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functions of a press bureau and George Creel, who is at the head of it, is the press agent of the United States.
The press bureau has become during this war a weapon, quite as important as any other, for both offensive and defensive warfare. The vital part of an army, as of a community, is its morale and morale may be weakened or sustained by a well directed press bureau. It has occurred to me, that the time has arrived when the social agencies should have a press bureau. In fact, they already have one in the Survey magazine. But it should be locally as well as nationally, organized, and its activities should be extended.
What could a press bureau do for the social agencies and for the community?
The first thing that a press bureau should do for the social agencies is to mobilize and organize them. It could do this by establishing between them a community of purpose and a morale that does not now exist. Morale means will, and community morale means community will, and this is something more than esprit de corps, or mere formal organization.
The second thing which such a bureau should do is to make news— social news. The world is in a process of reorganization. The problem of making the world safe for democracy involves making democracy safe for the world. The problems of the twentieth century, both scientific and practical, are predominantly social and political. The social agencies are accumulating in the course of their daily work, the experience and the knowledge which must form the basis for any scientific solution of these problems. The social agencies are every day experimenting with the principles of a slowly growing science of social life. The social agencies, moreover, give us most of our social legislation. To make this legislation effective, it must have the support of the community. One way to educate community is through the press.
Requiring and Using a Fund of Information
Hitherto, newspaper publicity, as far as the social agencies are concerned, has consisted largely of hard luck stories. We have approached the public, like the traditional beggar, with a piteous gesture. Novelty and human interest, we have assumed, were the only qualities in a piece of news that captured the public attention and got space in a newspaper. The fact is, however, that the human interest story, which was the chef-d'oeuvre of the yellow journal, is losing its standing in the newspaper world. The re-write man, who has been accustomed to give the literary touch to these romantic incidents of daily life, has written himself out. The stories have been told so often that they are now quite conventionalized and cease to interest. The newspapers are going in at present for social service. They are introducing departments that are intended to be educational, like Dr. Evans' articles, widely syndicated, upon health. The Chicago Tribune has established under the title of The Friend of the People, a bureau of information upon municipal matters. It has become very largely a complaint bureau. It is making itself a substitute for the aldermen who has hitherto functioned locally chiefly as a friend at court in the relation between the individual citizen and the city government. Furthermore, the Christian Science Monitor has now demonstrated that there is an increasing number of people who are rather more interested in social welfare and social politics than in those half-fact and half-fiction stories which still so largely fill the columns of the daily newspapers. All this suggests that we may, perhaps, look forward to a time when the work of the social agencies will occupy as much space in the daily papers as Wall street and the sporting column.
There are two difficulties. The social agencies do not advertise, as perhaps they should do. Departmental news, like that of the churches, of books and of the theatres, gets into the papers most easily when it finds a place next to a special kind of advertising; book notices next to book advertising, theatre notices next to theatre advertising, etc. For it should be remembered that the modern newspaper is a commercial institution, made to get circulation. The second difficulty is that most of the information which the social agencies are able to furnish is likely to be based on case studies and is therefor personal and private, and confidential. Case studies do not ordinarily make news, but local studies will.
There is an increasing number of interesting and important local studies going on in various parts of the country. Some of these have been made by social agencies. Others have been made by universities. Some of the most important have been made by the telephone companies and other commercial bodies. The Chicago Tribune, for example, spent something like thirty thousand dollars in constructing a rent map of Chicago, for advertising purposes. If some agency could be established to collect and fund this information it would become a valuable source of social news as rapidly and as often as it could be employed to interpret local events. Such information spread abroad through the press would tend to foster a widespread and intelligent interest in social problems and, incidentally, in the work of social agencies.
One of the values of social surveys, where they have been conducted on a scale broad enough to enlist the interest of the whole community, consists in the fund of news about the local community which they produce. Information of this kind may well find a place in courses in community civics which are now popular in the public schools. In this way the schools will serve to lay the basis for a more intelligent understanding of the facts of community life. The social survey, when it becomes, as it has in Cleveland, a permanent institution, may and does perform the service not merely of a permanent bureau of social research, but of a bureau of publicity, as I have conceived it, for the social agencies.
