THE AMERICAN PRESS
Newspapers have a much greater importance in America than they do in Europe. You must not conclude, however, that the press is more free in the New World than in the Old. With us it is the government that watches over and controls the newspapers; in the United States, the religious sects and political parties tyrannize over the editors, who, it must be said, rather cultivate this servitude and even take advantage of it.
Knowing as well as I do the setup of the chief French papers, I was eager to visit the offices of some of the New York dailies. American reporters are certainly better off than ours with respect to office space. Imagine immense buildings, grandiose constructions, and in these journalistic palaces a continual going and coming like a laborious beehive.
In New York, as in Paris, the newspapers have chosen for their offices buildings situated in the liveliest part of the city. In order to be well and quickly informed, a paper must be in close proximity to the business center, in a populous district; so the great American press has chosen Broadway for its home.
The offices are easy to find. If you look for a newspaper during the daytime, raise your head, see which is the tallest building, and enter boldly. That is the place. To cite only one example, the New York Tribune building has nine stories. If it is nighttime, open your eyes. The edifice which is best illuminated, which sheds its light over the whole district, that is the one you are looking for. Behind those brilliantly lighted windows, the journalists are at work. They say sometimes in France, figuratively, that a newspaper is a lighthouse—in America, lighthouse is the appropriate word.
As for the interior arrangement of the building, it leaves nothing to be desired from the point of view of comfort. The telegraph machines are installed right in the building, enlivening everything with their perpetual tremolo. The typesetting rooms, the room for making the illustrations, the printing shop are wonderfully outfitted.
Here are a few details about some of the principal newspapers of New York. Let’s begin with the New York Herald, founded about thirty years ago by James Gordon Bennett. Its approximate circulation at present is 70,000 copies. Each edition is composed, according to circumstances, of eight, sixteen, or even twenty-four pages. Its format is about one-fourth larger than that of Parisian papers. Since small type is widely used in America, you can easily perceive how many news items, articles, and advertisements, on the average, you will find in this paper—twenty-eight columns given over each day to publicity, even during the off season; when business is booming, the number of columns of advertising goes up to sixty. The price of space varies between twenty-five cents and a dollar a line.
The advertising, the news stories, and circulation of the New York Herald make it the foremost journal in the United States. It is hard to get an idea of the number of personnel which the administration and exploitation of a sheet of this importance demands: seventy typesetters, twenty pressmen, twenty clerks, a legion of workmen. So much for the manual labor—without counting a whole-regiment of delivery men and newspaper sellers. The New York Herald naturally has also a numerous editorial staff scattered over all the parts of the world. Among its oldest collaborators, I might mention Mr. Connery, a musical critic of great talent. But without fear of contradiction, the most interesting personage connected with this newspaper is Mr. Bennett, Jr., its editor and proprietor. I have consecrated a few lines to him in my pen portraits.
After the New York Herald, comes the New York Times, which publishes 40,000 copies. Its opinions and its literary excellence have given it great authority over the public. It was founded by Messieurs Raymond, Jones, and Wesley. Mr. Raymond, a very distinguished statesman, remained as editor in chief until his death. Mr. Jennings of the London Times succeeded him. Actually, the principal owner is Mr. Jones, who enjoys very great influence. He has firmly maintained the good traditions of the paper and is very careful that his journal shall shine among all American papers by the purity and elegance of its style. To remain faithful to his tradition, he could have chosen for his editor no more distinguished writer than Mr. Foord nor any more competent musical and dramatic critic than Mr. Schwab.
The New York Times uses Walker Presses which need only two men to service them and which print 15,000 to 17,000 copies per hour.
The New York Tribune was founded by Horace Greeley, philanthropist and eminent journalist, one of the bitterest enemies of slavery. As candidate for the presidency in 1872, Greeley failed miserably, and died of shame and sorrow as a result.
The Tribune is really a forum open to all apostles of new theories. At the present moment a lively campaign in favor of women’s rights is being carried on. Though it is still very well edited, this journal has lost something of its influence since it has become the property of Mr. Jay Gould, a former associate of Colonel Fisk. His musical critic is Mr. Hassard, who is mad about Wagner; his dramatic critic is Mr. Winter, an excellent literary man and most agreeable socially.
The World, organ of the Democrats; circulation, 12,000 to 15,000; editor in chief, Mr. W. Hurlbut. Mr. Hurlbut has traveled widely, seen much and retained much. An accomplished man of the world, a writer of merit, nothing he does can be ignored; he has only one fault in the eyes of his fellow journalists—he is somewhat changeable in politics. Is that really a fault in an age like ours? The musical critic of the World is Mr. Wheeler, a witty writer.
The Sun—editor and principal proprietor, Mr. . . . [C. A. Dana], a first-class journalist who speaks every language, excellent at condensing any new scandals that come to hand. His newspaper sells for two cents instead of four. Average edition, 120,000.
Continuing my review of the press, I arrive at the evening newspapers:
The Evening Post, edited by Mr. William Cullen Bryant, the great American poet. Republican opinions. Considerable clientele.
The Advertiser-Evening Telegram is distinguished from the others in that it appears in a continuous stream. It is always being composed, always in the press, always on sale. Just as soon as a piece of news arrives, an edition is brought out immediately; and since news is arriving all day long. . . . The New York Herald publishes this sheet.
Among the foreign-language newspapers in New York, the Courrier des États-Unis must be mentioned. Forty years of existence. It owes its first prosperity to M. Frédéric Gaillardet, who sold it to M. Charles LaSalle. M. LaSalle is still the owner and has brought into the paper his son-in-law, M. Léon Meunier, the present editor. The Courrier des États-Unis, carefully edited, is highly esteemed as a newspaper. Its critic is M. Charles Villa.
The Messager Franco-Américain is a weekly newspaper about ten years old and ultra-Republican. Its owner is M. de Mavil? and its editor is M. Louis Cortambert.
The Staats-Zeitung, written in German, has as its director Mr. Oswald Ollendorf, an Austrian politician and literary man, who has resided for twenty-five years in America. It has complete news coverage, is well written, and possesses great influence on local politics. Its superb office is directly across from the New York Times. Approximate circulation, 25,000 to 30,000. The Staats-Zeitung was founded about thirty years ago by Madame Uhl, an exceptionally energetic woman. Its beginnings were somewhat difficult. Like the elder Bennett in the early days of his newspaper, it was often the editor herself who made the deliveries.
In addition to these newspapers, one should mention the Associated Press, corresponding to our Agence Havas, and the Association of Reporters, which latter deserves special mention. The reporters, about forty of them for every newspaper, have organized to send in accounts of accidents, of crimes, etc. They all wait in police headquarters, which is connected with the precinct stations by telegraph, until they receive news of some happening and then they go immediately to the place. Two or three of them cover the civil courts; about fifteen more meet morning and evening at the office of the newspaper and are sent to the different quarters of the city by the editor. They all know how to take pictures and are experts in telegraphy. With the help of the telegraph, they can give an immediate account of any event which may have happened a thousand leagues away, so that the speech, the crime, or the accident which they have witnessed the evening before will have five or six columns in small type in next morning’s paper.