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AND COX AS NEWSPAPER MEN A FIRST-HAND STUDY OF THE PROFESSIONAL CAREERS OF THE
BY RICHARD BARRY
and where the pineapple or cedar-mop hair cut is in vogue.
A town like this does not breed great newspaper men, not if they stick there. It is the sort of place that the big leaders in the chief centers come from. One night over thirty years ago
three young men-Johnny Sickel, Jack War. wick, and War'n Harding-paused outside the Elite Restaurant, in Marion, discussing a proposition to buy a mori. bund newspaper called the Marion “Star," about to be abandoned. Sickel was the capitalist, having been left a legacy of nearly four hundred dollars a few days before. Warwick was an apprentice printer, and Harding had been for a few months a six-dollar-aweek reporter on a Democratic newspaper, from which he had been discharged for wearing a Blaine hat. Some one suggested that they conclude the discussion over a plate of oysters, but as they started into the Elite Harding suddenly objected. “Boys," said he, “if we buy the 'Star,' who'll pay for the oysters?"
They did buy the “Star ”—for $300
cash, each a third owner. Harding's Underwood & Underwood THE IMPOSING HOME OF GOVERNOR COX'S NEWSPAPER AT DAYTON, OHIO
father, a country doctor, loaned him his
hundred; Sickel loaned Warwick his. \HE next President of the United yers for public service. Were they jury Now mark how destiny led each his ap
States will be a middle-aged news- lawyers, counselors, legislators, or (woe pointed way along the path of his nature.
paper man from Ohio. His name betide them !) corporation åttorneys ? Sickel, quickly bored with the inwill be either Warren G. Harding or Subconsciously we rated them accord- ability of battered type to make legiblo James M. Cox. Externally their his- ingly. Soldiers it was easy to estimate. marks on paper for which the bill coltories are monotonously similar, and The chief question was: Had they com- lectors were already dunning for payalmost commonplace; each a farmer manded winning armies ?
ment, shortly sold his interest to Harboy who drifted to the nearest large Now, is it enough to say that he is a ding for a promissory note and got out, city, where he stuck through all newspaper man, and let it go at that, to slip from this to that and be heard grades of the publishing business until making a decision solely on the merits
from no more. he controlled a leading newspaper, and of the campaign propaganda ? Or, shall Warwick, who, as Harding once told in time rose from lesser political office we ask what kind of a newspaper man
the writer, was the clever one of to the highest place in his party. he is, wherein he specialized, wherein us," with a nimble wit and drawling Neither went into politics until he was he succeeded, and what, therefore, may humor, spared himself the labor of writindependent financially. Both emerged be his dominant philosophy of life? ing his news by setting it up directly at suddenly from comparative obscurity These questions seemed important to the case, and thus, to do it more quickly, as National standard-bearers.
the writer, and he went to Marion and his personals became shorter and shorter, This 1920 campaign has produced Dayton, to the candidates themselves, with often a quotable quip. Harding less of personality than almost any to their associates and subordinates, to went in for longer “pieces”-descripother. What part of this is due to the their competitors and fellow-townsmen, tive, argumentative, rhetorical. It was fact that journalism, the craft whose to arrive at the facts in the respective also his lot to “make up” the paperarch-priest is anonymity, bas furnished cases. Here are the two stories as he that is, arrange the type and apportion the protagonists ? Mostly we have had has seen them.
the allotment of news, editorial matter, lawyers as Presidential candidates. If Warren G. Harding, for over thirty and advertising. One day Warwick not lawyers, then soldiers. The rare years
editor of the Marion“ Star," see- called out from his case where he was farmer, publicist, or professor has been ing the town grow from six thousand
ing the town grow from six thousand setting type to Harding, with sleeves the exception to prove the rule. Now to nearly thirty thousand, and growing rolled up, over the composing stone, his we have no choice in the matter; what; with it proportionately, long its most grimy hands lifting the “ takes ” into
“ ever happens, there will be a newspaper conspicuous citizen, has partaken of its
the first page:
“ These long pieces of man in the White House, and for the nature completely. Harding is Marion ; yours are all right, but what I think first time. Marion is Harding.
