Methods of Treatment. After choosing a subject and formulating his purpose, a writer is ready to consider methods of treatment. Again it is desirable to survey all the possibilities in order to choose the one method best adapted to his subject and his purpose. His chief consideration should be the class of readers that he desires to reach. Some topics, he will find, may be treated with about equal success in any one of several ways, while others lend themselves to only one or two forms of presentation. By thinking through the various possible ways of working out his subject, he will be able to decide which meets his needs most satisfactorily.
Exposition by Narration and Description. The commonest method of developing a special feature article is that which combines narration and description with exposition. The reason for this combination is not far to seek.
The average person is not attracted by pure exposition. He is attracted by fiction.
Hence the narrative and descriptive devices of fiction are employed advantageously to supplement expository methods. Narratives and descriptions also have the advantage of being concrete and vivid. The rapid reader can grasp a concrete story or a word picture. He cannot so readily comprehend a more general explanation unaccompanied by specific examples and graphic pictures of persons, places, and objects.
Narration and description are used effectively for the concrete examples and the specific instances by which we illustrate general ideas. The best way, for example, to make clear the operation of a state system of health insurance is to relate how it has operated in the case of one or more persons affected. In explaining a new piece of machinery the writer may well describe it in operation, to enable readers to visualize it and follow its motions. Since the reader's interest will be roused the more quickly if he is given tangible, concrete details that he can grasp, the examples are usually put first, to be followed by the more general explanation. Sometimes several examples are given before the explanatory matter is offered. Whole articles are often made up of specific examples and generalizations presented alternately.
To explain the effects of a new anæsthetic, for example, Mr. Burton J. Hendrick in an article in McClure's Magazine, pictured the scene in the operating-room of a hospital where it was being given to a patient, showed just how it was administered, and presented the results as a spectator saw them. The beginning of the article on stovaine, the new anæsthetic, illustrating this method of exposition, follows: A few months ago, a small six-year-old boy was wheeled into the operating theater at the Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled Children, in New York City. He was one of the several thousand children of the tenements who annually find their way into this great philanthropic institution, suffering from what, to the lay mind, seems a hopelessly incurable injury or malformation. This particular patient had a crippled and paralyzed leg, and to restore its usefulness, it was necessary to cut deeply into the heel, stretch the "Achilles tendon," and make other changes which, without the usual anesthetic, would involve excruciating suffering. According to the attendant nurses, the child belonged to the "noisy" class; that is, he was extremely sensitive to pain, screamed at the approach of the surgeon, and could be examined only when forcibly held down.
As the child came into the operating-room he presented an extremely pathetic figure—small, naked, thin, with a closely cropped head of black hair, and a face pinched and blanched with fear. Surrounded by a fair-sized army of big, muscular surgeons and white-clothed nurses, and a gallery filled with a hundred or more of the leading medical men of the metropolis, he certainly seemed a helpless speck of humanity with all the unknown forces of science and modern life arrayed against him. Under ordinary conditions he would have been etherized in an adjoining chamber and brought into the operating-room entirely unconscious. This cripple, however, had been selected as a favorable subject for an interesting experiment in modern surgery, for he was to undergo an extremely torturous operation in a state of full consciousness.
Among the assembled surgeons was a large-framed, black moustached and black-haired, quick-moving, gypsy-like Rumanian —Professor Thomas Jonnesco, dean of the Medical Department of the University of Bucharest, and one of the leading men of his profession in Europe. Dr. Jonnesco, who had landed in New York only two days before, had come to the United States with a definite scientific purpose. This was to show American surgeons that the most difficult operations could be performed without pain, without loss of consciousness, and without the use of the familiar anesthetics, ether or chloroform. Dr. Jonnesco's reputation in itself assured him the fullest opportunity of demonstrating his method in New York, and this six-year-old boy had been selected as an excellent test subject.
Under the gentle assurances of the nurses that "no one was going to hurt" him, the boy assumed a sitting posture on the operating-table, with his feet dangling over the edge. Then, at the request of Dr.
