Interviews Speeches Courts

=178. Four Types of Stories

To the casual newspaper reader the

various patterns of stories seem all but limitless. To the experienced

newspaper man, however, they reduce themselves to seven or eight, and

even this number may be further limited. The popular impression comes

from the fact that the average reader places an automobile collision and

a fire under different heads. Yet for the newspaper's purposes both may

be classed under the head of accidents. For the sake of convenience in

this study, therefore, we may group under four heads all the news

stories that a beginner need be acquainted with in the first year or so

of his work: interviews; accidents, society, and sports, to which may be

added for separate treatment, rewrites, feature stories, and

correspondence stories.

=179. The Interview Type

In the present chapter will be discussed the

interview type of story, in which are included not only personal

interviews, but speeches, sermons, toasts, courts, trials, meetings,

conventions, banquets, official reports, and stories about current

magazine articles and books. These are all grouped under one head

because they derive their interest to the public from the fact that in

them men and women present their opinions concerning topics of current

interest, and that for newspaper purposes the method of handling

interviews is much the same as for the other ten.

=180. Lead to an Interview

The lead to a news story of a personal

interview may feature any one of the following: (1) the name of the

person interviewed, (2) a direct statement from him, (3) an indirect

statement, (4) the general topic of the interview, (5) the occasion, or

even (6) the time. Probably it is the name of the man or a direct

statement that is played up most often. If the former is featured, the

lead should begin with the speaker's name and should locate the

conversation in time and place. Such a lead may well include also either

a direct or an indirect statement, or a general summary of the

interview. Thus:

Professor George Trumbull Ladd of Yale, in an

interview for The Herald to-day, declared there

never had been a time in the history of the world

when there was a greater need for the enforcement of

international law, nor one when international law

was so much in the making as at present.

If a significant statement is of most importance in the interview, the

lead should begin with the statement, directly or indirectly expressed,

and continue with the speaker's name, the time, place, and occasion of

the interview. Thus:

"What has happened in Mexico is an appalling

international crime," declared Theodore Roosevelt

last evening at his home on Sagamore Hill, Oyster

Bay, L.I. He had been out all the afternoon in the

woods chopping wood, and was sitting well back from

the great log fire in the big hall filled with

trophies of his hunting trips, as he talked of the

recent massacre of American mining men in Chihuahua.

The most damnable act ever passed by Congress or

conceived by a congressman, was the way in which

William J. Conners of Buffalo to-day characterized

the La Follette seamen's law. Mr. Conners is in New

York on business connected with the Magnus Beck

Brewing Company, of which he is president.

=181. Statements of Local Interest

Almost always it is well,

if possible, to lead the person interviewed to an expression of

his opinion about a topic of local interest, then feature that

statement,--particularly if the statement agrees with a declared policy

of the paper. Usually a problem of civic, state, or national interest

may be broached most easily. If the city is interested in commission

government or prohibition, if the state is fighting the short ballot or

the income tax question, the visitor may be asked for his opinion. If

the guest happens to be a national or international personage and the

nation is solving the problem of preparedness, or universal military

service, or the tariff question, he may be questioned on those subjects

and his opinions featured prominently in the lead. Note the following

lead to an interview published by a paper opposing the policies of

President Wilson:

Declaring that the national administration's foreign

policy has made him almost ashamed of being an

American citizen, Henry B. Joy, of Detroit, Mich.,

president of the Packard Motor Company, a governor

of the Aero Club of America and vice president of

the Navy League, said yesterday that our heritage of

national honor from the days of Washington, Lincoln,

and McKinley is slipping through our fingers.

=182. Inquiring about the Feature

Often the feature to be developed

in an interview lead may be had by asking the one interviewed if he has

anything he would like brought out or developed. When the interview has

been granted freely, such a question is no more than a courtesy due the

prominent man. But only under extraordinary circumstances should a

reporter agree to submit his copy for criticism before publication. Many

a good story has had all the piquancy taken out of it by giving the one

interviewed an opportunity to change his mind or to see in cold print

just what he said,--a fact that accounts for so many repudiated

interviews. In nine cases out of ten the newspaper man has reported the

distinguished visitor exactly, but the write-up looks different from

what the speaker expected. Then he denies the whole thing, and the

reporter is made the scapegoat, because the man quoted is a public

personage and the reporter is not.

