Davis' Short Stories Vol. 3
The Reporter Who Made Himself King
The Old Time Journalist will tell you that the best reporter is the one who works his way
up. He holds that the only way to start is as a printer's devil or as an office boy, to learn in
time to set type, to graduate from a compositor into a stenographer, and as a stenographer
take down speeches at public meetings, and so finally grow into a real reporter, with a
fire badge on your left suspender, and a speaking acquaintance with all the greatest men
in the city, not even excepting Police Captains.
That is the old time journalist's idea of it. That is the way he was trained, and that is why
at the age of sixty he is still a reporter. If you train up a youth in this way, he will go into
reporting with too full a knowledge of the newspaper business, with no illusions
concerning it, and with no ignorant enthusiasms, but with a keen and justifiable
impression that he is not paid enough for what he does. And he will only do what he is
paid to do.
Now, you cannot pay a good reporter for what he does, because he does not work for pay.
He works for his paper. He gives his time, his health, his brains, his sleeping hours, and
his eating hours, and sometimes his life, to get news for it. He thinks the sun rises only
that men may have light by which to read it. But if he has been in a newspaper office
from his youth up, he finds out before he becomes a reporter that this is not so, and loses
his real value. He should come right out of the University where he has been doing
"campus notes" for the college weekly, and be pitchforked out into city work without
knowing whether the Battery is at Harlem or Hunter's Point, and with the idea that he is a
Moulder of Public Opinion and that the Power of the Press is greater than the Power of
Money, and that the few lines he writes are of more value in the Editor's eyes than is the
column of advertising on the last page, which they are not.
After three years--it is sometimes longer, sometimes not so long--he finds out that he has
given his nerves and his youth and his enthusiasm in exchange for a general fund of
miscellaneous knowledge, the opportunity of personal encounter with all the greatest and
most remarkable men and events that have risen in those three years, and a great fund of
resource and patience. He will find that he has crowded the experiences of the lifetime of
the ordinary young business man, doctor, or lawyer, or man about town, into three short
years; that he has learned to think and to act quickly, to be patient and unmoved when
everyone else has lost his head, actually or figuratively speaking; to write as fast as
another man can talk, and to be able to talk with authority on matters of which other men
do not venture even to think until they have read what he has written with a copy-boy at
his elbow on the night previous.
It is necessary for you to know this, that you may understand what manner of man young
Albert Gordon was.
Young Gordon had been a reporter just three years. He had left Yale when his last living
relative died, and had taken the morning train for New York, where they had promised