Is Write Right?

Damon Runyon

There is the disquieting rumor going the rounds that the owners of the newspapers were contemplating an effort to take their publications back from the columnists. I want to be on hand to protect my interests.

I hear the feeling among the newspaper owners is that they have given the columnists the personal and political and even the sociological freedom of their public prints long enough and that the owners would now like to use the space for other purposes, such as news and perhaps a little paid advertising, a most presumptuous attitude on their part, as you can see.

I am also informed many owners have been brooding over the way some columnists pass out advertising gratis to private business enterprises. It seems these owners take the position the enterprises used to contribute to the newspaper coffers before the free-loading became the fashion and might be induced to do so again if the liberality of the columnists could be restrained.

It is said one owner has figured out that a certain concern that formerly spent $100,000 a year in advertising with the newspapers now saves $90,000 by hiring a press agent at $10,000 per annum to plant mention of it among the columnists, but even if this statement is true I think it reflects a mercenary spirit in the owner that is most reprehensible, and I hope and trust it is not shared by his fellows.

I am told that this unrest among the owners over the columnists started when an owner wanted to publish to the world certain of his own opinions with reference to current problems, believing the opinions to be right, or at least worth submitting, only to find his newspaper had so many columnists there was no room for him.

Now while I don’t think the owner had any legal right to trespass on the columnists, I do think it would have been smart for one of them to move over a trifle and give him a couple of inches. I mean look, fellow, the racket has been pretty soft so why stir up those muggs?

This particular owner is noted for an inclination to surliness on slight provocation and his exclusion caused him to reflect, a thing that could have been avoided. He reflected that his columnists are all contrary to his own and are in support of men and conditions that he believes false and harmless and his reflection has brought him to the conclusion he has been a sucker to lend his typographical resources to his opposition.

But even at that, he might have cooled out and forgotten the incident had he not repaired to a famous night club to continue his reflection abaft a flagon of Scotch. He was denied admission on the ground the joint was filled up though in the background he could see four or five of his columnists at prominent tables.

This served to remind him of the frequency of their mention, without charge, of this deadfall in his paper. Then he really sizzled. However, this phase of the situation comes under the head of a bad break. Yet by the exercise of a little diplomacy on the part of the columnists, the guy would not have reached the night club in bad humor.

The columnists got possession of the newspapers some years ago by promoting the theory that an owner who permitted the promulgation of political and social opinions contrary to his own through his paper was a great liberal. The owners were convinced that being known as liberals was good for their souls and also for business. I am speaking of the hefty-thinking columnists, of course, not the lightweights like myself. I got in a raincheck.

It is my thought that in sacrificing their own editorial vision and expression and their local news and the fruits of their years of hard work and effort generally to the columnists, the owners were dopes, but naturally I will help resist them to the death. I would hate to get thrown out and have a heavyweight like Lippmann land on top of me.