chapter
III an explanation of the methods of getting stories.
=52. Gathering News
The prospective reporter who supposes that
newspaper men wander aimlessly up and down the streets of a city,
watching and hoping for automobiles to collide and for men to shoot
their enemies, will have his eyes opened soon after entering a news
office. He will learn that a reporter never leaves the city room without
a definite idea of where he is going. If newspapers had to police the
streets with watchers for news as the city government assigns officers
of the law, the cost of gathering news would be prohibitive.
=53. Police as News Gatherers
As a matter of fact, a paper has
comparatively few paid men on its staff, though it has hundreds of
non-paid watchers who are just as faithful. The police are the chief of
these. As every reporter knows, a policeman is compelled to make to his
captain a full and prompt report of every fire, robbery, murder,
accident, or mishap involving loss of, or danger to, life or property
occurring on his beat. This report is made to the local precinct or
station, whence it is telephoned to police headquarters. At the central
station the report is recorded in the daily record book of crime, known
familiarly to the public as the "blotter." Not all of the reports
recorded on the police blotter are made public, because hasty
announcement of information received by the police oftentimes would
forestall expected arrests; but such information as the desk sergeant is
willing to utter is given out in brief bulletins, sometimes posted
behind locked glass doors, sometimes simply written in a large ledger
open to public inspection. Whether written in the ledger or displayed on
a bulletin board, these bulletins are known always as slips, of which
the following are typical examples:
Oct. 4 Suicide Attempt
Theodore Pavolovich, 24 yrs., arrested Oct. 1, 1915,
fugitive, abandonment, Chicago, attempted suicide by
stabbing with a fork while eating dinner. Sent to
Emergency Hospital, ambulance 4.
12:50 P. M. Conway
Oct. 4 Clothing Found
Woman's coat, hat, and purse found on bank of Lake
Michigan, foot of Pine St., 4:10 P. M. Skirt taken
from water, same place, 4:30 P. M., by patrolman
Heath. Clothing identified as Mrs. George Riley's,
18 Veazy St., missing since noon.
4:40 P. M. Nock
Oct. 18 Leg Broken
Mary Molinski, 40 yrs., single, 492 Grove St., fell
down stairs, 7:05 P. M. Leg broken. Conveyed to St.
Elizabeth Hospital by patrol 3.
7:30 P. M. Pct. 3.
Oct. 19 Calf Carcass Found
Calf carcass, black and white hide, weight about
85 pounds, found at 11th and Henry Ave.
6:30 A. M. Oper
These slips need little explanation. The name signed to each is that of
the police officer reporting. The Pct. 3 signed after the third
indicates merely the local precinct from which the report was made. The
time at the end of each slip signifies the exact time at which the
report was received at police headquarters.
=54. Arrest Sheets
In addition to the slips there are the "arrest
sheets," on which all arrests are recorded. These sheets are open always
to public inspection, as the public has a right to know of every arrest,
lest a man be imprisoned unjustly. On page 37 is given a verbatim
reproduction of the arrests recorded in a city in the Middle West. The
M or S at the top of the fifth column stands for married or
single, and R and W at the top of the eighth, for read and write.
The D and D charge against the second offender is drunk and
disorderly. It will be noted that the cases entered after ten o'clock
had not been disposed of when this sheet was copied. From these arrest
sheets and the slips, as the reader may readily see, the reporter is
able to get a brief but prompt and accurate account of most of the
accidents and crimes within the city. And with these advance notices in
his possession he can follow up the event and get all available facts.
=55. Other News Gatherers
But there are numerous other non-paid news
gatherers. Doctors are required to report to the health department every
birth, death, and contagious disease to which they have been called in a
professional capacity. To the coroner is reported every fatal accident,
suicide, murder, or suspicious death. The county clerk keeps a record of
every marriage license. The recorder of deeds has a register of all
sales and transfers of property. The building inspector has a full
account of buildings condemned, permits granted for new buildings, and
fire devices required. The leading hotels have the names of important
guests visiting or passing through the city. Thus by regular visitation
of certain persons and places in the city, a newspaper through its
representatives, the reporters, is able to get most of the news of its
AN ARREST SHEET
Name Ad- Occu- A M Where C R Charge
dress pation g or born o and
e S l W
John 16 Cook 32 S U.S. W Yes Vagrancy
Chas. 124 Tailor 28 M " " " D and D
Ben 50 Ped- 41 M " " " Violating
Loti Third dler Health
Nell 38 House- 19 S " " " Drunk
Smith West work
Nick 1630 Barber 24 M " " " Abandonment
White D St.
Edw. 6 Broker 47 M " " " Violating
Meyer Palm Speed Laws
Jane 2935 House- 44 M " " " Keeping
Gray Elm wife Disorderly
Peter 66 Line- 23 S Ger. " " Seduction
Amt State man
Alex St. But- 24 M U.S. " " Fugitive
Bass Louis cher
Geo. 1916 Watch- 31 M " " " Murder
Holt 4th man
Name Comp- Officer Date Time Cell Disposition
lainant & Pre- &
John Jacobs Jacobs Oct. 8:00 6 3 10
Glass 3 15 AM days
Chas. Hays Hays " " 8:30 7 3 Bound
King 6 AM over
Ben Jones Oper " " 10:40 8 3
Nell Hays Hays " " 10:50 2 2
Smith 7 AM
Nick Chief Olson " " 11:10 3 2
White Police, 3 AM
Edw. Thiel Thiel " " 3:25 4 2
Meyer 8 PM
Jane J. B. Walker " " 11:10 7 1
Gray Katz 1 PM
Peter Vera Towne " " 11:30 6 1
Amt Mann 4 PM
Alex Chief Bower " " 11:45 5 1
Bass Police, 2 PM
Geo. Mrs. Owens " " 11:50 2 1
Holt Holt 3 PM
=56. Regular News Sources
Places that serve as news sources are known
as "beats" or "runs." The chief ones and the kinds of news found at each
Associated Charities Headquarters: destitution, poverty, relief
Boards of Trade, Brokers, Commission Men: market quotations;
sales of grain, stocks, and bonds; financial outlook.
