ERWIN C. FUNK
Born January 5, 1877, at Deep River, Powsheik County, Iowa Graduated Carroll (Iowa) High School, 1893
Worked on Carroll Herald and Carroll Sentinel
Joined his father in publication of the Manning (Iowa) Monitor
At age of 17 he was youngest member of Upper Des Moines Editorial Assn. Moved to Arkansas 1896 and published Springdale Democrat
Same year moved to Rogers and bought Rogers Democrat
He was editor and publisher at Rogers from 1896 to 1929
Married Miss Minta Michael, November 1903. She died in 1953.
During World War I, he was at Camp Pike (Little Rock) as publicity director and editor of Trench and Camp, the Camp newspaper
YMCA then sent him to France where he served 10 months as athletic director for the 29th Division
Joined the Arkansas Press Association in 1896 and served as secretary 1914-1918 and as president 1925-1926.
Attended his first meeting of National Editorial Association in 1902; served 10 years as vice-president for Arkansas; elected to executive committee 1925; elected vice-president 1925; president 1928.
Won many state and national newspaper awards, including three times for "Best Weekly Newspaper" in Arkansas.
After his retirement he was active in many civic activities, including 20 years as secretary of the Red Cross, 10 years as manager of the Rogers Relief Association, president of the Library Board 25 years; member of Rotary Club 40 years, etc.
In 1934 named Newspaper Code Administrator for the NRA and in 1935 legislative representative for the NEA in Washington.
Hobbies: conventions, Rotary, football, scrapbooks.
He died Feb. 1, 1960. Survived by two sisters: Mrs. C.J. Greene Sr. of Conway, Ark., and Mrs. H. Edwin Andrews of Philadelphia.
(Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Feb. 3, 1960)
ERWIN C. FUNK
Erwin Charles Funk was one of those adopted Arkansans whose record of public service and lively interest in everything that went on around him could have served as a model for us all.
A native of Iowa, he entered the newspaper business in Northwest Arkansas while still in his teens and stayed in our midst long enough to become something of an institution in himself -- the oldest member of the Arkansas Press Association, both in age and point of service. The recent mid-winter meeting of the APA in Little Rock was one of the very few that Mr. Funk had missed in the 60-odd years of his service to the state press.
With all his professional contributions, and all his length record of civic leadership, it was as an amateur regional historian that Erwin Funk perhaps will be longest remembered. Other residents of Northwest Arkansas may be able to take for granted the brooding presence of the Great Civil War battlefields and all the other rich hysterical associations that abound in that particular corner of the state. Mr. Funk, perhaps in some measure because his own antecedents lay on the other side of the dividing line, ordained perpetually intrigued by Northwest Arkansas's role in the War, and by its fascinating border country history in general.
He will be missed, not only by his fellow historians and wide circle of newspaper acquaintances, but by everybody who knew him.
(Arkansas Democrat, Little Rock, Feb. 2, 1960) ERWIN CHARLES FUNK
The only Arkansan the National Editorial Association has had as president was Erwin Charles Funk of Rogers. He served that organization of small weekly and daily newspapers as vice president 10 years, and for a time represented it in Washington, D.C.
The Arkansas Press Association also had him for president one term and recording secretary for 3 years. He remained a loyal member of both the state and national associations after he retired from the newspaper field, and regularly attended conventions just as he had during his active years.
His journalistic career extended back to 1894 when at the age of 17 he went to work on his father's newspaper in Iowa. Two years later the family moved to Springdale, Ark., and from then on Arkansas was home to Erwin C. Funk.
The Rogers Democrat which he published for 30 years, and other papers with which he was associated, reflected his progressive spirit and his genuine devotion to state and civic welfare.
In retirement, Mr. Funk still took an active part in community betterment. The Rogers Public Library has been a favorite project of his for many years, and its good service mirrors his leadership as chairman of the board of trustees.
The Annals of a Small-town Editor and Publisher
by Erwin Funk, Rogers, Arkansas
When it was first suggested that I write the story of the country weekly newspaper industry as I knew it 50, 60 and 70 years ago, I felt it would be impossible to recall enough details of those early years to make it of interest, let alone of value to anyone. Back in the 80,s when I visited my first newspaper office in Manning, a small town in Western Iowa, there were as many kinds of printing plants as there are today. It depended upon the size of the town, the extent of its trade territory, and. the talents of the owner, who was often editor, foreman, compositor, pressman; in fact, the entire force with probably an apprentice always known as the "devil", and with the wife as society reporter and general all-around assistant. The greater majority of the editor-publishers of those days were former printers with a minimum of schooling.
