Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Making of Public Opinion, by William Kittle


By William Kittle. July 1909

DURING the last decade, public opinion has been made for and against three great special interests in the United States: the railway companies, the city utility companies and a few industrial corporations like the Beef Trust and the Standard Oil Company. These interests necessarily seek to obtain new or to retain old special privileges. The railway companies resist any important regulation of rates or service. The city utility companies seek the most favorable and profitable franchises. Some of the industrial corporations have established monopolies injurious to the public. It has become of increasing importance to these vast special interests and to the greater interest of the public as well, to form public opinion on one side or the other.

The public has little to fear from the open advocacy of special privileges by persons whose motives and interests are well known. Every interest has the right to the clearest and strongest presentation of its case. Free discussion is in the interest of the people. But the secret purchase or control of a newspaper or magazine, the employment of a venal news bureau which works in the dark, or the hiring of a public official to make public opinion for any special privilege is more than ordinary political corruption, like bribery; it is treason to the very spirit of self-government, for it corrupts the foundation of that kind of government, - enlightened public opinion.


The Associated Press is the most powerful public opinion forming agency in the United States. It comprises a membership of seven hundred leading daily newspapers whose total circulation is 16,000,000 issues. It furnishes more than half the news published by these papers. If the rule by newspaper men is true that each paper is read by three persons, the dispatches of the Associated Press are read every day by more than one half the total population of the United States. By its close business relations with the three great foreign news collecting agencies, it gathers into one continuous stream the volume of current events and movements of the world. It reports accidents and crimes; political, social and religious movements and the enactment of laws; wars and revolutions; facts and inferences with reference to aristocracy and special privilege, or to the trend toward democracy and public interests. The news thus furnished makes public opinion. The dispatches sent during the night for the morning papers of a continent form the opinions of millions of readers for the day. The dispatches for the evening papers modify or strengthen such opinions. Week after week and month after month is public opinion thus formed.


The Associated Press was organized into its present form in 1900. Previous to that date, in the eighties, there was a news collecting agency owned by seven New York papers and closely associated with the Reuter News Agency of Europe. Subsidiary agencies arose like the New England Associated Press and the Western Associated Press which bought from and furnished news to the New York agency. Neither controlled in any way the New York agency. The Western Associated Press revolted against this arrangement, and as a result of a. short contest, was admitted into a partnership in the management of the business. This new partnership now entered into an offensive and defensive alliance with with the Western Union Telegraph Co., "by the terms of which," in the language of Melville Stone, the present general manager of the Associated Press, "the Association was given special advantages and it in turn refused to patronize any rival telegraph company." After such an alliance, how could the Associated Press be expected to form public opinion against special privilege? It will be remembered that the Standard Oil Co. pursued the same tactics by securing rebates from the railroad companies. Not long after the alliance with the Western Union Telegraph Co., the United Press Association arose in the east and entered into a secret agreement with the chief manager of the Associated Press in New York that the two should work in harmony. When this secret agreement was disclosed in 1892, the Western Associated Press terminated its ten year agreement with the New York managers and a contest of four years ensued between the eastern and western agencies for supremacy. The papers east of the Allegheny Mountains and those of the South joined the United Press. But the Reuter Agency of Europe entered into an alliance with the Western Associated Press which triumphed over its eastern rival in 1897. Owing to serious litigation in Illinois where it was incorporated, and to the preponderance of its interests in the east, it was incorporated in New York, May 22, 1900, and the headquarters permanently established in New York City.


There are four great news collecting agencies in the world and for the territory indicated, as follows:

(1) The Associated Press. For the United States, the Philippines, the Hawaian Islands, Central America and the Islands of the Carribean Sea.

(2) The Reuter Telegram Co., Ltd of London. For Great Britain and all her Colonies, China, Japan and Egypt.

(3) The Continental Telegraphen Compagnie of Berlin, commonly called the Wolff Agency. For the Teutonic, Slav and Scandinavian countries.

(4) The Agence Havas, of Paris. For France, Italy, Spain, Mexico and the South American countries.

Each of these companies has representatives in the offices of the other three and each receives the news collected by the others. But in addition to this, the Associated Press has its own news bureaus in all the leading capitals of Europe.

The following indicates the supervision and management of the Associated Press as a working organization:

General Manager, Melville E. Stone, New York City.

Assistant General Manager, Charles S. Diehl, Chicago.

Superintendent of the Eastern Division, at New York City.

Superintendent of the Southern Division, at Washington.

Superintendent of the Central Division, at Chicago.

Superintendent of the Western Division, at San Francisco.

Superintendent of Foreign Service, at London.

Each division is covered by a trained body of men who are more than mere reporters. They have become experts in the selection, rejection and presentation of news. Some of them are writers of ability. All are responsible to a single head, - the general manager. The intercommunication of the system is well nigh complete. It can operate at any given hour as a unit. It leases from nine telegraph and telephone companies 40,000 miles of wire and its total current annual expenses amount to more than $2,500,000.

Whenever the unusual or the extraordinary happens,—like the outbreak of a war, the assassination of a ruler, or the assembling of a national convention, the Associated Press organizes a regular campaign for the collection and transmission of every detail of the news. Mr. Stone has graphically described one of these special fields of work:

"The national conventions are our first care. Preparations begin months before they assemble. Rooms are engaged at all the leading hotels, so that the Associated Press men may be in touch with every delegation. The plans of the convention hall are examined, and arrangements are made for operating-room and seats. The wires of the association are carried into the building, and a work-room is usually located beneath the platform of the presiding officer. A private passage is cut, communicating this work-room with the reporters' chairs which are placed directly in front of the stand occupied by speakers, and inclosed by a rail to prevent interference from the surging masses certain to congregate in the neighborhood. A week before the convention opens, a number of Associated Press men are on the ground to report the assembling of the delegates, to sound them as to their plans and preferences, and to indicate the trend of the gathering in their dispatches as well as they may. The men who report these conventions are drawn from all the principal offices of the Associated Press. Coming from different parts of the country, they are personally acquainted with a large majority of the delegates."


