Remarks on Modern Journalism.
Mr. Barrett Wendell's reply, terse and clear, is as follows: "Pressure of professional work forbids me to send other than the briefest answers to your questions of the 12th. I answer them in order: 1, low; 2, by a persistent endeavor to impress on newspaper men some sense of veracity; 3, something not scandalous."
Professor Royce's reply is very long and partly philosophical. Its essence is as follows: "A newspaper approaches the ideal, then, in proportion as it lets its community see, honestly and accurately, just what the real life of the moment is; that is, in proportion as it makes its readers actually conscious of the present world of passion, of suffering, of effort and of joy, in which, as in an ocean, they pass their lives. The ideal newspaper, then, tells the whole significant truth about the daily life of its community, the honest and essential truth. But its truth is confusedly the truth of to-day. Its outlook is not eternity, but twenty-four hours; and it must needs be interested in many things that will hereafter appear trivial and empty. But the test is whether the news reporter has told what for the moment is worth knowing, as an evidence of the actually significant human passion of the day, What I especially lament, then, in the journalism of the day is the too frequent absence of this ideal. Too often the newspaper appeals to the weaklings and to the sick among its readers rather than to the whole men and to the strong. As for the cure, that must come from the ability and manliness of leading journalists themselves. Given the true man, who is also a born editor, and never has lacked, and never will lack subscribers, nor yet influence."
The following is a part of Prof. Taussig's answer:
"1. Newspapers are conducted too much as if they were mere money-making ventures. There are some occupations which have so important an effect on the general prosperity that they cannot be carried on, with safety to the community, as if their sole object was to make money.
"2. At bottom newspapers will not become better and healthier until their customers are desirous of such a change. As long as much money can be made by printing sensational and filthy matter people will be found who will print it and spread it about. But there is a process of action and interaction. A newspaper can have a great effect on its readers, even though at bottom it is likely to follow rather than lead their tastes. The tone of the press can be improved if newspaper men can be brought to bear in mind that they may exert a great influence on the tastes and minds of their readers, and that the manner in which they conduct their papers is an important factor for the welfare of the country.
"3. My ideal of things which are at trainable, is a paper which is honest, which does not palm off on its readers advertisements as news matter, which is not blindly partisan, which does its best to improve its readers, and does not pander to its lowest tastes in order to roll up a large circulation."
Prof. Hill says on the subject:
"With your leave I will answer your third question first.
"The ideal newspaper will, in my judgment, print all the news-carefully discriminating, however, ascertained fact from rumor and from conjecture, giving to each subject space and importance in proportion to its just value relatively to other subjects, in the eyes of an intelligent, high-minded and broad minded public, and never considering who or what will be helped or harmed by the publication of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The ideal journal's statements of fact will never be colored by prejudice, passion, bombast or humor (so called,) but will be rigorously exact, and will be expressed in simple, clear, compact and agreeable English. Its comments on current events will be animated by a steady purpose to say the right thing in the right way at the right moment, and will be characterized by accurate and independent thought, sound sense, good English and good manners. It will never treat opponents with discourtesy, or friends with flattery, and will never sacrifice principle to party, to sentiment, to self-interest, or to personal feeling in any way.
"In my judgment, the journals of to-day are good or bad in so far as they more or less closely resemble the ideal journal I have tried to describe; and the 'tone of the modern press' can be improved by following the lines suggested above. These are the best answers I can make at this moment to your first and second questions."