My first visit to a printing office was a schoolboy of 11 years in Manning, and I had been sent to the office with copy for a school program. I was not favorably impressed by either the editor or the plant. Both were sloppy and ill-kept. Knowing nothing of printing equipment or its uses I gave it small heed but recall wishing I could swipe some of the large fancy type. Had I been a prophet or the son of a prophet I would have been more curious -- for a scant six years later found me editor of the MONITOR -- not in the same dingy quarters but I suspect with much the same equipment.
A year later, my father, Emanuel M. Funk, who had been postmaster at Manning, was elected Clerk of the Courts of Carroll County and we moved to Carroll, the county seat, a town then of around 2,500.
Emanuel Funk standing in front of unknown Manning home
1880s to 1890s
The owners of the SENTINEL, publishing both a weekly and a small daily, were close friends of father and after a year or so I became one of the carriers for the daily. Recalling my own experience as a carrier in the mud, snow, and zero weather, I have always had much sympathy for the boy who manages to forget some reader living far out on the edge of his route.
The Republican weekly was the HERALD and the editor, J.B. Hungerford, was also a personal friend. I should have mentioned that the SENTINEL editors during my years in Carroll were Mike Miller, C.C. Colclo and John B. Powers. I think that both the papers were pried on Cottrill cylinder presses, powered by small steam engines, but the job presses were foot operated. Neither had folders and that was one of the duties of the entire force on press day. The daily carriers always had to fold their own papers.
During my year or so as a carrier and later as a High School reporter I learned much about the printing business but had no ambition to become a printer or an editor. My ambition in those days was to become a lawyer and I spent much of my spare time in the court room and talked often with the judges, lawyers, clerks, court reporters, and diligently perused the published court proceedings, both local and state.
I also served as an assistant clerk in father's office and when I visited Carroll in 1955 I found marriage licenses with my sprawling signature as assistant clerk. The real clerk was Wm. Lynch, also a justice of the peace, and when father was away I issued the license. Mr. Lynch married the couple, with the Irish janitor, Kelley, and myself as the witnesses. It might be well to add that the license had been signed in blank by father and passed upon by Mr. Lynch.
During my last two years in High School I edited a school column for the HERALD. The editor did not want a faculty-sponsored column and I wrote under an assumed name and was paid 50 cents'' a week. Not a boy to stick out my neck and hunt for trouble, I handled all references to the city superintendent and faculty with kid gloves and only once or twice were there any clashes. The editor always took the blame and refused to fire me. The year I was a Senior a prize was offered by the pastor of the Presbyterian church for the best report of his Christmas sermon. Two of the judges mere newspaper men and the third was a preacher. Today I can understand why I was the winner. My verbatim report appealed to the editors while the preacher voted for a report that attempted to analyze the meaning of Christmas. It is still a live question today. Should a reporter give just plain facts or should he editorialize on their meaning?
During that last school year I also did some reporting for the HERALD and covered programs and minor happenings that the editor did not care to attend. One incident of that year. I shall never forget. I was sent out to get the details of the wedding of a well-known young-lady and my story was correct so far as it went. It was to be a noon wedding and the HERALD went to press about that hour. At the very last minute the young lady changed her mind -- but the wedding story was on the press. The editor took the blame but when I was in Carroll a few years ago I found my story of the wedding-to-be but searched in vain for any mention that the marriage ceremony had never been performed.
Getting ahead of my story for the moment, the wedding story recalls an experience of my own, later at Manning. A prominent farmer had been found at the edge of town and reported frozen to death. It was the morning of our publication day and when I contacted the doctor in attendance he said the man was dead, and I gave the story a good head-line on the first page. When the papers were taken to the post office, information came that the farmer was still alive. The office was asked to hold the papers while I hunted up the doctor. He was very sorry he had misled me but that if I could wait an hour he could assure me the story would be true. It came to pass within the hour limit and we were all greatly relieved.