Jonnesco, he bent his head forward until it almost touched his breast.
This threw the child's back into the desired position—that of the typical bicycle "scorcher,"—making each particular vertebra stand out sharply under the tight drawn skin. Dr. Jonnesco quickly ran his finger along the protuberances, and finally selected the space between the twelfth dorsal and the first lumbar vertebræ—in other words, the space just above the small of the back. He then took an ordinary hypodermic needle, and slowly pushed it through the skin and tissues until it entered the small opening between the lower and upper vertebræ, not stopping until it reached the open space just this side of the spinal cord.
As the needle pierced the flesh, the little patient gave a sharp cry— the only sign of discomfiture displayed during the entire operation.
When the hollow needle reached its destination, a few drops of a colorless liquid spurted out—the famous cerebro-spinal fluid, the substance which, like a water-jacket, envelops the brain and the spinal cord. Into this same place Dr. Jonnesco now introduced an ordinary surgical syringe, which he had previously filled with a pale yellowish liquid—the much-famed stovaine,—and slowly emptied its contents into the region that immediately surrounds the spinal cord.
For a few minutes the child retained his sitting posture as if nothing extraordinary had happened. Dr. Jonnesco patted him on the back and said a few pleasant words in French, while the nurses and assistants chatted amiably in English.
"How do you feel now?" the attending surgeon asked, after the lapse of three or four minutes.
"All right," replied the boy animatedly, "'cept that my legs feel like they was going to sleep." The nurses now laid the patient down upon his back, throwing a handkerchief over his eyes, so that he could not himself witness the subsequent proceedings. There was, naturally, much holding of breath as Dr. Virgil P. Gibney, the operating surgeon, raised his knife and quickly made a deep incision in the heel of this perfectly conscious patient. From the child, however, there was not the slightest evidence of sensation.
"Didn't you feel anything, my boy?" asked Dr. Gibney, pausing.
"No, I don't feel nothin'," came the response from under the handkerchief.
An operation lasting nearly half an hour ensued. The deepest tissues were cut, the tendons were stretched, the incision was sewed up, all apparently without the patient's knowledge.
Some types of articles, although expository in purpose, are entirely narrative and descriptive in form. By relating his own experiences in a confession story, for example, a writer may be able to show very clearly and interestingly the dangers of speculations in stocks with but small capital. Personality sketches are almost always narrative and descriptive.
Many of the devices of the short story will be found useful in articles. Not only is truth stranger than fiction, but facts may be so presented as to be even more interesting than fiction. Conversation, character-drawing, suspense, and other methods familiar to the writer of short stories may be used effectively in special articles. Their application to particular types of articles is shown in the following pages.
Special Types of Articles. Although there is no generally recognized classification of special feature articles, several distinct types may be noted, such as (1) the interview, (2) the personal experience story, (3) the confession article, (4) the "how-to-do-something" article, (5) the personality sketch, (6) the narrative in the third person. These classes, it is evident, are not mutually exclusive, but may for convenience be treated separately.
The Interview. Since the material for many articles is obtained by means of an interview, it is often convenient to put the major part, if not the whole, of the story in interview form. Such an article may consist entirely of direct quotation with a limited amount of explanatory material concerning the person interviewed; or it may be made up partly of direct quotation and partly of indirect quotation, combined with the necessary explanation. For greater variety it is advisable to alternate direct and indirect quotations. A description of the person interviewed and of his surroundings, by way of introduction, gives the reader a distinct impression of the individual under characteristic conditions. Or some striking utterance of his may be "played up" at the beginning, to be followed by a picture of him and his surroundings. Interviews on the same topic with two or more persons may be combined in a single article.
The interview has several obvious advantages. First, the spoken word, quoted verbatim, gives life to the story. The person interviewed seems to be talking to each reader individually. The description of him in his surroundings helps the reader to see him as he talks. Second, events, explanations, and opinions given in the words of one who speaks with authority, have greater weight than do the assertions of an unknown writer. Third, the interview is equally effective whether the writer's purpose is to inform, to entertain, or to furnish practical guidance. Romance and adventure, humor and pathos, may well be handled in interview form. Discoveries, inventions, new processes, unusual methods, new projects, and marked success of any kind may be explained to advantage in the words of those responsible for these undertakings.
In obtaining material for an interview story, a writer should bear in mind a number of points regarding interviewing in general. First, in advance of meeting the person to be interviewed, he should plan the series of questions by which he hopes to elicit the desired information. "What would my readers ask this person if they had a chance to talk to him about this subject?" he must ask himself. That is, his questions should be those that readers would like to have answered. Since it is the answers, however, and not the questions, that will interest readers, the questions in the completed article should be subordinated as much as possible.
Sometimes they may be skillfully embodied in the replies; again they may be implied merely, or entirely omitted. In studying an interview article, one can generally infer what questions the interviewer used. Second, he must cultivate his memory so that he can recall a person's exact words without taking notes.
Most men talk more freely and easily when they are not reminded of the fact that what they are saying is to be printed. In interviewing, therefore, it is desirable to keep pencil and paper out of sight. Third, immediately after leaving the person whom he has interviewed, the writer should jot down facts, figures, striking statements, and anything else that he might forget.
Examples of the Interview Article. As a timely special feature story for Arbor Day, a Washington correspondent used the following interview with an expert as a means of giving readers practical advice on tree-planting: ARBOR DAY ADVICE WASHINGTON, April 1.—Three spadefuls of rich, pulverized earth will do more to make a young tree grow than a 30-minute Arbor day address by the president of the school board and a patriotic anthem by the senior class, according to Dr. Furman L. Mulford, tree expert for the department of agriculture.
Not that Dr. Mulford would abbreviate the ceremonies attendant upon Arbor day planting, but he thinks that they do not mean much unless the roots planted receive proper and constant care. For what the Fourth of July is to the war and navy departments, and what Labor day is to the department of labor, Arbor day is to the department of agriculture.
While the forestry bureau has concerned itself primarily with trees from the standpoint of the timber supply, Dr. Mulford has been making a study of trees best adapted for streets and cities generally.
And nobody is more interested than he in what Arbor day signifies or how trees should be chosen and reared.
"We need trees most where our population is the thickest, and some trees, like some people, are not adapted to such a life," said Dr.
Mulford. "For street or school yard planting one of the first considerations is a hardy tree, that can find nourishment under brick pavements or granite sidewalks. It must be one that branches high from the ground and ought to be native to the country and climate.
America has the prettiest native trees and shrubs in the world and it is true patriotism to recognize them.
"For Southern states one of the prettiest and best of shade trees is the laurel oak, and there will be thousands of them planted this spring. It is almost an evergreen and is a quick growing tree. The willow oak is another.
"A little farther north the red oak is one of the most desirable, and in many places the swamp maple grows well, though this latter tree does not thrive well in crowded cities.
"Nothing, however, is prettier than the American elm when it reaches the majesty of its maturity and I do not believe it will ever cease to be a favorite. One thing against it, though, is the 'elm beetle,' a pest which is spreading and which will kill some of our most beautiful trees unless spraying is consistently practised. China berry trees, abundant in the South, and box elders, native to a score of states, are quick growing, but they reach maturity too soon and begin to go to pieces." "What is the reason that so many Arbor day trees die?" Dr. Mulford was asked.
"Usually lack of protection, and often lack of care in planting," was the answer. "When the new tree begins to put out tender rootlets a child brushing against it or 'inspecting' it too closely will break them off and it dies. Or stock will nip off the new leaves and shoots and the result is the same. A frame around the tree would prevent this.
"Then, often wild trees are too big when transplanted. Such trees have usually only a few long roots and so much of these are lost in transplanting that the large trunk cannot be nourished by the remainder. With nursery trees the larger they are the better it is, for they have a lot of small roots that do not have to be cut off.
"Fruit trees are seldom so successful as shade trees, either along a street or road or in a yard. In the first place their branches are too low and unless carefully pruned their shape is irregular. Then they are subject to so many pests that unless constant care is given them they will not bear a hatful of fruit a season.