According to the eight annual report in 1908, the following are the names of the fifteen directors of the Associated Press and of the daily papers which they edit, own or control:

Frank B. Noyee, Chicago Record-Herald

Victor F. Lawson, Chicago Daily News

Albert J. Barr, Pittsburg Post

W. L. McLean, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

Thomas G. Rapier, New Orleans Picayune

Charles H. Grasty, Baltimore News

Clark Howell, Atlanta Constitution

Charles W. Knapp, St. Louis Republic

George Thompson, St. Paul Dispatch

Herman Ridder, New York Staats-Zeitung

Harvey W. Scott, Portland Oregonian

M. H. de Young, San Francisco Chronicle

R. Nelson, Kansas City Star-Times

Adolph S. Ochs, New York Times

Charles H. Tavlor, Boston Globe

The annual published reports show that the first named twelve directors have held office continually from 1900 to 1908. The general manager, and the assistant general manager have also held their positions during all of this period. William R. Nelson came on the board in 1902; Adolph S. Ochs in 1905, and Charles H. Taylor in 1906. Five directors are elected each year for a term of three years at the regular annual meeting of the members of the association. But instead of 700 votes, the number of newspapers in the association, the report of 1908, shows that 775 votes were present in person and 2531 were present by proxy. At that meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, 3,316 votes were cast for each of the five directors and there were no other nominations. The By-laws provide that the association may borrow $150,000 on bonds which may .be issued to the members. It is stipulated in the By-laws, - "If the registered owner waives the interest, he can cast one vote for each $25 of such bonds, provided no bondholder shall have the right to vote upon more than $1,000 of said bonds." The report of 1908 shows that first mortgage bonds were outstanding amounting to $122,250. This represented a voting strength of 4,890 which added to the 775 votes present made a total of 5,665. The Secretary reported the full voting strength as 5,444. The Board of Directors is vested with the power of issuing these bonds and hence of controlling the election of the officers and the policy of the association. The published record docs not disclose the owners of the bonds and the number of votes cast by each member. But it is plain that a membership representing most of the 700 newspapers in the association have less than one seventh of the total voting strength at the annual election of officers.

New members are admitted to the association by the Board of Directors or at the annual meeting by the members of the association. But this is carefullv guarded and applicants are frequently rejected. Current expenses are met by assessments on the members according to the service rendered.


In February, 1900, the supreme court of Illinois held that the Associated Press was an illegal monoply; that the clause in its contracts which sought to restrain members from obtaining news from other sources was an attempt at restriction upon trade and business; that the By-law of the association authorizing such contracts was in restraint of competition and that its tendency was to create a monopoly. The court declared the contract in the case and the By-law authorizing it, null and void. In December, 1900, the supreme court of Missouri handed down a decision adverse to the St. Louis Star which had sought to compel the Associated Press to sell news at reasonable rates. The court said: "Nor is there any more property in news, to-wit, 'information', 'intelligence', 'knowledge', than there is in the 'viewless winds'. The court held in substance that the Associated Press was not a monopoly.

Melville E. Stone claims that it is not a monopoly; that there are rival agencies in the field, and that the nature of the business excludes it from the class of monopolies. He emphasizes the cooperative nature of the work. He says:

"It is purely mutual in its character, and in this respect is unique. All of the other news-supplying agencies of the world are proprietary concerns. It issues no stock, makes no profit, and declares no dividend. It does not sell news to any one. It is a clearing-house for the interchange of news among its members only."

Article 1 of the By-laws provides that it is a "mutual and cooperative organization. The corporation is not to make a profit; not to make or declare dividends, and is not to engage in the business of selling intelligence nor traffic in the same."

But the Associated Press comprises more than 700 of the greatest daily papers of the United States. It collects and practically sells news daily to nearly 50,000,000 readers. As a system against its customers, the public, and against its competitors, the 21,000 newspapers, it is a monopoly. It employs a small army of trained telegraph operators, reporters and writers, at an annual cost of $2,500,000. The cooperative feature is mainly nominal because most of the members owning newspapers have no voice in the direction of affairs. They simply buy the new-s. Instead of cooperation in the scheme, each paper becomes a monopolist of the world's news in its immediate locality. The body of trained news-gatherers now in the service of the Associated Press, in possession of telegraph and telephone systems, in constant obedience to one mind, and supported by almost unlimited resources, is for all practical purposes a monopoly. It can furnish news cheaper and quicker than any rival agency and can therefore defeat competition. The newspapers outside of the Associated Press could indeed form a rival agency; but the cost and the difficulties of organization together with the certainty of a prolonged contest, forbid the attempt. If the Associated Press were genuinely a cooperative effort, the membership would not be limited to 700 out of a total of some 22,000 newspapers. A true cooperative plan would admit to membership all who were willing to pay the pro rata share of expenses according to the services rendered. To secure to the favored 700 newspapers the advantages of the news of all the world every day is only a different way of stating that it is a monopoly.

It is true that the Associated Press is not a monopoly like a copyright or a patent right, as it has no exclusive governmental grant or franchise. It is not a natural monopoly like the ownership of coal beds or oil regions; for the unlimited production and reproduction of the press dispatches cannot exhaust the raw material from which they proceed. But such dispatches are something more than the 'viewless winds'. Their production on an immense scale by unity of nnanagement, for a limited number of persons, giving to such persons an economic advantage over their competitors, is indeed different from a local monopoly like a city utility company; but it is nevertheless a very real and practical monopoly. Because it has feeble competitors in the business of gathering and selling news, with the possibility of still others entering the field, it yet holds a strategic advantage over its rivals. There is and can be no absolute monopoly. But the owner of a newspaper in any considerable city in the United States, not on the membership of the Associated Press knows that he cannot furnish news of equal value with that of his competitor who is a member; and when he is denied admission to membership, he needs no elaborate argument to prove that it is a monopoly.

What are the tests of a monopoly? There are four: unity of management exclusiveness, economic advantage, and the limitations resulting in the law of monopoly price. The Associated Press is characterized by every one of these. The unity of management is as admirable and perfect as that of a military organization. It is strictly of, by, and for the membership; and this exclusiveness is carefully guarded by the By-laws and practice, in the very limited admission of new members. It confers a decided economic advantage on the 700 newspaper owners who alone can sell the daily news. It is a plan by which the largest net returns, paid by the public, will accrue to the membership. So far as the consumer, - the reading public, is concerned, it can and does reduce the output of news by limiting the area of its circulation, and hence raising the value of what is sold.