Boxing Commission: boxing permissions and regulations.
Building Department, Real Estate Dealers, Architects: new
buildings, unsafe buildings.
Caterers: banquets, society dinners.
Civic Organizations: reform movements, speakers, etc.
Civil Courts: complaints, trials, decisions.
Commercial Club: business news.
Coroner's Office: fatal accidents, murders, suicides, suspicious
County Clerk: marriage licenses, county statistics.
County Jail: arrests, crimes, executions.
Criminal Courts: arraignments, trials, verdicts.
Delicatessen Stores: banquets, society dinners.
Fire Department Headquarters: fires, fire losses, fire
regulations, condemned buildings.
Florists: banquets, dinners, receptions, social functions.
Health Department: births, deaths, contagious diseases, reports
Hospitals: accidents, illnesses, deaths.
Hotels: important guests, banquets, dinners, social functions.
Labor Union Headquarters: labor news.
Morgue: unidentified corpses.
Police Headquarters: accidents, arrests, crimes, fires, lost and
found articles, missing persons, suicides, sudden or suspicious
Political Clubs and Headquarters: county, state, and national
Probate Office: estates, wills.
Public Works Department: civic improvements.
Railway Offices: new rates, general shipping news.
Referee in Bankruptcy: assignments, failures, creditors'
meetings, appointments of receivers, settlements.
Register of Deeds: real estate sales and transfers.
Shipping Offices: departure and docking of vessels; cargoes,
shipping rates, passenger lists.
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: arrests,
complaints, animal stories.
Superintendent of Schools: educational news.
Vice Commission: arrests, complaints, raids.
=57. News Runs
These runs are distributed among the different
reporters, sometimes only one, sometimes three or four to a person. On a
small paper all of the runs, or all to be found in that town, may be
given to one reporter, the number assigned depending upon the size of
the town, the nature of the territory covered, and the willingness or
unwillingness of the owners to spend money in getting news. On the
larger papers, however, police headquarters generally provide work for
one man alone, known as the "watcher." In many cases he does no writing
at all, but merely watches the slips and the sheets for reports and
arrests, which he telephones to the city editor, who assigns other
reporters to get the details and write the stories. Another reporter
watches the city clerk's office and perhaps all the other departments in
the city hall, which he visits at random intervals during the day, but
without such close attention to any one office as is given to police
headquarters. Still another goes to the shipping offices and two or
three other places which he will visit ordinarily not more than once a
day. But whether he goes five times a day or only once, a reporter is
held responsible for all the news occurring on his run; and if he falls
short in his duty or lets some more nimble-witted reporter scoop him on
the news of his beat, he had better begin making himself friends of the
mammon of unrighteousness to receive him into their habitations; for a
scoop, even of a few minutes, by a rival publication is the unpardonable
sin with the city editor. The wise reporter never neglects any news
source on his run.
=58. Dark Runs
Before we take up methods of getting stories, one
other news source should be noted,--what reporters know as "dark runs,"
runs that are consistently productive of news, but which must be kept
"dark." Such places are garages, delicatessen stores, florists' shops,
and similar shops providing flowers, cakes, and luxuries for private
dinners and receptions. An unwritten law of trade makes it a breach of
professional etiquette for a shopkeeper to tell the names of purchasers
of goods, but many a proprietor, as a matter of business pride, is glad
to recount the names of his patrons on Lakeside Drive and their splendid
orders just given. Garage men, too, wishing it known that millionaire
automobile owners patronize their shops, often are willing to tell of
battered cars repaired by their men. All such sources are fertile with
stories. Many a rich man's automobile crashes into a culvert or a
telegraph pole and nobody knows of it but the mechanic in the repair
shop. Many a prominent club-man indulges in orgies of revelry and
dissipation of which none knows but the caterer and a few chosen,
non-committal friends. Many a society leader plans receptions and
dinners of which the florist learns before the friends who are to be
invited. And by skilfully encouraging the friendship of these tradesmen,
a shrewd reporter can obtain exclusive facts about prominent persons who
cannot understand, when they see their names in the morning paper, how
the information was made public. These "dark runs" justify diligent
attention. They produce news, and valuable is the reporter who can
include successfully a number of such sources in his daily rounds.
=59. Value of Wide Acquaintance
Attention may be directed, too, to
the need of deliberately cultivating friendships and acquaintances, not
only on these "dark runs," but wherever one goes--both on and off duty.
In the stores, along the street, on the cars, at the club, the alert
reporter gathers many an important news item. The merchant, the cabman,
the preacher, the barkeeper, the patrolman, the thug, the club-man, the
porter, all make valuable acquaintances, as they are able often to give
one stories or clues to the solution of problems that are all but
invaluable to the paper. And such facts as they present are given solely
because of their interest in the reporter. One should guard zealously,
however, against betraying the confidence of such friends. The reporter
must distinguish the difference between publishing a story gained from a
stranger by dint of shrewd interviewing, and printing the same story
obtained from a fellow club-man more or less confidentially over the
cigars and coffee. The stranger's information the reporter must publish.