"On the other hand, nut trees are usually hardy and add much to the landscape. Pecan, chestnut, walnut and shaggy bark hickory are some of the more popular varieties." The first Arbor day was observed in Nebraska, which has fewer natural trees than any other state. This was in 1872, and Kansas was the second to observe the day, falling into line in 1875. Incidentally Kansas ranks next to Nebraska in dearth of trees.
The Arbor day idea originated with J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraskan who was appointed secretary of agriculture by Cleveland. Now every state in the Union recognizes the day and New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and others have gotten out extensive Arbor day booklets giving information concerning trees and birds; most of them even contain appropriate songs and poems for Arbor day programs.
How an interview combined with a description of a person may serve to create sympathy for her and for the cause that she represents is shown in the following article, which was published anonymously in the Sunday magazine section of the Ohio State Journal. It was illustrated with two half-tone portraits, one of the young woman in Indian costume, the other showing her in street dress.
Just Like Pocahontas of 300 Years Ago "Oh, East is East and West is West, And never the two shall meet." BUT they may send messengers. Hark to the words of "One-whodoes- things-well." "I carry a message from my people to the Government at Washington," says Princess Galilolie, youngest daughter of John Ross, hereditary King of the "Forest Indians," the Cherokees of Oklahoma. "We have been a nation without hope. The land that was promised us by solemn treaty, 'so long as the grass should grow and the waters run,' has been taken from us. It was barren and wild when we received it seventy years ago. Now it is rich with oil and cultivation, and the whites coveted our possessions. Since it was thrown open to settlers no Cherokee holds sovereign rights as before, when it was his nation. We are outnumbered. I have come as a voice from my people to speak to the people of the Eastern States and to those at Washington—most of all, if I am permitted to do so, to lay our wrongs before the President's wife, in whose veins glows the blood of the Indian." Only nineteen is this Indian princess—this twentieth century Pocahontas—who travels far to the seats of the mighty for her race.
She is a tall, slim, stately girl from the foothills of the Ozarks, from Tahlequah, former capital of the Cherokee Nation. She says she is proud of every drop of Indian blood that flows in her veins. But her skin is fair as old ivory and she is a college girl—a girl of the times to her finger-tips.
"When an Indian goes through college and returns to his or her people," she says with a smile, "they say, 'Back to the blanket!' We have few blankets among the Cherokees in Tahlequah. I am the youngest of nine children, and we are all of us college graduates, as my father was before us." He is John Ross 3d, Chief of the Cherokee Nation, of mingled Scotch and Indian blood, in descent from "Cooweeskowee," John Ross I., the rugged old Indian King who held out against Andrew Jackson back in 1838 for the ancient rights of the Five Nations to their lands along the Southern Atlantic States.
She sat back on the broad window seat in the sunlight. Beyond the window lay a bird's-eye view of New York housetops, the white man's permanent tepee. Some spring birds alighted on a nearby telephone wire, sending out twittering mating cries to each other.
"They make me want to go home," she said with a swift, expressive gesture. "But I will stay until the answer comes to us. Do you know what they have called me, the old men and women who are wise— the full-bloods? Galilolie—'One-who-does-things-well.' With us, when a name is given it is one with a meaning, something the child must grow to in fulfillment. So I feel I must not fail them now." "You see," she went on, lifting her chin, "it is we young half-bloods who must carry the strength and honor of our people to the world so it may understand us. All our lives we have been told tales by the old men—how our people were driven from their homes by the Government, how Gen. Winfield Scott's soldiers came down into our quiet villages and ordered the Indians to go forth leaving everything behind them. My great-grandfather, the old King Cooweeskowee, with his wife and children, paused at the first hilltop to look back at his home, and already the whites were moving into it. The house is still standing at Rossville, Ga. Do you know what the old people tell us children when we wish we could go back there?" Her eyes are half closed, her lips compressed as she says slowly, thrillingly: "They tell us it is easy to find the way over that 'Trail of Tears,' that through the wilderness it is blazed with the gravestones of those who were too weak to march.