Is the Associated Press fairly impartial in the collection of news and in its dispatches? Has it a bias? It will be conceded by all that the report of accidents, crimes, devastations by nature, wars, and most of the religious, social and educational gatherings, are accurate and reliable. In 1896, Senator Jones, the chairman of the Democratic national committee, and Mark Hanna, the chairman of the Republican national committee, charged the managers of the Associated Press with favoring the opposite party. But later, both Bryan and McKinley acknowledged the impartial service rendered by the managers and their assistants. The bipartisan character of the Board of Directors, insures fair dealing toward the two old parties. But with respect to the Labor Party and the Socialists, it is different. They have no direct representative on the Board. Impartiality toward them and toward certain reform movements can only come from a high sense of professional duty to render all the news accurate and reliable.


Mr. Stone has shown clearly the necessity for the censorship of the daily news by the Associated Press. He wrote in 1905:

"The hour for selection in news had arrived. It was obvious that no editor could any longer print all the information offered him. Thus was clearly outlined the path along which the Associated Press must travel. Strong men, especially trained for the work in hand must be chosen, and stationed at strategic points. The ordinary correspondent would not do. But the strategic points were not the only ones to be looked after. News of the highest importance, requiring for its proper treatment the best literary skill was sure to develop in the most remote quarters."

"Seven hundred newspapers representing every conceivable view of every public question, sit in judgment upon the Associated Press dispatches. A representative of each of these papers has a vote in the election of the management."

This last statement assumes what is not true and alleges what is not disputed. It assumes that the majority of the membership elects and can direct the management of the Associated Press when in fact, by the terms of the Bylaws and the issue of bonds, the voting strength to elect the fifteen directors, the executive committee, and the general manager, is vested in a small number of persons, probably less than twenty-five out of the seven hundred members. It alleges what will be conceded, - impartiality in reporting most of the news.

Censorship is necessary because of the large volume of the world's news. But it will be granted that here is at hand, the opportunity and machinery for forming public opinion: unity of management over a continent, a trained body of writers, and the power to select, color and emphasize any part of the daily news. The policy back of such censorship is the thing important to the public. What is that policy? It may be readily conceded that this policy is all that can be desired with reference to most of the news, even with many political movements. But what is that policy with reference to political movements tending toward constructive legislation in favor of public interests as opposed to special interests?

During the past eight years, one state has enacted the most progressive and far reaching legislation; another has adopted the most democratic of constitutions; a third has successfully established the practical working of the initiative and referendum; still others have had contests against the rule of special privileged classes. The presidency of the nation, with all its vast power and influence has been thrown into the scale for the highest ideals in government.

During the last half of this period, Moody reports that the trust power of the United States has increased from twenty to nearly thirty one-billion dollars, an increase of 55 per cent. Lyman Abbott states that one per cent, of the families in this country own more than the other 99 per cent. In this struggle between the people and predatory wealth, a struggle enlisting on one side or the other evenman of intelligence, has the management of the Associated Press had no bias r With the leading papers in that management connected by a perfect network of commercial ties with industrial corporations, railway and traction companies and trusts, has its policy been the public good as against its allies seeking special privileges? Has the vast movement over a continent against the rule of such privileged classes been adequately and fairly set forth in the Associated Press dispatches? Or, has this movement been minimized, ignored in part, reported at intervals to dissipate the effect and treated as a wave of hysteria soon to pass away? Has the Associated Press been conservative or progressive, plutocratic or democratic?

The dispatches themselves disclose the attitude of the management. They give scant courtesy to movements for constructive legislation in the public interest. The reports, scores of which have been examined, are meager, fragmentary, isolated. Every time Tom Johnson was successful in more than fifty injunction suits, the general public in other states heard little or nothing of it. When an election recently went against him, everybody heard of the 'failure' of municipal ownership. When La Follette for five years, by a continuous contest, was placing law after law on the statute books, the matter was ignored or briefly reported in distant states; and temporary defeats were given wide publicity. When Kansas in 1908, rejected a conservative and elected a progressive United States Senator, the general public at a distance from that state did not know the real issue involved. For more than two. years, there has been a strong movement in California against the rule of that state by special and corrupt interests, but that fact merely as news, has never reached the general public in the east. The prosecution of offenders in San Francisco has only been a part of the wider movement in California. The strong movement in New Hampshire, headed by Winston Churchill to free that state from the grasp of the Boston and Maine Railway Company, and the movement in New Jersey led by Everett Colby, which resulted in the defeat of Senator Dryden, the President of the Prudential Insurance Company, have not been given to the people adequately as matters of news. It is not contended that any one of these movements, measures, or men have been entirely ignored in the Associated Press; and it should be frankly admitted that some of the dispatches are impartial statements of fact. But a careful reading of scores of such reports shows that the news is so presented and given at long intervals as practically to dissipate its effects. Nor can it be maintained that most of such statements are sent out to serve special interests. If any affirmative policy clearly appears, it is to report the unusual and the spectacular for commercial value to the newspapers served. It is perhaps unreasonable to expect an intelligent interpretation of a movement whether it be conservative or progressive; altho Mr. Stone explains that the Associated Press employs strong men of the best literary skill, and places them at strategic points. It is indeed not to be expected that the earnestness or enthusiasm of the progressive citizen shall appear in the dispatches; but a movement arousing the consciences of hundreds of thousands of voters, marked by largely attended public meetings, with elections where economic and moral issues are at stake, and culminating in constructive and far-reaching legislation, is surely news of the highest importance.

The Associated Press is an agency for the collection and transmission of news of the most commercial value to a limited number of great daily papers. The management undoubtedly serves as best it can, the financial interests of these papers. It has developed an aptitude for gathering that kind of news which will increase newspaper circulation and enhance advertising space. It can at any moment become the powerful ally of any special interest, but there is no way of making it the efficient instrument for forming public opinion along progressive lines.


But there is another test of the policy of the Associated Press. Each one of the fifteen Directors owns, edits or controls a great daily newspaper whose editorials day after day will disclose a conservative or a progressive attitude. Twelve of these men have been Directors since 1900, and since they elect the president, treasurer, general manager and executive committee of the association, it is fair to assume that they have controlled the policy of the Associated Press. These fifteen papers have been carefully examined to discover any attitude in case of a conflict between public and special interests. Six of the papers supported Bryan in 1908 and most of the others were for Taft.

