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ago. It is honestly done, however. So far from the partisanship being concealed it is proclaimed, or even vaunted; so that nobody is deceived and everybody understands what to expect. But that it is an innovation good for journalism I am not yet persuaded, nor does it seem likely to be good for those who practise it. The shrewdest of Own Correspondents may fall into error, the wariest may be taken in and become the channel of representations less accordant with fact than with policy. In short, the partisan reporter in full employment may be more partisan than he knows; and when the exaggerations and the rusé suggestions that he did not mean to be guilty of are discovered, he may find himself in danger of being considered a willing agent of deceit. If so, that will not be good for him-except as he is absolved for good intentions; and it will be bad for journalism, which is expected to be trustworthy first and to put on the other graces afterward.
After acknowledging the common merit of independence, courage, incorruptibility-qualities for which the British newspaper press stands far above any other in Europe we see that the most striking claim to journalistic honours is that of the war-correspondent. Sir William Howard Russell may be said to have created a service in 1854, which, after a brilliant existence of forty years, no longer offers opportunity for the distinction that Mr Forbes and Mr MacGahan won-to name two of a dozen men whose hardihood and devotion were never exceeded in any service except that of the Christian Church. The regular means of transmitting news leaves much less to personal enterprise
and ingenuity; and, as Mr Forbes has said, "nowadays the avocation of the war correspondent is simplified and at the same time controlled by precise and restraining limitations." The precise and restraining limitations include some that the generals are more and more resolute to impose. Warcorrespondents were never loved by the generals-for professional reasons which, no doubt, are sound professionally; and the correspondent who, when the next great war breaks out, asks at our own War Office for "facilities" (and what more liberal War Office is there anywhere?) may count upon a cold and niggardly response, and a wise one. And so on all hands the romance of war perishes while its menaced horrors accumulate.
All newspaper editors, however, had not the good fortune to be served by Russells, Forbeses, and the like; and in their hearts, therefore, are not so very much dissatisfied with a future of "restraining limitations," which will bring war-reporting to a nearer equality. Partly from ill - luck, partly from other circumstances more or less excusing, war-correspondents were not infrequently disappointing, and they were sometimes a trial. We say nothing about it, but British soldiers have been known to run. We keep it dark, but war correspondents have been known to invent, though only in detail, not in gross. If there be any case to the contrary, it is a solitary one. Yet in the files of a great provincial journal may be read, I believe, an account of the first hours of a battle that was never fought at all-the whole of its stirring details being evolved from a noise which the chronicler, sitting aloft in his hotel, took to be the sound of cannonading coming from a quarter where a
fight was then expected. To forestall other reporters, whom the likelihood of the fight had drawn to the same place, he dashed off his partial report of the engagement, despatching it with great secrecy and expedition to a near frontier station. The rest he would have written after a visit to the scene of conflict; but when he proposed to set out he discovered that what he had supposed to be the distant firing of artillery was, in fact, the kicking of some frightened horses in an adjacent shed.
To make it the more memorable in newspaper record, what was brought to London for the printer on that occasion was the first report of the battle of Sedan and the surrender of the French Emperor - one of the greatest and most determining events of the century. My correspondent was with the Prussian King's staff on the Frénois heights above Sedan when the Emperor's letter of surrender was brought in. Night was coming on, but, without so much as ten minutes' preparation, Mr Holt White rode down the hill, straight across the battle-field, and so over the Belgian frontier and home, contriving by various expedients, but at great fatigue, to get a brief report into the 'Pall Mall Gazette' two days before a word of the matter was published elsewhere in England. Nor did any other report appear till the day after his second screed had told the whole story.
Now here was a kind of competition which there cannot be too much of. For it is by no means enough to be a good courier and smart in delivery. The war-correspondent's aim would have been entirely missed if in the endeavour to be "first out" he failed in accuracy, in breadth of view, in apprehension of main points, or in close yet full and strong description. It was competition, keenly maintained, in nearly all that is excellent in journalism, or even in literature. Yet the serious fact is, it seems, that war-correspondents were a downright nuisance to the generals-nuisance and embarrassment too, they say; and are in future to be more or less uniformed and strictly regulated.
I myself know what it is to have a perfect "handful" of a war-correspondent, and yet a remarkably clever man; but whenever a reproachful thought of him intrudes I remember that at the moment of starting for the Franco-German war he gave me a very impressive "tip." He was a Frenchman; and he said, "Mark this: the end of the war will be decided at the beginning. I know my fellowcountrymen. If they win the first battle on German ground, nothing will stop them this side of Berlin: it will be a hurricane. But if the first engagement is a French defeat on French ground, not a single Frenchman will cross the frontier unless as a prisoner." Had the prophet known of von Moltke's genius and the German preparation for hurricanes he might have hedged his meaning a little. But its general significance was striking, and the events of the war as each followed each kept it in memory. The more, perhaps, because no better contribution to guidance came from that correspondent; but it would be monstrous in me to complain, for I had another who, for despatch, achieved the first great feat on the warcorrespondents' roll of honour,— nor was it ever beaten afterwards.
Whether the soundness and the influence of the newspaper press
are increasing or diminishing is at all times a question of importance. If I am right, a very distinct period in the character and status of the newspaper press began soon after the middle of the century, and lasted for rather less than a generation. Then began another period distinct enough to be recognised as different without aɛsistance of the label, "The New Journalism." On the whole, is it a higher as well as a larger development from its predecessor? Higher," however, is not a word to insist upon we should ask if the journalism of to-day is sounder for its own acknowledged purposes of usefulness than was the journalism of (say) twenty years ago. Representing that older day, I shall be expected to say that I do not think the newspaper press improved in its better qualities, and I do say so; but not without acknowledging that I may remain prejudiced after trying to take into account all that seems to detract unfairly from modern journalism in the bulk. And in what are its merits hidden more than in the enormous bulk it has attained to? Not without reason was it said at the beginning of this article that we of the Old Guard were fortunate in not being a multitude. The fewer in the field the more noticeable the conduct of each; and on that account, perhaps, more of emulation, more of effort to secure the attention that could be reckoned on for any particularly good stroke of the pen. No doubt there is the same reward still for an unusually meritorious piece of writing; but not so much of it to hearten the writer, I fancy, as when the effect of one good day's work nearly always came home to him the next. There are now so many voices that, with rare exceptions
and on rare occasions, they drown each other; and even the best commodities are in danger of being cheapened in popular esteem by a superabundant supply of "a similar article." That this has had a discouraging and deterrent effect upon minds that were once ambitious of writing in the newspaper press can hardly be doubted. Nobody used to ask "What is the good?" when urged to write at his best, or when praised for some remarkably apt and eloquent performance; but I am told that the question is heard not unseldom nowadays.
One of the reforms achieved by the new journalism of forty years since was the complete supersession of a formal, artificial, and therewith hackneyed style, by a style more idiomatic and familiar. The classic lingo of the pamphleteer was already tiring out, and now gave way completely to the unpedantic, nervous, flexible good English of common life (by nature never without humour) which men of education used in their talk and in their letters. Whether for its own immediate purpose-the expression and enforcement of opinion-or whether for its effect in improving the common practice of our mother tongue, this was a change very much for the better. But though the journalistic English of that day aimed at being familiar, it had its own restraints, and would not have been approved without a certain dignity in freedom. Of course I speak of the better sort of journalism, of which there was soon no lack. Later developments in this direction seem to me neither serviceable nor delightful. The familiar is now carried much too far, and it is never a pretty thing in excess. At a leap I hasten to admit that some of the older journals, both
daily and weekly, are either quite or almost as carefully written as ever they were; and there is nothing to say on this score against one or two of the newer ones. But of the general mass of journalism it would have to be said that it has dropped into a looseness of speech that does not improve any thing, and must even diminish the writer's own sense of selfrespect. With no charm of its own, it adds neither elegance nor emphasis to what it is employed upon. On the contrary, it lowers the importance of whatever it is employed upon-brings it down; at the same time giving public sanction to more slanginess than it ventures upon itself. To be sure, there is a set-off against this fault in frequent patches of earnest and laborious preciosity; but for all that, I must avow an opinion that here the newspaper press has fallen away.