"That was seventy years ago, in 1838. The Government promised to pay amply for all it took from us, our homes and lands, cattle—even furniture. A treaty was made solemnly between the Indians and the United States that Oklahoma should be theirs 'as long as the grass should grow and the waters run.' "That meant perpetuity to us, don't you see?" She makes her points with a directness and simplicity that should disarm even the diplomatic suavity of Uncle Sam when he meets her in Washington.
"Year after year the Cherokees waited for the Government to pay.
And at last, three years ago, it came to us—$133.19 to each Indian, seventy-eight years after the removal from Georgia had taken place.
"Oil was discovered after the Indians had taken the wilderness lands in Oklahoma and reclaimed them. It was as if God, in reparation for the wrongs inflicted by whites, had given us the riches of the earth.
My people grew rich from their wells, but a way was found to bind their wealth so they could not use it. It was said the Indians were not fit to handle their own money." She lifts eyebrows and shoulders, her hands clasped before her tightly, as if in silent resentment of their impotence to help.
"These are the things I want to tell; first our wrongs and then our colonization plan, for which we hope so much if the Government will grant it. We are outnumbered since the land was opened up and a mass of 'sooners,' as we call them—squatters, claimers, settlers— swarmed in over our borders. The Government again offered to pay us for the land they took back—the land that was to be ours in perpetuity 'while the grass grew and the waters ran.' We were told to file our claims with the whites. Some of us did, but eight hundred of the full-bloods went back forty miles into the foothills under the leadership of Red Bird Smith. They refuse to sell or to accept the Government money for their valuable oil lands. To appease justice, the Government allotted them lands anyway, in their absence, and paid the money for their old property into the banks, where it lies untouched. Red Bird and his 'Night Hawks' refuse to barter over a broken treaty.
"Ah, but I have gone up alone to the old men there." Her voice softens. "They will talk to me because I am my father's daughter. My Indian name means 'One-who-does-things-well.' So if I go to them they tell me their heart longings, what they ask for the Cherokee.
"And I shall put the message, if I can, before our President's wife.
Perhaps she will help." The Personal Experience Article. A writer's own experiences, given under his name, under a pseudonym, or in anonymous form, can easily be made interesting to others. Told in the first person, such stories are realistic and convincing. The pronoun "I" liberally sprinkled through the story, as it must be, gives to it a personal, intimate character that most readers like. Conversation and description of persons, places, and objects may be included to advantage in these personal narratives.
The possibilities of the personal experience story are as great as are those of the interview. Besides serving as a vehicle for the writer's own experiences, it may be employed to give experiences of others. If, for example, a person interviewed objects to having his name used, it is possible to present the material obtained by the interview in the form of a personal experience story. In that case the article would have to be published without the writer's name, since the personal experiences that it records are not his own. Permission to present material in a personal experience story should always be obtained from the individual whose experiences the writer intends to use.
Articles designed to give practical guidance, to show readers how to do something, are particularly effective when written in the first person. If these "how-to-do-something" articles are to be most useful to readers, the conditions under which the personal experience was obtained must be fairly typical.
Personal experience articles of this type are very popular in women's magazines, agricultural journals, and publications that appeal to business men.
Examples of the Personal Experience Story. The opportunities for service offered to women by small daily newspapers are set forth in the story below, by means of the personal experiences of one woman. The article was published in the Woman's Home Companion, and was illustrated by a half-tone reproduction of a wash drawing of a young woman seated at her desk in a newspaper office.
"They Call Me the 'Hen Editor'" The Story of a Small-Town Newspaper Woman By SADIE L. MOSSLER "What do you stay buried in this burg for? Why, look how you drudge! and what do you get out of it? New York or some other big city is the place for you. There's where you can become famous instead of being a newspaper woman in a one-horse town." A big city newspaper man was talking. He was in our town on an assignment, and he was idling away spare time in our office. Before I could answer, the door opened and a small girl came to my desk.
