Paris Herald/Late City Edition

Joseph G. Herzberg and others HOLT
THE Paris Herald was a pulse-quickening name to every newspaperman, especially during the thirty years hounding the turn of the century when its proprietor was the younger James Gordon Bennett. To a newspaperman, a job on the Herald meant not only living in Paris but even being paid to live in Paris. If the pay was erratic, the paper held other compensations for its staff, and these are now recounted by Al Laney, who worked there through the thick of the twenties. It would have been easy to overblow the story, but Mr. Laney has let the facts speak for themselves. His book is thus a lowpressure and thoroughly diverting report. Its flavor can be conveyed by one of his anecdotes.
On December 27, 1899, for instance, the following letter appeared on the editorial page of the Paris Herald:
I am anxious to find out the way to figure the temperature from centigrade to Fahrenheit and vice versa. In other words, I want to know, whenever I see the temperature designated on the centigrade thermometer, how to find out what it would be on Fahrenheit’s thermometer.
“This is the most famous letter ever written to (he editor of any newspaper,” Mr. Laney comments, “more famous even than the one Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the editor of the New York Sun regarding the authenticity of Santa Claus. It appeared again in the same place every day for the next eighteen years and five months — 6718 issues in all — exactly as it had appeared the first time. It was so run on the orders of James Gordon Bennett.
“On practically every one of those days someone saw it for the first time and sent in the explanation. . . .” But the Old Philadelphia Lady continued to reiterate her question, and no one ever succeeded in getting from Bennett an explanation of why.
With Bennett, the expatriate owner, living in France, no one in New York had paid much attention to the Paris Herald and its easygoing ways. One is hard put to find the moral in the fantastic circumstance under which the Bennett newspapers were sold by his executors to Munsey in 1920 for four million dollars. “The deal was for the Herald of New York and the Evening Telegram,” Mr. Laney tells us, “and the Paris Herald was thrown in as a sort of appendage.” Munsey was expected to kill off the Paris Herald in a hurry, but he found to his astonishment that the paper not only was making money but that it possessed a million dollars in cash.
Late City Edition is an operating description of a present-day metropolitan newspaper by the city editor of the New York Herald Tribune and twenty-eight other members of its staff. More knowledgeable and far more readable than most books about journalism, the collection covers everything from obituaries to suburban beats, the status of the girl reporter, libel, and the pressroom. Perhaps on account of Mr. Herzberg’s editing, or simply because the Tribune staff are naturally so minded, Late City Edition is agreeably put together and full of good sense.