By far the most progressive of the fifteen, is the Kansas City Star-Times, owned and edited by William R. Nelson. How he came to be admitted on the Board of Directors can only be explained by those rare qualities which have caused his name to be frequently mentioned in connection with a foreign diplomatic station of high rank. He supported Taft solely on the ground of his progressive stand on public questions. From September 30, to October 24th., 1908, he wrote vigorous editorials in favor of the progressive movements in Kansas, in New Hampshire, and in Iowa. During the same brief period, he defended La Follette's course in the United States Senate, paid tribute to Tom Johnson's heroic efforts for the people of Cleveland, advocated public ownership of the water plant of Kansas City, exposed two predatory city utility companies, and declared for the initiative and referendum. The number of editorials on these and allied subjects, clearly and strongly expressed in favor of constructive, progressive measures, exceeds all such editorials combined in the other fourteen papers.

All the other fourteen are conservative or ultra conservative. The Chicago Daily News and the Record-Herald have a few carefully guarded editorials in favor of certain progressive movements. Several of the other papers have only colorless editorials but in many ways they show a decided conservative tendency. Three, - the St. Paul Dispatch, the Portland Oregonian, and the San Francisco Chronicle are ultra conservative. All these fourteen papers show a solicitude for corporate and special interests and a critical attitude toward progressive measures. It is true that almost every one can point to some reform movement which it has supported; but none of the fourteen can show a record of standing clearly and vigorously for a wide-spread system of guarding everywhere and all g the time the public interests as opposed to special privilege. The Kansas City Star-Times does this. Its editor has a high conception of journalism in relation to good government. The other fourteen papers are huge commercial ventures, connected by advertising and in other ways, with banks, trust companies, railway and city utility companies, department stores and manufacturing enterprises. They reflect the system which supports them. They cannot afford to mold public opinion against the network of special interests which envelop them.


Besides the Associated Press as an instrument for forming conservative, or what is called 'safe and sane' public opinion, the special interests employ for the same purpose well organized news bureaus to furnish to the newspapers adroitly prepared articles, interviews, letters and news items. These appear in the public press without a suggestion of their real source. They are not accompanied by any of the marks of advertising matter. Very often, especially in the case of city utility companies, the 'interests' deal directly with the newspapers by liberal purchase of advertising space and thus secure control of the news columns and of the editorial page itself.

During the last four years, a large number of these news bureaus have been actively engaged in the work of forming public opinion in all parts of the country.


The Municipal Ownership Publicity Bureau sends out articles and news items adverse to municipal ownership and in favor of private ownership of city utility companies. It published a monthly magazine "Concerning Municipal Ownership", in which John Kendrick Bangs wrote humorous articles for such private ownership.

The Publicity Bureau, operated by two men, - Michaelis and Ellsworth, is an effective organ in advancing the interests of a powerful group of gas, light, water and traction companies, and in prejudicing the public against municipal ownership of any of these utilities. The bureau has offices in Boston, New York, Washington and Chicago; and from these centers, arguments, half-truths, and edited reports that are often very misleading, are sent out to the press and paid for as regular advertising matter altho they appear as 'news'. Mr. Grant of this bureau wrote the following letter marked, "strictly confidential", to the president of the Oconee Telephone Company at Walhalla, S. C.:

"The Bureau has arranged with the American Press Association to furnish a page of plate matter monthly to such newspapers as may be designated. Companies desiring to place such matters in the local papers should communicate with the Bureau—under no circumstances taking up the matter with either the American Press Association or the local paper. All arrangements are made through the Bureau in such a way that the company does not appear in the matter at all. The cost of service is $20. per year per paper. The great benefit accruing from. the constant presentation of facts and arguments in favor of private ownership can hardly be overestimated."

Is this Mr. Grant, the John H. Grant who is treasurer of the American Press Association?

At one time when the consolidated Gas Company of Boston was in a contest with the Public Franchise League of that city, and while legislation on the subject was being considered, interested parties sent out to the newspapers of the state the following letter:

"Enclosed you will find copy for a reading-matter ad. to be used in your paper. It is understood that this will be set up as news matter, in news type, with a news head, and without advertising marks of any sort. Please send your bill at the lowest net cash rates to the undersigned."

This letter was printed as directed in numerous newspapers throughout the state.


When the Armstrong Committee began its investigation of the insurance companies in September, 1905, the companies at once employed Charles J. Smith to prepare articles which were turned over to the Telegraphic News Bureau, handled by Allan Foreman. These articles soon began to appear as 'news' in the daily and weekly newspapers from New York to St. Paul. The Mutual paid Foreman $1.00 a line inserted in a reputable paper. For a single item in 100 newspapers in October, 1905, this company paid between $5,000 and $6,000. On October 25th., the same company paid about $11,000 for six articles published as telegraphic news. A second news bureau was also hired to form public opinion favorable to the insurance companies.

Gustavus Meyer, in the Milwaukee Social Democratic Herald of November 7th, 1908, makes in substance the following statement: In December, 1905, he was employed on the Cosmopolitan Magazine. During the next nine months, in collecting material for David Graham Phillips' articles on "The Treason of the Senate," Meyer investigated the record of Senator J. F. Dryden, the President of the Prudential Insurance Company, and furnished what he found to Mr. Phillips who used it in his article which was to appear in October, 1906. Some weeks before this date, the business manager of the Cosmopolitan, came into the office and said he would 'kill' that part relating to Senator Dryden. He further stated that a four page advertisement of the Prudential Insurance Company had been sent to the Cosmopolitan and that it, "was not worth while losing four or five thousand dollars just for the sake of printing those few paragraphs." The October number was silent as to the record of Senator Dryden; but instead, there appeared an article entitled, "An Aid to Modern Business," which was a eulogy on Mr. Dryden and the Prudential Insurance Company. Mr. Meyer states that in April, 1907, Mr. Hearst was informed of this but he refrained from discharging his business manager.


In 1898, when Francis S. Monnett, the attorney general of Ohio, was prosecuting the Standard Oil Company for violation of law, he learned that articles were being published in all parts of the state for the purpose of forming public opinion against the prosecution of the company. He ascertained that the articles thus sent to the newspapers, all eminated from the Jennings News Bureau and Advertising Agency at Lancaster, Ohio. He placed on the witness stand Mr. Jennings, who swore that a Mr. Apthorp, art agent of the Standard Oil Company had furnished him with the printed matter. The attorney general produced a contract between the agency and a newspaper which provided that the publication of the article in the local paper would be paid for on condition that it would appear as 'news' or an editorial.

