The Editorial Rooms

=4. Beginning Work

As stated in the preceding chapter, the place at

which the reporter presents himself for work the first day is the city

room. Before coming, he will have seen the city editor and received

instructions as to the time. If the office is that of a morning paper,

he will probably be required to come some time between noon and six P.M.

If it is that of an afternoon paper, he will be asked to report at six

or seven A.M. Let us suppose it is a metropolitan afternoon journal and

that he is requested to be in the office at seven, the hour when the

city editor appears. The ambitious reporter will always be in his place

not later than 6:45, so that he may see the city editor enter.

=5. Copy Readers

When a reporter appears on his first morning, he

will find a big, desk-crowded room, deserted except for two or three

silent workers reading and clipping papers at a long table. These men

are known variously as the gas-house gang, the lobster shift, the

morning stars, etc. They are the reporters and copy readers who read the

morning papers for stories that may be rewritten or followed up for

publication during the day. They have been on duty since two or three in

the morning and have prepared most of the material for the bull-dog

edition, the morning issue printed some time between 7:00 and 10:00 A.M.

and mainly rewritten from the morning papers. On the entrance of the new

reporter they will look up, direct him to a chair where he may sit until

the city editor comes, and pay no more attention to him. They, or others

who take their places, edit all the news stories. They correct spelling

and punctuation, rewrite a story when the reporter has missed the main

feature, reconstruct the lead, cut out contradictions, duplications, and

libelous statements, and in general make the article conform to the

length and style demanded by the paper; and having carefully revised the

story, they write the headlines and chute it to the composing room. On

the whole, these men are the most unpopular on the force, since they are

subject to double criticism, from the editors above them and the

reporters whose copy they correct. The city editor and the managing

editor hold them responsible for poor headlines, libelous statements,

involved sentences, and errors generally; the reporters blame them for

pruning down their stories, changing leads, and often destroying what

they regard as the very point of what they had to say.

=6. Other Reporters

As the new reporter waits by the city editor's

desk, he will notice the arrival of the other members of the staff, who

immediately begin their work for the day. One of these is the labor

reporter. His business is to obtain and write news relating to labor and

unions. Another is the marine reporter. He handles all news relating to

shipping, clearing and docking of vessels, etc. Another reporter handles

all stories coming from the police court. Another watches the morgue and

the hospitals. Another, usually a woman, obtains society news. Still

another visits the hotels. And so the division of reporters continues

until all the sources of news have been parceled out.

=7. The City Editor

Then the city editor enters. If the reporter

wishes to make good, let him love the law of the city editor. He is the

man to whom all the reporters and some of the copy readers are

responsible, and who in turn is responsible to the managing editor for

the gathering and preparation of city news. He must know where news can

be found, direct the getting of news, and see that it is put into the

paper properly. When news is abundant, he must decide which stories

shall be discarded, and on those rarer occasions when all the

world--the good and the bad--seems to have gone to sleep, he must know

how to make news. Every story written in the city room is first passed

on by the city editor, who turns it over to the copy readers for

correction. Even the length of each story is determined by him, and

often the nature of it, whether it shall be humorous, pathetic, tragic,

or mysterious. To his desires and idiosyncrasies the reporter must learn

quickly to adapt himself. Sometimes the city editor may err. Sometimes,

during his absence, he may put in authority eccentric substitutes,

smaller men who issue arbitrary commands and require stories entirely

different in style and character from what is regularly required. But

the cub's first lesson must be in adaptability, willingness to obey

orders and to accept news policies determined by those in authority. He

must therefore follow to the letter the wishes of the city editor (or

his assistants) and must always be loyal to him and his plans.[1]

[1] For an admirable exposition of the way in which the city

editor handles his men and big stories, the student is

advised to read two excellent articles by Alex. McD.

Stoddart: "When a Gaynor is Shot," Independent, August

25, 1910, and "Telling the Tale of the Titanic,"

Independent, May 2, 1912.

