Alfred Baker.

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PITMAN'S
PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

AN INTRODUCTION TO EVERY DESCRIPTION

OF LITERARY EFFORT IN ASSOCIATION

WITH NEWSPAPER PRODUCTION



BY

ALFRED BAKER

HON. MEMBER AND FORMERLY FELLOW OF THE INSTITUTE
OF JOURNALISTS (INCORPORATED BY ROYAL CHARTER)



WITH NOTES ON

NEWSPAPER LAW

BY

EDWARD A. COPE

AUTHOR OF " ELEMENTARY LAW,"
" CLERKS I THEIR RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS," ETC.



LONDON

SIR ISAAC PITMAN & SONS, LTD., 1 AMEN CORNER, E.C.
AND AT BATH, NEW YORK AND MELBOURNE



PRINTED BY SIR ISAAC PITMAN

& SONS, LTD., LONDON, BATH,

NEW YORK AND MELBOURNE



PREFACE

THE guidance in the practice of English Journalism given
in this volume is designed mainly for those who are about
to take up newspaper work, or who are already filling junior
positions on the Press. It is hoped that many who are
beginning their journalistic career may derive advantage
from the experience and advice of an old hand.

But the scope of the book is by no means limited to an
attempt to initiate the tyro in the work usually entrusted
to beginners. The duties of every class of journalist from
the junior reporter to the editor are in turn described ;
and information is offered on the work of each member of the
newspaper staff, from the lowest to the highest.

While conciseness has been aimed at, the importance
of furnishing complete practical guidance has been kept
steadily in view. It is hoped, therefore, that the volume may
prove serviceable to a large number of newspaper men,
in addition to those for whom it is primarily intended.
The working journalist will, it is believed, find that much
useful matter on newspaper enterprise is contained in this
book, which has not been hitherto readily accessible ; while
the addition of an index renders it easy of consultation on any
desired point, either of journalistic practice or of newspaper
law.

The chapters on " Practical Journalism " have been
submitted to the scrutiny of several journalists of wide experi-
ence, and the author has to express his indebtedness to these
professional friends for many helpful suggestions.

It is believed that Mr. Cope's notes on " Newspaper Law "
are more comprehensive and complete than anything which
has been published previously on the subject.

One other observation only appears necessary by' way
of preface. There have been innumerable changes of fashion

iii



IV PREFACE

in journalism in the past, and there may be many more
in the future ; but it is absolutely certain that there will
always be a 'demand for accurate and well-informed journal-
istic work on the English Press (of which alone the author
is competent to speak) of the description indicated in
succeeding pages.

A. B.



CONTENTS

PRACTICAL JOURNALISM. By ALFRED BAKER

CHAP. PAGE

I. INTRODUCTORY ...... 1

II. THE NEWSPAPER STAFF ..... 5

III. QUALIFICATIONS FOR JOURNALISM . . .11

IV. DUTIES OF THE JUNIOR REPORTER ... 17
V. THE PREPARATION OF COPY .... 26

VI. REPORTING POLITICAL SPEECHES ... 32

VII. REPORTING RELIGIOUS GATHERINGS. . . 40
VIII. REPORTING SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS, LECTURES,

ETC ... 46

IX. REPORTING LEGAL PROCEEDINGS . . .51

X. REPORTING LOCAL AUTHORITIES ... 63
XI. REPORTING CONTESTED ELECTIONS, COMPANY

MEETINGS, PUBLIC DINNERS, ETC. . . 68

XII. DESCRIPTIVE AND NARRATIVE REPORTING . 74

XIII. SPECIALISATION AND CRITICISM ... 80

XIV. INTERVIEWING ...... 87

XV. SPECIAL CORRESPONDENCE AND TELEGRAPHIC

REPORTING . . . . . .92

XVI. SUB-EDITING. ...... 98

XVII. LEADER WRITING ...... 109

XVIII. EDITING 113

XIX. FREE LANCE AND LINAGE WORK . . .119

XX. SOCIETIES AND SCHOOLS ; SALARIES, ETC. . .124

NEWSPAPER LAW. By EDWARD A. COPE

I. FORMALITIES. . . ... . . 133

II. PRIVILEGED REPORTS 136

III. COMMENTS AND CONTEMPT OF COURT 145



VI CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

IV. QUESTIONS OF COPYRIGHT . . . .153
V. EDITORS AND CONTRIBUTORS .... 157
POST OFFICE CODE OF LONGHAND ABBREVIA-
TIONS 163

POST OFFICE REGULATIONS FOR PRESS

TELEGRAMS ...... 167

INDEX . 171



PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

BY ALFRED BAKER



PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

BY ALFRED BAKER



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY

THE Newspaper and Periodical Press, more than any other
kind of enterprise, reflects every phase of modern life, whether
intellectual or material. / In the marvellous advances in
scientific invention, many things have been either superseded
or transformed ; but it does not seem within the region of
probability that our daily or weekly journals whose function
is to provide news, or our periodicals devoted to every
imaginable interest, can be superseded by any more
convenient medium for the circulation of information.

That the Press of to-day has defects, some of them serious,
probably not even its greatest admirers will deny ; but there
is one characteristic which everyone will admit that it exhibits
to a remarkable degree : It has never stood still, or lagged
behind the times, from the days when the removal of fiscal
imposts made the production of cheap papers possible.
It has also been a striking feature of the newspaper Press
of our own and other civilised lands, that every new inven-
tion has been utilised to add to the efficiency of the daily
journal from the application of steam to printing machinery
down to the employment of the camera and wireless telegraphy,
perfection of organisation which has made possible a
simultaneous distribution of a morning journal over a con-
siderable area certainly deserves to rank among the romances
of modern enterprise. With such alertness in utilising every
practicable invention of the age, the future of the newspaper
as one of the great instruments for the promotion of
civilisation can hardly be otherwise than secure.



2 ','.' , PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

The Scope of Journalism.

An undertaking which, regarded as a whole, is so vast and
varied, and one, moreover, which wields such incalculable
influence, has demanded the services of men of the most
diverse talents and acquirements ; that it has enjoyed the
advantage of such services ever since journalism became a
power in the land, the past history of the British Press
abundantly testifies. It is evident to everybody that our
newspapers are to-day served by as able pens as during any
period of the past ; while, in the rank and file of those who
devote themselves to journalism, there is a greater variety
of ability than at any previous time. The very fact that
our papers now deal with every interest and pursuit of the
astonishingly varied life of to-day has necessitated a con-
siderable amount of specialisation among those who practise
journalism as a means of livelihood. But there is still
abundant scope for the " all-round " journalist : the man
who is skilful both as a reporter of speeches and trials, and
as a descriptive or critical writer ; and it is for those who
purpose taking up. the more ordinary kinds of journalistic
work, that this book is designed. It should be borne in
mind that a large portion of the journalist's daily work must
always be of the kind to be indicated in succeeding chapters,
and that the ordinary methods of the craft must be known
and practised by ah 1 who would seek success as specialists
in any particular department of the wide field of modern
journalism. There are two things of great importance to
all who would practise journalism successfully : The first of
these is a practical acquaintance with the methods and
usages of the craft ; the second, an alert appreciation and
ability in the employment of the various mechanical and
other inventions for the transmission of intelligence. In suc-
ceeding chapters these two points will be kept steadily in
view ; but there is, after all, a great deal in the making
of a successful journalist, in which neither tutor nor text-
book can greatly assist.



INTRODUCTORY 3

Definition of " Journalism " and " Journalist."

It has been said that the journalist, like the poet, is born
and not made ; there is much truth in the saying. ! Journalism
is an intellectual pursuit quite as much as authorship, oratory,
music, or art. ySome men will attain to great distinction in
guiding public 'opinion on the political questions of the day,
while others will make themselves acknowledged authorities
as critics of art, music, or sport ; and others again will devote
financial gifts of no mean order to the service of the public.
The exercise of these and similar talents through the medium
of journalism cannot be taught either orally or in the printed
page, but much guidance can, we think, be furnished to the
young journalist which will prove of material assistance to
him in the early stages of his career.