Since this was written my attention has been called to an interesting fact, namely: while most of the funds which support social welfare enterprises are provided by representatives of the capitalist class, many social workers are socialists. This, it has been suggested, is one reason why the appeal of the social agency is so frequently based on superficial and sentimental grounds. The social worker and social benefactor cannot get into the same universe of discourse and cannot therefore talk about fundamental problems. On the other hand the "class-conscious" social worker does not always realize that most of the fundamental reforms which his knowledge of conditions compels him to favor can be perfectly justified on intelligible grounds of national efficiency which is, or should be, a common interest of both capitalist and laborer.
1. Hornell Hart, research fellow, Helen S. Trounstine Foundation, Cincinnati: I have listened with intense interest to Professor Park. It seems to me the essence of the problem is democracy, and this depends upon obtaining the inward consent, as Miss Addams so aptly said. You can't get the consent of the people interested without intelligent publicity. I had an experience in Milwaukee. The City Club of Milwaukee had a number of Civic Committees, each making investigations along special lines. These committees issued periodical reports on various matters, which you would take to be rather dry, but the newspapers in the city of Milwaukee handled them and gave them splendid space. I am confident that what our speaker has told us about developing publicity through research is entirely true. It will take time for the papers to appreciate the value of the method, but I am entirely confident that it can be developed and that we can achieve a safe democracy only through that sort of education.
2. Karl de Schiveinits, general secretary, Philadelphia Society for Organizing Charity: The New York Evening Post commented editorially not long ago upon the modern method of obtaining a "scoop." Formerly the city editor depended upon his reporters for exclusive stories. Now, the editorial explained, he goes into a room by himself, shuts the door, and thinks out his "scoops." What the Evening Post referred to was the importance of opinion as news. The Washington correspondence of such men as David Lawrence and Lincoln Colcord. the special articles of writers like William Allen White and Herbert Sidebotham are more and more becoming the news. These men are writing not the news of action, but the news of opinion. They are concerned not with what people are doing but with what they are thinking.
This has an important application for social work. Many social workers are engaged in what, from the newspaper point of view, are routine jobs. The care of families, for example, while it may be productive of human interest stories, does not make news. Social work, on the other hand, is continually concerned with methods and movements which should be admirable material for special articles and editorials. Social workers should cultivate the acquaintance of the special writers and the members of the editorial staffs of newspapers. Such acquaintance may become a means of socializing the public.
There has been much talk about democracy and publicity. I an? not at all sure that the terms are synonymous. Publicity is simply & means to an end. The Standard Oil Company, for instance, is one of the most copious users of publicity in the United States, but I am not altogether convinced that the Standard Oil Company is democratic. Democracy is not an institution. It is not something that can be achieved once and for ever. Democracy is a state of mind. True democracy can be attained only by constant effort. The easy thing is to let other people do our thinking for us. It is only by continual struggle that we maintain that spirit of intellectual initiative which is the essence of democracy. Publicity rightly used can be of great assistance in this. But we must remember that publicity is only a means—a means that has been undertaken as effectively in Germany as in the United States. The democratic value of publicity depends entirely upon who uses it and how it is used.
3. Ernest F. Boddington, Charity Organization Society, New York: Having spent considerable time in the publicity department of the Liberty Loan Committee of the Second District, immediately prior to joining the C. O. S. about ten days ago, I think I can speak of that work with a certain amount of authority. In fact, as I listened to the main speaker today I was constantly thinking of the methods we used in that campaign, and figuring how some of them could be applied to our publicity campaigns for welfare work.
When Mr. de Schweinitz spoke of certain advertisements he saw, he was referring, perhaps to poster work or to newspaper advertising. Of course, I do not know what methods were employed by the publicity bureau of the third Federal Reserve district, but 1 know that in the second, or New York district, analyses were made of the results of each class of appeal, from articles in such publications as The North American Review to those in the smallest trade paper. And the field was thoroughly covered, as I can attest, for I remember in one afternoon contributing articles to the Messenger of the Sacred Heart and Saucy Stories.
These articles set forth, first and foremost, the purposes of our government—that is to say of ourselves—in entering and prosecuting this war. Over and over again at conferences the necessity of educating all classes of the community in democracy was emphasized. We were urged to get away from the notion of having the comfortable well-to-do people from any certain section of the city do the whole work. We felt that if we could enlist as many individuals as possible to do it, we should make this loan a success, that we should pave the way to make all future loans real American successes, and that we should make the problem of the war much less difficult of solution.
Professor Park has said things which, to a newspaper man with more than a quarter of a century of experience, even if with less than a fortnight of experience as a welfare worker, were inspiring, because it seems to me he indicated not merely methods of obtaining publicity, but those animating ideals, which, if consistently followed, must inevitably obtain for us the kind of publicity we desired.
I can understand that, having these ideals, many of us may have become superior to what has been referred to as the "human interest story." We know that at Christmas and at other times when we want $100 for this special case, or $200 for that special purpose, a story of a certain kind will always bring the results we desire. We use these means in emergencies, but we feel, very properly, that they are not the means by which constructive work can be done in educating the community to consistent and continuing contributions to welfare work. But let us not run to extremes; let us not imagine that because, as Professor Park has pointed out, the police court human interest story, of much fiction built on a little fact, no longer gets into print in the big dailies, thai the human interest story is no longer wanted by the newspapers. That condition will never arise. Can you conceive a situation in which there would be more human interest stories "breaking" every day than in the re-creation of a world? And that is what we as welfare workers have to face at the end of this war.
We ponder these things, but from this day on, not only in this country, but in other countries as well, the thinkers will begin to plan their work. We shall be among the first to learn of these plans, these great schemes for reconstruction and regeneration. They will be communicated to us that we may assist in carrying them out. From our offices they should go to the newspapers, as the great throbbing human interest stories, and as material for appeals to the cleanest and educated democracy which we must attract and hold.
4. Joseph C. Logan, director of civilian relief, southern division, American Red Cross, Atlanta: I have not had any specialized experience as a paid financial man of an organization, but have had to do that work as secretary of one. Professor Park's remarks with regard to democracy interested me, because I think I have found what is my anchor in social work. Some time ago I was in a meeting of a dozen or so men, and they tried to define democracy. The result was that no two agreed on what democracy was. I had a definition of my own, which may not be original, and it was this: The measure of democracy is the measure of the conscious social effort to put the opportunity of a normal life in the reach of every member of society. Now social work is the effort to differentiate individuals, so that each one shall have the opportunity for a normal life. That is fundamentally and ideally democratic.
I think the other feature of chief importance in Professor Park's speech was the idea, never to be sure you have gotten over a thing by talking. I have the idea that the church was wrong in giving so much time to preaching. I tried at my church to suspend the night service, to divide the people into classes led by teachers, and prepare to take up some work that was practical during the week, and give reports at the following Sunday night meeting. Our work requires participation on the part of the people we attempt to help. I remember one case of a man, half-witted, who asked me for a suit of clothes. I said if he would wash his face and brush his hair I would help him, but he wouldn't do that. I had this gratifying experience with the president of our association. He had been active only about three years when he was elected, and I went out to see him personally. When I walked in he said, "Logan, I was just thinking while I was waiting for you, how little I thought three years ago when you asked me for a donation to a widow's pension that you would make a philanthropist out of me!
5. Homer W. Borst, general secretary, Associated Charities, Jacksonville, Florida: The only proposition I have to make is for young and inexperienced people. I came into this publicity business with the idea that we did not dare to tell the truth. I have very good antecedents for that idea. There are still many people in social work who do not avoid giving the impression that they feel that if only enough money were available they could do all the work necessary. You can afford to say frankly that with respect to your organization this is not true. No social work organization has made any real contribution to unemployment, for example, by making unemployment the basis of an appeal for money to be used as relief. And the human interest story,—tell the truth about it. You don't have to tell the public that you made a family self-supporting unless you did it. Your very failures can be made to show why you need additional support.