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From The Morning Telegraph’s editorial page, July 27, 1899:

The Latest Thing in Journalism Is the Thug Era

The past decade has seen many changes in journalism. Some fifteen years ago a man came out of the West and began ferreting out crime for the purpose of gaining a circulation for the moribund paper he had purchased. In due course of time there arose “comic” supplements, latest afternoon extras, and other innovations which possessed, in those days, the merit of novelty, if no other merit. Then came the “signed statement” era. The first pages of several papers were largely devoted to statements, two columns wide, set in long primer, on “How to Make a Pretty Lambrequin Out of Last Summer’s Chiffon Underskirt,” and singed by some distinguished person such as Edward W. Bok or Joseph H Choate. No news story was complete without a signed statement. Hordes of reporters held up ambulances and secured signed statements from the dying victim of an accident, which duly appeared in print the following morning, headed:

The late John Thompson writes exclusively for The Daily Lightning, describing how it feels to be killed in a dynamite explosion.

This signed statement era was a hideous dream. That eminent young philosopher, Charles Dryden, immortalized it in the following touching verse:

“We are lost!” the captain shouted,
As he staggered down the stair.
But his little daughter whispered,
As she clasped his icy hand:
“Let us sign a written statement;
They will print it when we land.”

Then there a came a long series of journalistic epochs—the monument, the memorial sword, the free weiner schnitzel kitchen, the woolen blanket and overall fund epochs—but to-day sees the ushering in of an even more remarkable journalistic era. I hesitate to give this a name. It might be called the Thug Era. That will do as well as anything else.

Two evening papers are responsible for this—or, perhaps more properly, the striking newsboys are the direct cause. When the boys refused to sell their papers the circulation managers were compelled, much against their will, to think. If the boys would not sell the papers and were determined to attack all other boys who were willing to do so, then must force be met with force.

“We will secure vendors who are physically able to resist the assaults of the strikers,” said the circulation managers.

The result has been interesting. By the promise of $2 per day and a commission of forty cents for each one hundred papers sold, the circulation managers have secured the most wonderful set of newsboys ever seen in this or any other community. The streets in the lower part of the city present a unique and even terrifying spectacle. Square-jawed, evil-eyed thugs, looking strange in citizen’s clothes instead of striped garments, hawk the evening editions with hoarse cries.

“Hevenin’ Dot! Hevenin’ Dot! Come here, me blokie, h’and buy th’ Evening’ Dot! No, ye don’t get no change, see!”

The citizen, pallid, thinking of the dear ones at home dependent on him for support, meekly hands over a $5 bill for a paper, and slinks away, thankful he still retains possession of the old fashioned watch which once belonged to his sainted mother.

There have been a few attempts on the part of the strikers to interfere with the business of these vendors, but they have been futile. With memories of many athletic struggles at the dear old Alma Mater the purveyors of evening papers have formed a flying wedge and with their stirring college cry of

Rah! Rah! Rah!
Siz! Boom! Ah
Joliet!

have charged the attackers and dispersed them.

And from far across the square is heard the battle cry of other college graduates shouting:

Ring, ring, ring,
Let the welkin ring!
Who are we?
Don’t you see?
Sing Sing-Sing!
Tiger!!!

Truly, the Thug Era is the latest development in up-to-date journalism.

W. R. Sill

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