Graduating from High School in May, 1893, I taught a country school that summer near Carroll and if the pupils did not learn much it was an education for me. Really I was not old enough to secure a teacher's license but the County Superintendent was a good friend - and that was that. I took the examinations for a license on Saturdays with full knowledge that if I failed there would be no salary -- $30 a Month.
That money was to finance a trip to the World's Fair in Chicago and you may be sure l passed all tests and was given a third-class license.
Even in those days I had a yen for writing travel stories and my letters to my mother, who was visiting in Kansas, do not read too badly even today. It was a big Fair but a husky youth of 16 can cover a lot of territory in ten days. My old Fair notebook of September 1893 is on my desk as I write and I marvel at the many notes and comment on the exhibits, especially the foreign ones. For a short time I had thought of trying for West Point but after a study of the cadets in camp at Chicago, decided the drilling and parading in the hot sun did not appeal to me. Entirely too much discipline:
That fall Father was planning to move to Lake Charles, La., and had the agency for a lot of railroad land in that section. He was away for a month and left me in charge of his law office as he was no longer at the courthouse. It bored me stiff and I worked on a dray wagon and for a week in the hay fields. When Father returned, I went to work in the book bindery of the HERALD. During my three months there I had opportunity to observe the work of the printers and learned many current tricks of the trade. All newspapers in those days carried a lot of patent medicine ads, railroad, etc. that ran for months without a change. The pressman would runoff half a hundred copies, maybe less; stop the press, unlock the forms, slip out several columns of junk and insert a paying advertisement. The chief worry was to see that the mailer did not get his checking copies sent to the wrong concern. Did I ever do it? Memory fails me entirely on that query.
In my years around the Carroll offices I met all of the familiar old time tramp printers and migrant book binders who as a rule could be depended upon to call at fairly regular intervals -- north in the summer, south in the winter. They called themselves "journeymen", and some of them were excellent workmen but they had a wandering foot and few of them ever settled down to steady jobs. Years later I met some of these men in the home for old printers at Colorado Springs and we recalled a number of familiar names.
The book binders were "tops" and commanded the highest wages. Many of the huge leather-bound county records were made in our bindery. My job was to feed the ruling machine, a complicated contraption that required an expert to set the ruling pens and control the flow of ink. Running the numbering machine was a monotonous task and I preferred sewing on the big books. Interesting but not exciting. My wage was $6 a week and like all the printers I worked around 50 hours a week. I could make more money working on the dray but when cold weather came that was definitely out.
Late in December 1893, Father came home one day with the news that he had traded some land for the Manning MONITOR and was to take over the office January 1, 1894.He had a partner, Frank Salmon, the former county superintendent who had secured me the teaching job, but did not know how it would work. He suggested that I go to Manning (18 miles away), try working in the office and keep an eye on things in general. So, two or three days before my 17th birthday, I embarked on a newspaper career that was to last the rest of my life.
I had never set a line of type in my life but I buckled down in earnest and within a month the regular typesetter lost her job and I had learned to set my local items from my notes instead of having the
written copy. Salmon lasted only a month or two, being more interested in outside activities than in the newspaper and perforce I became editor as well as local reporter. Father and the family moved to Manning that spring and he took over as business manager in addition to his work as a lawyer, insurance agent and town attorney.
The MONITOR was an 6-page 6-column paper, typical of most of the country weeklies of that era. Four pages were "ready-print" which came by express early each week from the Kellogg Co. of Sioux City. After the first year we changed to the Western Newspaper Union at Omaha, as there was less chance for delay in shipment and we thought the news content better. We had little delay but when it happened there was nothing to do but wait for the next Milwaukee train. Sometimes it meant working all night to make up for lost time but it was all in the week's work. Over the years no paper of mine ever missed an issue on the day of publication save for an intentional delay to cover late election news or some special local happening on press day.
With a competent foreman in the office, I did little of the commercial printing -- "job work", as we called it. But I was quickly initiated into helping print the paper on the old Washington hand-press. Practically all of the small papers of this country were printed on some type of this famous old press. Some were called Franklin presses and there was a variety of makes and styles but the general idea was the same with all of them.
