Follow-ups Rewrites

=260. "Follow-ups."=--"Rewrites" and "follow-up" stories are news

stories which have appeared in print. The distinction between the two is

that "follow-ups" contain news in addition to that of the story first

printed, while "rewrites" are only revisions. Few news stories are

complete on their first appearance. New features develop; motives,

causes, and unlooked-for results come to light in a way that is

oftentimes amazing. Sometimes these facts appear within a few hours;

again they are days in developing; and occasionally, after they have

developed, the story will "follow" for weeks, months, and even years

without losing its interest. The Thaw, Becker, and Charlton stories ran

for years. The first item about the Titanic disaster was a bulletin of

less than half a stick; yet the story ran for months.

=261. Constructive Side of "Follow-ups."=--A reporter, therefore, must

not consider a story ended until he has run to ground all the

possibilities or until the new facts have ceased to be of interest to a

large body of readers. Indeed, it is in the "follow-up" that the

reporter has one of his greatest opportunities to prove himself a

constructive journalist. There is every reason, too, for believing it

will be in the "follow-up" that the big newspaper of the future will

find its greatest development. At present, stories often are dropped too

quickly, so quickly that the really constructive news is lost. A great

epidemic sweeps a city, taking an unprecedented toll of life and

entailing expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars. All the

reporters grind out pages and pages of copy about the plague, but few

follow the physicians and scientists through the coming weeks and

months in their unflagging determination to learn the causes of the

disease, to effect cures, and to prevent a recurrence of it as an

epidemic. Yet such news is constructive and is of greater value probably

to the readers than the somewhat sensational figures of the plague. For

the scientists will conquer in the end, and all along the way their

improved methods of cure and prevention will be of educational value to

the public. So also with strikes, wrecks, fires, commercial panics,

graft and crime exposures, etc.; the reporter is advised to follow the

story through the weeks to come, not necessarily writing of it all the

while, but holding it in prospect for the constructive news that is sure

to follow.

=262. Following up a Story

The first story which the new reporter

will have to follow up he will some day find stuck behind the platen of

his typewriter. It will have been put there by one of the copy-readers

who has read the local papers of the preceding morning or afternoon and

has clipped this article as one promising further developments. The

first thing to do is to read the whole story carefully. (As a matter of

fact, the reporter really should have read and should be familiar with

the story already. Familiarity with all the news is expected of

newspaper men at all times.) Then he should look to see if the reporter

writing the story has played up the real features. In his haste to get

the news into print, the other reporter may have missed the main

feature. A delightful case in point is a "follow-up" of an indifferent

story appearing in a New York morning paper:

Because they were penniless and hungry, Charles

Ewart, 31 years old, and his wife Emily, living at

646 St. Nicholas Avenue, were arrested yesterday in

the grocery store of Jacob Bosch, 336 St. Nicholas

Avenue, charged with shoplifting. When arrested by

Detective Taczhowski, who had trailed them all the

way from a downtown department store, seven eggs and

a box of figs were found in Mrs. Ewart's handsome

blue fox muff....

But the cause of the couple's pilfering was not poverty or hunger, as

was shown by a clever writer on the New York World who covered the

story that afternoon. Here is his write-up, in which the reader should

note the entire change of tone and the happy handling of the human

interest features:


Mrs. Emily Ewart, slender, petite, pretty, sat in

the police department to-day, tossed back her blue

fox neckpiece, patted her moist eyes with a

lace-embroidered handkerchief, carefully adjusted in

her lap the handsome fox muff which the police say

had but lately been the repository of seven eggs and

a box of figs, and told how she and her husband

happened to be arrested last evening as shoplifters.

As she talked, her husband, Charles Ewart,

thirty-one years old, sat disconsolately in a cell,

his modish green overcoat somewhat wrinkled, the

careful creases in his gray trousers a bit less

apparent, and his up-to-the-minute gray fedora a

trifle out of shape and dusty. Nevertheless, he

still retained the mien of dignity with which he met

his arrest in the grocery store of Jacob Bosch at

No. 336 St. Nicholas Avenue.

Of course, you understand, it was really Mrs.

Ewart's fault that she and her husband should stoop

to pilfering from a hardworking grocer eggs worth 42

cents (at their market value of 72 cents a dozen)

and a box of figs, net value one dime. At least, so

she told the police. She too, she said, led him to

appropriate a travelling bag worth $10 from a

downtown department store.

