“They hate the mail-order houses with a deadly fear, because the cataloguers undersell them in a lot of lines. Won’t Rome howl the day after this appears!”
“Tell me about the relation between advertising and policy, Ban,” invited Io, and summarized Willis Enderby’s views.
Banneker had formulated for his own use and comfort the fallacy which has since become standard for all journalists unwilling or unable to face the issue of their own responsibility to the public. He now gave it forth confidently.
“A newspaper, Io, is like a billboard. Any one has a right to hire it for purposes of exploiting and selling whatever he has to sell. In accepting the advertisement, provided it is legal and decent, the publisher accepts no more responsibility than the owner of the land on which a billboard stands. Advertising space is a free forum.”
“But when it affects the editorial attitude—”
“That’s the test,” he put in quickly. “That’s why I’m glad to print this editorial of ours. It’s a declaration of independence.”
“Yes,” she acquiesced eagerly.
“If ever I use the power of my editorials for any cause that I don’t believe in—yes, or for my own advantage or the advantage of my employer—that will be the beginning of surrender. But as long as I keep a free pen and speak as I believe for what I hold as right and against what I hold as wrong, I can afford to leave the advertising policy to those who control it. It isn’t my responsibility.... It’s an omen, Io; I was waiting for it. Marrineal and I are at a deadlock on the question of my control of the editorial page. This ought to furnish a fighting issue. I’m glad it came from you.”
“Oh, but if it’s going to make trouble for you, I shall be sorry. And I was going to propose that we write one every Saturday.”
“Io!” he cried. “Does that mean—”
“It means that I shall become a regular attendant at Mr. Errol Banneker’s famous Saturday nights. Don’t ask me what more it means.” She rose and delivered the typed sheets into his hands. “I—I don’t know, myself. Take me back to the others, Ban.”
To Banneker, wakened next morning to a life of new vigor and sweetness, the outcome of the mail-order editorial was worth not one troubled thought. All his mind was centered on Io.
Explosions of a powerful and resonant nature followed the publication of the fantastic, imaginative, and delightful mail-order catalogue editorial. In none of these senses, except the first, did it appeal to the advertising managers of the various department stores. They looked upon it as an outrage, an affront, a deliberate slap in the face for an established, vested, and prodigal support of the newspaper press. What the devil did The Patriot mean by it; The Patriot which sorely needed just their class of reputable patronage, and, after sundry contortions of rate-cutting, truckling, and offers of news items to back the advertising, was beginning to get it? They asked themselves, and, failing of any satisfactory answer, they asked The Patriot in no uncertain terms. Receiving vague and pained replies, they even went to the length of holding a meeting and sending a committee to wait upon the desperate Haring, passing over the advertising manager who was a mere figurehead in The Patriot office.