When movable type was first invented, the impression or squeeze was obtained through the use of a central screw but it was followed by the toggle-lever press which was much faster -- which does not mean it was very fast. For the life of me I cannot say how many we could print in an hour but if you were doing the press work you could not enthuse over a growing circulation save that it meant one could look forward to a rotary press in the office. One writer says that a speed of 250 an hour was very good. I'll say that it was!
After the forms were made ready on the make-up stone, which I have seen made of old marble table tops and even tombstones, locked with wooden quoins and tightened with the aid of the millet and shooting stick, they were locked on the iron bed. of the Washington. It required two persons to operate the press -- one to ink the forms and the other to place the paper on the cloth fly, flip it down on the form, run the bed under the die and take a long hard pull on the lever that brought down the die and made the printing impression.
As a rule the inking job fell to the lot of the devil or apprentice. The heavy ink roller was equipped with two handles and was long enough to cover a form with one swipe. The only presses of this kind that I have ever seen held two forms, so we had to make two runs to get four pages. The ink slab was usually also stone and much of the knack of securing a satisfactory print depended upon the skill of the inker in using just the proper amount of ink and. in seeing that it was spread evenly. In the summer the ink was apt to be too thin; in the winter too heavy and stiff. Too much ink and the paper stuck to the type too little the paper was too pale and hard to read. In the winter we often had to place a lamp under the ink stone to help it spread. One had to ease that long lever back gently, for if it were allowed to spring
back it could jump out of the socket and hit the wall with a smash. I never saw that happen but many printers did. That was a good time for the inker to drop to the floor.
When the bundle of ready-print arrived, the first step was to wet down the papers by sprinkling every 20 or 30 sheets with water, another little job that required experience and judgment. The pile was then placed under a weight until needed. It not only gave the paper more stiffness and weight and made the sheets easier to handle but the slight dampness made the sheets take ink better. But too wet was worse than too dry, for then the sheets stuck together. Looking back to those years it is easy to say that the country printers of 75 and 100 years ago were poor craftsmen but when one knows the many handicaps under which they labored, you must admire them for their ability to get out any sort of a paper.
A lot of very sloppy small-town papers were being printed in Iowa when I broke into the game but with care and know-how there were others that would be a credit to the best cylinder presses of today. I have the files of the MONITOR during the years in Manning and they compare very favorably as to press work with the output of much larger offices of their day -- or even of today, for that matter. Improved types of Washington presses are still to be seen in some offices today and I used to see them in the government printing offices in Washington, D.C., for use in pulling proof. Some were being used in printing paper currency when I made my first Washington visit in 1902. But they were always slow and there was no way of hurrying them.
As I said before, my first job was inking the press forms but I was big and husky and it was not many weeks before the foreman and I were taking turns as inker and pressman. That was one reason Charley Coe, the foreman, was opposed to women compositors -- they could not help him on the press, although I have seen husky girls playing the inker. When one recalls the hours of real manual labor that was needful in even a small office, one is not too surprised at the small number of boys and young men who stayed long in the printing offices. The average office was an oven in the summer and an ice-box in the winter. But so long as everyone else in town was griping about the weather, it was taken as a matter of course and we were thankful we were on the second floor over a drug store that at least helped keep the floor warm.
One handicap in all of the older offices was the battered type which seemingly was never replaced until it was worn down to the shoulder. Compositors were never enthusiastic over new type, for the sharp edges were hard on the fingers and the glitter of the new metal hard on the eyes. The ready-print people were just beginning to make "plate", or columns of thin metal which were mounted on a lead base. These shell castings were usually a trifle higher than our worn type and all too frequently punched through the paper when we had to use them as emergency fillers. That was remedied by scraping the bases until they came nearer matching our type. When the companies began to use a light cast iron base we were really out of luck.
I well recall when several advertisers tried using celluloid plate and cuts to reduce postage or express. In an effort to quickly dry some of this stuff after it had been washed with lye, it was placed
too near a hot stove and for a time we thought we would have need, for the fire department. It was soon abandoned; perhaps because it warped too easily. Which reminds me that a must in every office was the tilted box in which one washed the ink off the type with lye. It was hard on hands but we never did find anything that did the job so satisfactorily as lye. After washing, the type had to be well rinsed with water to remove the lye. When a lady visitor asked what we were doing, the reply was "Washington the lies out of the paper." Another must was a small chunk of alum in every type case to use on the fingers when the lye was still making the type slippery.