No newspaper man has a right to suppress news obtained while on duty or
to accept the confidence of anyone, if by such confidence he is
precluded the right to publish certain facts. The publication or
non-publication of such news is a matter for the city editor's decision
alone. But a story obtained confidentially from a friend at the club or
in the home of a neighbor may not be used except with the express
permission of those persons. Many a man has seen himself and his paper
scooped because he was too honorable to betray the trust of his friends;
but such a single scoop is worth nothing in comparison with the
continued confidence of one's friends and their later prejudiced
assistance. Personal and professional integrity is a newspaper man's
VII. GETTING THE STORY
=60. Starting for a Story
In the preceding chapter attention was
directed to news sources, to definite places for obtaining news. The
reporter's situation changes radically, however, when he is sent for a
story and is told merely that somebody at Grove and Spring streets has
been shot. There are four corners at Grove and Spring streets, and the
shooting may have occurred, not on the corner, but at the second or
third house from any one of the four corners, and maybe in a rear
apartment. On such an assignment one should have on hand cards and
plenty of paper and pencils. Every reporter should keep several sharp,
soft lead pencils. Folded copy paper is sufficient for note-taking. The
stage journalist appears always with conspicuous pencil and notebook,
but the practical newspaper man displays these insignia of his
profession as little as possible. A neat, engraved business card is
necessary because often it is the only means of admittance to a house.
=61. Use of the Telephone
If the name of the person shot at Spring
and Grove streets has been given him, the reporter may look it up in the
telephone and city directories, in order to get some idea of the man and
his profession. If the house has a telephone, the reporter may sometimes
use this means of getting information, but this step generally is not
advisable, as the telephone cannot be trusted on important stories. A
person can ring off too easily if he prefers not to answer questions,
and his gestures and facial expressions, emphasizing or denying the
statements that his lips make, cannot be seen. The telephone is rather
to be used for running down rumors and tips, for obtaining unimportant
interviews, and for getting stories which the persons concerned wish to
have appear in the paper. If in this case the reporter has doubts about
the shooting, he may telephone to a nearby bakery or meat market to
verify the rumor, but he had better not telephone the house. Let him go
there in person.
=62. City Maps
If the reporter does not know the name of the
individual shot or the location of Grove and Spring streets, he should
consult his city map to learn precisely where he is going. If he is in a
hurry, he may examine the map on his way to the car line, or while he is
calling a taxi. Actually he ought to know the city so well that he need
not consult a map at all (and the man whose ambition is to be a
first-class reporter will soon acquire that knowledge), but to a
beginner, a map is valuable.
=63. Finding the Place
Having arrived at Grove and Spring streets,
the reporter should go first to the policeman on the beat. Unless the
shooting is one that for some reason has been hushed up, the policeman
will know all the main details. Usually, too, if approached courteously,
he will be glad to point out the house and tell what he knows. If he
knows nothing or pretends ignorance, the reporter must seek the house
itself; nor must he be discouraged if he fails to get his information at
the first, second, or third house, nor indeed after he has inquired at
every door in the adjacent blocks. There are still left the neighborhood
stores,--the groceries, bakeries, saloons, meat markets, and barber
shops,--and maybe in the last one of these, the barber shop, a customer
with his coat off, waiting for a shave, will remember that he heard
somebody say a man by the name of Davis was shot "around the corner."
But he does not know what corner, or where the man lives, or his
initials, or who gave him his information.
=64. Regular Reports to the City Editor
The reporter's first step now
is to go to the corner drugstore and examine the telephone and city
directories for every Davis living in the neighborhood. While in the
drugstore he may call up the city editor and report progress on the
story. When away on an assignment there is need always of reporting
regularly, particularly if one is working on an afternoon paper. Some
city editors require a man to telephone every hour whether he has any
news or not. A big story may break and the city editor may have nobody
to handle it, or the office may have fuller information about the story
which the reporter is investigating. Besides, on an afternoon paper
where an edition is appearing every hour or so, every fresh detail,
though small, may be of interest to readers following the story.
=65. Retracing One's Work
If no Davises are listed in the city or
telephone directories, or none of those whose names appear knows
anything of the shooting, the reporter's work of inquiry is still
unfinished. He must go back to the patrolman on the beat and inquire if
any person by the name of Davis has recently moved into the
neighborhood,--since, for instance, the last city directory was
published. Failing again, he must make once more the rounds of the
houses on or near the four corners and of the neighborhood shops,
inquiring in each instance for Mr. Davis. If there is a grocery store, a
bakery, or a laundry in the vicinity, he must be sure to inquire there,
particularly at the laundry, as the proprietors of those places are the
first to get the names of newcomers in a neighborhood. The laundries
must have names and addresses for deliveries, while housewives exchange
gossip daily in the other places between purchases of vegetables and
=66. Need of Determination
If the reporter still fails, he must not
give up even yet without first resorting to every other measure that the
special circumstances of the case make possible. There is never a story
without some way to unearth it, and every such story is potentially a
great one. A telephone message to the leading hospitals may bring
results. Inquiry at the corner houses in the four adjoining blocks may
disclose a Mr. Davis. Inquiry of the children skating along the sidewalk
may unearth him. But in any event, the reporter must not give up until
he has investigated every available clue. The city editor does not want
and will not take excuses for failures to bring back stories; he wants
=67. Gaining Access for an Interview
If at his last place of inquiry,
perhaps from one of the skating children, the reporter learns it was not
Mr. Davis at all who was shot, but Mr. Davidson, who may be found three
blocks down at Spring and Grosvenor streets, his task now immediately
changes to gaining access to Mr. Davidson, or to Mrs. Davidson, or to
some one in the building who can give him the facts. Here is where his
card may serve. If Mr. Davidson has rooms in a hotel, he may send his
card up by a bellboy; if in a club, he may give it to the porter at the
door. If the house at Spring and Grosvenor streets, however, is plainly
one where a card would be out of place, he may simply inquire for Mr.