the "Star" needs is more little fellows." But what sort of a newspaper man? It is a town where every one, from “Right you are, Jack,” responded We must discard our former measures the President of the First National to the lanky editor, “and you are the one and grapple with a new yardstick. We the oiler at the roundhouse, is “ folks," to write them.” became accustomed to estimating law- where nearly every house has a garage,
So he was. Soon the papers in the
rung up the
big cities found it out, and the “ little
Warren, this is too small a town for you. As soon as I am located and get my bearings I'll find a place for you."
Thanks, Jack,” replied he who was now sole owner of the debt-burdened Marion - Star,” an obscure paper in a
“ town barely on any map and not located at all on some, “but I think I'll stick."
After that came the long pull, the grinding, commonplace, petty struggle with compositors, carrier-boys, advertisers, subscribers. The “Star" from obscurity to affluence, from being a tail-ender to first place in the town's journalism, from being worth little more than $300 to being capitalized at $80,000. So far as the writer could learn, there was in that history, which could be repeated in practically every city and town of the United States, but one unique feature.
The unique feature is this: there was never any appearance of struggle in Harding. Although many a time uncertain how he was to meet his payroll, he never apparently was anything Early the next morning the Senator of prizes for the beautifying of homes, but prosperous. Moreover, he singu- was at his desk and called for the re- etc., etc. It is a brightly written paper, larly avoided contest. He spoke only porter who wrote the item. “Are you which has always avoided sensationgood of his competitors. No one ever guilty of this ?” he asked, sternly. alism and which is looked upon in heard him berate a rival —at least not “Yes, sir,” came a stout confession Marion as a rock of reliability. Since publicly. He grew slowly, normally, with a stiffening of the lip. ,
its owner has been in public life its like a blessed oak deep-rooted in com- “Do you think that is news worth staff carefully avoids him in securing fortable soil. The lightning never hit space in a paper ?”
news in which he is concerned. An inhim, and if the drought came he had “I do, sir.
stance of this occurred when the writer enough reserve strength to weather it “ Who told you it was news ?” happened to mention to the editor, Mr. without hurt. Of the fevers of metro- “Well, sir, I believe that when the Van Fleet, an item of local importance politan journalism he was as ignorant United States Senator from the State which the editor, with a proper news as is a country Percheron of the thrills of Ohio returns to his home from a long . instinct, wanted immediately to publish. of the race-course.
absence in Washington the people of The writer protested that it would be Certain rules were early established Marion are entitled to know it."
necessary to get permission first from and still prevail on the Marion “ Star." “I don't agree with you,” countered the Senator. For instance, no cases of drunkenness the editor-owner. “Please see that it “That settles it,” groaned Mr. Van or misdemeanors arising from them, doesn't happen again.”
Fleet. “He'll probably give it to the unless capital crime, are ever reported
Then the features which are stern in others first and let us hustle for it. there. Harding's explanation to his repose softened into a beguiling smile I'll tell you what happened at the time staff is that any gain in news value to as he called all his staff to him. Adopt- of the acceptance speech. I knew he the paper does not offset the heartache ing the paternal attitude, he pleaded : wouldn't let us photograph him, but I that publicity brings to the friends and Boys, I know I'm going to get the heard that a lot of out-of-town photog'family of the delinquent.
worst of it from you this year. I know raphers had permission for a shot' Another rule is that no news shall be you are going to turn me down on my the day before, so I slipped our man in published concerning the editor and his rule of keeping myself out of the paper; the crowd, hoping he'd get by; but family. In later years this has become but I beg of you please go easy on me. no-W.G.spotted him. The next morna hard rule to follow, and in 1920 an Give us just as little of Harding as the ing early-it was the big day of the impossible one. law will permit."