In 1903, Senator J. B. Foraker received from John D. Archbold, the Vice-President of the Standard Oil Company, $50,000 to purchase in part, the Ohio State Journal. Later, when it was found that the purchase could not be made, the money was returned.

This company employs a well-known press agent at its headquarters, - 26 Broadway, New York City. The following letters bear but one plain interpretation. Gunton's Magazine was ultra conservative, ever alert to champion special interests:

"26 Broadway.

To Prof. George Gunton, 41 Union Square, City. My dear Professor: Responding to your favor, it gives me pleasure to inclose you herewith certificate of deposit to your favor for $5,000 as an additional contribution to that agreed upon and to aid you in your most excellent work. I most earnestly hope that the way will open for an enlarged scope, as you anticipate. Yours very truly,

John D. Archbold."

"Mr. Thomas P. Grasty:

Dear Mr. Grasty: I have your favor of yesterday and beg to return herewith the telegram of Mr. Edmunds to you. We are willing to continue the subscription of $5,000 to the Southern Farm Magazine for another year, payments to be made the same as they have been this year. We do not doubt that the influence of your publications throughout the south is of the most helpful character. With good wishes, I am,

Very truly yours,

John D. Archbold."

The sinister Sibley, member of Congress at the time from the 28th. district in Pennsylvania, wrote to John D. Archbold from Washington, D.C., on March 7, 1905, proposing the establishment of a vast literary bureau to form public opinion in favor of the industrial corporations and the traction and railway companies. His letter needs to be read with care. He would have such a bureau 'efficient' and 'permanent'. Even for the three great interests named in his letter, representing probably more than half of the total wealth of the United States, he stated, "It will cost money". When he says it, "will be made self-supporting," does he mean that the outlay for this bureau will be reimbursed to the corporations by legislative grants of further special privileges? Governor Hughes once said: "The man that would corrupt public opinion is the most dangerous enemy of the state". But Sibley not only proposed the systematic and permanent corruption of public opinion, but also the corruption of the Associated Press, the newspapers and magazines; and the betrayal of the American government itself to the special interests. We need a new definition of treason. The following is this man's letter:

"John D. Archbold, "Dear Sir:

"An efficient literary bureau is needed, not for a day or a crisis, but a permanent and healthy control of the Associated Press and kindred avenues. It will cost money, but will be the cheapest in the end, and can be made self-supporting. The next four years is, more than anyprevious epoch, to determine the future of the country-. No man values public opinion or fears it so much as Roosevelt. Mild reproof or criticism of his policy nearly paralyzes him. To-day he hears only the chorus of a rabble, and he thinks it is public sentiment. I don't know whether the industrial corporations and the transportation companies have enough at stake to justify a union of forces for concerted action. It seems to me to be necessary."

In 1905, the Standard Oil Company sent Patrick C. Boyle and Malcom Jennings to Kansas to make public opinion in favor of the company. Ida Tarbell in her History of the Standard Oil Company mentions Boyle as a "picturesque Irishman" in the service of the company. He has been the editor of the Oil City Derrick and a literary hack of this company for many years. In the eighth annual report of the Associated Press for 1908, his name appears as a member of the Advisory Board for the Eastern Division, thus showing that he has some influence in that organization. Jennings is the same man who served the company in Ohio. These two men procured the publication of numerous articles in many newspapers. The contracts provided that such articles should be published as 'news' without advertising marks of any kind. The manager of the Kansas City Journal testified that his paper received $3,340 for eight such articles.

The Interstate Commerce Commission in its report of February, 1907, states: "The Standard Oil Company buys advertising space in many newspapers, which it fills, not with advertisements, but with reading matter prepared bv agents kept for that purpose, and paid for at advertising rates as ordinary news."


When the Aldrich currency bill was pending before Congress in March, 1908, a Mr. P. S. Ridsdale of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. wrote to many publishers of newspapers the following:

"I wish to have published in as many papers as possible, opinions of prominent business men and bankers of your district favorable to the Aldrich Currency Bill now before the Senate."

He offered to pay $10 for each 'story' of about one half column in the leading papers of large cities and $2.00 to each local paper. The same week, the Detroit Journal received a letter signed by the Keystone News Bureau of Philadelphia offering an article which read in part as given below: Newspaper men in Philadelphia at the time knew nothing of any such bureau in that city:

"Washington D. C.

"There is coming now from a quite unexpected source support of the Aldrich emergency bill which is expected, by those who favor it, to win it many votes in the House. Leading labor union men throughout the country, now that they realize how many workmen are idle and how little prospect of employment there is during the next several months, say that some financial measure is imperative."


One of the best known of these venal news bureaus is operated in Washington by William Wolff Smith who has his offices in the Munsey Building and employs a number of stenographers and so-called 'reporters'. Smith is frequently seen at the New Willard Hotel and at the Capitol. Very few of the leading daily papers can afford the expense of a special correspondent in Washington and most of them readily publish as news letters purporting to come from the direct representative of the paper, but which really emanate from some hired bureau. There appeared such an article in some of the papers of the northwest in January, 1909. It was adroitly and ably written to form public opinion in favor of a high tariff. It stated that the annual disbursements greatly exceeded the income of the national government, that President Roosevelt had believed he was right in advocating large appropriations, that if the tariff were lowered a large bond issue would be necessary, that the Standard Oil Company's National City Bank favored such bond issue, that,

"Speaker Cannon has stood constantly for more care in spending money and it must be said that he is coming into a meed of approval and appreciation which decidedly contrasts with the public attitude toward him as displayed during late campaign. The Speaker and his followers are determined to do some paring this session, but they have no idea that they can cut expenses enough to overcome the deficit."

In this column and a half of 'news' are found an appeal to partisanship and to the popular prejudice against the Standard Oil Company, a plausible argument for economy, a covert attack on President Roosevelt and a laudation of Speaker Cannon. It was skillfully contrived to have the reader draw the inevitable conclusion that the tariff must not be reduced; and this conclusion, nowhere clearly stated, was the sole object of the article.


