News Sources

=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




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

Glass Lake


Chas. 124 Tailor 28 M " " " D and D

King John


Ben 50 Ped- 41 M " " " Violating

Loti Third dler Health

St. Laws

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

St. House

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- &

cinct Ward


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

Loti AM

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

on sanitation.

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

political news.

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

first principle.


=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

yeast cakes.

=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

reporting,--the interview.

=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


=70. Courtesy

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


[4] 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

a crutch.

=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,[5] 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.

[5] 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

photographs unharmed.

=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.

=84. Speeches

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.


=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.

=88. Speed

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.

=89. Accuracy

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

and accurately.

=90. Interest

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:


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

the fire."

Although he will not tell how the fire started, it

is supposed he was playing with matches.[6]

[6] 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:


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....[7]

[7] 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:


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

that dress.

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


[8] 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:


[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

Secretary Daniels.

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

enemy ship.

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.[9]

[9] 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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