=183. Fairness in the Interview

The first aim of the interviewer,

however, must always be fairness, accuracy, and absence of personal

bias. No other journalistic tool can be so greatly abused or made so

unfair a weapon as the interview. One should make no attempt to color a

man's opinions as expressed in an interview, no matter how much one may

disagree, nor should one "editorialize" on those ideas. If the paper

cares to discuss their truth or saneness, it will entrust that matter to

the editorial writers. This caution does not mean that a writer may not

break into the paragraphs of quotation to explain the speaker's meaning

or to elaborate upon a possible effect of his position. Such

interruptions are regularly made and are entirely legitimate, and it

will be noted in the Bryan story on page 131 that most of that article

consists of such explanation and elaboration. If, however, the reporter

feels that the utterances of the speaker are such that they should not

go unchallenged, he should obtain and quote a reply from a local man of


=184. Coherence and Proportion

Next to accuracy there should be kept

in view the intent to make the sequence and proportion of the ideas

logical, no matter in what order or at what length they may have been

given by the one interviewed. Often in conversation a man will give more

time to an idea than is its due, and often the most important part of an

interview will not be introduced until the last. Or, again, a person may

drift away from the immediate topic and not return to it for some

minutes. In all such cases it is the duty of the reporter to regroup and

develop the ideas so that they shall follow each other logically in the

printed interview and shall present the thought and the real spirit of

what the man wanted to say.

=185. Identifying the One Interviewed

Probably the most used and the

easiest method of gaining coherence between the lead and the body of the

interview is by a paragraph of explanation regarding the person, and how

he came to give the interview. It is remarkable how many readers do not

remember or have never heard the name of the governor of New York or the

senior senator from California or the Secretary of the Navy, and it is

therefore necessary to make entirely clear the position or rank of the

person and his right to be heard and believed. In the following story,

note how the writer dwells on the rank of the Oxford University

professor as a lecturer and so inspires the reader with confidence in

his statements:


"Look at our modern dress. Both men's and women's

costumes are, on the whole, as bad as they can be."

Prof. I. B. Stoughton Holborn of Oxford University

is in Chicago to deliver a series of lectures on art

for the University of Chicago Lecture Association.

In an interview Saturday afternoon he vigorously

ridiculed modern dress.

Prof. Holborn is perhaps the most widely known of

the Oxford and Cambridge university extension

lecturers and has the reputation of being one of the

most successful art lecturers in the world. He is

the hero of an adventure on the sinking Lusitania.

He saved Avis Dolphin, a 12-year-old child who was

being sent to England to be educated. The two women

in whose charge Mrs. Dolphin had sent her daughters

were lost, and Prof. Holborn has adopted the


=186. Handling Conversation

It should not be necessary to caution a

newspaper man against attempting to report all a man says. "Condense as

often as possible" is the interviewer's watchword,--"cut to the bone,"

as the reporters express it. Much of what a man says in conversation is

prolix. In that part of the interview that is dull or wordy, give the

pith of what is said in one or two brief sentences, then fall into

direct quotation again when his words become interesting. As a rule,

however, it is well as far as possible to quote his exact language all

through the interview, since the interest of an interview frequently

rests not only in what a man says, but in the way he says it. This does

not mean a cut-and-dried story consisting of a series of questions and

answers, but a succession of sparkling, personal paragraphs containing

the direct statements of the speaker.

=187. Mannerisms

The report may be livened up greatly with bits of

description portraying the speaker and his surroundings, particularly

when they harmonize or contrast with his character or the ideas

expressed. An excellent device for presenting the spirit of an

interview--giving an atmosphere, as it were--is to interpolate at

intervals in the story personal eccentricities or little mannerisms of

speech of the one interviewed. Mention of pet phrases, characteristic

gestures, sudden display of anger, unexplainable reticence in answering

questions, etc., will sometimes be more effective than columns of what

the speaker actually said. Indeed, it is often of as much importance to

pay as close attention to incidentals as to the remarks of the one


=188. Persons Refusing to Talk

In nine cases out of ten it is the

reporter's duty both to keep himself out of the story and to suppress

the questions by which the man interviewed has been induced to talk. But

when he has failed entirely in gaining admission to one he wishes to

interview, or, having gained admission, has not succeeded in making him

talk, the would-be interviewer may still present a good story by

narrating his foiled efforts or by quoting the questions which the great

man refused to answer. One of the most brilliant examples that the

present writer has seen of the foiled interview was one by Mr. John

Edwin Nevin the day before Mr. William Jennings Bryan surrendered his

portfolio as Secretary of State in President Wilson's cabinet. The

nation was at white heat over the contents of the prospective note to

Germany and the possibility of the United States being drawn into the

war. Not a word of what the note contained had leaked from any source

and there had been no hint of a break in the Wilson cabinet. Supposedly,

all was harmony. Yet this correspondent, judging from the excited manner

of the Secretary of State, the sharpness of his noncommittal replies,

and his preoccupied air as he emerged from the cabinet room, scented the

trouble and published the following story hours before other

correspondents had their eyes opened to the history-making events

occurring about them:


Washington, D. C., June 8.--President Wilson at 1:15

this afternoon announced, through Secretary Tumulty,

that at the cabinet meeting to-day the note to

Germany "was gone over and discussed and put in

final shape, and it is hoped that it will go

to-morrow," but Secretary of State Bryan is

determined to fight for a modification right up to

the minute that the note is cabled to Berlin.

Bryan believes the United States is on record for

arbitration and that it would be a mockery to send

Germany a document which, he considers, savors of an

ultimatum. Although the majority of the cabinet was

against him to-day, he carried his persuasive powers

from the cabinet meeting to the University Club,

where he and his fellow members had lunch.

Bryan's attitude came as a complete surprise to the

President. In previous notes Mr. Bryan took the

position that the United States should invite

arbitration. He called attention to the fact that

this country is on record as unalterably opposed to

war and pledged to every honorable means to prevent


But in every instance he has stopped short of any

further fight when the note has been approved by the

majority of the cabinet. And the President expected

that he would do this to-day. In fact, before the

cabinet meeting it was stated that the note would

have the approval of all members of the cabinet.

The first intimation that anything was wrong came

when the Secretary did not show up at the executive

offices with the other cabinet members. His absence

was not at first commented upon because Count von

Bernstorff, the German ambassador, was at the state

department. However, it was soon ascertained that

the ambassador was conferring with Counselor


Then it was rumored that Secretary Bryan had sent

word to President Wilson that he would not stand for

the note as framed. Inquiry at the White House

revealed the fact that Secretary Bryan had sent word

that he would be in his office, working on an

important paper, and would be late. At the state

department, Eddie Savoy, the Secretary's colored

messenger, refused to take any cards in to Bryan. He

said he did not know whether his chief actually

intended attending the meeting.

"He is very busy, and I cannot disturb him," Eddie


At the White House a distinct air of tension was

manifested. All inquiries as to what Secretary Bryan

was going to do were ignored.

Finally, about 12 o'clock, Secretary Bryan left his

office and came across the street. His face was

flushed and his features hard set. He responded to

inquiries addressed to him with negative shakes of

the head. He swung into the cabinet room with the

set stride with which he mounted the steps of the

Baltimore platform to deliver his famous speech

attacking Charles F. Murphy and Tammany Hall, and

precipitating his break with Champ Clark, whose

nomination for the presidency up to that time seemed


For more than an hour after he reached the cabinet

room the doors were closed. Across the hall the

President's personal messenger had erected a screen

to keep the curious at a distance.

At last the door was thrown open with a bang. First

to emerge were Secretaries McAdoo and Redfield, who

brushed through the crowd of newspaper

representatives. They referred all inquiries to the

President. Secretary of War Garrison came out alone.

He refused to say a word regarding the note. There

was an interval of nearly ten minutes. Then

Secretaries Daniels and Wilson came out. Behind them

was Attorney General Gregory, and, bringing up the

rear, was Secretary Bryan. Bryan's face was still

set. His turned-down collar was damp and his face

was beaded with perspiration.

"Was the note to Germany completed?" he was asked.

"I cannot discuss what transpired at the cabinet

meeting," was his sharp reply.

"Can you clear up the mystery and tell us when the

note will go forward to Berlin?" persisted


"That I would not care to discuss," said the

Secretary, as he joined Secretary Lane. "I am not in

a position to make any announcement of any sort now.

I will tell you when the note actually has started."

Ordinarily, Secretary Bryan goes from a cabinet

meeting to his office, drinks a bottle of milk and

eats a sandwich. To-day he entered Secretary Lane's

carriage and, with Lane and Secretary Daniels,

proceeded to the University Club for luncheon.

It is understood that Secretary Bryan took to the

cabinet meeting a memorandum in which he justified

his views that the proposed note is not of a

character that the United States should send to

Germany. He took the position that the United

States, in executing arbitration treaties with most

of the countries of the world, took a direct

position against war. As he put it, on great

questions of national honor, the sort that make for

welfare, arbitration is the only remedy.

Secretary Bryan is understood to have urged that the

United States could stand firmly for its rights and

not close the doors to any explanation that

Germany--or any other belligerent--might make. It is

understood that Bryan pointed out that Germany had

accepted the principles of the arbitration treaties

as a general proposition, but failed to execute the

treaty because of the European War breaking out. Her

opponents enjoy the advantages under such a treaty,

and Secretary Bryan insisted that Germany should not

be denied the same rights....

Although Secretary Bryan will continue his efforts

to modify the note, persons close to the President

insist that he will fail. The President is said to

have decided, after hearing all arguments, that the

safest course is to remain firm in the demand that

American rights under international law be

preserved. And it is expected that when the note is

finally O. K.'d by Counselor Lansing, it will be

sent to Germany.

There is speculation as to whether Secretary Bryan

will sign the note as Secretary of State. He has

angrily refused to take any positive position on the

subject. If he should refuse, his retirement from

the cabinet would be certain. Bryan's friends insist

that he has been loyal to the President and has made

many concessions to meet the latter's wishes. They

believe that he will content himself with a protest

and again bow to the will of his chief. But there

was no way of getting any confirmation of this

opinion from Bryan.

This is the first serious friction that has

developed in President Wilson's cabinet. Politicians

declare it will have far-reaching effect. Bryan has

fought consistently for arbitration principles. And

he now considers, some of his friends think, that

they have been ridden over rough-shod.[19]...

[19] John Edwin Nevin in The Omaha News,

June 8, 1915.

The next morning President Wilson announced his acceptance of Mr.

Bryan's resignation as Secretary of State.

=189. Value of Inference in the Foiled Interview

The reporter who

would attain success in his profession should not fail to study with

care this story by Mr. Nevin, to learn not so much what the story

contains as what the person who wrote it had to know and had to be able

to do before he could turn out such a piece of work. One should analyze

it to see how startlingly few new facts the correspondent had in his

possession at the time he was writing, and how he played up those

lonesome details with a premonition of coming events that was uncanny.

Above all, the prospective reporter should observe with what rare

judgment and accuracy the writer noted in Mr. Bryan's demeanor a few

distinctive incidents which were at once both trivial and yet laden with

suggestions of events to come. To produce this story the writer had to

know not only a man, but men. A cub would have got nothing; this man

scooped the best correspondents of the nation.

=190. Series of Interviews

In a story containing a number of

interviews, let the lead feature the consensus of opinion expressed in

the interviews. Then follow in the body with the individual quotations,

each man's name being placed prominently at the beginning of the

paragraph containing his interview, so that in a rapid reading of the

story the eye may catch readily the change from the words of one man to

another. When there is a large number of such interviews, the name may

even be set in display type at the beginning of the paragraph. If,

however, the persons interviewed are not at all prominent, but their

statements are worth while, the quotations may be given successively and

the names buried within the paragraph.

=191. Leads for Speeches

In comparison with handling an interview, a

report of a speech is an easy task. In the case of the sermon or the

lecture, typewritten copies are almost always available and the

thoughts are presented in orderly sequence. So if the reporter has

followed the advice given in Part II, Chapter VII, and taken longhand

notes of a speech, or has not been so engrossed in mere note-taking that

he has been unable to follow the trend of the speaker's thought, he will

experience comparatively little trouble in writing up the speech. He may

begin in any one of a half-dozen or more ways. He may feature: (1) the

speaker's theme; (2) the title of the address, which may or may not be

the theme; (3) a sentence or a paragraph of forceful direct quotation;

(4) an indirect quotation of one or more dynamic statements; (5) the

speaker's name; (6) the occasion of the speech; or (7) the time or the

place of delivery. Any one of these may be played up according to its

importance in the address.

=192. Featuring a Single Sentence

Of the seven or eight different

kinds of lead, a quotation of a single sentence or a single paragraph is

happiest if one can be found that will give the keynote of the speech or

will harmonize with a declared policy of the paper. Thus:

"It is the traitor god Love that makes men tell

foolish lies and women tell the fool truth," said

Prof. Henry Acheson last night in his lecture on


"The devil has gone out of fashion. After a long and

honorable career as truant officer, he has finally

been buried with his fathers. That is why twentieth

century men and women don't attend church." Such was

Dr. Amos Buckwin's explanation yesterday of the

church-going problem.

=193. Random Statements

Emphasis should be laid on the value of

playing up in the lead even a random statement if it chances to agree

with a specific policy or campaign to which the paper has committed

itself. In a non-political address or sermon an unwary statement

touching national, state, or city politics makes an excellent feature

if it favors the policies of the paper. Its worth lies in the fact that

it is manifestly unprejudiced and advanced by the speaker with no

ulterior motive. On the other hand, such a statement may well be ignored

if opposed to the paper's political or civic views. For example, note in

the following lead a feature played up solely because the paper was

Democratic in its politics:

"I was a student in one of the classes taught by

Woodrow Wilson. Anyone who has ever seen the lower

part of his facial anatomy knows that when he says

'no' he does not mean 'yes,'" said Bishop Theodore

Henderson at the Methodist Church yesterday morning.

It was not a political sermon. Aside from what

political significance the above quotation might

have, there was nothing political about his

discourse. He brought it out in referring to the

President doing away with the inaugural ball in

1915, which he nearly classed as a drunken orgy run

by politicians. He was emphasizing the President's

"no," that his family would not be present even if

he himself had to attend.

As in this story, however, the writer must be careful always to make

clear the precise relation of the featured quotation to the speech as a


=194. Indirect Quotation

The chief reason for quoting indirectly in

the lead a single statement of a speaker is the need of shifting an

important point to the very first.

That an inordinate indulgence in mere amusement is

softening the fiber of the American nation and

sapping its vitality, was the statement of Allen A.

Pendel, president of the Southwest Press Company, at

the monthly meeting of the Crust Breakers, Saturday.

=195. Title Featured

The use of the subject of the speech as a

feature is advisable when it is particularly happy or when it expresses

the theme of the address.

"The National Importance of Woman's Health" was the

subject of Dr. A. T. Schofield's lecture at the

Institute of Hygiene, Wednesday.

Taking as his subject, "The Tragedy of the

Unprepared," the Rev. Otis Colleman delivered a

powerful attack in Grace Church Sunday against

unpreparedness in one's personal life and in the

home, the state, and the nation.

=196. Theme Featured

The theme may be featured when a single-sentence

quotation cannot readily be found and the subject does not indicate the

nature of the address.

Condemnation of the twentieth-century woman's dress

was voiced at the Ninth International Purity

Congress by Rev. Albion Smith, Madison, Wis., who

spoke on "Spirit Rule vs. Animal Rule for Men and


=197. Summary Lead

Oftentimes the theme lead shades into a

summarizing lead and the two become one of indirect quotation. Long

summarizing leads of speeches are to be avoided as a rule, since they

are liable to become overloaded and cumbersome. When using this lead,

the writer must be particularly careful to see that the individual

clauses are relatively short and simple in structure and that the

relation of each to the other and to the sentence as a whole is

absolutely clear.

Stating that the public schools are the greatest

instrument for the development of socialism in this

country, that the socialists must get control of the

courts, that the party is not developing as rapidly

at present as it did a few years ago, and that the

opportunity that exists in this country for the

individual has been largely to blame for the slow

development of the Socialist party in America, John

C. Kennedy, Socialist speaker and member of the

Chicago common council, spoke on "The Outlook for

Socialism in America" at the Social Democratic

picnic held in Pabst Park on Sunday.

=198. Speaker's Name Featured

The speaker's name comes first, of

course, only when he is sufficiently prominent locally or nationally to

justify featuring him.

Billy Sunday made the devil tuck his tail between

his legs and skedaddle Friday night.

Justice Charles E. Hughes, of the Supreme Court of

the United States, came to New York yesterday as the

guest of the New York State Bar Association, which

is holding its thirty-ninth annual meeting in this

city. In the evening at the Astor Hotel he delivered

a scholarly address before that body on the topic,

"Some Aspects of the Development of American Law."

Then he shook hands with several hundreds of the

members of the association and their friends, turned

around and went right back again to the seclusion of

the Supreme Court Chamber in Washington.

=199. Featuring the Occasion

Featuring the occasion of a speech or

the auspices under which it was given is justifiable only when the

speech and the speaker are of minor importance.

Before the first hobo congress ever held in the

world William Eads Howe, millionaire president of

the convention, spoke Monday on the need of closer

union among passengers on the T. P. and W.

=200. Featuring Time and Place

Only rarely is the time or the place

featured. But either may be played up when sufficiently important.

Speaking from the door of Col. Henry Cook's chicken

house on Ansley Road to an audience of 250 colored

brethren in a neighboring barn, the Rev. Ezekiel

Butler, colored, began in a pouring rain Sunday

night the first service of the annual Holly Springs

open-air meetings.