In another respect it has jumped back over the whole of those forty years-some say most properly. I do not know how that may be when consequences are fully sifted out. But my own idea is that the newspaper press was quite as informing, and rather more agreeable, when the reporting of a certain kind of news was less outspoken and particular. At one time-but a long time ago-it was blunt and rough enough apparent ly. Then the public taste revolted, and newspaper editors seem to have submitted to the rebellion gladly. But, from whatever cause or causes, there was for many years almost as much decency of language in the reporters' columns as at the dinner-table. No such restraint, no such governance, is attempted now; and the precise date of its abandonment can be named, I think. It followed immediately upon our time of revelry in Bul
garian atrocities. It commenced then; and it has gone so far that (speaking by the card) if any family newspaper five-and-twenty years ago had printed for a week a kind of matter which is now commonly published in such sheets, that journal would have found itself on the road to ruin. Respect for art cannot be alleged in explanation of the frankness now permitted, nor obligation to make things properly understood. The offence is in the detail so often dragged naked into print. Now for some readers this detail comes to mind quite sufficiently and accurately, as part of the matter, without any assistance from the reporter's speakingtrumpet; while as for the rest, who is in haste to instruct minds that have yet to learn how abominable human nature can be?
Considered up and down, this is the most remarkable change of many in the journalism of the last half-century; and it has been closely accompanied by another which seems to bear out the above account of its origin. At the time of the Bulgarian atrocities, the late Lord Derby was described by an earnest and eloquent writer as "stained with the blood and smirched with the lust of Batuk." The two things went always together. For months the unlovely conjunction was never out of the public journals and never out of people's minds: and, figuratively speaking, the newspapers have been in Lord Derby's condition as to both particulars ever since. They are bloodier upon every occasion of becoming so. It is not only as if a barbaric licence of description was now and again provoked by Turkish massacres. That might be expected. But it is another thing when a murder cannot be committed, nor any poor mad wretch lie down before an
advancing railway - train, without an inhuman painting of the papers with blood and brains. Why? For purposes of further information, what need of a word-photograph of the state of the rails when the train has gone by? And if the plentiful appearance of similar pictures (in oil) at the exhibitions of the French Salon is a sign of decadence, what are these wordphotographs of ours a sign of? Of decadence only in a minor sense, we may believe; but yet without doubt a something of that disagreeable character.
For improvement and advancement we must look in other direc tions; and, for one thing by no means insignificant, it seems to me that increasing pains are taken to detect and weed out the advertisements by which various kinds of roguery ply their trade. Well within memory, journals quite above the lower class could be very careless in admitting such advertisements, or even indifferent to their character when it plainly peeped through. The likelihood of enormous mischief carried on by one of these advertising trades led me some years ago to make a pretty close inquiry into it; or rather a courageous, good-hearted, clever woman (long since dead) did so for me. The business was the one that was afterwards called babyfarming; but it had various branches, none innocent some laid out for the most atrocious blackmail conceivable, others running to murder as the simplest thing for all parties. Though this is known well enough now, it was not so then; but in a few weeks my ingenious and temerarious investigator had made out all that has ever been discovered since. So well did she succeed that she could lodge with me a bundle of letters from various hands which
laid the business open more plainly than could have been thought possible: familiarity with its risks had evidently dulled perception. The results of this inquiry were not meant for publication in any shape, as may be imagined, and no use injurious to their writers was made of the letters. The purpose was simply to gather a firm foundation of fact for appeal against the practice of publishing advertisements conducive to a guilty trade, and in that way it was very serviceable. But now something happened which proved far more effective: a woman was hanged for pursuing this trade. After that there could be no more doubt in any advertisement office about the danger of complicity in a most cruel and infamous business. The woman who was hanged was herself an advertiser; and no doubt the lesson of her trial and execution went beyond child-murder-suggesting a warier eye upon other dark departments of commerce. It should be acknowledged, however, that the difficulty of sifting out fraudulent advertisements is very great; and there is this additional awkwardness in the matter that to reject what on the face of it is a harmless invitation to buy, sell, or otherwise do business, is a direct insinuation of covert dishonesty. But where this difficulty was a ground of excuse it is now more often a cause of anxiety, and that is a considerable difference to the good.
Review the newspaper press as a whole, and the most remarkable advance appears first in the number and excellence of the provincial journals, and next in the multitude and variety of interests which have been brought under its surveillance. Sixty years ago, the total number of daily newspapers in the