Изображения страниц

the “Telegram," one and a half. The average was eight and eight-tenths.

Theatrical news is rather spasmodic, but the averages I obtained may not be unfair. The ratio for the three days was four and three-tenths per cent. In only two newspapers, the “ Times " and the Mail and Express," did the ratio rise to seven, and in one, the “ Evening Post,” it happened to sink to one-half of one per cent.

Labor is also an uncertain factor, depending, to a significant degree, on the nearness of an election. The average for the period was five and seven-tenths. All the morning papers for the three days had substantially the same amount of space devoted to this branch of news, being about four per cent. in each case. The " Commercial Advertiser"


labor news the most prominence, assigning to its treatment nine and a half per cent. of its reading matter, the "News" and the evening “ World ” sharing the second place, with eight per cent each.

As to the relative prominence given to editorials, I find that the "Commercial Advertiser" led with seventeen per cent, the list closing with the “News,” three per cent, the average being eight and a half.

In the second table the survey extended to the principal cities of the country, each city being taken as a unit. It was confined to the morning press, with the single exception of the Washington “Star.” It embraced the five leading New York morning newspapers, the“ Herald," "Times," " Tribune," " Sun," and “World ;" the “ Advertiser” and “Herald," of Boston; the “Public Ledger," " Press,” and “Times," of Philadelphia ; the Chicago “Tribune," "Times," and "News;” the Cincinnati “Commercial Gazette" and "Enquirer,” the St. Louis “GlobeDemocrat” and “Republican,” the Baltimore “Sun," the Washington "Star," the Charleston “ News and Courier," the New Orleans "Times-Democrat," and the San Francisco "Chronicle." The 'dates taken were Monday, November 28th, and Tuesday, November 29th, the object here, too, being to notice specially the part which religion played as news. The field of inquiry was broadened, however, by the addition of literary criticism and art news and comment. It will be observed that these papers fairly represent successful journalism in the various sections of the United States; and while the list is by no means complete, the averages deducible from a study of its characteristics have certainly a suggestive value.

[blocks in formation]

Judging by these two days, then, the New York and the Cincinnati morning dailies take the lead as regards space devoted to crimes, the latter leading by a slight fraction.

Cincinnati also paid the least attention to religion, and devoted the largest space to markets, of the whole list, and her ratio of editorial comment was as low as any. Out of a total readingmatter space of 3,782 inches, seven were devoted to book news and four to art. Music and the drama occupied three per cent. of the entire space: upon the whole, a sadly Philistine exhibit for a city that aspires to be an Athens.

At the "Hub" it is different. Boston has an eye to the main chance, as is shown by the high market ratio; but she gives seven per cent of her space to religion and four and a half to books, in both cases leading the list. She is also one of the few cities which accord an appreciable fraction of space to art. Amusements, both of the outdoor and indoor sorts, receive careful attention; while crime as a theme sinks nearly to one-third the prominence assigned to it in New York or Cincinnati, and to one-half the ratio of the press at large.

Philadelphia's moderation is known unto all men. She might appropriately take the motto which the great Bacon chose, Mediocria firma. Her newspaper average, we are not sur. prised to find, is severely conventional. It approaches nearer the national average than that of any other city. In attention to athletic sports and labor interests there is a slight excess, in religion a slight falling-off. But, not to be misunderstood, let me bear witness bere to the respectful and sympathetic spirit which marks the treatment of religious news by the leading Philadelphia papers. Especially is this true of the “Public Ledger,” a paper that is an honor to American journalism. Would that the enormous prosperity of this admirable newspaper might tempt American editors in general to study more carefully the secret of its success.

As Chicago and St. Louis invite comparison, we see from samples of their leading and typical papers that the citizens of both places have about the normal American appetite for crime; that St. Louis, however, likes a rather larger share of religion with it, is much fonder of sports, and a trifle more occupied with business. Chicago's editors, however, are allowed to talk twice as much as those of St. Louis; and if a city can be heard for its much speaking Chicago should compel attention, as her editorial ratio leads the country.