acceptance, when I thought he surely A while before the Chicago Conven- The Marion “Star” is distinguished would be occupied with something tion the Marion “ Star carried this for three things : careful business man- more important, he called me to know small item 'among its " personals :" agement, a brightly written and taste- what I intended for illustration that "Senator and Mrs. Harding arrived fully edited editorial page, and the en- day, and finally wormed out of me that. to-day at their Mount Vernon Avenue terprising introduction of what are I had a new picture of him slated for a home, where they are expected to re- known in the business as "magazine five-column space on the first page. main a week.”
features, such as cartoons, the offering He vetoed that instanter, and asked,
THE UNPRETENTIOUS HOME OF SENATOR HARDING'S NEWSPAPER AT MARION OHIO
But Cox did not rest there. " What
. did you do the day after your victory?" Napoleon always asked his generals. Cox applied to the Cincinnati Enquirer” for a job on the city staff the day after his victory. He got it, and that is how he“ broke in " to metropolitan journalism.
He began in Cincinnati as copy reader on the telegraph desk, an irksome job that usually turns a man into an automaton after a few years. never shirked it, nor mourned because it gave him no chance for individual scoring. He worked nine, ten, and sometimes twelve hours a day at his desk, and, as one of his early friends has told the writer, “as much more on the hoof about town digging up spot news.' Spot” news, be it known, is news at its source, and usually of ephemeral interest. Soon he knew all the leading men of Cincinnati by sight or personally and was a walking encyclopædia of the city's fluid interests.
One day, in a public elevator, Cox overheard two railway executives discussing a coming merger, as yet secret. They had no suspicion that within a few feet unobtrusively stood the shrewdest newspaper brain in the city. Then, as now, Cox was of medium height, medium weight, medium color, of negative personality, and with nothing external to reveal that he possessed an intelligence of singular clarity and a will of instant decisions.
The next morning Cincinnati rang with the important news of the new merger, a clear “beat” for Cox's employer, and henceforth the telegraph copy-desk grubbed on without the initiative and industry of the young man who now took another step upward on
the obvious ladder. you a picture of Lodge down expression of the natures of the two “ In the late nineties, to quote an there?' I grudgingly admitted we had, men. From the very beginning, and old Cincinnati editor, “Jimmy Cox and so we compromised by giving Lodge in all things, each has been like that. was the best reporter and about the first position, with Harding a second As a young man, barely twenty, Cox worst writer in southern Ohio. There place of similar space. And that was found himself, thirty years ago, after was not a week that he did not turn in the most important event in the history teaching a country school, a small town a sensational "scoop,' and seldom were of Marion.' correspondent of the Cincinnati “ En
his facts wrong; never a faker, he never quirer." Near by occurred a railway spared himself in any effort to get
wreck. It was Opportunity's first knock first-hand exclusive information. But James M. Cox offers a journalistic on his door. His answer was that of
on his door. His answer was that of when it came to writing it, the copy picture almost the reverse of this. His the born “events man,” the intuitive usually had to be done over' in the story is that of the agile, energetic, in- “go-getter" reporter. Instead of first office. Jimmy never seemed to notice tuitive, brilliant, and hard-hitting man learning the details he filed with the the fact that his literary sense was far who has forged his way from the bot- telegraph operator who controlled the inferior to his journalistic instinct. His tom to the top by sheer force of indom- only wire to Cincinnati a copy of the only vanity was in being first ; his only itable will, who seeks the limelight, local directory, it being the rule that
local directory, it being the rule that pride, in beating all rivals; and to be and who never hesitates to make ene- the one who first took the wire could first he stopped at nothing. It was usemies. Cox doesn't wait for things to hold it until through sending. Then, at less to talk to him of consequences or come to him; he goes out after them his leisure, he went forth and carefully of policies. He lived solely for the and gets them.
