Obrazy na stronie

the public cannot always see account the Chancellor desired to where the correspondent has been

be of use

to the Pall Mall “planted” with some insidious Gazette,' as he might be by supsuggestion, some half - true yet plying the paper occasionally with wholly mendacious denial, or some really good information on foreign statement intended to assist the affairs. If that would be agreeleast admirable arts of diplomacy. able to me, Dr P. would be the But this is by no means an un means of despatching such news common operation in troubled from time to time--a regular corand exciting times, when the respondence at irregular intervals correspondent himself, perhaps, is being the kind of thing proposed. caught by the fever that rages Further to enable him to show about him. Not, of course (but that this was a genuine offer, von that has been understood all Bismarck had intrusted to Dr P. along), that there is the faintest a few lines in his own hand to say reason for complaint when British as much.

Document then prointerests are involved, or British duced, shown to me, and returned honour. Nor can there be the to Dr P.'s pocket-book. With the least reason for fear, either when best face at my command, I asked the correspondent is an English- whether it was proposed to send man or when he is a foreigner news alone, or also to send letters scrupulously faithful to his salt. of observation and comment; to But when foreigners are employed which the reply was that both to send foreign news to English news and comment were intended. journals, together with hints and What I then said I do not criticism of foreign affairs, these remember; but my meaning was writers should be warranted in to point out as inoffensively as capable of undertaking a divided possible that the Pall Mall duty.

Gazette' being a small paper, the In any case, whatever danger Chancellor's kindness would be there may be lurks not in the much enhanced if nothing but news that the correspondent sends, concrete news was sent, or such but in the comment, the convey

information as could be conveyed ance of impression, which form in a simple paragraph of affirmaso large a part of the telegraph tion, explanation, correction, or matter from abroad. What is denial. We seemed to understand meant by that may be illustrated each other at once; and though by a little experience of my own, Dr P. said very politely that no otherwise hardly worth mention- doubt this could be arranged, I ing. In the early days of the never heard another word of the Pall Mall Gazette' I had a visit business he came about after he from a certain Dr P., a Berlin had left the room. official. He introduced himself as The bearing of this little story coming directly from the German lies in the fact that brief paraChancellor with a proposal which graphs of plain statement bring von Bismarck took a personal the writer to a full sense of his interest in. He often read the responsibility while he is inditing · Pall Mall Gazette,' and was them; and that the language of greatly pleased with, much ad- reporting is neither fluid enough mired, or sincerely respected, a nor voluminous enough to carry variety of qualities which he any great amount of feeling or habitually found there. On that innuendo, whether for business or


undesigned Dr P. meant busi- writer. He never loses that charness, no doubt, though to my mind acter, whatever he may say; and not very culpably ; ruse is the re- so the reader often takes that for cognised instrument of every di- veiled information which is merely plomacy except our innocent own. speculative, or the fancy of exBut even in professional politics cited sympathies, or even somethere is such a thing as uncon- thing which somebody hopes to scious feeling, unintended twists bring into existence by persistent of partisanship; or else what is prophecy. meant by the belief, which exists For these and other reasons, I in every Foreign Office, that an can but think it would be well were ambassador may live at one Court foreign correspondents to go back too long? Not that the particular a little to their old ways, which signs which suggest too long a

were the

ways of simple and residence at the same post are straightforward reporting. Nor often shown in the case of the are they strange to us even now. correspondent. I do not know Reuter's agents adopted them, and that he ever shows them, indeed. faithfully stuck to them till quite But, being human, he is in danger lately; with the result that Reuof answering more than he is ter's telegrams came to have more

to the various influences weight generally with experienced persistently bearing on him. It readers than those of any newsis even possible to plant him paper correspondent. Now that with misleading ideas, interested Reuter's agents seem inclined, suggestion, erroneous sympathies; here and there, to depart from and since that is the case, we may the unambitious simplicity of the doubt whether journalism is im- reporter, reason the

more for proved by taking from the corre- rescuing political discussion from spondent long screeds of specula- a great deal that distracts, overtion and comment for publication loads, and fatigues it. It may be under the head of News.

asked whether I propose, then, That is the objection. So that opinion and observation acprinted, they delude-not by in- cumulated by watchful and keentention of the writer, but through witted correspondents “on the the imagination of the reader. spot” should go to waste.

Of We all know how unconsciously course I do not. But I do think imagination can lead us astray. that more of it might advantageBecause these screeds are tele- ously pass to publication through graphed, and because they are the sieve of editorial responsiprinted with news as news, the bility; and that to appear in its writer's remarks are invested by true character all such matter most minds with the importance should be printed apart from the due to statement of facts. news columns, where it takes a Whatever may be his aim,- significance and authority which whether to persuade or dissuade, it should be guarded from. to appease or inflame, to allay That avowed partisans should mistrust or to alarm suspicion,- be employed to send home news all is understood as if resting on a from foreign parts, and be so embackground of actual knowledge. ployed because they are partisans, To the fancy of the reader, the is an entirely new thing in journalspecial correspondent in Paris, ism, and one that would have been Berlin, Vienna, is always a news- thought incredible not very long



ago. It is honestly done, however. and ingenuity; and, as Mr Forbes So far from the partisanship being has said, "nowadays the avocaconcealed it is proclaimed, or even tion of the war correspondent is vaunted; so that nobody is de- simplified and at the same time ceived and everybody understands controlled by precise and restrainwhat to expect. But that it is an ing limitations." The precise and innovation good for journalism I restraining limitations include am not yet persuaded, nor does it some that the generals are more seem likely to be good for those and more resolute to impose. Warwho practise it. The shrewdest correspondents were never loved of Own Correspondents may fall by the generals—for professional into error, the wariest may be reasons which, no doubt, are sound taken in and become the channel professionally; and the corresponof representations less accordant dent who, when the next great war with fact than with policy. In breaks out, asks at our own War short, the partisan reporter in full Office for "facilities (and what employment may be more partisan more liberal War Office is there than he knows; and when the ex- anywhere ?) may count upon a cold aggerations and the rusé sugges- and niggardly response, and a wise tions that he did not mean to be

And so on all hands the guilty of are discovered, he may romance of war perishes while its find himself in danger of being menaced horrors accumulate. considered a willing agent of de All newspaper editors, however, ceit. If so, that will not be good had not the good fortune to be for him-except as he is absolved served by Russells, Forbeses, and for good intentions ; and it will the like; and in their hearts, be bad for journalism, which is therefore, are not so very much expected to be trustworthy first dissatisfied with a future of “reand to put on the other graces straining limitations,” which will afterward.

bring war-reporting to a nearer

equality. Partly from ill - luck, After acknowledging the com- partly from other circumstances mon merit of independence, cour more or less excusing, war-correage, incorruptibility-qualities for spondents were not infrequently which the British newspaper press disappointing, and they were somestands far above any other in times a trial. We say nothing Europe — we see that the most about it, but British soldiers have striking claim to journalistic hon- been known to run. We keep it ours is that of the war-correspond- dark, but war-correspondents have ent. Sir William Howard Russell been known to invent, — though may be said to have created a only in detail, not in gross. If service in 1854, which, after a there be any case to the contrary, brilliant existence of forty years, it is a solitary one. Yet in the no longer offers opportunity for files of a great provincial journal the distinction that Mr Forbes and may be read, I believe, an account Mr MacGahan won—to name two of the first hours of a battle that of a dozen men whose hardihood was never fought at all—the whole and devotion were never exceeded of its stirring details being evolved in any service except that of the from a noise which the chronicler, Christian Church. The regular sitting aloft in his hotel, took to means of transmitting news leaves be the sound of cannonading much less to personal enterprise coming from a quarter where a

fight was then expected. To fore To make it the more memorable stall other reporters, whom the in newspaper record, what was likelihood of the fight had drawn brought to London for the printer to the same place, he dashed off on that occasion was the first rehis partial report of the engage port of the battle of Sedan and ment, despatching it with great the surrender of the French Emsecrecy and expedition to a near peror one of the greatest and frontier station, The rest he most determining events of the would have written after a visit century. My correspondent was to the scene of conflict; but when with the Prussian King's staff on he proposed to set out he dis the Frénois heights above Sedan covered that what he had sup when the Emperor's letter of surposed to be the distant firing of render was brought in. Night artillery was, in fact, the kicking was coming on, but, without so of some frightened horses in an much as ten minutes' preparation, adjacent shed.

