In His Steps
During the week he was in receipt of numerous letters commenting on the absence from the News of the account of the prize fight. Two or three of these letters may be of interest.
Editor of the News:
Dear Sir –
I have been thinking for some time of changing my paper. I want a journal that is up to the times, progressive and enterprising, supplying the public demand at all points. The recent freak of your paper in refusing to print the account of the famous contest at the Resort has decided me finally to change my paper.
Please discontinue it.
Very truly yours,–
Here followed the name of a business man who had been a subscriber for many years.
Editor of the Daily News, Raymond:
Dear Ed. –
What is this sensation you have given the people of your burg? What new policy have you taken up? Hope you don’t intend to try the “Reform Business” through the avenue of the press. It’s dangerous to experiment much along that line. Take my advice and stick to the enterprising modern methods you have made so successful for the News. The public wants prize fights and such. Give it what it wants, and let some one else do the reforming business.
Here followed the name of one of Norman’s old friends, the editor of a daily in an adjoining town.
My Dear Mr. Norman:
I hasten to write you a note of appreciation for the evident carrying out of your promise. It is a splendid beginning and no one feels the value of it more than I do. I know something of what it will cost you, but not all. Your pastor,
One other letter which he opened immediately after reading this from Maxwell revealed to him something of the loss to his business that possibly awaited him.
Mr. Edward Norman,
Editor of the Daily News:
Dear Sir –
At the expiration of my advertising limit, you will do me the favor not to continue it as you have done heretofore. I enclose check for payment in full and shall consider my account with your paper closed after date.
Very truly yours,–
Here followed the name of one of the largest dealers in tobacco in the city. He had been in the habit of inserting a column of conspicuous advertising and paying for it a very large price.
Norman laid this letter down thoughtfully, and then after a moment he took up a copy of his paper and looked through the advertising columns. There was no connection implied in the tobacco merchant’s letter between the omission of the prize fight and the withdrawal of the advertisement, but he could not avoid putting the two together. In point of fact, he afterward learned that the tobacco dealer withdrew his advertisement because he had heard that the editor of the NEWS was about to enter upon some queer reform policy that would be certain to reduce its subscription list.
But the letter directed Norman’s attention to the advertising phase of his paper. He had not considered this before.
As he glanced over the columns he could not escape the conviction that his Master could not permit some of them in his paper.
What would He do with that other long advertisement of choice liquors and cigars? As a member of a church and a respected citizen, he had incurred no special censure because the saloon men advertised in his columns. No one thought anything about it. It was all legitimate business. Why not? Raymond enjoyed a system of high license, and the saloon and the billiard hall and the beer garden were a part of the city’s Christian civilization. He was simply doing what every other business man in Raymond did. And it was one of the best paying sources of revenue. What would the paper do if it cut these out? Could it live? That was the question. But was that the question after all? “What would Jesus do?” That was the question he was answering, or trying to answer, this week. Would Jesus advertise whiskey and tobacco in his paper?
Edward Norman asked it honestly, and after a prayer for help and wisdom he asked Clark to come into the office.
Clark came in, feeling that the paper was at a crisis, and prepared for almost anything after his Monday morning experience. This was Thursday.
“Clark,” said Norman, speaking slowly and carefully, “I have been looking at our advertising columns and have decided to dispense with some of the matter as soon as the contracts run out. I wish you would notify the advertising agent not to solicit or renew the ads that I have marked here.”
He handed the paper with the marked places over to Clark, who took it and looked over the columns with a very serious air.
“This will mean a great loss to the NEWS. How long do you think you can keep this sort of thing up?” Clark was astounded at the editor’s action and could not understand it.
“Clark, do you think if Jesus was the editor and proprietor of a daily paper in Raymond He would permit advertisements of whiskey and tobacco in it?”
“Well no–I–don’t suppose He would. But what has that to do with us? We can’t do as He would. Newspapers can’t be run on any such basis.”
“Why not?” asked Norman quietly.
“Why not? Because they will lose more money than they make, that’s all!” Clark spoke out with an irritation that he really felt. “We shall certainly bankrupt the paper with this sort of business policy.”
“Do you think so?” Norman asked the question not as if he expected an answer, but simply as if he were talking with himself. After a pause he said:
“You may direct Marks to do as I have said. I believe it is what Christ would do, and as I told you, Clark, that is what I have promised to try to do for a year, regardless of what the results may be to me. I cannot believe that by any kind of reasoning we could reach a conclusion justifying our Lord in the advertisement, in this age, of whiskey and tobacco in a newspaper. There are some other advertisements of a doubtful character I shall study into. Meanwhile, I feel a conviction in regard to these that cannot be silenced.”
Clark went back to his desk feeling as if he had been in the presence of a very peculiar person. He could not grasp the meaning of it all. He felt enraged and alarmed. He was sure any such policy would ruin the paper as soon as it became generally known that the editor was trying to do everything by such an absurd moral standard. What would become of business if this standard was adopted? It would upset every custom and introduce endless confusion. It was simply foolishness. It was downright idiocy. So Clark said to himself, and when Marks was informed of the action he seconded the managing editor with some very forcible ejaculations. What was the matter with the chief? Was he insane? Was he going to bankrupt the whole business?