Davidson. It is not at all improbable that Mr. Davidson was only
slightly injured and one may be permitted to see him. If, however, the
person answering the door states that Mr. Davidson cannot be seen, as he
was injured that morning, the reporter may express his interest and
inquire the cause, thus making a natural and easy step toward what
newspaper men generally consider the most difficult phase of
=68. Requirements for Interviewing
Broadly speaking, there are six
requirements for successful interviewing: a pleasing presence, the
ability to question judiciously, a quick perception of news even in
chance remarks, a retentive memory, the power to detect falsehood
readily, and the ability to single out characteristic phrases.
Technically, an interview is a consultation with a man of rank for the
sake of publishing his opinions. In practice, however, because the term
man of rank is hazy in its inclusiveness, the word has come to mean
consultation with any person for the purpose of reporting his views. And
in this sense the word interview will be used in this volume.
=69. A Pleasing Presence
The first requisite for successful
interviewing, a pleasing presence, must be interpreted broadly. In the
term are included immaculacy of person and linen, as well as tact,
courtesy, and all those qualities that make for ease of mind while
conversing. Clothes may not make a man, but the lack of them will ruin a
reporter. An unshaven face or a collar of yesterday's wear will do a
newspaper man so much harm in some persons' eyes that all the shrewd
questions he can ask during the interview will be of little value. Lack
of tact in approaching or addressing a man will have the same
unfortunate result. Many reporters think that by resorting to flattery
they can induce men to talk; then they wonder why they fail. A reporter
must keep in mind that the persons he interviews usually possess as keen
intellects as his own and mere flattery will be quickly detected and
Above all things in his purpose to present a pleasing
presence, the interviewer must possess unfailing courtesy. He must never
forget that he is a gentleman, no matter what the other person may be.
He cannot afford to permit himself even to become angry. Anger does not
pay, for two reasons. In the first place, when a reporter loses his
temper, he immediately loses his head. He becomes so absorbed in his own
emotions that he cannot question shrewdly or remember clearly what is
said by the man from whom he would extract information. In the second
place, anger creates hostility, and a hostile man or woman not only does
not willingly give information, but will be an enemy of the paper
forever afterward. Always, therefore, the interviewer must be courteous,
knowing that kindness begets kindness and that the other fellow, if
approached rightly, will respond in the end to his own mood.
=71. Asking Questions
Concerning the second requirement for
interviewing, judicious questioning, only general precepts can be given.
The reporter must rely largely on himself. As a rule, however, the
personal equation should be considered. Every man is interested in
himself and his work, and the interviewer often may start him talking by
beginning on work. The essential thing is to get some topic that will
launch him into easy, natural conversation. Then, with his man started,
the interviewer may well keep silent. Only a cub reporter will interrupt
the natural flow of conversation for the sake merely of giving his own
views. If the man runs too far afield, the reporter may guide the
conversation back to the original topic; but he may well subject himself
to much irrelevant talk for the sake of guiding his informer back
gracefully to the topic of interest.
=72. Persons Seeking Advertisement
From the standpoint of the
newspaper man, there are three classes of persons one encounters in
interviewing: those who talk, those who will not, and those who do not
know they are divulging secrets. Concerning the first little need be
said. Such persons talk because they enjoy seeing their names in print.
It is a marvel how many men and women object with seeming sincerity to
their names being made public property, yet at the same time give the
reporter full details for the story he wishes and hand him their cards
so that he may spell their names correctly. Many such celebrities will
stand for any kind of interview, so that the reporter need only
determine in advance what he would have them say to make a good story.
With them advertisement is so much personal gain; they are glad to
accede to any sort of odd statement for the sake of possible public
notice. Such persons are to be avoided; advertisements are written by
the advertising manager or his helpers and fixed prices are charged.
=73. Persons Refusing to Talk
With the second and third classes,
however, the interviewer must be careful, particularly with the second.
Men who will not talk are usually well acquainted with the world.
Sometimes they may be forced into making statements by asking them
questions that will almost certainly arouse their anger and so make them
speak hastily, but the reporter himself must be doubly careful in such
cases to keep his own temper sweet. Oftentimes such men, particularly
society criminals and others who possess an especial fear of having
their wrong-doing known among their friends, try to keep from being
written up by saying they are unwilling to make any kind of statement
for publication, but that they will do so in court if anything is
published about them. The reporter will not let such a threat daunt him.
He will get the facts and present them to the city editor with the
person's hint of criminal action, then let the city editor determine the
problem of publication.
=74. Persons Divulging Secrets
Frequently a person of the second
class may be slyly converted into the group of those who do not know
they are divulging secrets, by the reporter deliberately leading away
from the topic about which he has come for an interview, then circling
round to the hazardous subject when the person interviewed is off his
guard. Probably the most ticklish situation in all reporting is here. To
make a person tell what he knows without knowing that he is telling is
the pinnacle of the art of interviewing. As Mr. Richard Harding Davis
has so exactly expressed it:
Reporters become star reporters because they observe things that
other people miss and because they do not let it appear that
they have observed them. When the great man who is being
interviewed blurts out that which is indiscreet but most
important, the cub reporter says: "That's most interesting, sir.
I'll make a note of that." And so warns the great man into
silence. But the star reporter receives the indiscreet utterance
as though it bored him; and the great man does not know he has
blundered until he reads of it the next morning under screaming
 The Red Cross Girl, p. 7.
It is for such reasons that a quick perception of news even in chance
remarks is a requisite for interviewing. If one does not grasp instantly
the value of a bit of information, the expression of his face or his
actions will give him away later when a full realization of the worth of
the news comes to him, or else he will not be able to recall precisely
the facts given.