=201. Featuring Several Details

When the speaker, the subject, the

occasion, and the place are all important, it may be needful to make a

long summarizing lead of several paragraphs, explaining all these

features in detail. In such a case a quarter- or a half-column may be

required before one can get to the address itself. The following story

of President Wilson's first campaign speech for reelection, delivered at

Pittsburgh on January 29, 1916, is an illustration:


Name first

President Wilson as "trustee of the ideals of

America," to employ his own phrase, has taken his

case to the people.


He opened here to-day the most momentous

speech-making tour perhaps made by a President

within a generation with an appeal to keep national

preparedness out of partisan politics and to give it

no place as a possible campaign issue.

Effect on Audience

The nonpartisanship urged by the President was

reflected in Pittsburg's greeting to the executive.

Circumstances and Place

A Republican ex-Congressman, James Francis Burke,

presided at the meeting under the auspices of the

chamber of commerce in Soldiers' Memorial Hall.

"Preparedness is a matter of patriotism, not of

party," he said.

Story backtracks here


Pittsburg's welcome to the President and Mrs. Wilson

was warm, but not demonstrative. When the

speechmaking began, Memorial Hall was packed with an

audience of 4,500, while on the steps and plaza

outside some 8,000 or 10,000 men and women surged,

unable to get admission, but eager to get a glimpse

of the executive and his bride.

Reception by Audience

When the presidential party, Mrs. Wilson in front,

filed on the platform there was a demonstration,

brief but spontaneous, the first lady of the land

drawing as prolonged applause as her husband on his


Attitude of Audience

The audience was an intent one. Its pose was one of

keen attention to the President's utterances.


Occasionally a particularly facile phrase, such as

when the President spoke of the need of "spiritual

efficiency" as a basis for military efficiency,

started the hand-clapping and gusts of applause

swept through the hall.

General Effect of the Visit

For Pennsylvania, Republican stronghold, which gave

Roosevelt a plurality of 51,000 over Wilson in 1912,

the reception accorded the President is regarded as

quite satisfactory. Downtown in the business

district there was hardly a ripple.

Inquisitive Crowds

But in the neighborhood of the Hotel Schenley, out

by the Carnegie Institute, a large crowd turned out

a few hours after the President's arrival and kept

their glances on the seventh floor, which was banked

in roses and orchids.

Beginning of the Speech

"As your servant and representative, I should come

and report to you on our public affairs," the

President began. "It is the duty of every public man

to hold frank counsel with the people he

represents."[20] ...

[20] Arthur M. Evans in The Chicago Herald,

January 30, 1916.

=202. Body of the Story

In writing the body of the story, the first

thing to strive for is proper coherence with the lead. This caution is

worth particular heed when the lead contains a single-sentence

quotation, an indirect question, or a paragraph of direct statement from

somewhere in the body of the speech. Few things are more incongruous in

a story than a clever epigrammatic lead and a succession of quoted

statements following, none of which exhibits a definite bearing on the

lead. Oftentimes this incongruity is produced by the reporter's attempt

to follow the precise order adopted by the speaker. Such an order,

however, should be manifestly impossible in a news report when the

writer has dug out for use in the lead a lone sentence or paragraph from

the middle of the speech. Rather, one should continue such a lead with a

paragraph or so of development, then follow with paragraphs of direct

quotation which originally may or may not have preceded the idea

featured in the lead.

=203. Accuracy

The second consideration must be the same accuracy

and fairness that was emphasized in the discussion of the interview.

Some reporters, for instance, take the liberty of putting within

quotation marks, as though quoted directly, whole paragraphs that they

know are not given verbatim, their grounds for the liberty being that

they know they are reporting the speaker with entire accuracy, and the

use of "quotes" gives the story greater emphasis and intimacy of appeal.

This liberty is to be condemned. When a reporter puts quotation marks

about a phrase or clause, he declares to his readers that the other man,

not he, is responsible for the statement exactly as printed. And even

though a man may think he is reporting a speaker with absolute

precision, there is always the possibility that he may have

misunderstood. Indeed, it is just these chance misunderstandings that

trip reporters and frequently necessitate speakers' denying published

accounts of their lectures. Only what one has taken down verbatim should

be put within quotation marks. All else should be reported indirectly

with an unwavering determination to convey the real spirit of the

lecture or sermon, not to play up an isolated or random subtopic that

has little bearing on the speech as a whole. Any reporter can find in

any lecture statements which, taken without the accompanying

qualifications, may be adroitly warped to make the story good and the

speaker ridiculous in the eyes of the reading public.

