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Chapter 26

IN POSSESSION.


Stokely arranged the loan, and within six months Howard was controlling owner of the News-Record. There was a debt of a million and a quarter attached to his ownership, but he saw how that would be wiped out. Once more he threw himself into his work with the energy of a boy. He had to give much of his time to the business department--to the details of circulation and advertising. He felt that the profits of the paper could be greatly increased by improving its facilities for reaching the advertiser and the public. He had never been satisfied with the circulation methods; but theretofore his ignorance of business and his position as mere salaried editor had acted in restraint upon his interference with the "ground floor."

As he had suspected, the business office was afflicted with the twin diseases--routine and imitativeness. It followed an old system, devised in days of small circulation and grudgingly improved, not by thought on the part of those who circulated the paper, but by compulsion on the part of the public. No attempts were made to originate schemes for advertising the paper. The only methods were wooden variations upon placards in the street cars and the elevated stations, and cards hung up at the news-stands. As forgetting advertising business, they thought they showed enterprise by a little canvassing among the conspicuous merchants in Greater New York.

Howard had charts made showing the circulation by districts. With these as a basis he ordered an elaborate campaign to "push" the paper in the districts where it was circulated least and to increase its hold where it was strong. "We do not reach one-third of the people who would like to take our paper," he told Jowett, the business manager. "Let us have an army of agents and let us take up our territory by districts."

The Sunday edition was the largest source of revenue, both because it carried a great deal more advertising at much higher rates than did the week-day editions, and because it sold at a price which yielded a profit on the paper itself, while the price of the weekday editions did not. News constituted less than one-fourth of its contents. The rest was "feature articles," as interesting a week late to a man in Seattle as on the day of publication within a mile of the office.

"We get out the very best magazine in the market," said Howard to Jowett. "Are we pushing it in the east, in the west, in the south? Look at the charts.

"We have a Sunday circulation of five hundred in Oregon, of one thousand in Texas, of six hundred in Georgia, of two thousand in Maine. Why not ten times as much in each of those states? Why not ten times as much as we now have near New York?"

There was no reason except failure to "push" the paper. That reason Howard proceeded to remove. But these enterprises involved large expenditures, perhaps might mean postponement of the payment of the debt. Receipts must be increased and the most promising way was an increase in the advertising business.

Howard noted on the chart nineteen cities and large towns near New York in each of which the daily circulation of the News-Record was equal to that of any paper published there and far exceeded the combined circulations of all the home dailies on Sunday. This suggested a system of local advertising pages, and for its working out he engaged one of the most capable newspaper advertising men in the city. Within three months the idea had "caught on" and, instead of sending useless columns of New York "want-ads" and the like to places where they could not be useful, the News-Record was presenting to its readers in twelve cities and towns the advertisements of their local merchants.

A year of this work, with Howard giving many hours of each day personally to tiresome details, brought the natural results. The profits of the News-Record had risen to five hundred and forty thousand, of which Howard's share was nearly three hundred thousand. The next year the profits were seven hundred and fifty thousand, and Howard had reduced his debt to eight hundred thousand.

"We shall be free and clear in less than three years," he said to Marian.

"If we have luck," she added.

"No--if we work--and we shall. Luck is a stone which envy flings at success."

"Then you don't think you have been lucky?"

"Indeed I do not."

"Not even," she smiled, drawing herself up.

"Not even--" he said with a faint, sad answering smile. "If you only knew how hard I worked preparing myself to be able to get you when you came; if you only, only knew how life made me pay, pay, pay; if you only knew--"

"Go on," she said, coming closer to him.

He sighed--not for the reason of sentiment which she fancied, though he put his arms around her. "How willingly I paid," he evaded.

He went to his desk and she stood looking at him. There was still the charm of youth, even freshness, in her beauty--and she was not unconscious of the fact.

And he--he was handsome, distinguished looking and certainly did not suggest age or the approach of age; but in his hair, so grey at the temples, in the stern, rather haughty lines of his features, in the weariness of his eyes, there was not a vestige of youth. "How he has worked for me and for his ideals," she thought, sadly yet proudly. "Ah, he is indeed a great man, and my husband!" And she bent over him and kissed him on an impulse to a kind of tenderness which was now so strange to her that it made her feel shy.

"And what a radical you'll be," she laughed, after a moment's silence. "What a radical, what a democrat!"

"When?" He was flushing a little and avoided her eyes.

"When you're free--really the proprietor--able to express your own views, all your own views. We shall become outcasts."

"I wonder," he replied slowly, "does a rich man own his property or does it own him?"

For an instant he had an impulse of his old longing for sympathy, for companionship. She was now thirty-six and, save for an expression of experience, of self-control, seemed hardly so much as thirty. But with the years, with the habit of self-restraint, with instinctive rather than conscious realisation of his indifference toward her, had come a chill perceptible at the surface and permeating her entire character. In her own way she had become as self-absorbed, as ambitious as he.

He looked at her, felt this chill, sighed, smiled at himself. Yes, he was alone--and he preferred to be alone.


David Graham Phillips

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