=75. Retentive Memory
It is for the same reason, too, that a
retentive memory is necessary. Fifty per cent of those interviewed will
be frightened at the sight of a notebook. And all men become cautious
when they realize that their statements are being taken down word for
word. The reporter must correlate properly and keep firmly in mind the
facts gleaned in the interview, then get as quickly as possible to some
place where he can record what he has learned. Many an interviewer will
listen a half-hour without taking a note, then spend the next half-hour
on a horse-block or a curb writing down what the person interviewed has
said. Other reporters with shorter memories carry pencil stubs and bits
of specially cut white cardboard, and while looking the interviewed man
in the eye, take down statistics and characteristic phrases on the
cards. Some even, as on the stage and in the moving pictures, take
occasional notes on their cuffs,--all this in an effort to make the one
interviewed talk unrestrainedly.
=76. Use of Shorthand
A word may be said here concerning shorthand.
Its use in interviewing and in general news reports should not be too
much encouraged, even when a man is entirely willing to have his exact
words recorded. Often it deadens the presentation of news. Shorthand has
its value as far as accuracy and record of occasional statements are
concerned, and may well be used, but its too faithful use has a tendency
to take from news stories the imagination that is necessary for a
complete and truthful presentation. The stenographic reporter becomes so
intent upon the words of the person he is quoting that he misses the
spirit of the interview and is liable to produce a formal, lifeless
story. The reporter may well use shorthand as a walking cane, but not as
=77. Precise Questions in Interviews
If one finds exactness of
statement a requisite, one may obtain shorthand results by bringing
along a sheet of typewritten questions for submission to the person
interviewed. These questions the person must answer definitely or else
evade, in either case furnishing story material. But whether a reporter
comes armed with such a list of questions or not, he must at least have
definitely in mind the exact purpose of his visit and the precise
questions he wants answered. In the majority of cases the reason that
interviewers meet with such unwelcome receptions from great men is that
the latter are too busy to waste time with pottering reporters.
Certainly the men themselves say so. President Wilson declares that of
the visitors to the White House not one in ten knows precisely why he
has come, states definitely what he wants, and leaves promptly when he
has finished. Such persons are an annoyance to busy men and women, and
the newspaper man who can dispatch quickly the business of his visit
will more likely meet with a favorable reception next time.
=78. Learning a Man's Career
As an aid to interviewing prominent men,
whether one typewrites one's questions in advance or merely determines
what in general one will ask, the reporter should have a good general
knowledge of the man's career and what he has accomplished in his
particular field, so that the noted man may not be forced to go too much
into detail to make his conversation clear to the interviewer. Some men
seem annoyed when asked to explain technical terms or to review
well-known incidents in their lives. Such facts may be obtained from the
files of the morgue, from encyclopedias, from the Who's Who volumes,
and from local men associated in the same kind of work. Frequently one
will find it advisable to consult the city editor and other members of
the staff, as well as local or less known men, by way of preparation for
interviewing a prominent visitor.
=79. Ability to Detect Falsehood
The fifth requirement for successful
interviewing, and the last to be discussed in this chapter, is the
ability to detect falsehood readily. All persons who talk for
publication speak with a purpose. Sometimes they talk for
self-exploitation; occasionally they wish to pay a grudge against
another man. Sometimes their purpose is what they say it is; often it is
not. Sometimes they tell the exact truth; frequently they do not, even
when they think they are speaking truthfully. It may seem odd, but it is
true that comparatively few of the persons one questions about even the
most commonplace occurrences can give unbiased reports of events. They
were too much excited over the affair to observe accurately, or they are
too much prejudiced for or against the persons involved to witness
judicially. The reporter, therefore, must take into consideration their
mental caliber and every possible motive they may have for acting or
speaking as they do. If the person who met the reporter a moment ago at
Mr. Davidson's door was his wife and she refused to talk about the
shooting, or said he was not shot, she evidently had a motive for her
statement. And if the woman next door recounts with too much relish and
in too high-pitched tones the cat-and-dog life of the Davidsons or their
declared intentions each of killing the other, the reporter had better
take care. She is probably venting an old-time grudge against her
neighbors, whose son last month broke a window-pane in her house.
Countless libel suits might have been avoided had the reporters been
able to detect falsehood more readily.
 The value of characteristic phrases and gestures
in the interview is discussed on page 130.
=80. Questioning Everyone
Because of these sharp discrepancies in
men's natures and the fact that everyone sees an event from his own
individual angle, it is necessary for a reporter to question everybody
in any way connected with a story. He should see not only Mr. and Mrs.
Davidson, if possible, but other witnesses of the shooting,
acquaintances in the neighborhood, the servants in the house, and anyone
else, no matter how humble, likely in any way to be connected with or to
have knowledge of the occurrence. Oftentimes a janitor, a maid, or a
chauffeur will divulge facts that the mistress or the detective bureau
would not disclose for large sums of money. Frequently a child in the
yard or on the back steps will give invaluable information. This is
particularly true when the older persons are attempting to conceal facts
or are too much excited from a death or an accident to talk. Children
usually are less unstrung by distressing events and can give a more
connected account. Moreover, they are almost always willing to talk, and
they generally try to tell the truth.
=81. A Person's Previous Record
It is also well to inquire
particularly about the past history or the previous record of the person
involved. If the woman is a divorcee or the man an ex-convict, or if one
of the children previously has been arraigned in police court for
delinquency, or if any one of the participants has ever been drawn into
public notice, such items will be worth much in identifying the
characters in the story. If the man whose house is burning lost another
house, well insured, a year ago; if the widow has married secretly her
chauffeur two months after her husband's sudden death from ptomaine
poisoning; if the man who spoke last night was the preacher who declared
all protestant churches will some day return to the confessional;--if
such facts can be obtained, they will add greatly to the interest and
the value of the story, and the reporter should make every effort to
obtain them. Their interest lies, of course, either in the fact that
they aid the public in identifying the persons, or that they provide
material for interesting conjectures as to probable results. Sometimes,
indeed, this correlation of present and past facts grows so important
that it becomes the main story.
