As soon as we left Mentone Mr. Pulitzer began the process of education which was designed to fit me for his service.
“When you were in New York,” he asked, “what papers did you read?”
“The Sun and The Times in the morning and The Evening Sun and The Evening Post at night,” I replied.
“My God! Didn’t you read The World?”
“Nothing but the editorial page.”
“Why not? What’s the matter with it?”
I explained that I was not interested in crime and disaster, to which The World devoted so much space, that I wanted more foreign news than The World found room for, and that I was offended by the big headlines, which compelled me to know things I didn’t want to know.
“Go on,” he said; “your views are not of any importance, but they’re entertaining.”
“Well,” I continued, “I think The World was excellently described a few years ago in Life. There was a poem entitled, ’New York Newspaper Directory, Revised,’ in which a verse was devoted to each of the big New York papers. I believe I can remember the one about The World, if you care to hear it, for I cut the poem out and have kept it among my clippings.”
“Certainly, go ahead.”
“A dual personality is this,
Part yellow dog, part patriot and sage;
When’t comes to facts the rule is hit or miss,
While none can beat its editorial page.
Wise counsel here, wild yarns the other side,
Page six its Jekyll and page one its Hyde;
At the same time conservative and rash,
The World supplies us good advice and trash.”
“That’s clever,” said Mr. Pulitzer, “but it’s absolute nonsense, except about the editorial page. Have you got the clipping with you? I would like to hear what that smart young man has got to say about the other papers.”
I went to my cabin, got the poem, and read the whole of it to him—witty characterizations of The Evening Post, The Sun, The Journal, The Tribune, The Times and The Herald. As soon as I had finished reading, Mr. Pulitzer said:
“The man who wrote those verses had his prejudices, but he was clever. I’m glad you read them to me; always read me anything of that kind, anything that is bright and satirical. Now, I’m going to give you a lecture about newspapers, because I want you to understand my point of view. It does not matter whether you agree with it or not, but you have got to understand it if you are going to be of any use to me. But before I begin, you tell me what your ideas are about running a newspaper for American readers.”
I pleaded that I had never given the matter much thought, and that I had little to guide me, except my own preferences and the memory of an occasional discussion here and there at a club or in the smoking room of a Pullman. He insisted, however, and so I launched forth upon a discourse in regard to the functions, duties and responsibilities of an American newspaper, as I imagined they would appear to the average American reader.