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COLLEGE JOURNALISM



BY

JAMES BRUCE

President Association of Eastern College Newspapers
AND

J. VINCENT FORRESTAL

Chairman Daily Princetonian



1914



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INTRODUCTION

College journalism rounded out its first century in this country
with the unnoticed centenary of the Dartmouth "Gazette" which
appeared in 1800 and had Webster for a contributor. It is one
hundred and twenty-nine years since George Canning in 1785,
at the age of 15, began at Eton the journalism of the student
by the publication of "The Microcosm." A dozen years later,
the group which began with him and passed through Christ
Church in his company, added the "Anti-Jacobin" to English
literature, the work of young men in their mid-twenties, writing
in the college spirit of parody, echo, verse and satire.

In the century and a third through which, first in England and
then in this country, the periodical publications of the undergrad-
uate have drawn to their pages every writing man in college,
their issue has gone through forty years of fugitive serials, which
lasted for a few weeks or months, and a period of another forty
years of monthlies, following the magazine and quarterly — still
the type of English college journalism and surviving here in a
number of colleges.

For the past forty to forty-five years, the American college
journalist has steadily turned to the newspaper as his model.
Whether issued monthly, fortnightly, weekly, semi-weekly or
daily, almost every American institution has to-day a paper which
reflects in form, in purpose, in plan, in contents, in writing and
in organization, the daily newspaper. In the microcosm of col-
lege, it fills the same field, it discharges the same functions and has
the same representative character as the American daily in the
microcosm of our cities. These papers express the student-body
more completely and more accurately than any other organ.
They both form and lead student opinion. The closeness with
which they are read by teacher and taught is a sufficient proof that
they cannot be neglected. Like all human institutions, they
could, doubtless, be improved. They are the subject of a daily
criticism which is the best possible proof of daily attention. But
they remain, year after year, attracting to their pages the same



4 COLLEGE JOURNALISM

type of college student, the goal of ambition perpetually renewed,
the brief scene of recurring effort to reward, to improve, to in-
spire and to lead college life.

Exactly as the newspaper absorbs many who would pass on
into literature, so college journalism draws to its rapid writing,
its daily utterance and its laborious toil, many who in the earlier
days of undergraduate periodicals would, like Canning and
Frere, have turned to the authors and not to the editors of their
day, for their models; but this does not lessen the value of our
college papers to our colleges. They were never more than to-
day, the open windows through which the world sees the college
world. The personal responsibility of those who conduct these
papers was never more strongly felt and never, I believe, more
honestly or honorably discharged. Trying they sometimes may
be to those in authority, but so all good newspapers have been
since Caesar seized the management of the Acta Diurna and
Sapor beheaded a scribe. This volume of selections is but one of
a number of like collections which have gathered the spirit of
publications whose files are so infrequently complete, and whose
study is still to come. Every such volume makes it the easier
to see what these periodicals are. They unite the college world,
they keep in touch students and institutions, they give our college
education a common atmosphere, common aims and a common
and wholesome readiness to challenge what is, .to demand the
better and to desire the best.

Talcott Williams.

March 23, 191 4.

School of Journalism,
CoLUMHiA University.



