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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsBooks And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Success In Journalism
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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Success In Journalism Post by :Matt_Remuzzi Category :Nonfictions Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :1934

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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Success In Journalism

(_16 Feb. '11_)

It is notorious that in London--happily so different from other capitals--there is no connexion between the advertisement and the editorial departments of the daily papers. It is positively known, for instance, that the exuberant editorial praise poured out upon the new "Encyclopaedia Britannica" has no connexion whatever with the tremendous sums paid by the Cambridge University Press for advertising the said work of reference. The almost simultaneous appearance, of the advertisements and of the superlative reviews is a pure coincidence. Now, in Paris it would not be a coincidence, and nobody would have the courage to pretend that it was. But London is a city apart. In view of this admitted fact I was intensely startled, not to say outraged, by a conversation at which I assisted the other day. A young acquaintance, with literary and journalistic proclivities, and with a touching belief in the high mission of the London press, desired advice as to the best method of reaching the top rungs of the ladder of which he had not yet set foot even on the lowest rung. I therefore invited him to meet a celebrated friend of mine, an author and a journalist, who has recently quitted an important editorial chair.

* * * * *

The latter spoke to him as follows: "My dear boy, you had better get a situation in the advertisement department of a paper--no matter what paper, provided it has a large advertisement revenue; and no matter what situation, however modest." Here the youth interrupted with the remark that his desire was the editorial department. The ex-editor proceeded calmly: "I have quite grasped that.... Well, you must work yourself up in the advertisement department! What you chiefly require for success is a good suit, a good club, an imperturbable manner, and a cultivated taste in restaurants and bars. In your spare time you must write long dull articles for the reviews; and you must rediscover London in a series of snappish sketches for a half-penny daily, and also write a novel that is just true enough to frighten the libraries and not too true to make them refuse it altogether: it must absolutely be such a novel as they will supply only to such subscribers as insist on having it. When you have worked your way very high up in the advertisement department, and are intimate with advertisement agents and large advertisers to the point of being able to influence advertisements amounting to fifty thousand pounds a year--then, and not before, you may look about you and decide what big serious daily paper you would like to assist in editing. Make your own choice. Then see the proprietor. If he is not already in the House of Lords, he will assuredly be on Mr. Asquith's private list of five hundred candidates for the House of Lords. The best moment to catch him is as he comes out of the Palace Theatre, about a quarter past eleven of a night. Tell him on the pavement that you have edited a paper in Chicago, and he will at once invite you into his automobile. You go with him to his club, and then you confess that you have not edited a paper in Chicago, but that you have adopted this device in order to get speech with him, and that all you desire is a humble post on the editorial staff of his big serious daily.

* * * * *

"He will insult you. He will inform you that he has forty candidates for the most insignificant post on the editorial staff, and that there is not the remotest chance for you. You then tell him that you are an expert writer, a contributor to the monthlies and quarterlies, and the author of a novel which Mr. James Douglas has described as the most stupendously virile work of fiction since Tourgeniev's 'Crime and Punishment.' He will insult you anew, and demand your immediate departure. You then say to him, in a casual tone: 'I can bring you ten thousand pounds' worth of ads. a year.' He will read your deepest soul with one glance, and will reply, in a casual tone, 'I dare say I could find you something regular to do on the magazine page.' You go on airily: 'I'm pretty sure I can bring twenty thousand pounds' worth of ads. a year.' He will then order R.P. Muria cigars, and say with benevolence: 'It just happens that the head of our reviewing department is under notice. How would that suit you?' You then unmask all your batteries, and tell him squarely that you can bring him advertisements to the tune of a thousand pounds a week. Whereupon he will reply, shaking you fraternally by the hand: 'My dear fellow, I will make you editor at once.'"

* * * * *

So spake my celebrated friend. Of course, he is a cynic. He may be a criminal cynic. But he spake so. From time to time London dailies do me the honour to reprint saucy paragraphs from this weekly article of mine. My friend said to me: "You can print what I've said, if you like. No daily paper in London will reprint _that_."

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