=8. The News Editor

As a reporter's acquaintance grows, he will come

to know other editors in the city room,--the news, telegraph, state,

market, sporting, literary, dramatic, and other editors. Of these the

news editor, sometimes known also as the make-up or the assistant

managing editor, is most important. He handles all the telegraph and

cable copy and much of what is sent in by mail. He decides what position

the stories shall take in the paper, which articles shall have big heads

and which little ones, which shall be thrown out, and in general

determines the make-up of the pages. The news editor is always a bright

man of wide knowledge, thoroughly conversant with state and national

social and political movements, and more or less intimately acquainted

with all sections of the United States.

=9. Telegraph Editor

Next to the news editor, and usually his chief

assistant, is the telegraph editor. On some papers the two positions are

combined. This man handles all telegraph copy from without the state,

including that of the press bureaus and special correspondents in

important American and European cities. Frequently in the largest news

offices there are as many as a dozen telegraph operators who take his

stories over direct wires. Like the news editor, he must be a man of

wide acquaintance in order to know the value of a story from a distant

section of the United States or the world. Since the outbreak of the

European war, his has been an unusually responsible position because of

the immense amount of war news and the necessity of knowing the exact

importance of the capture of a certain city or the fall of a fort.

=10. State Editor

Next comes the state editor, who is responsible for

all the state news and helps with the telegraph copy and local news when

it becomes too bulky for the other copy readers to handle. The state

editor manages the correspondents throughout the state and is

particularly valuable when his paper is in the capital city or the

metropolis of the state. Most of his copy comes by mail or long-distance

telephone from correspondents residing or traveling in the state. Nearly

all this copy needs editing, coming as it does largely from

correspondents on country dailies and weeklies. In addition to editing

stories sent in by correspondents, the state editor keeps a space book,

from which he makes to the cashier in the business office a weekly or

monthly report of the amount of material contributed by each


=11. Sporting Editor

Unless given a place in the sporting department,

the reporter will not soon meet the sporting editor, who, with his

assistants, is usually honored with a room to himself and is independent

of the city editor. But some day, by accident perhaps, the cub will get

a peep through a door across the hallway into a veritable den. That is

the sporting room. The four walls are covered with cuts of Willard,

Gotch, Johnston, Matthewson, Travers, Hoppe, and dozens of other

celebrities in the realm of sports. There the sporting editor--often a

man who has been prominent in college athletics--reigns. Because of the

intense interest in sports he must publish the news of his department

promptly, and in consequence he often is privileged to make expenditures

more freely than other editors. The sporting editor of a big daily must

be an authority in athletic matters and should be able to decide on the

instant, without looking up the book of regulations, any question

relating to athletic rules or records.

=12. Exchange Editor

Another editor, who usually will be discovered

in a room by himself, is the exchange editor. He will be found all but

buried in piles of exchanges, now and then clipping a story not covered

on the wires, an editorial, a criticism of his own paper, or a comment

of any kind that may be worth copying or following up. He must know

thoroughly the bias of his paper, to know what to clip and publish.

Favorable references to his paper he reprints. Criticisms he refers to

the managing editor, who reads them and throws them into the waste

basket, or else keeps them for a reply in a later issue. Most of the

jokes, anecdotes of famous men and women, stories of minor inventions

and discoveries, and timely articles relating to current events,

fashions, beliefs, etc., published on the editorial page and in the

feature sections of the Sunday issue, are the result of the exchange

editor's long hours of patient reading of newspapers mailed from every

section of the United States.

=13. The Morgue

One of the chief duties of many exchange editors is

to supply the morgue with material for its files. The morgue, sometimes

called the library, is an important adjunct of every newspaper office.

In it are kept, perhaps ready for printing, obituaries of well-known

men, stories of their rise to prominence, pictures of them and their

families, accounts of great discoveries, inventions, and disasters, and

facts on every conceivable newspaper topic,--all ready for hasty

reference or use. If the President of the United States were to drop

dead from apoplexy, the papers would have on the streets in a quarter of

an hour's time columns of stories giving his whole career. When the

steamer Eastland turned over in the Chicago River, causing the death

of 900 persons, the papers published in their regular editions boxed

summaries of all previous ship disasters. When Willard knocked out

Johnson at Havana, reviews of Willard's and Johnson's ring careers were

printed in numerous dailies. All such stories are procured from the

morgue, from files supplied mainly by the exchange editor. In some of

the larger offices, however, these files are maintained independently of

the exchange editor, and are under the charge of the librarian and a

staff of assistants who keep catalogued lists of all maps, cuts,

photographs, and clippings. On a moment's notice these may be obtained

for use in the paper.