If it hadn't been for her, young Mr. Ewart might

have gone right along earning his so much per week

soliciting theatre curtain advertisements for the

Bentley Studios, at No. 1493 Broadway, and might

never have run afoul of the police.

The Ewarts, so the young woman's story ran, came

here from Chicago two weeks ago. Of their life in

the Western city she refused to tell anything. But

since coming to New York, she admitted, they had

travelled a hard financial road.

Detective Taczkowski's attention was first called to

Ewart in a downtown department store yesterday

afternoon, when Ewart tried to return a travelling

bag which he said his wife had bought for $10.

Investigation of the store's records showed Mrs.

Ewart had bought a bag for $3.95, but that the $10

bag had been stolen. Ewart was put off on a

technicality and the detective followed him when he

left the store. Outside Ewart was met by his wife.

Into the subway Taczkowski shadowed them and at last

the trail led to the Bosch grocery on St. Nicholas


In the store, Taczkowski kept his eyes on Mrs.

Ewart, in her modish gown and furs, while Ewart

engaged a clerk in conversation. Suddenly,

Taczkowski alleges, he saw an egg worth six cents

disappear from a crate into Mrs. Ewart's handsome

fur muff. Another egg followed, and another, he

says, until, like the children of the poem, they

were seven. When a box of figs followed the eggs,

Taczkowski says, he arrested the pair.

A search of the Ewarts' apartment at No. 646 St.

Nicholas Avenue, the police say, revealed a great

quantity of men's and women's clothing of the finest

variety. Mrs. Ewart, the police say, admitted she

had stolen the blue fox furs from a downtown store

and the police expect to identify much of the

handsome clothing found in the apartment as stolen


"We were hungry and had no money," Mrs. Ewart sobbed

at police headquarters. "We had all that clothing,

but not a cent to buy food. I am the one to blame,

for I encouraged my husband to steal."

Ewart and his wife were arraigned in Yorkville Court

before Magistrate Harris to-day and were held in

$500 bail each for further examination.[47]

[47] New York Evening World, November 11, 1915.

=263. New Facts

Generally in the "follow-up" it is the newly learned

facts that are featured. In the case of a sudden death, for instance,

it would be the funeral arrangements; in a railway wreck, the

investigation and the placing of blame. The following stories


=Story in a Morning Paper=

Dashing through a rain-storm with lightning flashes

blinding him, William H. Blanchard, manager for the

Wells Fargo Express Company, drove his automobile

off the approach of the open State Street bridge

to-night and was drowned. Otto Eller, teacher of

manual training in the West Side High School,

escaped by leaping into the river. Eller says the

warning lights were not displayed at the bridge.

When the automobile was recovered, it was shown that

the car was not moving fast, as it had barely

dropped off the abutment, a few feet from shore. The

bridge was open because its operating equipment had

been put out of order by a stroke of lightning.

=The Follow-up=

The body of William H. Blanchard, manager of the

Wells Fargo Express Company, who lost his life when

he drove an automobile into an open drawbridge, was

recovered this morning about 100 feet from where the

accident occurred.

Investigations have been started by the coroner and

friends to place the blame for the accident. The

electrical mechanism of the bridge was out of

commission on account of a storm and it was being

operated by hand. Spectators declare no warning

lights were on the bridge.

=264. Results Featured

Frequently the lead to the follow-up features

the results effected by the details of the earlier story:

=Original Story=

The total yield of the leading cereal crops of the

United States this year will be nearly 1,000,000,000

bushels less than last year. The government

estimates of the crop issued to-day showed

sensational losses in the spring wheat crop in the

Northwest, a further shrinkage in winter wheat, and

big losses compared to a month ago and last year in

corn and oats.

Both barley and rye figures also indicate greater

losses compared to a year ago than were shown in the

July government report.

=The Follow-up Next Day=

American wheat pits had a day of turmoil to-day such

as they have not seen since the stirring times when

war was declared in Europe.

Influenced by the startling government report

showing enormous losses in the spring wheat crop,

prices soared even more sharply than the wiseacres

had anticipated.

They were 5 to 8 cents higher when the gong struck,

the report, released after the close of 'change

Tuesday, having had its effect over night. At the

close they registered a gain of from 10-5/8 to

11-3/8 cents for the day. Wheat had gone above $1.50

a bushel. Two months ago it was around $1.05.

=265. Probable Results

Where no more important details can be

learned, it sometimes is wise to feature probable results.

