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Chapter 9

EVERYTHING BUT THE FACTS


The city room, that had been buzzing and humming with the talk of several reporters, seemed strangely quiet as Larry gave his answer. His remarks had been heard by several. The clicking typewriters stopped, and those operating them looked up.

"Say that again," spoke Mr. Emberg, as though a great deal depended on it.

"Sullivan is going to support Reilly," repeated Larry. "There's what he says," and he handed out the brief interview which he had written on some sheets of paper as he came down in the elevated train. The city editor glanced quickly over it.

"Are you sure you haven't made a mistake?" he asked.

"I'm positive that's exactly what he said."

"This is a big thing," went on Mr. Emberg. "We have news from Albany directly contrary to this, but if you're sure you are right I'll use this. It will make a big sensation. Have you got it all alone?"

"There were no other reporters there that I knew," Larry said.

"Good for you. How in the world did you do it? I never thought you would. Sit right down and make as much as you can of it. Describe how he received you, what you said and what he said and all about it. This is great."

"I stumbled on it," said Larry, and he proceeded to relate what he had heard about Potter and the new line, though he did not in the least know what the "new line" was.

"Better and better!" exclaimed Mr. Emberg. "This is what I suspected. It has to do with the new subway line. If it runs through the eighth district it will be the making of Sullivan. That's why he's supporting Reilly, because he thinks Reilly can influence Potter to run the new subway line in that direction. We must have an interview with Potter. I'll send some one else out on that. You write what you have. Here, Mr. Newton, jump out and see if you can find Potter. It's going to be quite a job, but maybe you can land him."

"Hamden Potter's in Europe," said a reporter who "did" Wall Street, and who knew the movements of most of the financiers. "But he's expected back soon."

"Maybe he's back by this time," Mr. Emberg went on. "Get out on the job, Newton. Hurry, Larry, it's close to edition-time."

Larry sat down at his typewriter, which he had learned to operate with considerable speed, and was soon banging away at the keys.

"Shall I put in that about Mr. Potter and the new line?" he called to Mr. Emberg.

"No, I'll have Harvey attend to that part. You just tell of the interview in regard to supporting Reilly. Make it a good story."

Larry did his best, and gave a graphic picture of the leader's headquarters, without touching on how he had come to get the information which so many other papers and reporters were anxiously waiting for.

"Here, Tommy!" called the city editor to one of the copy boys, which position Larry used to fill, "bring me Mr. Dexter's stuff, page by page, as fast as he writes it. I'll get it upstairs and fix up a head for it."

Larry smiled to hear Mr. Emberg call him "Mr. Dexter," but, no matter how familiar an editor may become with his reporters, he gives even the youngest the title of mister when speaking of him to the copy boys.

Larry finished the first page of his story, pulled it from the typewriter and handed it to Tommy, who rushed with it to Mr. Emberg's desk. The editor glanced over it, made one or two corrections, changed the wording a bit, and handed it back to Tommy, who hurried with it to the pneumatic tube, in which it was shot upstairs to the composing room.

There it was taken from the metal carrier that dropped from the tube on the desk of the man in charge of distributing the various pieces of copy to the compositors. This man put a mysterious-looking blue mark on the first page of Larry's story. This was to identify it later, and to make sure that all the succeeding pages would be kept together.

Then the sheet was handed to the first of a long line of compositors, who were standing in front of the desk of the "copy-cutter," as he is called. It was close to the hour for the first edition to go to press, and every one was in a hurry.

The compositor fairly ran to his type-setting machine and began to operate the keys, which were arranged like those on a very large typewriter. He did not strike them, as one does who operates a typewriter, but gently touched them. As he pressed each finger down the least bit there was a click, and from the rack above the machine there tumbled down a small piece of brass, called a "matrix." This contained on one edge a depression that corresponded to a letter.

In a short while enough matrixes had fallen into place to make a complete line, just the width of one of the columns of the Leader. The compositor looked at the row of matrixes as they were, arranged before him, read it (no easy task to the uninitiated), took out a wrong letter and inserted a right one, and then pressed down a lever.

This lever operated the lead-casting machine at the back. A plunger was shoved down into a pot of melted lead, kept molten by means of a gas flame. A small quantity of lead was forced up against the line of matrixes, which automatically moved in a position to receive it.

The lead was held there an instant to harden, then another lever automatically removed the solid line of type from its place in front of the matrixes, a long arm swooped down, took the brass pieces and returned them to an endless screw arrangement which distributed them, each one to its proper place, in the series of chutes that held hundreds of others.

Everything was done automatically after the compositor had touched the keys and then the lever, so that he was almost finished with the second line of the story by the time the matrixes of the first were being returned to their slots by the machine, which seemed almost human.

Thus Larry's story was set up. In all, five men worked at putting it into type, and finally the five sections were collected together on a "galley" or long narrow brass pan. A proof was taken and rushed down to Mr. Emberg so that he might see it was all right, but by this time, some typographical errors in the story having been corrected, men were placing it in the "form" or steel frame which holds enough type to make a page of the paper. This was soon in readiness for the stereotyping department.

Larry had not finished the third page of his story before the first two were in type. He hurried through it, and by the time he had handed in the last sheet there were men upstairs waiting for it, so quickly is the mechanical part of newspaper making accomplished.

Finally the story was all in type, the lead lines were in the form, and, when the latter was filled it was "locked," or tightly fastened, and was ready for the men who were to take an impression of the page in damp papier-mache.

This papier-mache, which is also called a matrix, was baked hard by steam, put in a curved cylinder, melted lead was poured on it and there was a solid metal page of the paper ready for the great press, which was soon thundering away, printing thousands of papers, each one containing, on the front page, Larry's account of the interview with Sullivan.

Of course many things had been going on meanwhile. Mr. Emberg had written a "scare head," as they are called, that is a head to be printed in big letters, and this had been set up by men working by hand. This was put on the story after it was in the form.

"Guess Newton is having trouble finding Potter," commented the city editor, when he had finished with Larry's copy. "If we don't hear from him in five minutes we'll miss the edition."

The five minutes passed, and no word came from Harvey Newton. The building shook as the giant press started, and Mr. Emberg, shutting up his watch with a snap, remarked:

"Too late! Well, maybe he'll catch him for the second."

It is often the case that only part of a story gets in the first edition of a paper. So many circumstances govern the getting of news, and the sending of it into the office, that unless a story is obtained, complete, early in the morning it is necessary to make additions to it from edition to edition in the case of an afternoon paper.

"Mack, maybe you'd better try to find Potter," went on Mr. Emberg after a pause, turning to another reporter. "You know him. Tell him we've got an interview with Sullivan, and ask him what the support of Reilly means."

Mack, whose name in full was McConnigan, but who was never designated as anything but "Mack," glanced at the proofs of Larry's story.

"I guess I'll find him in Donnegan's place," he said, naming a resort where men of wealth frequently gathered for lunch. "I'll try there."

"Anywhere to find him," returned the city editor.

"Are you looking for Hamden Potter?" asked an old man, coming into the city room at that juncture.

"That's what we are," said the city editor. "Why, do you know where to find him, Mr. Hogan? Have you got a story for us to-day?"

Hogan was an old newspaper man, never showing any great talents, and he had seen his best days. He was not to be relied on any more, though he frequently took "tips" around to the different papers, receiving for them, together with what money he could beg or borrow, enough to live on.

"I've got a story, yes. I was down at the steamship dock of the Blue Star line a while ago, and I see Mr. Potter's family come off a vessel.

"Was he with them? Have you got the story?" demanded Mr. Emberg, eagerly.

"I've got everything, I guess. I've got all but the main facts, anyhow. I don't know whether Potter was with them or not. I didn't think it was of any importance."

"Importance!" exclaimed the city editor. Then he bethought him of Hogan's character, and knew it was useless to speak. "Everything but the facts—the most important fact of all," Mr. Emberg murmured.

"Isn't that tip worth something?" demanded Hogan.

"Oh, I suppose so," and Mr. Emberg wrote out an order on the cashier for two dollars. Poor Hogan shuffled from the room. He was but a type of many who have outlived their usefulness.

"Jump down to the Blue Star dock, Mack," the city editor said, when Hogan had gone. "Find out all you can about the Potters—where they have been and where Mr. Potter went. Hurry now!"

As Mack was going out the telephone rang. It was a message from Mr. Newton to the effect that he could not find Mr. Potter, and that at his office it was said he was still in Europe.

"Hurry to his house," said Mr. Emberg over the wire. "I have a tip that his family just got in on the Messina of the Blue Star line. I've sent Mack to the dock! You go to the house!"

Thus, like a general directing his forces, did the city editor send his men out after news.

Victor Appleton

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