TABLE OF CONTENTS
WRITING AND EDITING OF NEWS

PAGE

Preface ' i

The Writing of News ^3

Copy-Reading and Head Writing i6

Make-up and Proof Reading I9

Standard Types of News 21

EDITORIALS

Preface 29

Swan Song of 1912-13 Sun Rnard 31

The New Year 33

Worshipping The Idol 34

Compulsory Chapel 36

Slang 38

Our Brazen Critics 39

College Friendship 40

Organization of Non-Athletic Activities 41

Fraternity Rushing 42

College Journalism 44

A Suggestion for the Curriculum 47

Walter Scott Richards 48

The College "Bad Man" 49

Loyalty 50

The No-Treat System in Drinking 51

Wise Men and Fools 52

Splendidly Null 53

The Griad 54

Thou Cynic ! • • • • 55

Scattering One's Energies 56

The College Kidder 57

The Cosmopolitan 58

Secrecy Among the Honored 59

Crowding Out the Bohemian 60

You and I to Blame 61

Some Defects of the Curriculum 63

Compulsory Chapel 65

Overloading Student Leaders 66

Acquaintance Through Competition 67

Football 68

On the Unproductiveness of Certain Individuals 70

5



6 COLLEGE JOURNALISM

The Mediocre Man 71

A Shadow of St-v-r 72

A Formula for Fame jz

Undergraduate Scholars 74

The Instructor Who Failed 76

Professor Richardson yy

Looking Forward 78

The Morris Chair Habit 79

Our Ignorance 80

To Read or Not to Read 81

Where It Is Quiet 82

Rugby 83

Too Busy 84

The New Sphere for College Men 85

Welcome, Scholastics ! 86

The Drink Question 87

Beginnings 89

The Art of Lecturing 90

The Plugger 92

The Fraternity Choice 93

The New Dances 94

Professor Axson's Resignation 95

Social Service 96

The Grind 97

The Diabolical Idiocy of Final Examinations 98

Tulane Men, Is It True ? 99

A News Competition 100

On the Polo Club loi

-The Business of Scholarship 102

What Has He Done ? 103

Eligibility 104

Honor in Examinations 105

What Will Be Done? 106

Library Clock Philosophy 107

The One Year Rule 108

Forethought 109

Our Opposition to Athletics no

In Which We Point Out Two Pitfalls 1 12

He Claimed to Be God 113

Status of Technical Courses 114

Freshman Caps 115

The Right Idea 116

Morpheus in Class 117

Castles that Fall 118

A Field for Reform 119



COLLEGE JOURNALISM 7

Drinking 120

Athletic Paternalism 121

A New Esprit de Corps 122

Confessing Faiths 123

Financial Efficiency 124

Our Answer 126

The Value of Tradition 127

Traditions vs. Institutions 128

From Out the East 128

For the Numbers Came 129

-A Plea for Greater Student Democracy 130

The Preceptorial System 131

The Outer World 134

From the Sphinx 135

In Memoriam 135

Some Trite Comments on College in General 136

The Anatomy of Melancholy 138

Social Clubs 139

An Honest-to-God Widow 140

The Modern Mania 141

Keeping Out of Mischief 142

More Honored in the Breach 143

Query 145

Wake Up 146

The College Drunk 147

College Spirit 148

The Home Stretch 149

Private Reading 1 50

Barnyard Regime 151

Think It Over 1 52

What Is An Amateur 153

Tattered Aristocracy 153

NEWSPAPER EDITORIALS

Newspaper Editorials 154

General William F. Bartlett 154

Is There a Santa Claus ? 155

Aristocracy of Brains and Character 156

To Editorial Writers — Adopt Ruskin's Main Idea 158



WRITING AND EDITING OF NEWS



PREFACE

Conformity to type is the affliction of the average college
newspaper; it is this standardization that does more than any-
thing else to make the college paper uninteresting even to the
students who are directly concerned in the activities it reports.
In the following pages, the point most emphasized is the neces-
sity of getting away from this dullness, characteristic of most
undergraduate publications.

Ever since undergraduates conceived the idea of publishing a
newspaper which should be peculiarly their own, college news
has been written in much the same fashion. Succeeding genera-
tions of candidates have read the literary achievements of their
fathers in the files of the college paper and have modelled their
style accordingly. There may be something of exaggeration in
that — certainly, there have been improvements of late years, in
a good many instances ; but the fact remains that the tendency
of the college paper is toward monotonous repetition of the
same subjects, handled in the same way.

The college newspaper, at its best, is subject to transitory in-
fluences, and the degree of its excellence must vary as its editors
change from year to year. There is however, a very real op-
portunity for service, despite this handicap. If a paper has any
excuse for existing, it has no excuse for inefficiency or slovenli-
ness. And this is certain — that, whatever effort may be expended
in the formulation of new ideas and methods on a college paper
will be doubly rewarded in the training secured — a training that
must, inevitably, reflect its value in after-life.



THE WRITING OF NEWS

General — Mr. Charles R. Williams, editor of the Indianapolis
Nezvs, in the style-book which he prepared for the use of his
reporters, writes: "The qualities most to be desired and striven
for in newspaper writing are accuracy of statement — in small
things as well as in great, in particulars as well as in essentials —
simplicity, directness, accuracy and point. Never attempt fine
writing for the sake of fine writing; never use big words where
small words are possible. Go right to the heart of the subject
without flourish of trumpets or introduction. Stop when the
story is told without conclusion or moral or tag."

The above statement summarizes the art of news writing
and, although it was intended for the reporters of a city daily,
it is just as applicable to the men who do the reporting of college
news. "Simplicity, directness, accuracy and point" epitomize the
style needed in college newspapers ; all other things are valueless
if these essentials are lacking.

Preparation of Copy — Candidates should be careful in the
preparation of copy. Write on one side of the paper and use
a wide space between lines ; typewritten copy, because it is
easier for both the editors and linotype operators, is much to
be preferred. There should be a generous margin at the top
of the first page of copy for a head, which is written by the
editors, and not by the candidate. Use wide paragraph indenta-
tions and paragraph frequently. No paragraph should exceed one
hundred words ; the average length is seventy-five words. Take
pains that your writing, if you do not use a typewriter, is legible ;
do not write over words or figures — always scratch out and re-
write. Print out unusual words and all proper names carefully.
If you wish to make an insert in your copy, mark the proper
place "insert" and similarly mark the copy which you wish in-
serted. Read your entire story over carefully before you hand
it in to the desk. Make sure, particularly, that your proper
names are correctly spelled, that there are no omissions and
that your facts have been told clearly.
Conciseness — Too much emphasis cannot be laid on the im-

13



14 COLLEGE JOURNALISM

portance of conciseness and simplicity in writing for college
newspapers. The average student has neither the time nor the
inclination to wade through long, involved sentences, or to de-
termine the meaning of ohscure constructions. A news story will
tell itself if it is set down without literary ornamentation ; it is
not necessary to seek for oddness of expression — the best story
is that which is written in a simple, straightforward style. Long
words are to be avoided, unless they are indispensable to the
effect of the sentence; the short word is usually more expressive.

The Use of Slang — Slang of the kind which is supposed to be
characteristic of sporting journals has no place in a college paper.
As a matter of fact, slang is rarely used even in city newspapers ;
plain English is just as effective and often much more easily under-
stood. Technical sporting terms, of course, are not barred —
there are certain terms which must be used in the description of a
football or baseball game. But "pilfering second" and "scooting
around the bags" are neither necessary nor attractive.

Triteness of Expression— Trite phrases are the worst offenders
in college journalism. Common-place, bromidic observations upon
athletics and other college activities fill the average paper — the
reason usually being that candidates model their writing upon
what they have observed to be the standard in the files of the
paper for past years. A visiting athletic team invariably is "an
unusually strong organization, with a well-balanced scoring
machine"; a football game invariably is "fast and hard-fought"
and concerts by the college musical clubs always provoke the
comment that they "were well-rendered and received hearty
applause." This kind of writing deadens a paper to the point
of dullness ; it can be avoided by candidates who will confine
their statements to facts. It is not necessary to say that a visit-
ing team is exceptionally capable merely for the sake of the story ;
it will be just as interesting to college men to know that the team
is exceptionally poor. All college athletic events are not interest-
ing — some are exceedingly tiresome. If a game is poorly played
and lacking in features, say so; if you know that your college's
opponents in a particular athletic event has had a poor record,
put the fact in your story. Above all things, do not read the
files of your paper solely to copy the style used in the past. If
you try to imitate that style, you will deaden your own and be-



COLLEGE JOURNALISM 15

come the victim of innumerable hackneyed phrases which have
long since been ridden to death.

Accuracy — Accuracy is the essential of any newspaper,
whether a college publication or not. Without it, the paper
has no reason for existing. The first lesson a candidate has
to learn, therefore, is that the facts of his story must be absolutely
correct before he hands in copy to the desk. News is worthless
if it is not truthful ; a paper's prestige depends upon its repu-
tation for accuracy of statement. No candidate can hope for
success who refuses to make sure of even the smallest details
of the news he has been assigned to write. Names, class numerals
and addresses are just as important as the larger facts of the
story. If a man has more than one initial, use them all ; if several
men in college have the same name, make sure that you distin-
guish between them, both as to their initials and their class
numerals. You cannot be too careful, make sure of that.

Style — It cannot be repeated too frequently that simplicity is
the most important element of style. It is more difficult to write
clear, accurate newspaper English than it is to write an essay.
Good writing can best be learned by careful observation of
the style used in such newspapers as the Nezv York Sun, the
New York Evening Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Springfield
Republican and papers of similar standing. The following rules
may be laid down for every candidate :

Crowd the main facts of your story into the first paragraph
and let the other facts follow in logical sequence.

Let your story, so far as possible, tell itself.

Try to develop a plain, straightforward style, without em-
bellishments.

Above all, be concise and make your statements to the point.
This does not necessitate writing in short, choppy sentences ;
it means that your sentences should never be awkward and
cumbersome.

Learn to think about what you are writing. Submit every sen-
tence to the test of reason ; make sure that your statements are
logical.

Form the habit of visualizing your ideas before you set them
down. Plan your story before you start to write ; group your
facts in their natural order and make sure that you follow that
order.



COPY-READING AND HEAD-WRITING

Copy-reading — Of all the tasks that come within the scope of
an editor's duties, the most important is that of copy-reading.
In the last analysis, this is the art of sensing the fitness of things
— taking for granted the editor has a working knowledge of
grammatical construction and of the minor essentials of diction.
A college paper, like the daily newspaper, can never be a model
of pure English ; it is put together more or less hastily and
time is lacking in which to re-write all the undesirable material
contributed by candidates. Its editors, however, can do much
to eliminate the more glaring violations of good usage.

Reading copy is not a mechanical process ; it is not sufficient
to go through a story merely to correct grammatical errors. Each
story must be read as it will appear to the reader and the general
tone of its diction carefully observed. This is one of the chief
difficulties confronting the editor who is as yet untrained in his
work; it is almost impossible for him to see each story as it will
look in print. There is a vast difference between news as it seems
on first reading and as it looks in the type ; constructions that are
awkward and unwieldly are likely to be overlooked in the eager-
ness to secure grammatical perfection ; diction that is mechani-
cally correct and yet obviously cumbersome is often passed by un-
scathed. The only method of overcoming this fault is by in-
telligent study of good newspaper style.

The man who reads copy on any paper must have a knowl-
edge of the essentials of style, if his work is to be at all suc-
cessful. To acquire this knowledge, he must eliminate from his
own writing the more common errors. His place as copy-reader
demands an even greater knowledge of the technique of good
writing than was necessary for him as a candidate, or reporter.
It is one thing to recognize faulty diction and a wordy style;
it requires ability of a different kind to make the changes which
will transform an indifferently-written story into a readable one.
The awkwardness and turgidity of a beginner's English are ap-
parent to almost anyone ; but it is only the trained man who can
point out wherein lies the weakness. This analytic quality is

i6



COLLEGE JOURNALISM 17

absolutely necessary to a copy-reader. College professors of
English acquire it from their work in the classroom; under-
graduates on college papers will not be able, of course, to read
copy with the accuracy of a college professor of English, for
the adequate reason that they have not had an identical training.
They can give efficient service, however, with comparatively
short training.

In the preceding chapter, clarity and conciseness were laid
down as the principles of good news writing. These are even more
important for the copy editor, who frequently finds it necessary
to rebuild and strengthen a story and who is not able, because
of lack of time, to re-write the entire story. The copy-reader
must be able to consider the "construction of paragraphs and sen-
tences, the choice of words and figures. Each paragraph should
have an attractive beginning that will catch the reader's eye in
rapid reading. Close connection should be maintained between
the sentences in the paragraph. The copy-reader must transform
the weak, rambling sentence into a firm, coherent statement with
an emphatic beginning. For the trite, colorless word or phrase,
he must substitute the fresh, picturesque one. The too figura-
tive flights of exuberant fancy in one young reporter's fancy
must be toned down, and the bald, prosaic narrative or descrip-
tion in another is given life and interest. In short, the copy-
reader's work is constructive as well as critical ; it is as important
for him to rewrite and rearrange as to cut out and boil down."*

Head-writing — Head-writing is one of the most difficult of
the new tasks which a man just starting his work on a college
paper has to learn. The extreme difficulty lies not in the composi-
tion of suitable headings for news stories, but in confining those
headings to the space allowed by the width of the newspaper
column. It is annoying to discover that the mechanical restrictions
which have made thirteen "ems" the limit of a column, elimi-
nates what one has developed as an attractive caption. The head-
writer with a normal fund of synonyms, however, is soon able
to overcome this difficulty and to adapt his ideas to the exigencies
of the situation.

* From "Newspaper Writing and Editing,'' by Willard Grosvenor
Bleyer of the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism.



i8 COLLEGE JOURNALISM

Once the meclianical method of writing heads has been mas-
tered, it remains for the copy-reader to develop the faculty of
making the heads he writes tell the main facts of the story over
which they are placed. Study of the city papers is the best train-
ing in securing this ability. A casual analysis of the heads in
any issue of a metropolitan newspaper will show that every cap-
tion tells fairly completely the story which follows it; that the
heads bring out the biggest facts clearly and briefly. The head-
writer on a college paper rarely has to write captions for stories
of exceptional sensation, so his task is limited to a comparatively
narrow field.

The function of a head is to outline the news. Different papers
have varying styles of heads, but the one essential of any head is
that it shall bring out facts of the story following. Its top lines
should tell the most important feature in a brief sentence. This
part of the head should contain at least one verb; it should be
written with short words, if possible. Adjectives are entirely un-
desirable and adverbs should be limited to those which are
absolutely necessary to the sense of the head. The succeeding
decks under the main head should elaborate upon the facts of
the story. Verbs, being the most expressive, should be preferred
and there should be a minimum of adjectives. "The" should
be used no oftener than necessary, for it weakens a sentence.

Tense should never be changed in a head ; the tense used in the
first two or three lines of the head is usually the present, and this
should be followed through the lower decks or pyramids.
Change of tense makes the head ambiguous, besides being gram-
matically incorrect.

The main deck or "drop-line" part of a head should never
have a hyphenated word from line to line. The following is an
example of this error:

BASKETBALL FIVE SUS-
TAINS FIRST DEFEAT

Slang, unless it has been dignified by good usage to some
extent, should never be used in a head. Whatever has been said
in regard to the use of slang in news stories may be applied also
to head-writing.



MAKE-UP AND PROOF-READING

The editors of a college paper usually have a comparatively
small field of variety in making-up or composing their news-
paper; for, as a rule, the smallness of the paper is a handicap
which prevents the use of any of the tricks of make-up which are
within the province of the newspaper desk man. The average
college paper is one of five columns — and attractive, varied make-
ups in five columns are difficult of achievement. Those papers
which are fortunate enough to use six columns offer greater op-
portunities to editors, and there is less trouble in getting out a
first page which has some resemblance to the make-up of a city
paper. Because of the handicaps mentioned, it is impossible to
lay down any definite rules for the mechanical composition of a
college journal; the conditions under which it is printed deter-
mine, almost entirely, the way in which the paper can be made
up and the extent to which its editors can make it conform to
newspaper good taste.

News of a sensational character rarely comes to the desk of a
college paper ; so that there is little occasion for the use of
spread-heads. Most of the news that is printed is a normal re-
port of the daily activities of the college. The only task for the
make-up editor, therefore, is to arrange his news so that it will
be displayed to the best advantage and so that the paper will be
uniform. It is a truism that the important stories should be given
the larger headings and that the news of lesser value should have
smaller captions. Yet, too many college papers allow the size of
the story, rather than its importance to determine the kind of head
which is to be placed over it. It is not always true that the facts
told in a column are more important than those told in a half-
column.

The arrangement of the important and less important news
stories is related to symmetry as well as to news-values. The
make-up editor should strive to have his first page attractive in
its general appearance. To accomplish this, he should make
sure that the heads on the first page balance as much as possible,


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Online LibraryJames BruceCollege journalism → online text (page 1 of 14)