"Say," she said, "Mama told me to come in here and thank you for that piece you put in the paper about us. You ought to see the eatin's folks has brought us! Heaps an' heaps! And Ma's got a job scrubbin' three stores." The story to which she referred was one that I had written about a family left fatherless, a mother and three small children in real poverty. I had written a plain appeal to the home people, with the usual results.
"That," I said, "is one reason that I am staying here. Maybe it isn't fame in big letters signed to an article, but it's another kind." His face wore a queer expression; but before he could retort another caller appeared, a well-dressed woman.
"What do you mean," she declared, "by putting it in the paper that I served light refreshments at my party?" "Wasn't it so?" I meekly inquired.
"No!" she thundered. "I served ice cream, cake and coffee, and that makes two courses. See that it is right next time, or we'll stop the paper." Here my visitor laughed. "I suppose that's another reason for your staying here. When we write anything about a person we don't have to see them again and hear about it." "But," I replied, "that's the very reason I cling to the small town. I want to see the people about whom I am writing, and live with them.
That's what brings the rewards in our business. It's the personal side that makes it worth while, the real living of a newspaper instead of merely writing to fill its columns." In many small towns women have not heretofore been overly welcome on the staff of the local paper, for the small town is essentially conservative and suspicious of change. This war, however, is changing all that, and many a woman with newspaper ambitions will now have her chance at home.
For ten years I have been what may be classified as a small town newspaper woman, serving in every capacity from society reporter to city and managing editor. During this time I have been tempted many times to go to fields where national fame and a larger salary awaited those who won. But it was that latter part that held me back, that and one other factor: "Those who won," and "What do they get out of it more than I?" It is generally conceded that for one woman who succeeds in the metropolitan newspaper field about ten fail before the vicissitudes of city life, the orders of managing editors, and the merciless grind of the big city's working world. And with those who succeed, what have they more than I? They sign their names to articles; they receive big salaries; they are famous—as such fame goes. Why is a signed name to an article necessary, when everyone knows when the paper comes out that I wrote the article? What does national fame mean compared with the fact that the local laws of the "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" were not being enforced and that I wrote stories that remedied this condition? I began newspaper life as society reporter of a daily paper in a Middle-Western town of ten thousand inhabitants. That is, I supposed I was going to be society reporter, but before very long I found myself doing police assignments, sport, editing telegraph, and whatever the occasion demanded.
I suppose that the beginnings of everyone's business life always remain vivid memories. The first morning I reported for work at seven o'clock. Naturally, no one was in the front office, as the news department of a small-town newspaper office is sometimes called. I was embarrassed and nervous, and sat anxiously awaiting the arrival of the city editor. In five minutes he gave me sufficient instructions to last a year, but the only one I remember was, "Ask all the questions you can think of, and don't let anyone bluff you out of a story." My first duty, and one that I performed every morning for several years, was to "make" an early morning train connecting with a large city, forty miles away. It was no easy task to approach strangers and ask their names and destination; but it was all good experience, and it taught me how to approach people and to ask personal questions without being rude.
During my service as society reporter I learned much, so much that I am convinced there is no work in the smaller towns better suited to women. Any girl who is bright and quick, who knows the ethics of being a lady, can hold this position and make better money at it than by teaching or clerking.
Each trade, they say, has its tricks, and being a society reporter is no exception. In towns of from one thousand to two thousand inhabitants, the news that Mrs. X. is going to give a party spreads rapidly by that system of wireless telegraphy that excels the Marconi —neighborhood gossip. But in the larger towns it is not so easy. In "our town," whenever there is a party the ice cream is ordered from a certain confectioner. Daily he permitted us to see his order book. If Mrs. Jones ordered a quart of ice cream we knew that she was only having a treat for the family. If it were two quarts or more, it was a party, and if it was ice cream in molds, we knew a big formal function was on foot.
Society reporting is a fertile field, and for a long time I had been thinking that society columns were too dull. My ideal of a newspaper is that every department should be edited so that everyone would read all the paper. I knew that men rarely read the social column. One day a man said to me that he always called his wife his better judgment instead of his better half. That appealed to me as printable, but where to put it in the paper? Why not in my own department? I did so. That night when the paper came out everyone clamored to know who the man was, for I had merely written, "A man in town calls his wife his better judgment instead of his better half." Then I decided to make the society department a reflection of our daily life and sayings. In order to get these in I used the initials of my title, "S.R." I never used names, but I always managed to identify my persons.
As one might expect, I brought down a storm about my head. Many persons took the hints for themselves when they were not so intended, and there were some amusing results. For instance, when I said in the paper that "a certain man in a down-town store has perfect manners," the next day twelve men thanked me, and I received four boxes of candy as expressions of gratitude.
There were no complaints about the society column being dull after this; everyone read it and laughed at it, and it was quoted in many exchanges. Of course, I was careful to hurt no one's feelings, but I did occasionally have a little good-natured fun at the expense of people who wouldn't mind it. Little personal paragraphs of this sort must never be malicious or mean—if the paper is to keep its friends.
Of all my newspaper experience I like best to dwell on the society reporting; but if I were to advance I knew that I must take on more responsibility, so I became city editor of another paper. I was virtually managing editor, for the editor and owner was a politician and was away much of the time. It was then that I began to realize the responsibility of my position, to grapple with the problem of dealing fairly both with my employer and the public. The daily life with its varying incidents, the big civic issues, the stories to be handled, the rights of the advertisers to be considered, the adjusting of the news to the business department—all these were brought before me with a powerful clarity.
When a woman starts on a city paper she knows that there are linotypes, presses and other machinery. Often she has seen them work; but her knowledge of "how" they work is generally vague. It was on my third day as city editor that I realized my woeful ignorance of the newspaper business from the mechanical viewpoint.
I had just arrived at the office when the foreman came to my desk.
"Say," he said, "we didn't get any stuff set last night. Power was off.
Better come out and pick out the plate you want to fill with." What he meant by the power being off I could understand, and perforce I went out to select the plate. He handed me long slabs of plate matter to read. Later I learned that printed copies of the plate are sent for selection, but in my ignorance I took up the slabs and tried to read the type. To my astonishment it was all backward, and I found myself wondering if it were a Chinese feature story. Finally I threw myself on his mercy and told him to select what he chose. As I left the composing-room I heard him say to one of the printers: "That's what comes of the boss hiring a hen editor." Shortly after noon a linotype operator came to me with his hands full of copy.
"If you want any of this dope in the paper," he said, "you'll have to grab off a paragraph here and there. My machine's got a bad squirt, and it'll take an hour or more to fix it." Greek, all Greek! A squirt! I was too busy "grabbing off" paragraphs to investigate; but then and there I resolved to penetrate all these mysteries. I found the linotype operator eager to show me how his machine works, and the foreman was glad to take me around and instruct me in his department and also in the pressroom. I have had trouble with printers since; but in the end they had to admit that the "hen editor" knew what she was talking about.
There is a great cry now for woman's advancement. If the women are hunting equality as their goal let them not seek out the crowded, hostile cities, but remain in the smaller places where their work can stand out distinctly. A trite phrase expresses it that a newspaper is the "voice of the people." What better than that a woman should set the tune for that voice? Equality with men! I sit at my desk looking out over the familiar home scene. A smell of fresh ink comes to me, and a paper just off the press is slapped down on my desk.
"Look!" says the foreman. "We got out some paper today, didn't we?" "We!" How's that for equality? He has been twenty years at his trade and I only ten, yet he includes me.
When I am tempted to feel that my field is limited, my tools crude, and my work unhonored and unsung, I recall a quotation I read many years ago, and I will place it here at the end of the "hen editor's" uneventful story.
Back before my mind floats that phrase, "Buried in this burg." If a person has ability, will not the world learn it? "If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or sing a more glorious song than his neighbor, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door." That a personal experience story may be utilized to show readers how to do something is demonstrated in the following article taken from The Designer. It was illustrated by a half-tone made from a wash drawing of one corner of the burlap room.
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