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What Made The ‘World’ Great?
It exposed corruption. It hired drunks. Good writing was rewarded. No wonder every newspaperman wanted to work there.
October/november 1982 | Volume 33, Issue 6
The staff went right on working to put out one of the best-reported, best-written, and best-edited editions in the World ’s history. How they felt was another matter. Jim Barrett said later: “I was the so-called star reporter of the Denver Times in 1912, [when] it was sold. I had no feeling whatsoever about that sale. Under the cruel merging operations of Frank A. Munsey I saw the Press , the Herald , the old Morning Sun , the Globe and the Mail close up. I knew many of the boys who worked on them, but never saw any of them manifest the slightest sorrow for the passing of their paper. Not until nineteen years after the Denver experience did I learn that it was possible for men and women to cry over the death of a newspaper. Not until now did I find out that a newspaper could be as dear to men and women as their wives or husbands or religion.”
The last issue was put to bed at midnight, after which we all went to DaIy’s speakeasy feeling, we said, like “intangible assets.” At the all-night wake Heywood Broun mused on the nature of things “intangible.” He remarked that a lawyer at the surrogate’s hearing had expressed amazement that a paper that lost two million dollars in one year could command any of that intangible value known as “goodwill.” “He was reasoning,” Broun went on, “from the basis upon which fish are sold and wire wheels turned out. A newspaper is a rule in itself. It has a soul for salvation or damnation. … I was glad that for once the emphasis was taken away from mere machinery. … The intangibles of a newspaper are the men and women who make it.”
Half a century later it is still vivid to me how, on emerging from DaIy’s windowless precincts, we found that it was daylight and that people who hadn’t worked for the World were going about their business. We went to Childs to eat. Then we went back to the deserted office, because we didn’t have any other place to go.