=204. Speech Story as a Whole

The story as a whole should be a little

speech in itself. Whole topics may be omitted. Others that possibly

occupied pages of manuscript and took several minutes to present may be

cut down to a single sentence. Still others may be presented in full.

But the quotation marks and the cohering phrases, such as "said he,"

"continued the speaker," "Mr. Wilson said in part," etc., should be

carefully inserted so as to make it entirely clear to the reader when

the statements are a condensation of the speaker's remarks and when they

are direct quotations. Such connecting phrases, however, should be

placed in unemphatic positions within the paragraph and should have

their form so varied as not to attract undue attention. And as in the

interview, the report as a whole should be livened up at intervals with

phrases and paragraphs calling attention to characteristic gestures,

facial expressions, and individual eccentricities of the speaker's

person, manner, or dress.

=205. Series of Speeches

When reporting a series of speeches, as at a

banquet, convention, political picnic, or a holiday celebration, it

generally is the best policy to play up at length the strongest address,

or else the speech of the most important personage, then summarize the

remaining talks in a paragraph or so at the end of the story. If all are

of about equal importance, the lead may feature the general trend of

thought of the different speakers or else some single startling

statement setting forth the character and spirit of the meeting. The

story may then proceed with summarizing quotations or indirect

statements of the individual speakers, giving each space according to

the value of his address. Where the body of the story is made up of

direct and indirect quotations from several speeches, the speaker's name

should come first in the paragraph in which he is quoted, so that the

eye of the reader running rapidly down the column may catch readily that

portion of the story given to each person quoted.

=206. Banquets, Conventions, etc

Not always, however, are speeches

important, or even delivered, on these social, political, and holiday

occasions. If not, the reporter must devote his attention to the

occasion, to any unusual incidents or events, or to the persons

attending. In reporting banquets, it may be the persons present, the

novelty of the favors, the originality of the menu, or the occasion

itself that must be featured. In conventions it may be the purpose or

expected results, certain effects on national or state legislation, or

any departures or new ideas in evidence. In reporting conventions of

milliners, tailors, jewelers, and the like, one can always find

excellent features in the incoming styles. The public is greedy for

stories of advance styles. In political picnics the feature is

practically always the speeches, though sometimes there are athletic

contests that provide good copy and may be presented in accordance with

Part III, Chapter XVI. In holiday celebrations also the feature may be

speeches or athletic contests, or else parades of floats, fraternal

orders, soldiers, etc. Usually, however, the occurrence of some untoward

accident that mars the occasion itself furnishes a story feature of

greater importance than the monotony of the parade and the contests.

=207. Current Magazine Articles, etc

News stories of articles

appearing in current magazines, books, government publications,

educational journals, and the like are of the same type as stories of

addresses. The lead may feature the theme, the title, the author, a

single sentence, an entire paragraph, the society or organization

publishing the article or report, or even the motive back of the

article. And the body follows usually with direct quotations summarizing

the whole. Such news stories generally are very readable, particularly

if they are timely. But the reporter must be careful to avoid extended

analysis or learned comment. A long catalogue of errors with the page on

which each may be found is good in scholarly magazines, but worthless in

news columns. The reporter's office is to write for the entertainment

and enlightenment of the public, not for the instruction of the author

about whose article he is writing. Hence he should report only those

details that are of interest to the readers of his journal.