In 1905, when bills for railroad rate regulation were pending in Congress and while President Roosevelt was urging such regulation, the railway companies organized a system of bureaus in New York, Washington, Chicago, St Louis. and Topeka. They also had agents in South Dakota and California. Samuel Spencer President of the Southern Railroad Company had general supervision of these various bureaus, with headquarters at Washington. He knew most of the Senators and Representatives and was a tactful, agreeable and able manager. These publicity bureaus were in operation for several months and cost approximately $100,000. The Chicago office was in the Orchestra Building on Michigan Avenue and employed forty-three persons, some of them experienced newspaper men. To this office came most of the local papers of the entire northwest. Ray Stannard Baker inspected this office and has described a card case which he saw there called, "The Barometer". Each editor was accurately characterized on a card as to politics, financial condition and peculiarities. If an editor was too active against the railroads, a traveling agent went to his town and organized some of the local shippers against him. Mr. Baker states that a member of the firm told him that for the week ending June 5th., 1905, before the bureau began its work, 412 columns of matter opposed to the railroads had appeared in the Nebraska papers, but that three months later, after the bureau bad been in operation, 202 columns favorable and only 4 against the railroads were published in that state in one week.

During April and May, of 1905, a Committee of the United States Senate gave so-called 'hearings' for six weeks on matters relating to railway legislation. Senator Elkins of West Virginia, who for years in the Senate has guarded the interests of the railway companies, was chairman of the committee. Ex-Senator Faulkner from the same state was employed by the companies and during the 'investigation' sat just back of Elkins at each session. Numerous railroad men and small shippers attended, all expenses being paid by the companies. The testimony thus taken, filled five volumes of a thousand pages each. Reporters were constantly present to give the daily press statistics and arguments in favor of the railway interests. Public opinion was being made for a powerful special interest, by an investigating committee at the expense of the government.


It is a commonplace in the newspaper business that the advertisements instead of the subscriptions form the chief support for the costs of publication. A daily paper without advertisers would be published at a daily loss. This is but another way of stating that the existence of a daily paper depends on the sale of a certain amount of advertising space. With other daily papers in the same city, a given paper cannot pursue in its news columns a policy hostile to the interests of its leading advertisers. If such advertisers be city utility companies, department stores or industrial corporations, they can control the policy of the paper or at least, subsidize it into silence. When these utility companies give special rates or privileges to the leading business men of the city, and, at a moment's notice, can withdraw their patronage, they become formidable opponents to the newspaper that dares to attack them. Besides, most daily newspapers are run for profit rather than for the public interests. The stockholders demand of their management a reasonable net return on their investment. From this situation, there results, either silence on the part of the paper when public interests are at stake; or open advocacy of some special interest.

Numerous instances can be given of this control of public opinion by special interests. When municipal ownership was an issue in 1906 at an election in Seattle, all of the daily papers but one opposed it. The Seattle Times printed in large black-faced type covering the whole upper part of front page, the following:

"Municipal Ownership Spells Wreck and Ruin Wherever It Is Found".

Since successful municipal ownership is found in some form in most of the cities in the United States and in Great Britain, the zeal of the falsehood suggests plainly the 'hire and sale' of the columns. Dur-the same year, municipal ownership was an issue in Detroit. Before August, 1906, not a newspaper in the city had openly advocated granting a new franchise to the Detroit United Railway company. Early in that month, the mayor, who had declared before his election that he was in favor of municipal ownership of the various parts of the street railway system when the franchises expired, startled the city by announcing that he had 'forced' the company to accept an extension of all its franchises until 1924. A rule of the common council compelled a referendum to the people. The street railway company began what it called a "campaign of education". It bought a half page space in every daily newspaper, and every daily except one was subsidized into silence or advocacy of the franchise. A New York editor, writing in the Atlantic Monthly for October, 1908, stated that during the last three years, the department stores combined to modify at least three daily papers of that city. A writer in The Nation in January, 1903, declared that only one New York paper had editorials on the insurance disclosures. Colliers Weekly in March, 1907, gave a long list of religious newspapers which were carrying fraudulent advertisements,—which proved, not the corruption of public opinion by such papers, but which did demonstrate the necessity of advertising matter to give a reasonable profit on the investment. In December, 1908, a case was before the supreme court of the United States to determine whether newspapers and magazines could legally accept transportation over the railways in return for advertising. Such instances show how a newspaper is silenced or changed into an 'organ' of a special interest.


The following are the foremost public opinion forming magazines in the United States:

(1) The American Magazine, John S. Phillips, President of Publishing Co.,

(2) The Arena, B. O. Flower, Editor.

(3) Everybody's Magazine, The Ridgeway Company, Publishers.

(4) The Forum, The Forum Publishing Company.

(5) Gunton's Magazine, George Gunton. (Publication ceased in Dec, 1904).

(6) McClure's Magazine, Samuel S. McClure, President of Publishing Company- „ .

(7) North American Review, George Harvey, Editor.

(8) The Outlook, Lyman Abbott, Editor.

(9) The Review of Reviews, Albert Shaw, Editor.

(10) The World's Work, Walter H. Page, Editor.

The combined circulation of these ten leading periodicals is more than 2,000,000 copies each month. It is probably a conservative estimate that each issue is read by five persons when the public libraries are taken into account. It must also be considered that these ten million or more of readers are those who take a distinct interest in public affairs and more than any other class, express and represent public opinion.

The issues of these ten magazines for the five years from 1903 to 1908, have been carefully examined to determine the side taken by each in the contest between Special Privilege and the interests of the public. Each periodical has bc?n judged by its output of public opinion forming material over a sufficiently long period. This material consists of a very few editorials and a very large number of carefully written articles in the nature of monographs, most of them involving research, travel or experience. The one test applied to each article or editorial was:—Does it take the side of any special interest, when that interest has been known by all to be in conflict with the interests of the general public!' Or does it take the side of the public against the encroachment of any special privilege? The record made by these ten magazines for the period of five years shows that about 60, more or less elaborate articles, favored some special privilege; and a little more than 200 were in favor of the public interests.

The titles of a few progressive articles will indicate in some part the range and vigor of this new civic literature which has so profoundly stirred the public conscience:

"Who Owns the United States" . . Sereno S. Pratt.

"Great Fortunes And Their Making" . Burton J. Hendrick

"Where Did You Get It Gentlemen?" . Charles E. Russell.

"The Madness of Much Power". . David Graham Phillips.

"Frenzied Finance" . . . . . . . . Thomas W. Lawson.

"Industrialized Polities" . Student of New York Politics.

"Senate of Special Interests". .Henry Beach Needham

"The Senate Plot Against Pure Food" . . Edward Lowry.

"The Greatest Trust in the World" . Charles E. Russell

"The History of the Standard Oil Company" . Ida Tarbell.

"Kansas and the Standard Oil Company" . . Ida Tarbell.

"The Railway Empire" . . . . . . Frank Parsons.

"The Heart of the Railroad Problem" . Frank Parsons.

"How the Railroad Makes the Trust" . . George W. Alger.

"The Railroad Rebate" . . . . Ray Stannard Baker.

"The Railroad Rate" . . . . . Ray Stannard Baker

"Initiative and Referendum in Oregon" . W. S. U'Ren

"Oregon as a Political Experiment Station" . Joseph Schaffer.

"The Story of Montana" . . . . C. P. Connolly.

"The Fight of the Copper Kings" . . C. P. Connolly.

"Rhode Island, a State for Sale" . . Lincoln Steffens.

"New Jersey, a Traitor State" . . . . Lincoln Steffens.

"Pittsburg, a City Ashamed" Lincoln Steffens.

"Philadelphia-Corrupt and Contented" . Lincoln Steffens.

"The subway Deal" . . Ray Stannard Baker.

"A Colossal Fabric on Franchises"

"The Story of Life Insurance".... Burton J. Hendrick.

"Governor La Follette" . . . Lincoln Steffens.

"Governor Folk" . . . . . William Allen White.

"Tom Johnson" . . . . . . Edward Bemis.

"Golden Rule Jones" . . . . . Brand Whitlock.


The North American Review is the most conservative of the ten magazines. The editor, Mr. George Harvey is also editor of Harpers' Weekly. The N. Y. Directory of Directors for 1905 shows that he was then the second vice president of the Broadway Safe Deposit Co., a director of the City of New York Insurance Co., a director of two ferry companies and a director of the Mechanics and Traders Bank. Both the North American Review and The Harpers' Weekly have been distinctly hostile to the movement led by President Roosevelt. The editor has constantly, systematically and almost viciously assailed the policies and personality of the ex-President. During the past five years, three times as many reactionary or conservative articles appeared in the North American Review as the number which might be considered to be mildly progressive. It would perhaps be too strong, and yet not far from the truth, to call both the magazine and the weekly the 'organs' of the special interests.

Gunton's Magazine was quite frankly the 'organ' of special privilege. Mr. Hearst in 1908, disclosed the fact that the Standard Oil Company paid Gunton, "$5,000 as an additional contribution to that agreed upon". It must have been after some such subsidy that Gunton wrote his editorials: "Are Millionaires a Menace", "Roosevelt Sane", "The Crusade vs. Property", and others displaying marked subserviency to special interests. From January, 1899 to 1904, after which its publication ceased, more than twenty articles and editorials defended various special interests and only one,—on the ice-trust of New York City, took the side of the public. From the number of editorials on the subject, Gunton seems to have held a brief for the group of public utility companies, and to have shown a proper amount of gratitude toward millionaires in general.

The Forum has been more or less colorless and can have had but little effect in forming public opinion during the last half decade. This is true of both the leading articles and editorials on 'American Politics' by H. L. West. During 1904-1906, Mr." West was fairly progressive in his brief editorials, but later, he became quite conservative and in 1908, advocated the nomination of Fairbanks for President and seemed to regret, as he stated it, that "The wave of reform still sweeps over the country". Certainly The Forum has not contributed much to that wave and it must be regarded as conservative. The New York Directory of Directors for 1905, shows that Isaac L. Rice was the president and director of The Forum Publishing Co. He was also an officer or director of the Chicago Electric Traction Co., and of thirteen other industrial concerns. Joseph and Samuel Rice were also directors of the Forum Publishing Co. Another director of this company was Maurice Barnett who was an officer in twelve other business establishments.

The Review of Reviews has been a factor in forming public opinion; but it has been a two-edged sword, cutting both sides, but with one edge much sharper than the other. The number of conservative articles has exceeded those which are progressive and there is evidence that a careful selection has been made in the list of progressive articles. The record for the five years would rather suggest that the columns had been quite freely opened to explain or defend several great special interests. But it should be stated that other leading articles were admitted which were squarely for the public interests. The New York Directory of Directors for 1905, shows that Francis L. Hine was vice president and director of the Review of Reviews Co., and that he was also a director in four railroad companies and ten other firms or corporations.

The Outlook has been very cautiously progressive. It has steadily supported the policies of President Roosevelt and has briefly and guardedly advocated public interests against the encroachments of special privilege. But it has had few or no leading articles showing strongly the necessity of constructive legislation. It seems to have aimed at a brief review of current events, rather than the publication of articles to make progressive public opinion. The unquestioned character of its editor accounts for its progressive attitude. In November, 1908, the treasurer of the Outlook Co. stated that James Stillman, the mutli-millionaire and 'silent man of the Standard Oil Company', owned less than ten per cent of the stock of the Outlook Co.

The World's Work, from March, 1903 to April, 1908 has not had a consistent attitude toward special interests. From the first date to April, 1906, by actual count, three times as many progressive articles appeared in this magazine as those which can be called conservative. But in the early months of 1906, a marked change took place. An editorial on the first page of the May, 1906, number, shows that a new policy had been adopted. A single sentence indicates exactly the course of this magazine for the next two years: "And reform bv shrieking exposure does at last become tiresome. It is another evidence of sanity that the people are showing some weariness with the literature of corruption." For the next two years, more than four times as many articles in explanation or defense of special privilege appeared as those in favor of the public. Three fourths of these conservative articles were in favor of the railway companies. In October, 1907, an editorial, entitled, "The Mobbing of Corporations", stated: "The time that has passed since Judge Landis fined the Standard Oil Company more than 29 million dollars for violating the Elkins law has won public sympathy for the Company".

Another editorial in April, 1908, relates an incident showing the generosity of this company towards a rival. The New York Directory of Directors for 1905, shows that the editor, Mr. Walter H. Page was a director of the Aberdeen and Ashboro Railway Company. Moody's Manual of 1908 shows that six other members of the Page family were the chief officers in this railway company.

Whatever the explanation may be, the fact is that here, a progressive magazine has been quietly and suddenly changed to one highly favorable to the 'interests'.