It must be admitted that, to judge from the two days' samples, the country makes a very poor showing in the domain of literature and art. Although we claim to be and are a reading people, the typical paper on the standard adopted would devote but two and a half per cent. of its total reading matter to literary news and criticism. And in forty-four issues, containing altogether 38,178 inches of reading matter, only 135 inches were devoted to art subjects. Only in the case of the “Public Ledger” did the art ratio rise above one per cent of the reading contents; and the New York “World," Chicago “Tribune," Chicago “News," St. Louis “Republican,” Cincinnati “Enquirer,” Charleston “News and Courier," and San Francisco “Chronicle” had no reference to art for the two days.

These ratios may form a base line for a supplementary article on the foreign standards of news, but I will now dismiss them with but a single further observation. A comparison of the two tables discloses several discrepancies, into the discussion of which I cannot enter at length. Suffice it here to say that with the changing year we should expect to find marked changes in news ratios, and that therefore an investigation, to be thoroughly satisfactory, would have to take a wider range of time than this one has. It should be remembered, too, that in the first table both morning and afternoon papers were measured, and in the second only the morning papers.

We have thus far gauged news by simple long measure; now in closing we must glance at other aspects of the subject. We have discovered, for example, the ratio of news importance given to religion by leading editors; now we ask, What is their attitude toward religion? This is a harder matter to decide fairly. I know it is a prevailing sentiment in religious circles that the spirit of the secular press is unfriendly to religion, and to some degree this opinion is well founded. If one were to take a religious census of the editors of the leading American journals with their editorial and city staffs, he would find that only a small fraction of them are members in good and regular standing of any Christian sect. But without "going behind the returns," so to speak, one can see from a perusal of the papers named something of the spirit that animates them. I find, in reviewing the articles marked "religious," that often the subjects deemed of the greatest consequence in a news sense relate to that part of the religious news which is either discreditable to religious professions, or which would be considered trivial and impertinent by religious people. If the papers allude to current religious events at all, it is apt to be in a perfunctory, condescending, whimsical, or quizzing spirit.

And this brings us to a searching question. What determines this attitude of editors toward religious news? If we claim that they regard it as of comparatively slight importance, and that they are disposed to magnify those features which religious people themselves prefer to keep in the background, why is this so? I know the answer that many religious people will be quick to give, namely, that the daily press is in the control of godless persons who run newspapers to make money, and who believe they can sell more papers by publishing graphic accounts of murders and other outrageous and frightful crimes, and by appealing to an appetite for theatrical and other pleasures, than they can by paying heed to the details of religious experience. For the sake of argument let us admit that this is so. Let us agree that editors are “sinners above all the Galileans," that they edit papers as a business and not from principle, and to make money rather than to do good. If that is the case, it follows that they will print the news which the people are willing and most anxious to buy. We started out by agreeing that these successful editors were successful because they knew what their readers wanted, and made it their study to supply just that. But now we see that they do not supply them with much religion, and that wbat little nominal religious matter they give them is not apt to be written from a sympathetic point of view.

The inference is logical, either that the religious public is insignificant in numbers, or that it is indifferent to religious news. Now, we know something as to the numbers and standing of the religious population of our cities, and we know that it cannot be said that those elements of population are insignificant in point of numbers or worldly influence. How comes it, then, that base-ball and horse-racing news is reported with great care and fullness, while the leading religious events are either ignored altogether or indifferently reported ? Is it not because newspaper editors have learned that persons who belong to the theatrical or the sporting or the mercantile public buy their papers according as they find in them full, prompt, and sympathetic treatment of theatrical, sporting, and market news; whereas religious people, as such, do not discriminate in their patronage of newspapers with a corresponding exactness? In other words, do religious people feel as keen an interest in religious news as the base-ball public feels in base-ball news, or as the horse-racing public feels in the news of a horse-race? Do religious people, to any considerable degree, choose one paper rather than another because one paper gives more prominence to religious news than another, or treats it with a more sympathetic appreciation? You can go up one bench and down another at a base-ball game, and every man in the crowd will tell you which papers of the next morning will have a full and glowing account of the match then in progress, and which will dismiss it in a few cold lines, and very many of them will make their purchase of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »