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Somewhere I have read that for every four dollars a newspaper spends to obtain news, it spends six dollars to verify it. If this be true, it gives a striking proof of the fact that newspapers are not purposely inaccurate, that they do not publish their stories without putting forth an expensive effort to get the truth.

No one not familiar with the workings of a newspaper office can have any conception of the difficulties that stand in the way of absolute accuracy. The reader cannot be expected to make allowances; he only knows that he has found this or that inaccuracy, and if the mistake affects him, he damns the -editor and reporter. It is an absolute fact,

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however, that the editor seeks accuracy and uses all the precautions at his command to obtain it. When he fails he seeks the reason and tries to guard against similar mistakes. Editing a paper with an axe after it has been printed is a fact and a phrase known to all newspaper men. It means going through the paper carefully to find errors of English, of names, of facts, of typography, of judgment. Indeed the editor, the capable one, is constantly seeking out mistakes, not for the mere fun of the thing, but because he wants to prevent their repetition.

There is some weight to the argument that no more mistakes are made in newspaper publication than are made in other kinds of business, but the newspaper's errors are made for all men to read and know, and for that reason they appear so numerous. Do you know of any other work where there is the same opportunity for mistakes? Suppose there are two hundred lines to a column and thirty letters to a line, and then realize that there is a chance for an error on every letter and you have an idea of the number of chances for mere typographical fault. Let the critic think of the number of different facts that may be presented in a column news story, and perhaps he will have a little mercy on the reporter if he slips up occasionally. However, I am not writing an apology.

In considering newspaper accuracy, I wil not speak of honesty of purpose, or of adherence to ideals, for that is another story. Let us discuss the cause of the mistakes of reporting and how to avoid them.

The price of accuracy is like that of liberty, Eternal Vigilance. Look up your

Latin and you will find that accuracy etymologically means taking care, persistently, habitually, and everlastingly. There is no royal road to accuracy, there are no short cuts, there is no vicarious method.

A definition of accuracy is a good deal like a definition of virtue - it is easier to tell what it is not. Accuracy includes fairness in presentation, without coloring or exaggeration, clearness of expression. Accuracy cannot permit of a mingling of fact and fiction, a dressing up of a few facts with a large and showy ornamentation of imagination. The seeker for accuracy must love truth for truth's sake; he must set down facts, not mere words, not fine writing to cover the nakedness of his information.

Does all this sound academic? Well, why not? These are days of schools of journalism, where the theory and science of the profession are taught as well as the practice. Theoretically, as well as practically, accuracy is admittedly of the first importance. Truth-telling is the sole reason for the existence of the newspaper, and too much cannot be urged against the tendency to allow sensationalism to run away with truthfulness. Accuracy should not be regarded as a will-o'-the-wisp, an ignis fatuus, even if it is true, as some one has said, that the newspaper is manufactured out of the subtlest, most volatile and elusive raw materia! in the world, Truth.

How far is it possible to train men to accuracy, to give them a desire for exactness, to impress them with the sacredness of their calling as high priests of truth?


Continual preaching will accomplish wonders, even if it does sometimes bore. There is a psychological side, too. In our editorial rooms those of the Pittsburgh Post - which by the way are one large room, where all can see all and be seen by all, there is a large framed sign on one of the walls, with the talismanic word, ACCURACY. It hits every one between the eyes, and I firmly believe it is a palpable hit. We should have framed alongside of it the word, TERSENESS, for it was that greatest of journalists, Joseph Pulitzer, who urged accuracy, and tried to keep the idea always before the minds of the writers for his

newspapers by placarding "Accuracy, Terseness, Accuracy" upon the walls of the editorial rooms and upon the desks of editors, reporters, and copy readers. In his article on the College of Journalism published in the North American Review for May, 1904, he said: "One of the chief difficulties in journalism now is to keep the news instinct from running rampant over the restraints of accuracy and conscience."

As the reporter is the foundation of the newspaper, it is necessary to begin with him in the training for accuracy. From the moment of his initiation his fetish, his watchword should be accuracy. He should learn to be true to himself, to hold fast to the ideals that every young man must have if he is to do anything worthy in any vocation or avocation.