That first office had a small Pearl jobber and a larger one --both of the so-called alligator type. The platen did not open back flat when being fed by a pressman. When the press was open there was just a very sharp "V" before you and you fed the sheets into the opening and hoped you could get your hand out safely. Both were pedal driven and one ran them slowly while learning. The first time Father tried feeding a jobber he escaped with a couple of badly scraped knuckles. With power and real speed it would have been impossible to feed these presses.
Another common source of accident in those early days were the paper cutters and that was one of my first printing office gripes. Even as a kid I could see how they could be made safer without too much trouble. The cutting blade was kept in position by a small trip trigger that was too often worn and greasy and many a printer was minus a finger joint or two because the heavy blade slipped and caught his hand. Makers of machinery were evidently more interested in making them as cheaply as possible rather than making them safe for operators. For our old cutter I soon devised a safety catch that had to be removed before one could use it. Maybe we lost a little time but at least we lost no fingers in our office.
There were no electric lights in our small town then, and overhead lights were no good at the type cases, although we had one in the press room. Special brackets were devised to hold snail lamps that hooked at the top or side of type cases, usually with reflectors. That was a job of the office devil -- cleaning the chimneys of the lamps which were very apt to smoke when there was any draft of air, and to keep them supplied with kerosene. Some offices were still using candles for the compositors but that stunt we never tried although there was always a supply ready in case of emergency. The only time I was ever reduced to the use of candles was in the A.E.F. They were better than nothing but candles never appealed to me, even for decorations.
One thing for which I have had occasion to be thankful many times was that my first foreman was a crank about having everything done exactly right. There was no slipshod or halfway method with any of his work. He may not have been a model citizen but he was a darned good printer and he gave me many a boost in becoming one myself. Today I am quite as proud of being a fairly good all-around printer as of anything l ever accomplished as an editor and publisher. I admit I never made any real money in the newspaper business until I quit working in the back room but my experience there was never a handicap.
When I went to Manning the prevailing wage for compositors was $1 a day and that was my pay for the first few months, but one could get
room and board for $3 a week. When we went to Springdale, Ark., in 1896 we found that compositors (all girls) were getting $3 a week and that was also the standard pay in Rogers at that time. A few years later it became $4 a week but I recall that Bettie Blake would not work for less than a dollar a day and that was the local limit until the first World War. An ordinary printer was paid $10 a week and a good foreman from $12 to $15. As a lad in Iowa I was still hearing the old refrain that ran "A dollar a day is damn good pay for a Paddy working on the Santa Fe." Wages are a reflection of the general financial conditions -- and they were not too good back in the 80's and 90's, and perhaps for some years after.
At the Hot Springs press meeting in 1959 a young man asked me "How could you make any money with that kind of a plant?" The obvious reply was that very few small-town publishers and printers did make any real money. Some of the better ones made a fair living but more of them went broke or lived from hand to mouth. That was true in every state in the Union. In 1905 Benton County, Arkansas, had 19 newspapers. Few of the publishers lasted more than a year or two. In those days the subscription price was quite uniform -- $1 a year if you could get it. No one even suggested "Pay in advance." Subscribers paid if and when they felt like it. One Berton County paper that claimed a circulation of 2,000 boasted to me in good faith that he had received $400 on subscriptions that year. He felt he had reached a desirable high. When I said we had a circulation of 1,400 and had received $1,300 that same year he was thunderstruck. He admitted he had families on his list who had not paid a cent for twenty years. The Rogers DEMOCRAT was t h e first paper in Berton County to adopt the cash-in-advance plan and make it stick. Later when we went to $1.50 and then $2 it was always cash in advance -- stop when time expired and no favorites.
Fully realizing my shortcomings along educational lines, with only a four-year High School course, I had to make up for that lack of schooling in the only possible way -- extensive reading and learning in the tough school of experience. In the summers of 1894 and 1895 I took my vacation by attending the Teachers Normal Institute at Carroll. Both years I received first-class teachers licenses but could not use them as I did not have the required experience. That did not worry me as I had no desire to teach. Later I enrolled in the Murat Halstead Correspondence School for editors and reporters, a Cincinnati group of newspaper workers, and I had several offers of jobs when I completed the course. But they all came from Eastern papers and I was wedded to the West of Southwest. I never had regret for the dollars or time it cost me, for I would send in my editorials and articles from the DEMCCRAT--and boy, how they did blue-pencil some of them. I was learning fast.