=208. Courts

Court, trial, and inquest stories are but a combination

of the methods of handling interviews and speeches, the questions and

answers of the attorneys and witnesses being the interviews, the

arguments of the lawyers and the decisions of the court being the

speeches. The writing of the court story as a whole follows closely the

method already outlined for interviews and speeches. The lead, however,

varies greatly accordingly to the stage of the court proceedings. If a

verdict has been brought in, the guilt or innocence of the defendant,

the penalty imposed, or an application for a rehearing may be featured,

and the body of the story continues with a statement from the prisoner,

quotations from the speeches of the opposing attorneys, and the judge's

charge to the jury. If the trial has reached only an intermediate stage,

the lead may feature the cause of the court proceedings, a significant

bit of testimony, the name of an important witness, the point reached in

the day's work, the probable length of the trial, any unusual clash of

the attorneys over the admission of certain testimony, or possibly the

prisoner's changed attitude resulting from the long nervous strain. Then

the body, as in reports of speeches, may follow with interesting bits of

quotation from the testimony or from the arguments of the attorneys,

with summarizing paragraphs of the evidence and the proceedings as a

whole. Occasionally, in order to bring out significant points in the

depositions, it may become necessary to quote verbatim questions and

answers in the cross-examination, but generally a more readable story

may be had by reporting the testimony continuously and omitting the

questions altogether. Even when playing up a court decision, it is

rarely wise to quote large extracts verbatim, owing to the heaviness of

legal expression and the frequent use of technical terms. Only when the

form of the decision, as well as the facts, is vital, should the

language of the decree be quoted at length. And even then it is better,

as a rule, to print the entire decision separately and write an

independent summarizing story. When writing up trials continued from

preceding days, one must be careful to connect the story with what has

gone before, explaining who the persons are, the cause of their

appearance in court, and where the trial is being conducted. Only in

this way can readers who have not kept up with the trial understand the

present story.

=209. Humorous Court Stories

A word of caution must be given against

the temptation to write court stories humorously at the expense of

accuracy and the feelings of those unfortunate ones drawn into public

notice by some one's transgression of law or ethics. The law of libel

and its far-reaching power has been dwelt on in Part II, Chapter X, and

it need not be emphasized here that libel lurks in wrong street numbers,

misspelled names, misplaced words and phrases, and even in accidental

resemblance between names and between personal descriptions. But the

reporter should be cautioned against warping facts for the sake of

making a good story. Those who stand before the bar of justice, no

matter for what cause, how wrong or how right, are keenly sensitive

about even the publication of their names. Indeed, it is fear of

newspaper notoriety that keeps many a man from seeking and obtaining

that justice which is due every individual at the hands of the law. The

present writer has seen many an innocent person in a state of nervous

collapse over a barbed thrust made by a satirizing humorist in the

columns of a paper. No criticism is made of true reports; objection is

made only to those warped for the sake merely of producing a good story.

In a leading Southern paper appeared the following:


Come er lef'! come er right! come er rag an'


Come to yo' honey-bunch straight down de hall!

Up towa'd de front do', back towa'd de wall,

Gimme room to scramble at de Potlicker Ball!

"What's this?" demanded the judge ferociously.

"Another Potlicker row? I'm going to have to do

something about you folks. You're always in hot


The defendants--a weird assortment of the youth and

beauty of the Black Belt, their finery somewhat

damaged after a night behind the bars--shifted

uneasily on their respective number nines. A

cross-eyed mulatto had the courage to speak, albeit

a trifle morosely.

"Us ain't in no hot water, jedge," she drawled. "Us

ain't been doin' nothin' but dancin'."

"What's your name, girl?" inquired the clerk.

He was answered by Frogeye, who celebrated his

latest release from gaol by attending the Potlicker

Ball. "Dat's Three-Finger Fanny," stated Frogeye in

a voice of authority. "She done start de hull


Three-Finger Fanny bridled. Before she could open

her mouth, Frogeye plunged into the tale: "Ef it

hadn't er been fo' dat three-fingered, cross-eyed,

blistered-footed gal we'd er been dar dancin' yit.

But she an Bugabear spill de beans. She come up ter

me an' say, 'Mister Frogeye, kin you ball de Jack?'

I tells her she don't see no chains on me, do she?

An' we whirl right in. Hoccome I knowed she promise

dat dance ter Bugabear? We ain't ball de Jack twice

'roun' fo' heah he come wid er beer bottle shoutin'

dat I done tuk his gal erway. I'se 'bleeged ter

'fend mahse'f, ain't I, jedge? Well, den!"

The conclusion of Frogeye's story lacked climax, but

apparently the judge got the gist of it, for he

said: "It seems to me all of you dancers need a

summer vacation. They say there's nothing like a

little arm work to improve the grip. Thirty days,


But every reader knows that in one round-up of negro malefactors,

characters such as Frogeye, Three-Finger Fanny, and Bugabear are not

going to be arrested at one "Potlicker Ball." The story is a good one if

the reader will suspend his sense of realism sufficiently to enjoy it.

But in its purport to be a true account of an arrest and a trial of

certain persons, it makes one doubt first the story, then the newspaper

that printed it, and finally newspapers in general. And so develops one

of the main causes of criticism of the modern newspaper. A reporter must

resolve to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A

journal loses its power the moment it is wrong.

Handling Copy Marks Used In Correcting Copy facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail