By Arthur Brisbane.
W. R. Hearst's idea is to exercise public influence through the simultaneous efforts of opinions in newspapers all over the United States.
He owns three great newspapers already: the "New York American and Journal," the "Chicago American" and the "San Francisco Examiner." All of these newspapers he has built up from nothing, and each is at least as successful as any other paper in the city in which it is published.
Mr. Hearst's idea is to establish newspapers in all of the great cities of the United States. He undoubtedly will begin the publication of a fourth newspaper during the current year.
Mr. Hearst is thirty-eight years old, considerably over six feet tall and a man well equipped for success. He is very strong physically, and usually remains at his newspaper office until two o'clock in the morning or later.
He drinks nothing but water and milk, does not smoke and has absolutely no interests outside of his newspapers, except a mild interest in the collection of paintings and other works of art.
W. R. Hearst's success varies from that of the average successful man, and especially from the average successful editor, in one important respect.
He has succeeded in spite of wealth. It is usual to praise and admire those who succeed in spite of poverty. Those who overcome poverty are numerous. They have an enormous advantage in this, that if they are ambitious they must work.
The rich man is not compelled to work. Whatever the average successful man craves as a result of labor the rich man possesses already.
Who are the men in the United States who have succeeded, who have triumphed over the keenest competition, despite the possession of wealth! You can scarcely mention one. There is absolutely no
such individual save W. R. Hearst among the successful editors of America.
Greeley, Bennett and all the others were very poor men, whose very bread depended on their success in making a newspaper attractive to the public and upon their loyalty, at least in the beginning, to the interests of those whom they expected to have buy their newspapers.
It must not be imagined that men of wealth have left the newspaper field alone.
W. R. Hearst is not the only rich man who ever tried to represent the people and to secure their confidence as the editor of a powerful newspaper. But he is the only rich man who ever succeeded. The number of those who tried and failed is very great. Huntington owned the "Star" and it failed, Jay Gould owned the "World" and it failed, Duke, the head of the Tobacco Trust, owned the "Recorder" in partnership with another very rich man and it failed.
Scores of rich men have foolishly spent money in the belief that money could make newspapers or build up an editor. They all failed.
Hearst had no such idea. He went from the publication of a college paper at Harvard to the publication of the "Examiner" in California. He was a very young man. It may safely be said that since that time there has not been a day, if there has been even an hour, when his mind was not working with real concentration at his newspaper plans.
This writer believes that the actual intention of W. R. Hearst, through his newspapers, is to fight persistently the cause of genuine democracy - not merely the Democracy of a political party, but the real democracy upon which the government is founded.
If it is true that a democratic, honest, people's newspaper is important to the public welfare, W. R. Hearst's work makes his ideas and plans of importance to every. American. From one point of view the fact that Mr. Hearst has always been a rich man is reassuring.
Of many great newspapers and great editors this has been the history: they began poor and radical, they ended rich and conservative.
Wealth has a great effect on human character, and no man who has not possessed wealth can tell what the effect on him will be.
Many editors and many newspapers are made utterly worthless, morally, by the money which a newspaper success always brings.
The editor begins poor with enthusiastic devotion to the people's rights, and he is quite sincere, for he sympathizes with those who like himself have little money.
The editor ends rich, with enthusiastic devotion to the rights of property, and again he is sincere. He really believes that he has overcome some of the foolish enthusiasm of youth. As a matter of fact,
he still sympathizes with those who are like himself; and as he is now rich, he sympathizes with the rich.
Those who have observed the course of successful newspapers, realizing how many change from radical to conservative when prosperity comes, must realize the extreme improbability of W. R. Hearst's newspapers being changed in character by their material success.
Whatever money can give a man W. R. Hearst had at the start. He has established his newspapers, and he is working hard, not to get a few more millions which he does not need, but to get what money can't or ought not to buy, a share in the government of the country, the confidence of and appreciation of the people, honestly earned.
There appears to be no doubt of the material success of Hearst's newspaper plan throughout the United States.
He has selected for his efforts the most difficult cities, taking them in the order of their difficulty. He succeeded in New York with amazing rapidity, and in Chicago his methods, made more effective by experience, succeeded even more quickly. For instance, in planning his Chicago campaign he expressed the belief that the daily "American" would have a circulation of one hundred and fifty thousand daily at the end of the first year, and the Sunday edition one hundred and twenty-five thousand.
At the end of five weeks the daily edition had a circulation of two hundred and twenty-five thousand and the Sunday edition exceeded three hundred thousand. Both editions have greatly increased in circulation since that time.
Mr. Hearst has established three successful newspapers. But this success is a very small one in comparison with the plans which he has in view. It is, therefore, fair to say that his actual accomplishments are of slight importance in comparison with the future work which he has mapped out. The people of the country have more cause to be interested in knowing what Hearst's plans really are and what are the ideas which control him than in hearing about the achievements which he has already put to his credit.
Fortunately for the average child in the United States, the late Senator Hearst believed that his son should have a chance to know what the average American boy thinks and to grow up as an average American boy. Hearst went to the public school in his boyhood. He learned that the greatest agency in the United States for good, that with which no other can be compared, was the American public school system.
Every editor and every editorial writer and every reporter on all of the Hearst newspapers knows that the promotion of public school interests is the chief aim of these newspapers. On this point Hearst's theory is expressed as follows:
"The public schools should be so good, the public wealth should make them so far superior to any private school, that no father could afford to send his child to any save a public school."
Hearst believes in public ownership of public franchises and preaches this belief in his newspapers.
He believes in the election of senators by the people and. the control of all other public matters by the people. He is a Democrat in politics, as was his father, but has opposed the Democrats in many details of their platform, although he has always supported the party as better and more honest on the whole than the party opposed to it. He favored expansion from the first, declaring that if our system of government was not good it ought to be changed, and if it is good it cannot be spread too far over the earth. He takes a very modern view of the earth itself, looking upon it as a decidedly limited parcel of land which ought to be controlled as soon as evolution and justice will allow by the ablest race of men and the most honorable government. He considers that the American race and the American government are the ablest and most honorable and feels that we should not leave to England or Germany or any other power any parts of the earth's surface which can be properly brought under our own control.
Hearst's objects in editing newspapers are big objects. They aim at the mental and physical improvement of all the people, through proper distribution of ownership and proper distribution of products.
His idea is to draw together as large a body of readers as possible, that the largest possible number may read his views and cooperate with him if they share his beliefs. He draws together every day and every Sunday the greatest audience that has ever listened regularly to anyone man in the history of the world. His three Sunday newspapers combined are taken in fifteen hundred thousand American homes.
This enormous audience is drawn together, not merely by the expression of sound opinions, but chiefly perhaps by the fullest collection of the world's news and by a realization of the dramatic possibilities that the news affords.
The average newspaper has always printed stories about bears. Hearst sent out an expedition, captured a full-size grizzly alive and presented it to the San Francisco zoological garden. It dwells there to this day in a big iron cage, eating peanuts and proving to the world that there is truth in the bear stories that you see in the Hearst newspapers.
When great crimes are committed and the progress of justice is slow, Hearst's newspapers offer cash rewards for evidence of use to the police. In this way many criminals have been caught who would otherwise have gone free, and in addition the readers of Hearst's newspapers have been put in possession of the earliest news. In one case when a child was kidnapped a large reward was offered and the child's portrait posted up by the Hearst newspapers all over the country. The child was recovered as a direct result of this dramatic kind of journalism and the reward was paid.
When Senorita Cisneros was locked in jail in Cuba, all the newspapers sympathized with her. Hearst's newspaper did a little more; it sent a collection of resolute men to Cuba, took the girl Out of the jail and brought her to the United States.
Before the Spanish war there was much discussion in the United States Congress as to actual conditions on the Island of Cuba. Hearst chartered a steamship, and at his invitation members of the Senate and House of Representatives went to Cuba. Their report made the war and the liberation of Culm inevitable.
Hearst's idea of the newspaper business is that it should do things itself and not merely report what others do.
The editor of a great newspaper is the first to be informed of events, and quick action is necessary. Hearst feels that the editor, if he is really interested, should take action and not merely advise others to act.
Hearst realizes fully the wonderful power of publicity and the force of reiteration. In a few years undoubtedly his newspapers will be published in all the big cities of the United States, all expressing the same ideas at the same time. It is probable that a new force will develop in national affairs when one man daily can talk to ten millions or more of his fellow citizens. The power of such a man will be considerable, provided that power be used for the actual good of the people. The force of a newspaper exists only because of the confidence which its readers have in the purposes that animate it.
Whatever a newspaper's circulation may be, it has no influence; it is a mere commercial news circular, as free from power as a sheet of market quotations, unless the readers believe that it actually works for their interests.
A good many hundred thousand readers believe that Hearst's newspapers work for them. It is that fact which makes Hearst a powerful and important man.
Originally published in Cosmopolitan Magazine. May 1902.