From my very first years I have always been a press association enthusiast; perhaps I became a fanatic on that institution. My first editorial association meeting was the. Upper Des Moines Press Association at Estherville, Iowa, in the summer of 1895, and few have been the years since then that I have missed attending at least one or more. Iowa had no active state organization and the membership embraced most of the northern half of the state.
I learned that most of the editors and publishers of that day had worked up from the back room and had been printers, learning the trade
the hard way. Few editors even had a vision or dreamed of Schools of Journalism. The first came in 1908 under the leadership of Dean Walter Williams of the University of Missouri, and Dean Talcott Williams at Columbia University, New York City, and it was my good fortune to knew both of them personally. Dean Williams made his first report to the N.E.A. at Seattle in 1909 and we began a friendship that lasted until his death
One of the Estherville members was an old, newspaper man, then Secretary of the State of Iowa, For some reason he took an interest in me (I was the youngest member) and one morning talked, with me at some length. He said it was a tough business running a country newspaper but he had found it interesting, exciting and worth while, and that he planned to go back to publishing when his term of office expired. He said few men ever realized all the possibilities of a live newspaper with an honest hard-working editor, but there was always something to learn and it kept a man on his toes every minute.
One great trouble in writing this article is that later-day happenings insist upon coming to mind. Representing the N.E.A. before a Senate committee in. Washington in 1935 (the Wagner labor Bill was up then), Senator Walsh, the chairman, asked: "Mr. Funk, do you think you know all about the newspaper business?" As nearly as I can recall, my answer was "Senator, I would be very suspicious of the veracity of any man who said he knew everything about the newspaper business. I am here speaking only for the country weeklies and small dailies. I have spent my life' as a country editor and publisher and the one thing of which I am positive is that I know more about the problems of the country and small-town publishers than anyone you have so far heard at these committee hearings." The Senator grinned, then laughed and said, "Maybe you are right at that."
There was another experience at Estherville that influenced my political outlook at the time -- perhaps for the rest of my life. The group spent an afternoon at Spirit lake, a nearby popular summer resort, and one of the visitors we met was a United States senator. He was an elderly red-nosed over-weight man who did not carry his liquor too well, When I met him he had reached the silly stage and I went back home greatly depressed by the thought that this was the type of politician heading up our nation's affairs in Washington. Right then I lost a lot of my respect for the Washington brass hats and VIP's. Years later, when I had editorially lambasted some high government officer, a woman from the East asked, "Don't you reverence your state and national leaders?" My reply: "I respect the office but I most certainly do not reverence the office-holder. I respect and endeavor to obey the law but I despise a lot of: the law-makers and enforcement officers."
As usual, I am wandering from my text. One of my competitors in Manning used that was known as a Mann cylinder press. The bed of the press was a solid iron frame and a big cylinder rolled over the forms from one end to the other, Printing a paper both coming add going. Papers had to be removed by hand and the forms inked by hand, so the printing was not continuous. As the cogs became worn there was much danger of slurring, I had no experience in running this press but it was no faster than our Washington hand press and the product not good. Never
again did I see a press of that style but heard that there were several of them in use in Iowa.
Some months before we sold the MONITOR in the spring of 1896 and moved to Springdale, Arkansas, we installed a Prouty cylinder press. I do not know that I can adequately describe it. The bed and frame were heavy and the small cylinder rolled over the type forms. The out-standing feature to me was that it did not have to be inked by hand and that it delivered the printed papers without manual assistance. When we bought the Rogers DEMOCRAT in the fall of 1896 we found it was also printed on a Prouty and we used it for a number of years with fair results. It operated by man power and had a big heavy iron wheel to give the momentum. Turning that big wheel was a hot job in the summer and not an easy one at any time. It was not always easy to get a man when you wanted him and many were the times that Father and I had to furnish the power to get the paper out on time. Those old presses either made a strong man of you or killed you.
