Alfred Baker.

Pitman's practical journalism; an introduction to every description of literary effort in association with newspaper production online

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before the beginning has been delivered by the telegraph
messenger. Sometimes the reporter dispatches a series of
messages at different times during the evening and, without



\ _ / * Th|?_association of tjfe people with the press, 3 Oj I
lirf f ' which is e^ery year becoming nioreknd more 5 7//
/ intimate by the general acquaintane and 6 C-l


by the general acquaintance and 6 C-l
cultivation of the art of composition, ren^ H
8 tiers it necessary that ]Sveryone should 9 &/
10 become acquainte<^)with the ways of the

press, so that he may be able to present 11 /
litcraryVhis productions to the public in
the correct form.-^
^The revision of an article for a

or trade organ, and the correction of a pro
16 -nood a knowledge **f Lhc maAb of t ne n

marks that are employed by iifcorayy met^ 13
*^ 19 and press /caders in revising and correcting x

* their worltuTlist of corrections here

"ployed will be inteligible in any printing

office. The origin o greater part of these **
* -y "* corrections is obvious. Such words as
vjV ^L/ 2 vlelete.. from the Latin deleo, to blot out, *'

' *~ curry us back to the days of Elzevir and ty
** Pla^ttin, when nearly all hooks were printed ='
in Latin, and printers were /atin scholars. M




1. Change from lower case to
write " SM. CAPS " ; and for Italic
write It.

2. Commence a new paragraph.

3. Letter upside down.

4. A letter of a wrong fount

5. Put a space in.

6. Wrong letter.

7. Insert a hyphen.

8. Too much space ; put the
words closer together.

9. Substitute a small letter for
the capital.

10. " Delete " (take out).

11. Insert a comma.

12. Transpose these words (trs.
= transpose).

13. No fresh paragraph ; let
the matter run on.

14. A space is standing up.

15. Put these letters straight.

16. Substitute the word in the
margin for that crossed out.

17. See 10.

18. Let these words stand ; they
have been crossed out by mistake
(stet = let it stand).

19. This letter is broken or

20. Insert a full stop.

21. Some words have been
omitted ; refer to copy. Where
there are only a few words
omitted, they may be written in
the margin. If the omission is a
long one a reference is made to
the copy.

22. Letter omitted.

23. Word omitted.

24. Close up.

25. Put this word in quotation
marks ; that is, between inverted

26. Italic.

27. See 10.

28. Transpose the letters.

29. Roman.

30. Substitute a capital for the
lower case letter.

The passage as corrected is as under


The association of the people with the press, which is every year
becoming more and more intimate by the general acquaintance and
cultivation of the art of composition, renders it necessary that everyone
should become acquainted with the ways of the press, so that he may
be able to present his literary productions to the public in the correct
form. The revision of an article for a magazine or trade organ, and the
correction of a proof, require a knowledge of the marks that are em-
ployed by literary men and press readers in revising and correcting
their work. Although these signs at present differ slightly in different
printing offices, the list of corrections here employed will be intelligible
in any printing office. The origin of the greater part of these correc-
tions is obvious. Such words as " delete," from the Latin deleo, to
blot out, carry us back to the days of Elzevir and Plantin, when nearly
all books were printed in Latin, and printers were Latin scholars.


some means of ascertaining the order of dispatch, the sub-
editor is liable to deal erroneously with the mass of " flimsies "
as the telegraphic messages are termed which reach him
from the Post Office. As everyone knows, the time at which
a message was handed in is stated in plain figures on the
ordinary pink telegraph form. But Press messages, which
are manifolded by telegraphists on semi-transparent flimsies,
contain only code letters to indicate the time at which the
message was handed in. From what we have said, it will
be obvious that it is very important to the sub-editor to be
able to arrange the telegraphic copy, which is constantly
being delivered at his table, in the order in which the mes-
sages were dispatched. The code employed by telegraphists
is very simple, and is as under

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

If a reporter hands in a message at 11 o'clock, the letter L
will appear on the telegraphic flimsies. Should he dispatch
a second message ten minutes later, - the letters LB will
appear on the flimsies ; and so on. The first letter, it will
be noted, stands for the hour, and the second for consecutive
periods of five minutes (as on a clock face) . F F, for
example, representing 6.30. In order to indicate the precise
minute at which the message was handed in, a third letter
is used, which is one of the following four

R S w X

1st minute 2nd minute 3rd minute 4th minute

To indicate 6.31, therefore, the telegraphist uses the letters
F F R ; for 6.32, F F S ; for 6.33, F F W ; and for 6.34, F F X.

Errors in transmission often give the sub-editor serious
trouble, but he should be on sufficiently good terms with
the Superintendent of the Telegraphic Department to be
able to secure a prompt verification in cases of importance.
If the discrepancy does not greatly affect the sense of the


message, he will either amend or omit the doubtful passage.
Where a morning newspaper has a special wire, it is, oi
course, possible for the sub-editor to make better arrange-
ments with a view to accuracy and general convenience than
when the messages are dispatched over the public wires.

Sub-Editing Staff Reports, etc.

The copy handed in to the sub-editor by the staff
reporters needs only, in the case of the experienced men,
to be read through and reduced in length, if the exigencies
of space demand curtailment. The formality of reading
through should not be omitted in any case, as even the best
of reporters may occasionally fall into an inaccuracy or
omission which would cause a serious loss of time later on.
The work of junior reporters needs especially careful revision,
though in some cases a senior member of the reporting staff
will give valuable aid by revising it before it reaches the

In association with copy contributed by a variety of
people, the sub-editor will soon discover that the use of
different abbreviations for common words is a fruitful cause
of error. All would be well if everyone used the table given
at the end of this work, but they do not. Whenever the
vigilant sub-editor finds, for example, that some contributor
has used the contraction fr, he should use his blue pencil
to convert it into either for or from, or there is a possibility
that the operator will mistranslate the abbreviation. The
danger of serious error in the illustration we have selected
has been referred to in a previous chapter. Where a news-
paper receives cable messages direct from a correspondent
abroad, these dispatches are often sent in a condensed form,
in order to economise on the heavy cable charges for Press
messages. This method of omitting unimportant words is
known as " skeletonising." It is the duty of the sub-editor
to supply the omitted words so that an intelligible item of
news may be evolved from the skeleton ; and, where nothing
material is added to the message, no objection can be taken

8 (1600)


to the practice. No respectable newspaper conductor would,
indeed, sanction amplification which added descriptive
matter or " facts " not included in the cable message. It is,
of course, perfectly legitimate to elucidate an item of cable
news by a supplementary paragraph in the form of a note
derived from reference books or other sources.

Quotations used by speakers ought to be verified, though
this is a counsel of perfection which the harassed sub-editor
cannot always follow. But dictionaries of quotations are
now very comprehensive, and the sub-editor ought to have
one of the best at his elbow. Where copy is found to be
badly or imperfectly punctuated, the sub-editor needs to be
especially careful in revising, as the linotype operator would
waste valuable time if he had to pause to think about the
right punctuation.

Specialist Sub-Editing.

Many of the large dailies, and more especially the leading
provincial dailies, devote a considerable portion of their
space every day to news of a special character. Only a sub
editor versed in the subject can deal effectively with such
copy. In a mining district, for example, the space devoted
to mining is under the supervision of a specialist sub-editor ;
while at a naval port the sub-editor who deals with the naval
news is frequently an individual who has seen service in the
Royal Navy.

Exchange Sub-Editing.

On the staffs of American newspapers there is an indi-
vidual known as the " Exchange Editor." It is the duty
of this functionary to peruse all contemporary journals and
clip from them any item deemed of especial interest to the
readers of his own newspaper. This work usually falls within
the duties of one of the sub-editors in an English newspaper
office. He deals with such items usually in one of _two ways.
He either quotes the item by mentioning the title of the news-
paper from which it was extracted, or he hands the cutting


to some member of the staff who is deputed to make inquiries
and to re-write with such additional information as he can
obtain. In some newspaper offices, many news items are
customarily copied as they appear from contemporary
journals : thus an evening paper will copy freely from a
morning paper published six or eight hours earlier, and a
weekly journal will help itself to the news it finds both in
morning and evening papers. The usage is not defensible
either legally or morally ; but, unless carried to unreasonable
extremes, the papers from which news is extracted do not
make any serious objection. When, however, a special contri-
bution is transferred verbatim to another news sheet, without
even the pretence of quotation, the perpetrator is very likely
to hear something unpleasant about his piracy. Some time
ago, The Times found that other newspapers were filling
their columns with articles and telegrams copied verbatim
from its pages. In threatening proceedings, The Times of
15th April, 1905, gave a definition of the " fair quotation "
to which it did not object, and this sub-editors would do
well to remember when copying from other journals. Fair
quotation should, The Times said, "in no case exceed
one-third of the article quoted, accompanied by full
acknowledgment " of the source.

To the sub-editor, perhaps, more than to any member of
the staff, except the editor, a knowledge of newspaper law
is of the utmost importance ; though, of course, every con-
tributor to the Press should acquaint himself with the general
principles of the law as it affects the working journalist.
This subject is dealt with in the section of this work entitled
" Newspaper Law."



THE highest form of journalistic work is that which is found
in those columns of the Newspaper Press which are devoted
to leading articles. As their name indicates, they are
designed to lead public opinion ; and, although it is some-
times argued that the " leader " has become unnecessary
because people are nowadays well able to form their own
opinions without the assistance of the Press, the fact remains
that leading articles still exercise very great influence in
national affairs an influence which is envied alike by the
orators of the platform and by those of the pulpit. There have
been modifications in the past in the style of the leading article,
and it is probable that others will become apparent in the
future. The old-fashioned " woolly " specimen, of por-
tentous length, padded out with platitudes, has given place
to shorter leaders, closely reasoned and crisp in style.
Greater variety is also a distinctive feature of the modern
" leader " ; Eatanswill partisan tirades, seasoned with
extravagant invective, have been succeeded by leaders
designed to form the opinion of newspaper readers on every
subject of interest, domestic or foreign. This being the case,
the disappearance of the modern style of leader from the
Newspaper Press would be a calamity. If we reflect for a
moment, we shall see that a newspaper without definite
opinions ably expressed, is a colourless production which
cannot exercise the influence which every good paper should
do on contemporary affairs. There may be some newspaper
readers who can appreciate the true import of certain items
of news ; but with the great amount and variety of news
of importance presented each day to the public, there can
be but few who do not value leading articles for the assistance



they give in estimating the true import of the intelligence
of the day in so many departments of our complex
modern life. All the best newspapers express their support
in their leading columns of one or other of the great political
parties in the State, and there can be no doubt that this
method is useful to the community. But the newspaper
should by no means stoop to the role of the mere party hack
which supports everything proposed or done by its own
side, whatever may be the views of its editor as to the
wisdom of a particular policy. The most influential organs
are undoubtedly those which act with independence in
discussing party action.

Qualities Essential to Success.

The business of leader writing demands quite exceptional
qualifications, and it is not every journalist who possesses
these. The writer must be especially well informed ; he
must possess a clear and effective style ; and he must have
a readiness in forming opinions, or in advocating a policy,
such as is not possessed by everyone. A famous French
journalist, M. Veuillot, ably described the qualities essential
to success in leader writing in terms both eloquent and true
when he said : " The talent of the journalist consists in
promptitude, in the flashing stroke ; above all, in clearness.
He has only a sheet of paper and an hour to state his case,
to best his adversary, and to give his judgment ; if he says
a word that does not go straight to its mark, if he uses a
phrase that his reader does not seize in an instant, then he
does not understand his trade. Let him be rapid, let him
be precise, let him be simple. The pen of the journalist has
all the privileges of free, bold conversation : he ought to use
them. But no display ; and let him, above all, keep clear
of all effort after eloquence."

All the daily newspapers have a staff of leader writers,
but this staff is not organised on one particular pattern.
In the matter of the reporting and the sub-editing staffs,
the duties and the work expected are very similar on all


papers, but there is an individuality about the editorial
corps of leader writers which gives a distinctiveness to the
leading columns of each journal. Sometimes the editor
himself contributes leaders, but more usually he devotes
himself to the function of discovering and inspiring others
to put into literary form the opinions he desires expressed.
There are usually certain leader writers attached to the staff
whose sole duty it is to watch the current of public affairs
and write leaders thereon for their newspapers. But the
editor often has the good fortune to discover other indi-
viduals who possess a special aptitude for writing on par-
ticular topics, although they are not regularly engaged in
journalistic work. Thus it happens that special subjects
are often treated in leaders supplied either by a clever
barrister, a well-informed clergyman, or an author. The
editor who is able to enlist the services of a corps of leader
writers such as we have indicated will have the satisiaction
of always providing his readers with a freshly written and
varied succession of leading articles which shall not only
interest but inform, quite apart from the advocacy of any
particular policy.

Those who make Good Leader Writers.

The average journalist, the " all-round " man, will, if he
possesses the needful ability, make a good leader writer :
his training having been a useful preparation for the work.
A journalist of this kind does, in fact, often find an oppor-
tunity for leader writing. He secures, let us suppose, an
important item of news, and the only form in which it is
desirable or expedient to convey it to the public is in a
leading article. This the well-equipped journalist should be
able to write. He will be inspired in his task if he remembers
that some of the most important political information has
been conveyed to the public in the past through the medium
of a leader written by a reporter, who had gained the know-
ledge during his ordinary quest for news and had appreciated
its importance.


Fashion in Leader Writing.

We have already noted the fact that fashions change in
the form of leaders, as of most other things. There was
a day when the high-class morning newspaper had one
pattern of leader and no other. The leader had no heading ;
it extended to the uniform length of just over one column ;
and it consisted of three paragraphs no more and no less.
Daring innovators have, within the last quarter of a century,
greatly changed the aspect of the leader page of our news-
papers. Titles have been introduced, so that the reader can
see at a glance what is the subject treated ; and, with titles,
a novelty was invented by Sir Henry Lucy in the shape of
a small-type title set in a square blank space near the top
left-hand corner of the article. This innovation found many
imitators, but we must confess that a heading across the
column in bold antique type appears to us to be more
effective. The old-fashioned leader, owing to the necessity
of expansion to the prescribed length, was occasionally a
little irrelevant ; it was needful to resort to padding, a thing
which is always bad in newspaper work. But, nowadays,
shorter leaders and more of them are to be found in even
the most conservative organs ; and what was at one time
thought a daring innovation, the " leaderette," has come to
stay. In regard to very short leaders, or leaderettes, the
opinion may be expressed that they are not always so
effective as the longer style of article ; but there are,
undoubtedly, some journalists who can make a pronounce-
ment of about three hundred words brilliantly effective.
Occasionally, the average newspaper man has opportunities
of contributing leaderettes, and he should do his best to
make them something far more than a mere summary of
news. Another kind of editorial matter to which most of
the members of a newspaper staff have the opportunity of
contributing, is the column or more of local notes, which
most provincial newspapers give their readers day by day.
A sub-editor or reporter is often able to add to his income
by contributing to the local notes, which, under a variety


of names, are a feature of many journals. As there is a
constant demand for notes, the alert journalist will find the
work and the profit alike worthy of his attention. It will
be possible for him to specialise, so that his editor will make
it his custom to look to him for notes dealing with some
particular class of information.

Summary Writing.

One of the editorial assistants, who is more or less identified
with the production of leading articles, usually undertakes
the duty of writing the summary. To the busy newspaper
reader, who has not the time to make even a casual survey
of the many pages to which the modern newspaper extends,
a good summary is a boon and a blessing. To be of real use,
it should be complete as well as concise. The larger daily
newspapers find it possible to epitomise the news of the day
in a series of short paragraphs, each dealing with a separate
topic, and ranging from a few words below to a few over N
fifty words each. The task of rapidly condensing a long
statement, or story, or speech, and of giving all the
absolutely essential facts in a short precis, requires especial
skill and aptitude, when, moreover, it is remembered that
the information has to be sought from a mass of proofs and
manuscript, which are only accessible to the summary writer
just before the paper goes to press. As a good summary
gives completeness to the news sheet, it is a pity that it
should be abandoned by some journals ; but there can be
no doubt that the increasing pressure on the great daily
newspapers to get to press earlier than was the case in the
past, has led to the abandonment, in some cases, of the



THE highest position on the Newspaper Press is that occupied
by the editor, who is responsible in the estimation of the
public, and in the eye of the law, for everything of any
description appearing in the newspaper or periodical which is
under his charge. The responsibility is precisely the same,
whether the editor has control of a great morning journal
or of a comparatively small newspaper. And the success
of the enterprise depends, to a great extent, upon the editor's
ability and resource. He does his work most effectively
when he is not hampered by the interference of proprietors
or business managers. Some of the most brilliant successes
in modern journalism have been achieved by editors who
have had an absolutely free hand, while there have been
notable instances of journals which have suffered considerably
through the interference of the business manager in the
editorial work.

The Rewards of Editorship.

The kind of ability which an editor should "possess varies
widely, and there is a corresponding difference in the
emoluments, ranging from a comfortable annual salary
represented by four figures which is paid to the editor of
a daily journal, to a casual five-pound note earned by a
working journalist for the performance of the editorial duties
connected with some small publication. When the great
variety of newspapers and periodicals in existence is con-
sidered, we shall not, of course, be surprised to discover that
there are many kinds of editors, although there are certain
characteristics which are common to the work of them all.
These have been effectively epitomised in humorous verse



by an American author, who expresses himself in the following
terms with regard to the duties and qualifications of the

Can he leave all his wrongs to the future, and carry his heart in his

cheek ?

Can he do an hour's work in a minute, and live upon sixpence a week ?
Can he courteously talk to an equal, and browbeat an impudent

dunce ?

Can he keep things in apple-pie order, and do half a dozen at once ?
Can he press all the springs of knowledge, with quick and reliable

And be sure that he knows how much to know, and knows how to not

know too much ?

Does he know how to spur up his virtues, and put a check -rein on his

pride ?

Can he carry a gentleman's manners within a rhinoceros' hide ?
Can he know all, and do all, and be all, with cheerfulness, courage,

and vim ?

If so, we perhaps can be making an Editor " outer of him ! "
And 'tis thus with our noble profession, and thus it will ever be : still
There are some who appreciate its labours, and some who, perhaps,

never will.

Editorial Control.

In a daily newspaper office, the editor has the supreme
control of the journal, and stands at the head of a very
elaborate organisation. While he is responsible for every-
thing which appears in his paper, there is a particular portion
of it which he personally supervises. This is the columns
devoted to leading and other special articles, and contribu-
tions addressed to the editor. Under his control is a capable
staff of editorial assistants, who carry out his orders and
work under his direction. Having regard to the conditions
under which a morning paper is produced, the wise editor
takes care to have two or three trusty lieutenants, who can
relieve him of a portion at least of the onerous and incessant
labours associated with newspaper production. By this
means, the editor can, reserve his energies for the higher
duties of supervision, and relieve himself of the intolerable

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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 9 of 14)