gleaned the details of the wreck. When moment, and his moment was now." It is not necessary to assume that his rivals came to the wire ahead of Among the prominent men whom campaign committees have directed the him with their stories, they found the young Cox knew well was Paul Sorg, present methods of the two men. The only avenue to Cincinnati blocked by tobacco millionaire. When Sorg was fact that Harding is on his front porch, Jimmy Cox's directory. As he did not elected to Congress, he proposed that patiently spinning the web that he hopes unduly hasten in getting his facts, being the enterprising young reporter become will embrace the Presidency, while Cox assured of his open line of communica- his private secretary, and when Cox is chasing hither and yon over the coun- tion, he got a more thorough and a bet- went to Washington he was also the try, breaking all previous records in an ter story than the others. Moreover, it correspondent of two Ohio dailies. effort to capture it, is only the natural beat theirs in,
To be “ Washington correspondent"
is the pinnacle of most youthful journalistic ambitions. Cox reached it before he was thirty, but he quickly saw that Washington correspondents are not only poorly paid, but that the sort of “leg” work in which he was proficient was little appreciated, while the “desk” work, for which he cared nothing, was the chief source of advancement. The youthful Cox decided that it was no place for him ; certainly not at that stage of the game.
The Dayton “News," a floundering journal of great age but of uncertain future, was for sale. Congressman Sorg loaned Secretary Cox the money for its purchase. There was only one fly in this ointment. Sorg insisted that a number of prominent business men in Dayton be solicited to purchase shares of stock in the new enterprise, as he believed that the newspaper would thus gain a strength not entirely financial. Cox, beholden to his mentor, was obliged to consent, but bided his time.
Within fifteen years Cox had not only paid back all the money he owed Sorg, with interest, but had also bought out all his stockholders and was the sole proprietor of the Dayton“ News," with no one to consult on policies and with no one to share his profits. He had also purchased and was the sole owner of the Springfield “News," which he also converted from a floundering into a flourishing property.
He entered Dayton burdened with debt. To-day, Governor of Ohio, Presidential nominee, his annual income is reported among his associates in Ohio to be in excess of $200,000 and his personal fortune in the early millions. Superficially, the ægis of success is seldom brighter.
But the present study is concerned primarily with methods and their indirections. Along what paths did Journalist Cox climb on his upward road? "Lucky Cox," some call him in Ohio, but if he was lucky, it was because he was quicker than others to divine the drift of events and to seize their advantage for his own." Cox
“ sure” is another phrase with the local cognoscenti, for hair-trigger certain he is each day, though his next day's certainty may belie all that went before.
These characteristics ruled the Dayton “News” throughout its stormy
SENATOR HARDING, WITH HIS WIFE AND FATHER, IS AT HOME IN A TOWN “WHERE
EVERY ONE IS FOLKS!" upbuilding. It was the period when the muckrake was mighty throughout scandal concerning a citizen prominent to be the agent or in the confidence of the American newspaper world. None because of his wealth. The lesser news the agent who caused sensational things ventured more in the realms of exposé most featured concerned violent death, to happen, the focal point for publica than the Dayton “News." No so- divorce, crime, and sensational litiga- tion being usually the filing of a suit in called “yellow” paper of Chicago, tion. The appeal of the paper was open court, but so arranged that the Denver, or New York went further in frankly for a wide circulation among "News" would be first in the field with circuitous and persistent enterprise to the more emotional.
the announcement. reveal” to the public the inner work- Editor Cox seldom wrote an edi- While the right hand of the editor ings of big business. One after another torial. He cared very little for that was thus industriously concerned in Cox attacked the public utility cor- part of his paper, so long as it remained stirring the boiling pot, the left hand of porations of Dayton, and nothing was consistently Democratic. As an editor the cautious investor was not idle. Out more welcome in the editorial rooms of his chief concern was for what is known of the swirl of exposé running through the Dayton “News” than publishable as “creative" journalism. He wanted a decade he survived as the holder of
blocks of stock in the telephone com- State guard was ordered to take an a species of community center which pany, in the street railway company, and old press from Columbus, load it
should perform a service for all, and in the public gas companies. For none on an empty box car, attach it to a which no one man may dominate except of these stocks did he pay cash or its relief train, and hasten it to Dayton in so far as his influence is recognized equivalent, but devoted his “services"
along with the other supplies for the by common consent. Incidentally, it as organizer or promoter, so that eventu- stricken populace. Just outside the in- should be recorded that years ago ally he emerged, what with the success undated district the press was emplaced Harding voluntarily offered shares in of his papers and the increased value under a tent, guarded by the State his paper to trusted employees at a time of his other holdings, a millionaire. troops, and given over to the Dayton when he had acquired sole control.
An episode of the Dayton flood, when News,” a gratuity not extended to the During a similar period Cox was buyCox was Governor, illustrates the func- also suffering “Journal” and “Herald.” ing out the partners who might later
” tioning of his dual capacity as State
share profits. executive and newspaper opportunist.
Behind the Dayton "News" is what With admirable despatch he met the The old-fashioned words conserva- may be called, in a Socialistic sense, a emergency of nature's cataclysm and as tive” and “radical” may be used to "paternal " disposition. While no one chief of the State neither slept nor ate describe and differentiate the news- except the owner holds any stock in the until he had done all in his human power paper enterprises known as the Marion paper, old employees are well treated to alleviate the suffering and lessen the “ Star” and the Dayton“ News.” But and retired on pensions. Public and property loss, summoning assistance, these terms only partially express the other policies have the same inflection. getting off special relief trains, elimi- difference. From a purely professional Intelligent and unflagging attention is nating red tape in the syncope of a and business point of view both are given to all questions, but the answers perilous hour.
progressive and efficient institutions, are always in terms of the decision of Neither did he forget the Dayton and each leads in its community, the sole individual who has been far“News.” It, with its rivals, the “ Jour- However, the soul that lies behind sighted and determined enough to acnal” and “Herald,” was inundated, each is essentially of contrasting char- quire undisputed authority.
" and for a few days no presses in Day- acter, with roots that go deeper into Translate this into terms of politics, ton could work. As the managing our common humanity. Behind the and it may seem a paradox of Republieditor of the “Journal-Herald” re- Marion“ Star” is a patriarchal dispo- canism and Democracy. But here are lates the story, a detachment of the sition which looks upon a newspaper as the facts. They speak for themselves.
In an article in next week's Outlook Mr. Barry will discuss the two candidates as men in
their respective communities, and the reactions they occasion among their associates
THE LAW OF THE AIR
BY WAYNE C. WILLIAMS
NEW branch of the law is being A The development is going on
developed—the law of the air. right before your eyes. The present generation has seen the origin of this new branch of law and will see much of its development. Lawyers are not the only people who are interested in this kind of law; for while the lawyers have a technical interest in the peculiar legal principles that will be applied to airplanes, the public has even a greater interest.
Nobody thinks of the airplane as a trespasser or as a nuisance, yet this is precisely what the craft of the air is; and it is both of these things as well as a fine spectacular sight for everybody in America, from the smallest boy up to the oldest citizen. Being both a trespasser and a nuisance is what makes
A few moments before its tragic fall, which killed its pilot and his passenger, this airplane, flying low the airplane interesting to lawyers and over the courts, had been a menace to the lives of thousands at the National Tennis Tournament at is what gives it standing in the law, so
Forest Hills on Labor Day. Such an object lesson should be heeded by the law of the air to speak. It is because the airplane follows the facts. The facts determine the here. These are the principles governdoes trespass on the rights of others fundamental conditions out of which the ing the law of trespass and nuisance. and because it may become a nuisance law springs, and the customs and habits It now remains to apply and develop that it has so much legal interest for which aircraft make necessary are al- these principles. Strange it is that a us. The airplane has been written about ready shaping the legal principles that craft so modern and unique that nothas a new bird of passage in the air, it will guide us in the future. Some of ing like it was ever heard of before has been complimented as the future these principles are already at hand. should have applied to it legal princiarm of warfare, as the unifier of nations The lawyer knows about them, and so ples that are as old as Alfred the Great. and the transport of commerce, but as does the layman. They are part and When we watch an aviator soaring a legal object it has not yet come clearly parcel of our common life.
over the earth, we do not think of him into the public view. But the law always The leading principles are already as a violator of the law, yet, techni.