I never did learn the name of the press we used in printing the Springdale DEMOCRAT in 1896. It was on the type of the old Army press and had a small cylinder cranked by hand and was a man killer. Chiefly now the remembrance is that it was noisy, slow, and gave me a world of grief. A source of trouble with those ancient presses was difficulty in securing proper packing for the cylinder and getting an even pressure on the forms. I used to wonder whether the people who manufactured them had ever tried to print a paper with them. Good rollers, hard packing on the platen, even ink distribution and just the right cylinder pressure were the requisites of good press work then -- and still are, on the most modern presses.
It was not until we installed a Babcock cylinder press in 1907 that our slogan became "The paper that is always well printed." we inserted in our advertising contracts the stipulation that there was no charge to the advertiser if defects in an ad were our fault. To me the first requirement of a newspaper is that it be well printed.
Editorials, illustrations, news coverage and good reporting are just wasted time and effort unless the subscriber can read it easily and with no eye strain. I have seen papers of a hundred years ago that were printed under conditions that would drive a pressman today crazy, that could serve as models so far as press work is concerned. The year after the Babcock was installed the DEMOCRAT received first prize as the best printed paper in Arkansas. Between 1920 and 1930 the DEMOCRAT won more newspaper contests than any other paper in the state: five times winner of the Front Page makeup; three times the best all-around weekly in the state; best commercial and pamphlet work; honors for editorials and correspondence, et cetera. And my own thought was that the press work was one of the biggest factors.
It is quite a task for a man of my age to attempt to evaluate the many influences that have kept him rather steadfast in a newspaper and writing career. Like most country editors I did reporting from the very first year for the daily papers in Omaha, Des Moines, Sioux City, and Marshalltown. Manning did not have too many stories worthy of a wire report but my last winter in Iowa we did have a murder that involved a prominent farm family and the coroner's inquest extended over
several weeks with some interesting angles. I sent in a number of reports and received small checks for them. But the managing editor of the Marshalltown Republican, S. C. McFarland, was thoughtful enough to write me a personal letter saying: "Please accept our thanks for your special of this date (February 6, 1896). It covered the case thoroughly yet briefly. Such reports are not frequent and we greatly appreciate them." Was I tickled pink? To me that was concrete evidence that I might have the makings of a city reporter--then my great ambition.
It was about the same time that I had my first editorial clash with a Congressman. James P. Dolliver, later U.S. Senator, represented our Congressional district. He was a Republican; I was a Democrat. I had criticized his vote on a tariff bill and in several nearby towns he lambasted me good and plenty. It pleased me greatly that he had even seen or read the editorial and was able to note editorially that he had talked about refined sugar while I had written about raw sugar from Cuba. That editorial brought no reply and he dropped the subject. But the little argument improved my editorial standing with my fellow editors and boosted my ego not a little.
My last meeting with the Upper Des Moines Editorial Association was at Boone, Iowa, in January, 1896, just a short time before we left the state. It was at this meeting that I first heard of the National Editorial Association but gave it little attention figuring it was something for the city papers only. While it is true that I remember some of the young ladies of Boone better than I do the program, there was a discussion that interested me greatly. Just how far should an editor project his own personality into news stories and editorials. Some advocated a strictly impartial attitude, holding that the personal opinions of the editor were of no importance; that he should present only the facts and allow the readers to draw their own conclusions. Others felt that while an editor should not attempt to dictate to his readers or his community, he should let them know just where he stood and why on matters that affected the welfare of his town, state or the nation. The editor was not to be a referee on debatable issues but he should take a definite stand on them, at the same time presenting a fair digest of the arguments upheld by the opposition.
As I studied my Iowa exchanges and attempted to find the reason for their growing circulation and increasing advertising, or the reverse, it seemed evident to me that the personality of the editor was an all-important factor. Over the years I have seen no reason for changing my attitude on this question. It pleased me greatly that during the years I battled with Governor Jeff Davis of Arkansas that I never lost a sub-scatter because of my opposition to him.
Perhaps the greatest satisfaction I have received from my newspaper work has been the number of people who show or tell me of obituaries, now ragged and worn with age and re-reading, clipped and treasured. Many are kept in the family Bible. A year or two ago at a Rotary
luncheon I sat with an elderly man from California who was surprised and pleased to learn that I had written of the death of a niece in Springdale in 1896. (By the way, it was the first I had written in Arkansas.) He said it was a treasured heirloom and he thought the best he had ever read. I must admit it was over-written but it had a personal touch that had won the hearts of the relatives.
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