=82. Full Details
While questioning different persons in an attempt
to get all the facts, one should take care to record all details. It is
far easier to throw away unneeded material when writing up the events
than to return to the scene for neglected information. In particular,
one should learn the name and address of every person in any way
connected with the story, no matter how much trouble it may require to
get the information. A man who is merely incidental at the beginning of
the inquiry may prove of prime importance an hour later or in the
follow-up next day. Even the telephone number of persons likely in any
way to become prominent--or where such persons may be reached by
telephone--should be obtained. For, try as one will to get all the
facts, one often needs to get additional information after returning to
the office. In such a plight, it is of great value to know where a man
may be reached who does not have a telephone in his own home. Pictures,
too, of the persons concerned are valuable. The news-reading public
likes illustrations, and whether the photograph is or is not used, it is
easily returnable by next day's mail. All papers promise to return
=83. Getting Names Correctly
It would seem unnecessary to urge the
necessity of getting initials and street addresses and of spelling
names correctly; yet so many newspaper men err here that specific
attention must be directed to it. Numerous libel suits have been started
because a reporter got an initial or a street address wrong and there
happened to be in the city another person with the printed name and
street address. Even if the story does not contain cause for libel, a
person whose name has been misspelled never quite forgives a journal for
getting it wrong. The reporter should remember that many of the Smiths
in the world are Smythes in print and many of the Catherines spell it
Katharyne in the city directory. And such persons are sensitive.
In covering speeches the reporter should make an effort
to get advance copies of what the speaker intends to say,--and a
photograph of him if he is an important personage. A large per cent of
the impassioned and seemingly spontaneous bursts of oratory that one
hears on church, lecture, and political platforms are but verbal
reproductions of typewritten manuscript in the speaker's inside coat
pocket, and if the newspaper man will ask for carbon copies of the
oratory, the lecturer will be glad to provide them in advance,--in order
to have himself quoted correctly. He will also be glad to provide the
photograph. These advance copies of speeches are called "release"
stories. That is, they are marked at the top of the first page,
"Release, June 12, 9:30 P.M.," meaning that no publication shall be made
of that material before 9:30 P.M. of June 12. Newspapers always regard
scrupulously a release date, and a reporter need never hesitate to give
his word that publication of speeches, messages, and reports will be
withheld until after delivery. An editor of a paper in the Middle West
once thought to scoop the world by printing the President's message to
Congress the evening before its delivery, but he was so promptly barred
from the telegraphic wires thereafter that he paid dearly for his
violation of professional honor. With these advance copies of speeches
in his possession the reporter may write at his own convenience his
account of the lecture; or if he is rushed--and has the permission of
the city editor--he may even stay away from the meeting. On the other
hand, if the speaker is of national importance, it may be well to
consult with the city editor about going out fifty miles or more to
catch the train on which the distinguished guest is coming. In this way
one can have an interview ready for publication by the time the great
man arrives and sometimes can obtain a valuable scoop on rival papers.
=85. Attending Lectures.= Where one is not able to get a typewritten
copy of a speech, the only alternative is to attend the lecture.
Newspaper men usually are provided with free tickets, which they should
obtain in advance, as the rush of the lecture hour throws unexpected
duties on those responsible for the program, and one may sometimes be
considerably inconvenienced in getting an admission card. Inside there
is generally a table close to the platform, where newspaper men may
write comfortably. If the reporter has been given an advance copy of the
speech, he should listen closely for any variations from the typewritten
manuscript, as speakers in the excitement resulting from the applause or
disapproval of the audience often lose their heads and make indiscreet
statements or disclose state secrets that furnish the best story
material for the paper next morning. If one does not have an advance
copy, one should attempt to get the speech by topics, with occasional
verbatim passages of particularly pithy or dynamic passages. As in the
case of interviews, it is better not to attempt to take too much of the
lecture word for word. The significance, the spirit of the address is of
greater worth than mere literalness. If the city editor wants a verbatim
report, he will send a stenographer.
=86. A Newspaper Man's Honor
In conclusion, emphasis may be laid on
the reporter's attitude toward obtaining news. He must go after a story
with the determination to get it and to get it honorably. Once he has
started after an item, he must not give up until he has succeeded. But
he must succeed with honor. Stories are rampant over the United States
of newspaper men stealing through basement windows at night, listening
at keyholes, bribing jurymen to break their oath, and otherwise
transgressing the limits of law and honor. But the day of such
reportorial methods has passed. To-day a newspaper expects every man on
its staff to be a gentleman. It wants no lawbreakers or sneaks. Stories
must be obtained honestly and written up honestly. The man who fakes a
story or willfully distorts facts for the sake of injuring a man or
making a good news article will be discharged from any reputable
newspaper in America. And he ought to be.
VIII. ORGANIZATION OF THE STORY
=87. On the Way to the Office
The organization of the news material
before beginning to write makes for speed, accuracy, and interest. On
the way back to the office the reporter must employ his time as
profitably as when getting the news, so that when he enters the city
room he may have his facts arranged for developing into story form and
may be able to hang his article on the city editor's hook in the
briefest time possible.
Next to accuracy, speed is a newspaper man's most valuable
asset. Some journalists even put speed first, and Mr. Thomas Herbert
Warren but voiced the opinion of many of the fraternity when he wrote,
Thrice blessed he whose statements we can trust,
But four times he who gets his news in fust.
When the reporter starts back to the office, he has in his pocket a mass
of jumbled facts, most of which have a bearing on the prospective story,
but many of which have not. Even those facts that are relevant are
scattered confusedly among the different sheets, so that in order to
write his story he must first rearrange his notes entirely. He may
regroup these mentally while writing, by jumping with his eye up and
down the pages, hunting on the backs of some sheets, and twisting his
head sideways to get notes written crosswise on others. But all this
takes valuable time,--so much, indeed, that the wise reporter will have
on hand, either in his mind or on paper, a definite plan for his story.
That the reorganization of one's notes preparatory to
writing will aid accuracy of statement and of presentation needs little
argument. To paraphrase Herbert Spencer's words on reading: A reporter
has at each moment but a limited amount of mental power available. To
recognize and interpret the facts recorded in his notes requires part of
his power; to strike in ordered sequence the typewriter keys that will
put those facts on paper requires an additional part; and only that part
which remains can be used for putting his ideas into forceful, accurate
sentences. Hence, the more time and attention it takes to read and
understand one's notes, the less time and attention can be given to
expressing the ideas, and the less vividly will those ideas be
presented. Moreover, when a writer attempts to compose from jumbled
notes, because of his attention being riveted on expressing clearly and
forcefully what he has jotted down, he is liable to include in his story
facts that do not properly belong there, or to omit some illegibly
written but important item, and so fail to present the incidents fairly
Finally, the third reason for ordering one's notes
carefully before writing is to insure interest to the reader. The same
story almost always can be presented in several different ways. Every
story, too, must possess a specific point, a raison d'etre: as, the
heinousness of the crime, the cleverness of the brigands, the loneliness
of the widow. This point of the story, this angle from which the
reporter writes, is determined largely by the writer's selection of
details, which in turn is dominated by the policy of the paper and the
interest of the readers. If the paper and its patrons care particularly
for humorous stories, certain dolorous facts are omitted or placed in
unimportant positions, and the readers have a fair but amusing view of
the occurrence. If they favor sob stories, the same incident, by a
different selection or arrangement of details, may be made pathetic. But
the reporter must select his details with such a purpose in mind. And
unless he has some such definite motive and has so organized his
material before beginning to write, he will present a more or less
prosaic narrative of events with little specific appeal to the reader.
Of course, one oftentimes is too rushed to take so much care in
preparation for writing. Frequently, indeed, a reporter cannot wait
until he can get back to the office, but must telephone the facts in to
a rewrite man, who will put them into story form. But it is fair to say
that the discerning reporter never idles away his time in the smoking
compartment of the car when returning with a story. His mind is, and
should be, engrossed with the story, which he should strive to make so
good that it will appear on the front page of the paper.
=91. Four Orders of Organization
In organizing material for writing,
one may adopt any one or a combination of four different orders: time
order, space order, climactic order, complex order. Of these, probably
ninety-five per cent of all the news stories published are organized on
the time order or a combination of it with one or more of the other
three. Of the remaining three, probably four per cent of the stories are
written in the climactic order, leaving only about one per cent for the
space and complex orders. Numerous articles, of course, are a
combination of two or more of these orders.
=92. Time Order
The time order is a simple chronological arrangement
of the incidents, as illustrated in the following:
=BOY BURNS TOES IN BED=
Fearing the wrath of his father, Kenneth Cavert,
5-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. George Cavert, Rankin
and Franklin streets, suffered in silence while fire
in his bed Friday evening painfully burned two of
his toes and caused severe burns on his body.
The lad went to bed shortly after dark Friday
evening. About a half-hour later he went downstairs
for a drink. A few minutes later he went down again
for a drink.
Shortly afterward Mr. and Mrs. Cavert smelled cloth
burning in the house, and going upstairs to
investigate, found the boy in bed, wide awake, the
blankets in flames, which surrounded the lad and had
already seared his toes. One of the bed rails was
burned almost in two and the bed clothing ruined.
The lad afterward said he went downstairs to get a
mouthful of water to spit on the flames. "I spit as
hard as I could," said he, "but I couldn't put out
Although he will not tell how the fire started, it
is supposed he was playing with matches.
 Appleton (Wisconsin) Daily Post, October 14, 1915.
=93. Space Order
The space order explains itself, being nothing else
than descriptive writing. The following story of the Eastland disaster
in 1915 illustrates the space order:
=VICTIMS' PROPERTY LISTED=
A line of showcases extends down the center of the
public hearing room on the first floor of the city
hall. Arranged for display are a hundred or more
cameras of all sizes, thermos bottles, purses, hand
bags, and even a snare drum.
Around the room are racks on which are hanging
cloaks and coats, here a red sweater, there a white
corduroy cloak. Under them are heaps of hats, mostly
men's straw, obviously of this year's make. There
are several hundred women's headgear, decorated with
feathers and ribbons.
Along one side are piled suit cases and satchels,
open for inspection. They are packed for departure
with toothbrushes and toothpaste, packages of gum,
tobacco and books. A dozen baseball bats are leaning
against one of the pillars near the end of the
showcase. There are several uniforms to be worn by
bandmen. In the extreme corner, surrounded by
hundreds of shoes, of all kinds, is a collapsible
De Witt C. Cregier, city collector, stood behind one
of the showcases yesterday afternoon, with a
jeweler's glass, examining bits of ornament.
Piled before him in long rows were envelops. One by
one, he or his assistants dumped the contents on the
glass case and read off descriptions of each article
to a stenographer:
"One pocket mirror, picture of girl on back; one
amethyst filigree pendant; one round gold embossed
bracelet; gold bow eye-glasses; Hawthorne club badge
attached to fob; two $1 bills."
As the articles were listed they were put back into
the envelops. Had it not been for one circumstance,
it might have been a pawnshop inventory.