A break in diplomatic relations between the United

States and Germany as a result of the torpedoing of

the Lusitania by a German submarine is the expressed

belief to-day of high Washington officials.

=266. Clues for Identification

In stories of crime, when the

offenders have escaped, the lead to the follow-up may begin with clues

for establishing the identity of the criminals.

If a piano tuner about forty years of age, wearing a

pair of silver spectacles and accompanied by a

petite, brown-eyed girl twenty years his junior,

comes to your house for work, telephone the Boston

police. They are the two, it is alleged, who robbed

the Mather apartments yesterday.

=267. Featuring Lack of News

In rare cases the very fact that there

is no additional news is worth featuring.

Up to a late hour to-night nothing had been heard of

Henry O. Mallory, prosecuting attorney in the Howard

murder case, who disappeared yesterday on his way to


=268. Opinions of Prominent Persons

An otherwise unimportant follow

story may sometimes be made a good one by interviewing prominent persons

and localizing the reader's interest in men or women he knows.

That the new eugenics law passed by the state

legislature of Wisconsin yesterday is doomed to

failure from the start, is the opinion of Health

Commissioner Shannon, who was in Madison when the

final vote was taken.

=269. Summary of Opinions

Sometimes, indeed, it is well to interview

a number of local persons and make the lead a summary of their views.

Widely different opinions were expressed by

prominent physicians, professors, clergymen, and

social workers throughout this city to-day on the

ethics of the course taken by Dr. H. J. Haiselden of

Chicago in allowing the defective son of a patient

to die.

=270. Connecting Links

In all these stories, the reader should note,

sufficient explanatory matter has been included to connect the incidents

readily with the events of the preceding days. This is important in

every follow-up; for always many readers will have missed the earlier

stories and consequently will need definite connection to relate the new

events with preceding occurrences. It is also important for these

connecting links to be included in, or to follow immediately after, the

lead, because they give the reader necessary facts for understanding the

new information--give him his bearings, as it were,--without which he

will not read far into the story.

=271. "Rewrites."=--While most stories are not complete on their first

appearance, it sometimes happens, nevertheless, that the first

publication of an item contains all the facts of interest to a paper's

readers and that priority of publication has been gained by another

journal. Yet the story will be of interest to the readers of one's own

paper and must be published. It is the duty of the rewrite man to handle

such a story, and to handle it in such a way that it shall bear no

resemblance to the story published by the other paper. For this reason

the most skillful reporters on a daily are the rewrite men. They must

find new features for old stories, or new angles of view, or new

relations of some kind between the various details.

=272. Bringing a Story up to the Minute

The first requisite in

rewriting is the necessity of making old news new, of bringing it up to

the minute. No matter when the events occurred, they must be presented

to the reader so that they shall seem current. Currency is all but a

necessity to life, vigor, interest in a yesterday's event. Here is an

item of news in point. Suppose the following story from an afternoon

paper is given a reporter on a morning daily:

Charged with running his car thirty miles an hour,

Dr. Harry O. Smith, prominent city physician with

offices in the Vincennes Building, was arrested on

Kentucky Street this afternoon by Motorcycle

Policeman DuPre. After giving bonds for his

appearance to-morrow, Dr. Smith left in his machine

for Linwood, where he was going when stopped by

Policeman DuPre.

Concerning his arrest Dr. Smith refused to make any

other statement than that he was on his way to see a


The reporter cannot see Dr. Smith to obtain additional facts, because

the doctor is out of town. Nor can he expect any more news, since the

case will not come up until some hours after his paper will have been in

the hands of its readers. It is also against journalistic rules to begin

with "Dr. Smith was arrested yesterday." That yesterday must be

eliminated from the lead. Here is the method one rewrite man used to

get out of the difficulty:

Even doctors will not be allowed to break the city

speed laws if one Cincinnati motorcycle policeman

has his way.

Another way in which he might have avoided the troublesome yesterday

would be:

One of the first cases on police docket this morning

will be the hearing of Dr. Harry O. Smith, prominent

Cincinnati physician with offices in the Vincennes

building, who was arrested on a charge of speeding

yesterday by Policeman DuPre.

Or he might have begun:

Whether the life of a sick patient is worth more

than that of a healthy pedestrian may be decided in

police court this morning.

In each of these rewrites it will be noted that the story has been

brought down to the time of the appearance of the paper.