Let us review in a sketchy way what it means to take care:



Concentration. Nearly everything a porter writes is hearsay, or word of mouth evidence. Therefore he must fix his attention closely on what he is being told, and he must remember clearly, if he does n't take notes, and if he does take notes he must put them down carefully and transcribe them just as painstakingly. Misquotation is unforgivable. As few men are able to express themselves without ambiguity, the task of the reporter is made difficult, but the skillful reporter will insist and persist until he gets the truth. And when he has got it he will convey it to his reader in unmistakable language.

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Conscientiousness. - -To be thorough-going at all times, taking nothing for granted, as honest with his facts as a cash register with its money, is a qualification which cannot be too much impressed on the reporter.

Vigilance. The reporter, like the sentinel, cannot sleep on the job. His eyes and ears must be ever on the alert, not only for the elusive item, but for errors that creep in when he relaxes his vigilance ever so little.

Verification. To hear things is one thing, to prove them is another. Too often the best tips are untrue, the finest stories are those that cannot be printed. Hence run

ning down a tip to its source becomes of the first importance. The reporter must consider prejudice and motive, even to the extent of becoming distrustful and suspicious, and finally cynical. Too often he is blamed for inaccuracy when he has faithfully put down what he was told by some designing reporter person. The must beware of grinding any one's axe, or, to change the figure, saving some one's chestnuts.

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English. Newspaper composition is not bad, in spite of the criticism that is hurled at it. William Dean Howells, the dean of American literature, says there is no gulf between the character of the best writing seen in newspapers and that of the writing in the best books. It is far better than most conversation and letter writing, and equal to much that appears in pretentious books and magazines. It is, as a rule, clear, properly capitalized and punctuated. It may fail in the finer distinctions of the meaning of words, it may be flat or it may be too flavory, but the average newspaper article is in the English of the day, brightened with a bit of slang or colloquialism, the sauce of the dish. Newspaper English, however, is not all that it should be, and every writer should be on the alert to improve his vocabulary. He should study the office style-book, and learn to avoid forbidden words and expressions, remembering that there is a good reason for every rule. He should bear in mind that accuracy includes clearness always, and he cannot be clear unless he understands the use of words. Authorities. — Every newspaper office is equipped with books of reference, which are to be consulted in season and out. Directories, dictionaries, geographies, gazetteers, encyclopedias, almanacs, year books, biographical works, all these are in the library for use, and no one need be ashamed to look into them. Indeed every one should be ashamed not to. Many an error may be avoided by going to the library.

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In spite of the reporter, copy reader, and proofreader, mistakes appear that can be blamed on no one but the compositor, who sometimes in making corrections will make even a worse error than the one he is correcting.

The Human Element. This suggests the old saying, "To err is human." Some men cannot be taught accuracy, and when such a hopeless case is found there is only one thing to be done. Habitual error making in the newspaper office means the same thing as on the baseball field, release of the offender. The editor demands a high average of newsgetting and newswriting, and the man who can't attain it is to be pitied, but not carried on the payroll because he is a good fellow who means well. Bad luck may excuse sometimes, but when the attempt is made to make bad luck synonymous with carelessness, it is time to call a halt.

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THE WRITER is published the first day of every month. It will be sent, postpaid, ONE YEAR for ONE DOLLAR.

All drafts and money orders should be made payable to The Writer Publishing Co. Stamps, or local checks, should not be sent in payment for subscriptions.

THE WRITER will be sent only to those who have paid for it in advance. Accounts cannot be opened for subscriptions, and names will not be entered on the list unless the subscription order is accompanied by a remittance.

The American News Company, of New York, and the New England News Company, of Boston, and their branches, are wholesale agents for THE WRITER. It may be ordered from any newsdealer, or direct, by mail, from the publishers.

Not one line of paid advertisement will be printed in THE WRITER outside of the advertising pages.

Advertising in THE WRITER costs fifteen cents a line, or $2.10 an inch; seven dollars a quarter page; twelve dollars a half page; or twenty dollars a page, for one insertion, remittance with the order. Discounts are five, ten, and fifteen per cent. for three, six, and twelve months. For continued advertising must be payments made quarterly in advance. Contributions not used will be returned, if a stamped and addressed envelope is enclosed. THE WRITER PUBLISHING CO., 88 Broad Street, Room 416, BOSTON, MASS.