Mr Holt White rode down the I myself know what it is to have hill, straight across the battle-field, a perfect “handful” of a war-cor and so over the Belgian frontier respondent, and yet a remarkably and home, contriving by various clever man; but whenever a re- expedients, but at great fatigue, proachful thought of him intrudes to get a brief report into the 'Pall I remember that at the moment Mall Gazette' two days before a of starting for the Franco-German word of the matter was published war he gave me a very impressive elsewhere in England. Nor did “tip.” He was a Frenchman; and any other report appear till the he said, “Mark this : the end of day after his second screed had the war will be decided at the told the whole story. beginning I know my fellow Now here was a kind of comcountrymen. If they win the first petition which there cannot be too battle on German ground, nothing much of.

much of. For it is by no means will stop them this side of Berlin : enough to be a good courier and it will be a hurricane. But if the smart in delivery. The war-corfirst engagement is a French de- respondent's aim would have been feat on French ground, not a single entirely missed if in the endeavour Frenchman will cross the frontier to be “first out” he failed in acunless as a prisoner." Had the curacy, in breadth of view, in prophet known of von Moltke's apprehension of main points, or genius and the German prepara in close yet full and strong detion for hurricanes he might have scription. It was competition, hedged his meaning a little. But

But keenly maintained, in nearly all its general significance was strik that is excellent in journalism, or ing, and the events of the war as even in literature. Yet the serieach followed each kept it in ous fact is, it seems, that war-cormemory. The more, perhaps, be- respondents were a downright cause no better contribution to nuisance to the generals -nuisguidance came from that corre ance and embarrassment too, they spondent; but it would be mon- say; and are in future to be more strous in me to complain, for I had or less uniformed and strictly reganother who, for despatch, achieved ulated. the first great feat on the warcorrespondents' roll of honour, Whether the soundness and the nor was it ever beaten afterwards. influence of the newspaper press

are increasing or diminishing is at and on rare occasions, they drown all times a question of importance. each other; and even the best If I am right, a very distinct commodities are in danger of period in the character and status being cheapened in popular esof the newspaper press began soon teem by a superabundant supply after the middle of the century, of "a similar article.” That this and lasted for rather less than a has had a discouraging and degeneration. Then began another terrent effect upon minds that were period distinct enough to be re once ambitious of writing in the cognised as different without as

newspaper press can hardly be sistance of the label, “The New doubted. Nobody used to ask Journalism.” On the whole, is it “What is the good ?” when urged a higher as well as a larger devel. to write at his best, or when opment from its predecessor ? praised for some remarkably apt “Higher," however, is not a word and eloquent performance; but to insist upon : we should ask if I am told that the question is the journalism of to-day is sounder heard not unseldom nowadays. for its own acknowledged pur One of the reforms achieved by poses of usefulness than was the the new journalism of forty years journalism of (say) twenty years since was the complete superago. Representing that older session of a formal, artificial, and day, I shall be expected to say therewith hackneyed style, by a that I do not think the newspaper style more idiomatic and familiar. press improved in its better quali- The classic lingo of the pamphleties, and I do say so; but not teer was already tiring out, and without acknowledging that now gave way completely to the may remain prejudiced after try- unpedantic, nervous, flexible good ing to take into account all that English of common life (by nature seems to detract unfairly from never without humour) which men modern journalism in the bulk. of education used in their talk And in what are its merits hidden and in their letters. Whether for more than in the enormous bulk its own immediate purpose—the it has attained to ? Not without expression and enforcement of reason was it said at the begin- opinion-or whether for its effect ning of this article that we of the in improving the common pracOld Guard were fortunate in not tice of our mother tongue, this being a multitude. The fewer in was a change very much for the the field the more noticeable the better. But though the journalconduct of each; and on that ac- istic English of that day aimed at count, perhaps, more of emulation, being familiar, it had its own remore of effort to secure the atten- straints, and would not have been tion that could be reckoned on approved without a certain dignity for any particularly good stroke in freedom. Of course I speak of of the pen.

No doubt there is the better sort of journalism, of the same reward still for an unusu

which there was soon

no lack. ally meritorious piece of writing; Later developments in this direcbut not so much of it to hearten tion seem to me neither servicethe writer, I fancy, as when the able nor delightful. The familiar effect of one good day's work is now carried much too far, and nearly always came home to him it is never a pretty thing in excess. the next. There are now so many At a leap I hasten to admit that voices that, with rare exceptions some of the older journals, both

« PoprzedniaDalej »