=273. New Features

The next thing to seek in the story to be

rewritten is a new feature. Generally this is obtained in bringing the

story up to date. If not, the reporter may examine, as in the

"follow-up," to see whether the first story plays up the best feature,

or whether it does not contain another feature equally good, or one

possibly entirely overlooked. Failing here, he may look forward to

probable developments, as an investigation following a wreck, a search

by the police following a burglary, or an arraignment and trial

following an arrest. Failing again, he may consider whether some cause

or motive or agency for the fire or divorce or crime may not have gone

unnoticed by the other man. Or best of all, he may try to relate the

incident with similar events occurring recently, as in the case of a

number of fires, burglaries, or explosions coming close upon each

other. Whatever course he chooses, he should use his imagination to

good advantage, taking care always to make his rewrite truthful. Here is

the way a few rewrite men have presented their new old stories:

Result Featured


The question whether his life should have been

fought for or whether it was right to let him die is

over, so far as the tiny, unnamed, six-days-old

defective son of Mrs. Anna Bollinger is concerned.

The child died at the German-American hospital,

Chicago, at 7:30 last night, with Dr. H. J.

Haiselden, chief of the hospital staff, standing

firmly to his position that he could not use his

science to prolong the life of so piteously

afflicted a creature.

Connection with Preceding Events


The wild man who has been frightening school

children of Yonkers, scaring hunters in the woods,

and causing hurry calls to the police from timid

housewives, has been captured by the reserves of the

Second precinct. He was caught last night in Belmont

woods, near the Empire City race track.

Entirely New Feature Played Up


Ruth Camilla Fisher knew a country wherein her

beauty was specie of the realm. It was bounded by

the ninth and twelfth birthdays. Its inhabitants

consisted of Fritz, an adoring dachshund; "papa,"

who was a member of the school board and a great

man; and innumerable gruff little boys, who,

ostensibly ignorant of her observation, spat through

vacant front teeth and turned gorgeous somersaults

for her admiration. She was happy and the jealous

green complexion of the feminine part of her world

bothered her not at all.

And unsuspectingly Ruth came singing across the

borders of her ain countree to the alien land of

knowledge and disillusionment. Though she knew she

came from God, it was gradually borne upon her that

her girl-mother wandered a little way on the path of

the Magdalenes.

She was an interloper who had no gospel sanction in

the world, no visible parents other than a

foster-father and a foster-mother. Perfectly

respectable little girls began to inform her so with

self-righteous airs and with the expertness of

surgeons to dissect her from the social scheme that

governs puss-wants-a-corner with the same iron rule

that in later life determines who shall be asked to

play bridge and who shall be outlawed.

"Your parents aren't your own," was the taunt that

Ruth heard from playmates. Some of the little girls

added the poison of sympathy to the information. And

Ruth Camilla Fisher at 12 found herself a stranger

in a strange land.

She extradited herself Tuesday night with a revolver

shot in the temple. In the yard back of her

foster-parents' home at 5319 West Twenty-fifth

Street, Cicero, with one arm around the loyal Fritz,

she put the revolver to her head and pressed the


[48] Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1915.


The modern dance craze has brought a lot of

informality into a heretofore very proper Chicago.

Women whose husbands work during the daytime have

considered it not at all improper to flock to the

afternoon the dansants in many downtown cafes, there

to fox-trot and one-step with good-looking strangers

whose introduction--if there was an

introduction--was procured in a sort of professional


Probable Effect

Consequently there were about forty women in Chicago

who verged on total collapse yesterday if they

chanced to read of the terrible experience of Mrs.

Mercedes Fullenwider of 5432 Kimbark Avenue.

Probable Motive


If a finger print can tell a story, the police may

be able to prove by to-morrow night that pretty

Elsie Thomas, whose lifeless body was found in her

room at 1916 Pennsylvania Street last night, was not

a suicide. In the opinion of her brother, Wallace

Thomas, who was on his way from Lindale to see her,

Hans Roehm, who had promised to marry her, may have

been responsible for her death from cyanide of


=274. Condensation in Rewrites

It may be added in conclusion that

though rewrites are made to seem fresh and new, they are nevertheless

old news after all, and hence are not worth so much space as the

original story. Consequently, one will find that they usually run from

half to a fourth the length of the original; so that in rewriting one

need not hesitate--as the copy-readers tell the reporters--to "cut every

story to the bone." One must be careful in rewriting, however, not

merely to omit paragraphs in cutting down stories. Excision is not


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