By Gerald O'Conel Desmond
”Mr. Smith,” said the editor of the Morning,—“I want you to cover that striker’s meeting.”
Billy Smith, the young reporter, looked surprised. Striker’s meetings were not on his list. As a general rule he “did” police courts, fires, etc., things of that kind.
The editor noticed his look and deigned a word of explanation. “Mr. Jones has other work” he said, “And Mr. Anderson had to go out on that murder case in 10th Street, so I have to put you on the meeting. We want about a column and a half, and get in as soon as you can.”
Billy Smith sat at the reporter’s table writing busily. The big strike was at its height; just at the critical point indeed. Billy was a son of the common people and his sympathies were with the men.
But Billy knew that officially he couldn’t sympathize with the men. He was there without bias, without fear or favor as he considered.
And so Billy simply reported the meeting from a neutral standpoint, fairly and impartially.
When the meeting was over her hurried to the office, polished up his stuff a little and sent it in.
Half an hour after Billy was in the editor’s room again.
“Mr. Smith,” said the editor, “This won’t do. We can’t publish it as it is. Go and rewrite it at once.”
Billy’s eyebrows raised. As a general thing his copy went without comment.
“May I ask where the fault is? He questioned.
“It’s unsuitable right through,” was the rather angry response.
“It doesn’t fit in with our policy—When you do this kind of work you’ve got to consider the policy of the paper. This isn’t a labor paper. We don’t want reports favorable to these people in any way.”
“I don’t consider the report favorable,” said Billy a little annoyed. “It is simply a correct report, simply fair and impartial, no more.”
The editor reddened up.
“It won’t do anyhow,” he snapped. “I don’t want it. What do I care about fair and impartial. It doesn’t fit in with our policy in this matter. We’re not helping this lot of strikers. We’re against them, and we want a report that will tell against them.”
“Your business is to write in accord with our policy—to write what we want—not what you think or see or hear. That’s what you’re paid for. A reporter takes his policies and his opinions from his paper.”
“If he doesn’t like that he takes his cheque.”
Billy had made up his mind.
He took up his copy from the reporter’s desk, looked at it a second, then deliberately tore it in two and threw it into the editorial waste paper basket.
“I can take my cheque any old time you like,” he said between his teeth, “but I’ll be hanged if I write a lying report of that meeting for your rotten rag.”
And Billy slammed the door after him and went down the stairs in three jumps. Hel felt mad.
Next day’s paper had a report of the striker’s meeting. It was an extremely biased report and one calculated to turn public sympathy from the strikers.
Billy Smith is alive and kicking. He still writes a little but mostly for labor and socialist papers which are not afraid to print the truth. The moral of the story is “Let the workers support their own press if they want a square deal at all times.” The capitalist press will never give the workers a square deal.
Cotton's Weekly, March 18, 1909