A newspaper is such a well-known production, that any
definition of its object, purpose, or scope, would be absolutely
superfluous. But a definition of the name by which those
who fill its pages with intelligence are known appears per-
missible at the outset of some observations dealing with their
work. In a much worn English dictionary, which has seen
nearly half a century of service in various newspaper offices,
a " journalist " is defined asx " One who writes or conducts
a journal or newspaper." //The meaning attached to the title
is sufficiently comprehensive, but, like most dictionary defini-
tions, it is lacking in detail. To-day, the term is used as
describing the occupation of a vast army of men engaged
in every department of literary work connected with news-
papers and periodicals. Some are employed in the produc-
tion of leading articles ; others in critical notices of various
descriptions ; others in reporting speeches or arguments, or
the results of sports of all kinds. There was, formerly, a
tendency to discriminate, and to call some of those engaged
in newspaper work, " journalists " ; and others, " reporters."
But since the establishment of chartered and other societies,
it has been found more convenient in this department of the
republic of letters to describe all who contribute to news-
papers as " journalists." This term will be most convenient



4 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

for our present purpose, although the public will probably
always call by the familiar term of " reporter " those news-
paper writers who are, as it were, in the firing line of the
journalistic army. The public sees and knows these men,
and understands the work which reporters perform, but of
those who are (to use another metaphor) behind the scenes,
it exhibits at times a curious absence of knowledge, and
appears almost entirely ignorant of the functions of the
editorial staff of the newspaper.



CHAPTER II

THE NEWSPAPER STAFF

THE staff of a great morning daily newspaper, as it is
conducted in the present day, may be divided into three
sections : The first of these consists of the editor and his
assistants ; and the second, of the chief reporter (or news
editor) and his assistants. This combined body of literary
workers is permanently engaged in the service of the journal,
and its constituent members usually devote the whole, or
the greater part, of their time and skill to its interests.
There is, in the third section, a large and miscellaneous body
of outside contributors attached to every large daily paper,
who supply it either regularly or occasionally with items of
news, such as market reports, accounts of sales of various
descriptions, and intelligence of a special character with
which the journal desires to furnish its readers. This class
of contributors usually consists of those engaged in occupa-
tions which furnish them with special facilities for supplying
the facts the editor desires. Another source of news supply
is found in the free-lance journalists, who prefer to work
independently of any particular paper, and who offer items
of a miscellaneous description, which are not likely to have
been gathered by the regular staff, or to reach the paper
through the news agencies, whose services of telegraphic
items of intelligence are familiar to all frequenters of news
rooms, clubs, etc.

The Editor.

The head of the newspaper staff, the man whose position
resembles that of commander-in-chief of an army, is, of
course, the editor. Although the editors of our great daily
newspapers exercise a vast influence on public opinion, they
do not themselves except in rare instances come greatly

5



6 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

before the public. The causes for this mainly arise from the
inherent character of British journalism. With few excep-
tions, the articles are unsigned, and are given to the public
as expressing the opinion of the paper rather than of the
individuals who produce them. This impersonal character-
istic has many advantages, but it effectually hides the per-
sonality of the editor, unless that individual elects to become
a public man. In most cases, however, the onerous character
of the editor's duties obliges him to confine himself to his
newspaper work.

The functions of the editor involve the entire management
and control of the policy and literary contents of the news-
paper, and, as a natural consequence, of the staff which he
gathers around him. The contents of every morning paper,
apart from the advertisements, is made up of two parts :
the first consists of articles giving expression to political
opinions, or criticism on other matters of public interest ;
the second comprises news on every topic of current concern,
which is, in most cases, presented impartially and free from
bias. It is the first of these two great departments which
receives the special attention of the editor, who, to a certain
extent, resembles the conductor of an orchestra in dealing
with it. He probably does not actually write any of the
articles himself, but he undertakes the far more difficult task
of directing his assistants as to the subjects to be dealt with,
and of controlling the activities of a small band of special
correspondents, and so forth. It will be of interest, perhaps,
to deal with the editor's functions a little more in detail.
The leading articles are written by a special staff of leader
writers, directly instructed by the editor, and their work
is revised and harmonised by him in accordance with what
he has decided shall be the policy of his journal. When great
events are in progress at home or abroad, the editor selects
from his staff, or secures the services of, individuals best
qualified to act as special correspondents.^ He appoints and
controls the activities of a corps of verities and reviewers in
the domain of art, literature, and the drama. These men



THE NEWSPAPER STAFF 7

are not necessarily working journalists, but often hold official
or professional positions, and are selected for their special
work on account of their fitness to act as critics. Foreign
correspondents form an important section of the staff of the
largest daily papers, and the editor who appoints them finds
it necessary to keep in close touch with their work. On the
largest newspapers the duties above mentioned would be too
onerous for any man to undertake without competent help.
It, therefore, follows that most editors avail themselves of
the aid of men who are, in fact, assistant editors, although
they may work under some other designation, and these
usually exercise considerable control over the staff engaged
in the collection and preparation of news.

The Sub-Editor.

A staff of sub-editors is an indispensable feature of every
daily newspaper, and, according to locality and the size of the
journal, may number from three to eight. Sub-editors do not
usually appear at the office of the morning newspaper until
most people have finished their labours for the day, and
they carry on their duties throughout the night until the
newspaper is sent to press in the early hours of the morning.
It is the duty of the sub-editors, under the general direction
of a senior, to receive all the news brought into the office by
the reporting staff, or dispatched to it by foreign corre-
spondents, by local correspondents, and by contributors of
every description. They have also to keep a vigilant eye
on contemporary journals, in order that no important item
of news may escape attention. From the time they take
their seats at their desks until the journal is sent to press,
they are engaged continuously in the revision and prepara-
tion of news copy. No error must escape their notice, and
they require to exercise extreme care and judgment in regu-
lating the length of various reports and notices, so that there
shall not be at the end of the night's work a number of items
" crowded out " owing to want of space. The sub-editors
have, in addition, to exercise great care in excluding libellous



8 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

or other obnoxious matter, and in verifying any doubtful
items of news before deciding to publish. This brief general
statement of the work of the sub-editor will enable the reader
to appreciate the functions of a little-understood class of
newspaper workers.

Reporters and Correspondents.

Every reader of a daily journal is aware that by far the
largest portion of its contents is supplied by the reporters
who attend public meetings of every description, the delibera-
tions of governing bodies, courts of justice of every category,
and events of ah 1 kinds in which the public is interested.
The most important reporting work done in this country is
that performed by the reporters who represent the daily
journals in the Galleries of the Houses of Parliament.
It should be here explained that this book will not deal with
Parliamentary reporting. Those who desire complete inform-
ation on this subject are referred to Mr. Michael Macdonagh's
comprehensive work entitled The Reporters' Gallery (Hodder
& Stoughton, 12s. net). Only the leading newspapers are
represented at Westminster by independent reporting staffs ;
it is in work of a more diversified character that the reporters
of our daily newspapers are employed.

The usual arrangement with regard to the reporting staff
is to have a chief reporter, or news-editor, at its head.
He is responsible for the compilation of the daily list of
engagements, and assigns each of these to the individual
member of the staff who, he considers, is most competent
to deal with it. He also directs him as to the length and
style of his report. In certain instances, but not in all, he
exercises some supervision over the work when produced.
But, in all cases, the chief reporter of a large staff has to
employ considerable powers of control and direction ; and
when any important gathering occupies the attention of a
large part of his staff, he has time for little else beside seeing
that all are doing their appointed work in the way required.

Many of the country dailies serve a considerable area :



THE NEWSPAPER STAFF 9

iii some instances, two or more English counties, It would
obviously be impossible to dispatch reporters from head-
quarters to secure news at all the distant towns. Provision
is, therefore, made by the appointment of resident district
reporters at all large centres of population for collecting the
latest local news, which can be transmitted by telegraph or
telephone to the head office down to the time of publication.
In order to serve his paper efficiently, the district reporter
needs to be ever vigilant, active, and resourceful. He has
more individual responsibility than the reporters who act
under instructions at headquarters, and a really competent
discharge of duty will often prove highly beneficial to the
paper on which he is engaged.

Most provincial morning papers have a considerable staff
of local correspondents. These contributors are sometimes
men engaged in various capacities on small weekly news-
papers, or they may have no association with journalism.
They are expected to supply only the smaller items of intelli-
gence which arise in their town or district, and to give prompt
information relative to events of importance with which the
regular members of the newspaper staff will be commissioned
to deal. The quality of their work and the extent of their
enterprise vary greatly. Sometimes the services they render
are extremely valuable to the paper ; at other times, their
remissness is a source of tribulation to sub T editors and chief
reporters. A large number of special contributors supply,
regularly, brief items of intelligence to the newspapers in the
form of market reports, arrivals and departures of various
kinds, and so forth. These duties hardly fall within the
domain of journalism, but the matter produced demands
considerable attention from the editorial staff, in order to
secure conciseness, intelligibility, and accuracy.

The evening and weekly newspapers of the country are
served by corps organised on similar lines to those of the
morning daily journals. Such staffs are, of course, smaller,
and there is not the same division of labour. The editor of
a weekly newspaper, for example, will himself write the

2 (l6oo)



10 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

leaders and pen the critical notices. He will also undertake
a portion or the whole of the sub-editorial work. In these
duties, however, the reporters at the head office are expected
to render considerable assistance. In fact, each individual
member of the staff of a weekly paper is a journalist who,
in the course of his career, plays many parts.

Staffs of Special Organs.

A vast number of special organs, issued weekly, give
occupation to quite an army of journalists. These produc-
tions include newspapers devoted to a special trade or pro-
fession ; organs of political, religious, or social movements ;
and papers devoted to the interests of every imaginable
hobby or recreation. The staff of such a journal usually con-
sists of an editor, who is an expert on the subject with which
his paper deals, and is not necessarily a working journalist ;
and one or more sub-editors, who require to exercise more
than usual skill in dealing with matter contributed by experts
of varying degrees of literary ability. Such a paper is largely
filled by the contributions of writers of the class just
described ; and when reports are required, a commission
is usually given to reporting or shorthand writing firms for
their supply, as the technical or special journal does not keep
reporters on its staff.



CHAPTER III

QUALIFICATIONS FOR JOURNALISM

IN the present day, when the pursuit of journalism as a
means of livelihood, or as a qualification for public life, is
receiving more and more attention, it seems desirable to
preface any observations on the qualifications for its exercise
with remarks on the special characteristics of this description
of intellectual work. Three main points demand the serious
attention of the tyro.

When making a comparison between newspaper work and
other spheres of mental effort, it should be clearly realised
that, in spite of the vast increase in the number of journals
and periodicals, the total number of journalists cannot be
otherwise than limited compared with, for example, the
number of school teachers, or the army of clerks, travellers,
etc., of all kinds. If not openly avowed, this condition of
things would appear to be tacitly recognised by the com-
munity. It is rare to find a really competent journalist out
of work, and it would, therefore, appear that the calling only
attracts a sufficient number to fulfil its requirements.

An " Open Profession."

It should further be remembered that journalism is what
is termed an " open profession." It appears likely that the
newspaper Press will never be closed to any writer of ability
on current events, who can find occupation on any particular
journal. The journalist, therefore, finds himself in perpetual
rivalry against all comers, and without the prescriptive rights
of the medical man or the solicitor, who are protected against
any who have not, like themselves, the privilege of being
specially registered or enrolled, after they have satisfied the
examining bodies as to their competency.

The fact that the entrance to journalism cannot be

11



12 PRACTICAL JOURNALISM

restricted does not, however, materially injure those engaged
in the calling, because, in order to attain success in its pur-
suit, there must be, to a greater or less extent, special indi-
vidual aptitude of a kind which need not be possessed by
those admitted after examination to some other professions.
When a man has passed through a certain course of examina-
tions, the public has a guarantee that he is reasonably com-
petent to practise as, let us say, an accountant or a dentist ;
but, on the other hand, although art training is essential, it


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Online LibraryAlfred BakerPitman's practical journalism; an introduction to every description of literary effort in association with newspaper production → online text (page 1 of 14)