Judged solely by the number and kind of leading articles which have been published during the last five years, the following are the most progressive periodicals:

The Arena.

The American Magazine.

Everybody's Magazine.

McClure's Magazine.

Out of a total circulation of 2,000,000 copies each month, these four magazines have one and a third million and they have published a little more than five times the number of progressive articles as the other six magazines combined. If each issue is read by five persons, these four magazines with their searching articles on every phase of public affairs, are forming the opinions of more than 6,000,000 readers. For it must be considered that a single article may have more weight than the reading of a daily paper for a year, with its scrappy news. These four periodicals, more than all others combined, from the standpoint of public affairs, carry on their pages the indignant protest against all forms of special privilege; and they record the courage and ideals of the best citizens.


It would be difficult to overrate the influence of "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair. It led to immediate investigation and legislation by the national government. By its influence on public opinion, it is comparable to Les Miserables." "The Octopus" by Frank Norris is a graphic picture of the control of California by the railroad corporations; and "Coniston" by Winston Churchill is a still finer delineation of railway corruption in New Hampshire.

The drama, in a very limited way, has aided in forming public opinion. The best examples are, "The Man of the Hour" and "The Lion and the Mouse". But they have vividly presented to many thousands the greed and power of special interests.

During the past few years, many important volumes have appeared which have influenced directly the leaders of public opinion. These are the works of specialists, - usually university or college trained men. Their influence extends far beyond their circle of readers. They instruct the esoteric, to inform the far larger exoteric class. B. H. Meyer, in "Railway Legislation in the United States," Frank Parsons, in "The Heart of the Railway Problem" and John Moody in "The Truth About Trusts", are types of men who have made constructive and intelligent public opinion.


Mr. Bryan has probably given public addresses to more people than any other American. He has formed public opinion not only in his own party but he has influenced men of all parties toward fundamental democracy and the highest ideals in citizenship. On concrete issues, he has clearly and eloquently stated and formed the opinions of millions. He has been and is a decided factor in making opinion on every important public question.

Senator La Follette has addressed hundreds of thousands of voters from New York to California. He is, "a man with a message" and an orator of rare power. His intense earnestness, his sincerity, courage and perfect mastery of his subject, carry his convictions into the very conscience of his audiences. He is the implacable foe of every form of unjust special privilege and his constructive ability to guard the public interests has been amply demonstrated in his career as governor of Wisconsin. The 'interests' dread him. He is a force of unusual power in forming public opinion.

President Roosevelt has not addressed as many audiences as Senator La Follette; but his words have gone out to the remotest parts of the entire country. He is not a great orator and he has little constructive ability. But he has expressed the hopes and aspirations, the protests and ideals of the American people. Tho few have seen him, he is the best known man in public life. He so formed public opinion that he set in motion a thousand influences which forced a hostile national convention to nominate for President the man whom he had endorsed. This was not all due, nor mainly due to the personality of Mr. Roosevelt, nor to the respect of the people for the high office of President. Had he been a governor or senator from a great commonwealth, he could not have done this. As ex-President, he cannot do it. But every time the President speaks, more than twenty thousand newspapers and millions of voices repeat his words. The Associated Press can pass over in silence a governors' message which may result in legislation of the very highest importance; but the public utterances of the President cannot be ignored. When he speaks, he has the nation for an audience. He has formed the opinions of millions because he has been heard and believed by them. The Presidency has given to Mr. Roosevelt a far-reaching megaphone-like Voice raucus and strident indeed, but of high purpose like that of the prophets of old.


It is not difficult to account for the wave of reform during the past few years. La Follette was the pioneer and is the leader in this movement. He began it away back in 1890 when he was defeated for Congress by the railroad companies. For ten years he constantly advocated direct nominations by the people but was beaten by an intrenched political machine. For five years as governor, he secured the enactment of law after law against special privileges. At the present time in a "Senate of Special Interests", he stands as the foremost representative of popular economic rights. During the past five years, U'Ren in Oregon, Churchill in New Hampshire, Colby in New Jersey and others have been earnestly in the contest against the control of government by the special interests. During the same period, five or six magazines have published several hundred articles showing the encroachments and corruption by special privileged classes and these have been read by millions of progressive citizens. Fiction and the drama came to the aid of the public. But in the fullness of time, while all these scattered movements were in full progress, a new and unexpected force came to their aid and unified them into one common movement against the control of government by predatory wealth. This new force was the energy, honesty and courage of the President who at once made the contest heard and made it national. If La Follette could have been permanently defeated, if five or six magazines could have been silenced, and if the Presidency could have been made the voice of special privilege, no reform movement would have taken place. But with this inspiring contest successful in one state, with great, free magazines, forming and expressing progressive public opinion and with the far-reaching voice of the presidency to unify and make it national, it has triumphed over the organized agencies for forming conservative public opinion.

But the reactionary and conservative forces are in possession of unlimited resources, financial, political, and social. They have regular bureaus to form public opinion. They are the natural allies of the Associated Press and of every leading daily newspaper. The purchase of every progressive magazine would be but an item in their expenses. It is easily conceivable that they may organize a system of bureaus over the entire country to furnish articles to every local paper in defense of the three allied special interests - the railroads, the city utility companies and certain industrial combinations, like the Steel Trust and the Standard Oil Co. If these interests are to obtain or even hold special privileges, such a system of bureaus is necessary, and as Sibley said, "might be made self-supporting". The public can be deceived, can be made to pay the costs of the deception and induced to grant further aids.

The public is continually played upon by adroit, skillful and powerful forces. The average reader of the daily paper is in a hurry. He reads headlines. He does not read critically. He does not know that two or three items in a brief 'news' article presented as undoubted facts, lead him to but one conclusion. He does not note the careful coloring, the skillful arrangement of parts, the appeal to prejudice, the half-truths or the shrewd mis-statements. He is easily caught by the sophistry that a private monopoly enjoying extortionate profits is exactly like any other private business. He is told that a rebate is like the discount given to any large buyer and his mind does not penetrate to the distinction. The economic interests of one class and the exploitation of another, nationality, partisanship and even patriotism itself are all appealed to in forming public opinion for special privileged classes. But for a long term of years, Lincoln's statement is probably true: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of of the people some of the time; but you can't fool all the people all the time."

William Kittle

Madison, Wisconsin.

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