There was the jewelry worth more than $10,000,
articles for personal use, and musical instruments.
But under the long rows of coats, hats, and shoes,
there was a pool of water. It dripped from the red
sweater onto a straw hat beneath. It fell into shoes
and the place smelled of wet leather.
When the bodies of those who perished in the
Eastland disaster were removed from the water,
their clothing and jewelry were taken by the police
and tabulated. There was no space in the custodian's
office; so he hastily fitted up the public
hearing-room, brought in showcases and had
carpenters build racks for the clothing....
 Chicago Tribune, July 26, 1915.
=94. Climactic Order
The climactic order is that in which the
incidents are so arranged that the reader shall not know the outcome
until he reaches the last one or two sentences. The following story,
though brief, illustrates well the climactic order of arrangement:
=VALUED A DRESS ABOVE LIFE=
First, there was the young man. One night, while
they were on the way to a movie, Ambrosia noticed
the young man was looking rather critically at her
When one is 17 and lives in a big city where there
are any number of girls just as good looking,
besides a lot who are better looking, it is a
serious matter when a young man begins to look
critically at one's dress.
Particularly is it serious when the acquisition of a
new dress is a matter of much painstaking planning;
of dispensing with this or that at luncheon; of
walking to work every day instead of only when the
weather is fine; and of other painful sacrifices.
Ambrosia didn't say anything. She pretended she
hadn't noticed the young man's look. But that night,
in her room on East Thirteenth Street, Ambrosia
indulged in some higher mathematics. It might as
well be vouchsafed here that the address on East
Thirteenth Street is 1315, and that Ambrosia's name
is Dallard, and that she is an operator for the Bell
Telephone Company. The net result of her
calculations was that, no matter how hard she saved,
she wouldn't be able to buy a new dress until
December or January. Meanwhile,--but Ambrosia knew
there couldn't be any meanwhile. She had to have
Ambrosia found a card, and on it was the name of a
firm which ardently assured her it wanted to afford
her credit. Then there was a little something about
a dollar down and a dollar a week until paid for.
So Ambrosia got her dress. It had cost her $1, and
it would be entirely hers when she had paid $14
more. Ambrosia wore it to a movie and the young man
admiringly informed her she "was all dolled up." And
everyone was happy.
One never can tell about dresses, though;
particularly $15 ones. One night, when Ambrosia was
wearing the new possession for the third time, it
developed a long rip. The cloth was defective.
Ambrosia took the dress back. The installment firm
was sorry, but could do nothing, and of course the
firm expected her to keep paying for it.
Ambrosia left the dress, and went back to her old
one. The young man noticed it the next time they
went out together. Shortly afterward, when he should
have called, he didn't. A collector for the
installment house did, though. Meanwhile, Ambrosia
was saving to buy another dress. She was quite
emphatic about the bill from the installment
house--she wouldn't pay it.
Once in awhile she saw the young man, but she didn't
care for more calls until the new dress was
Tuesday it looked as if everything would come out
all right. She had $9 saved. Wednesday she would
draw her salary--$6. She knew where she could buy
just what she wanted for $12.50. It was much better
looking than the old dress and better material. She
even made an anticipatory engagement with the young
Wednesday came--Ambrosia went to draw her salary.
The installment house had garnisheed it.
To-day Ambrosia's job is being kept open by the
telephone company, and it is thought some
arrangement may be made by which the installment
house will not garnishee her salary next week.
At the General Hospital she is reported as resting
well. She was taken there in an ambulance yesterday
afternoon after trying to kill herself by inhaling
 Kansas City Star, January 1, 1917.
=95. Complex Order
The complex order, sometimes called the order of
increasing complication, is that in which the writer proceeds from the
known to the unknown. Generally a story following this method of
organization is nothing else than simple exposition. The following
Associated Press story illustrates the type:
=AERIAL TORPEDO BOAT INVENTED=
[By Associated Press.]
Washington, July 22.--An aerial torpedo boat for
attack on ships in protected harbors is projected,
it was learned to-day, in patents just issued to
Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske, now attached to the
navy war college, but formerly aid for operations to
The plan contemplates equipping a monster aeroplane,
similar to a number now under construction in this
country for the British government, with a Whitehead
torpedo of regulation navy type.
Swooping down at a distance of five sea miles from
the object of attack, the air craft would drop its
deadly passenger into the water just as it would
have been launched from a destroyer. The impact sets
the torpedo's machinery in motion and it is off at a
speed of more than forty knots an hour toward the
Admiral Fiske believes the flying torpedo boat would
make it possible to attack a fleet even within a
landlocked harbor. The range of the newest navy
torpedoes is ten thousand yards and even the older
types will be effective at seven thousand yards.
Carried on a huge aeroplane, the 2,000 pound weapon
would be taken over harbor defenses at an altitude
safe from gunfire. Once over the bay, the machine
would glide down to within ten or twenty feet of
water, the torpedo rudders would be set and it would
be dropped to do its work while the aeroplane arose
and sped away.
 Minneapolis Tribune, July 22, 1915.
=96. Climactic Order Difficult
Of the four organization plans, the
hardest by far to develop is the climactic order, which should be
avoided by young reporters. This method of arrangement is on the
short-story order, and the beginner will find it difficult to group his
incidents so that each shall lead up to and explain those following and
at the same time add to the reader's interest. Some papers as yet admit
only rarely the story developed climactically, but it is growing in
popularity and the reporter should know how to handle it.
=97. Important Details
With the climactic order of arrangement
eliminated, the reporter is practically limited to the simple time
order, or a combination of it with one of the other two kinds,--which is
the normal type of story. But he must keep in mind one other factor,--to
place the most important details first and the least important last.
There are two reasons why this method of arrangement is necessary. In
the first place, readers want all the main
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