=14. Other Editors

Other editors, who may be passed with brief

mention because of their minor importance in this volume, are the

market, dramatic, literary, and society editors, and the editorial

writers. The market editor handles all matters of a financial nature.

Sometimes on the largest dailies there are both a market and a financial

editor, but usually the work is combined under a single man whose duties

are to keep in close touch with markets, banks, manufactories, and large

mercantile companies, and to write up simply and accurately from day to

day the financial condition of the city and the country. The duty of the

literary editor is often little more than book reviewing. Frequently he

does not have an office in the building, and on small papers his only

remuneration is the gift of the book he reviews. The society editor, in

addition to reporting notes of the social world, generally handles

fashion stories, answers letters regarding etiquette, love, and

marriage, and edits all material for the woman's page. The work of the

editorial writers is explained by their name. They quit work at all

sorts of hours, take two hours off for lunch, and are known in the city

room as "highbrows." But many an editorial writer who comes to work at

nine in the morning has worked very late the night before, searching for

facts utilized in a half-column of editorial matter.

=15. Cartoonists and Photographers

The business of the cartoonist is

to draw one cartoon a day upon some timely civic or political subject.

He is responsible to the managing editor. Under him are other

cartoonists who illustrate individual stories or do cartoon work for

special departments of the paper. The sporting editor has one such man,

and the city editor has one or two. Finally, there are the

photographers, subject to the city editor, who rush hither and thither

to all parts of the city and state, taking scenes valuable for cuts.

=16. The Managing Editor

The men whose work we have been discussing

thus far are those whom the reporter meets in his daily work. Above all

these is an executive officer whom the cub reporter rarely sees,--the

managing editor, who has general supervision over all the news and

editorial departments of the paper. He does little writing or editing

himself, his time being taken up with administrative duties. All unusual

expenditures are submitted for his approval. The size and make-up of the

paper, which varies greatly from day to day on the large dailies, is a

matter for his final decision. The cartoonist submits to him rough

drafts of contemplated drawings. The city, telegraph, and news editors

confer with him about getting important stories. The Sunday editor

consults with him with regard to special features. To him is submitted a

proof of every story, which he reads for possible libel and for general

effectiveness. Now and then he returns a story to the city editor to be

lengthened or to be pruned down. Occasionally he may kill an article.

Always he is working at top speed, from the time he gets to his office

at 8:00 A.M., or 2:00 P.M., until he sits down to compare his paper with

the first edition of rival publications. For the managing editor

scrutinizes with minute care every daily in the city, and when he finds

anything to his paper's discredit, he begins an immediate investigation

to learn how the slip happened and who was responsible.

=17. Editor-in-Chief

Above the managing editor is the

editor-in-chief, often the owner of the paper. Of him the sub-editors

say that his chief business is playing golf and smoking fat cigars. As a

matter of fact, his duties are at once the most and the least exacting

of any on the paper. He is either the owner or the personal

representative of the owner, who looks to him for the execution of his

policies. But since such policies necessarily must be subject to the

most liberal interpretation, the final responsibility of the editorial

rooms falls on the shoulders of the editor-in-chief. To make known the

plans of the paper, the editor-in-chief holds with the editorial

writers, the managing editor, and the city editor weekly, sometimes

daily, meetings, at which are discussed all matters of doubt or

dissatisfaction relating to the editorial rooms.

=18. Conclusion

In conclusion, then, we have the editor-in-chief, who

is responsible for the general policies of the paper. Immediately

beneath him is the managing editor, who executes the editor-in-chief's

orders. Responsible to the editor-in-chief or the managing editor are

the editorial writers, the news, city, sporting, exchange, literary, and

dramatic editors, and the cartoonist. Beneath the city editor are a few

of the copy readers and all the reporters. Such is the organization of

the editorial staff of a typical metropolitan newspaper.

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