P. O. Box 1905.

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from about 8,000 in 190ì to 13,000 in 1910 and probably a larger number still this year, George P. Brett, of Macmillan & Co., says in his paper on "Book-publishing and Its Present Tendencies" in the April Atlantic Monthly that as a matter of fact, the number of books that appear in print is usually only about two per cent. of the total number of manuscripts submitted to the publishers for examination, so that the large total in the number of volumes issued indicates very clearly a larger number of persons who are interested and occupied in the writing of books."

Undoubtedly the number of manuscripts that are offered in vain to publishers is very large, but would Mr. Brett maintain that 650,000 different book manuscripts are offered for publication in this country every year? In making his estimate is he not considering only that his firm publishes perhaps only two per cent. of the manuscripts submitted to it, and disregarding the fact that many of the manuscripts that his house rejects are brought out eventually by some other publisher? One manuscript rejected by thirty publishers would increase largely the percentage of rejections, but it would be only one manuscript, and in the end the thirtyfirst publisher might publish it. The number of hopeless manuscripts produced undoubtedly is very large, but it is hard to believe that there are written in this country every year even fifty thousand books that fail to find a publisher.

Mr. Brett repeats what many editors and publishers have said about the joy of discovering new writers. "The discovery. among the manuscripts submitted to the publisher, of a new work of value and importance, and the finding of promise in the work of a new author," he says, are among the keenest of all pleasures; and after many years of experience I can still say that it is the sort of pleasure that never fails to produce its thrill of satisfaction; and the zest continues without diminution, so that

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the search is just as keen and as anxious after many years as when the first manuscript submitted to me came into my hands."

Regarding the sale of books Mr. Brett quotes a recent statement that the outpouring of novels is so great that the life of a "best-seller" novel is now little longer than a month. Speaking of the sale of books of general literature (not fiction) he says that the great problem of the publisher is that of distribution. Recognizing that theoretically the sale of such books is limited by the alleged excessive selling prices he says: "The book of 350 12mo. pages, after the plates are paid for by the sale of the first edition, costs the publisher, for manufacture and author's royalty, usually less than fifty cents. The price to the public is a dollar and a half, or thereabouts. The publisher's difficulty in reducing the price at retail lies in the fact that the majority of such books published under present methods do not sell beyond the first editions, the costs of which include a large outlay for the printing plates." To the author, says Mr. Brett, this question of the better distribution of books in general literature is vital. The author is intimately affected by present conditions. since many books of high quality either fail of publication entirely, or return little or nothing to their creators. "Indeed, the author's royalties from the sales of books of this class, which often represent months or years of painstaking effort, are sometimes so small as barely to pay the actual cost of the paper and typewriting of the manuscript which is submitted to the publisher for approval."

The way out of the difficulties in which the publishers of works of general literature find themselves, lies, Mr. Brett feels sure, in the way of issuing such works at lower prices. "If," he says, "means can be found by which books will attain the general sale which so many of them thoroughly deserve, the author, instead of doing his work merely for the satisfaction which it gives him to publish his thoughts and ideas, - in

itself a not inconsiderable reward, it is true, - may also obtain some pecuniary reward in return for his labors. Even here it cannot be gainsaid that the laborer is worthy of his hire. But given the possibility of a successful trial of the experiment, the author, if he is to reap the increased harvest, must be far-sighted enough to recognize that one of the necessary conditions is a reduction of the present nominally heavy rates of royalty. The successful experiments in the publishing of cheap editions of books abroad are usually with those books which are either out of copyright, and, consequently, pay no royalties to authors, or for which a very low rate of royalty can be arranged. From the author's point of view, it will probably be better for him to reduce the rate of percentage of his royalties under which he now gets, as I have shown, little or nothing to a rate which perhaps is much less nominally, but which, with a much larger sale of his books at low prices, would produce an income far greater than he enjoys at present.

"This question of the percentage of the author's royalties is certainly one of the greatest of the factors militating against the production of books at low prices to the public. At present, the author's royalties on books, as most people know, range from ten per cent. to twenty per cent. of their retail price, which is equivalent to from twenty to thirty-three per cent. of the price received by the publisher from the retail bookseller. These royalties thus form no small part of the prime cost of the book; in fact, they usually represent the greater part of the total net profits obtained from the publication of any work in general literature. Indeed, popular belief among authors to the contrary notwithstanding, the author's share of the profits is usually about twice as large as that of the publisher, while, in the case of novels, the royalty often absorbs the entire profit obtained from the publication of a popular work written by a well-known author, and, consequently, commanding the highest rate of royalty.

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