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The Amateur Editor
by [?]

The country appears to be overrun at present with amateur editors. When a man learns by sad experience that he hasn’t sufficient sense to successfully steer a blind mule through a cotton patch, where the rows are a rod apart, he exchanges his double-shovel plot for the editorial tripod and begins “moulding public opinion” and industriously exchanging advertising acreage for something to eat. When Will Carleton’s old farmer discovered that his son Jim was good for nothing else on God’s earth he concluded to “be makin’ an editor outen o’ him.” That practice prevails throughout the country to a very considerable extent to-day–the sanctum divides with the pulpit and the stage those incompetents who aspire to mount above the plow, yet lack the necessary brains to succeed in business, in medicine or at the bar. When a man fails at everything else he is apt to be seized with a yearning ambition to become an editor. He gets trusted for a shirt-tail full o’ pied type, a pre-Raphaelite press, lays in a job-lot of editorial “we’s” and a sawdust cuspidore, girds up his loins and begins to commence. His first task is to reform the currency system and instruct the universe in the esoteric science of economics. He may not be able to successfully float a butcher’s bill, but he writes of finance with all the assurance of Alexander Hamilton. He may not know whether Adam Smith or Tommy Watson wrote the “Wealth of Nations”; but he doesn’t hesitate to take issue with every economist from Quesnay to Walter–to utilize his paste-pot for arc light and play at Liberty Enlightening the World. These amateur editors are the curse of the country. They Guldensuppe John Stuart Mill and play Leutgert to Lindley Murray. It is some consolation, however, to reflect that they seldom last long. They unfold their wing-like ears and make a frantic flutter at the sun, only to come down beam first on some rocky islet in the Icarian sea. Their creditors do not have even the mournful satisfaction of contemplating the hole–the amateur editor invariably pulls it in after him. But until his first notes fall due he is an iridescent glory. He adores himself with a long-tailed hand-me-down Albert Edward and carries the universe in his arms. He pokes his meddlesome proboscis into everything and gives oodles of advice, unasked. He may not have as much principle as a tomcat in rutting time, but he poses before all men as a “guardian of public morals.” When he places the awful seal of his disapproval upon a fellow mortal he expects to see him shrivel ups like a fat angle-worm on a sea-coal fire. He’s a modern Balaam, peddling God’s blessings and curses–for the long green. He imagines that an eager multitude sit up every night to catch the first dank copy of his little matutinal mistake–to see what he’s got to SAY. He’s garrulous as a toothless gran dam at a sewing circle, as busy as a canine eunuch when his kind do congregate. He discourses of everything, from the creation of the universe to Farmer Brown’s visit to Bugleville. He fairly riots in editorial “leaders.” He gives his “moral support”–and nothing else–to those local enterprises whose promoters jack him up with gobs of taffy on the mistaken hypotheses that his “flooence” may be useful. He has an idea that his miserable little journalistic misfit is “making the town” and is entitled to great wads of gratitude–that should his towline break the whole community would go awhooping to hades, the bottom would fall out of realty values and the streets be overgrown with Johnson grass. So he toils and sweats and stinks–imagines that he is roosting on the top rung of the journalistic ladder when he hasn’t even learned his trade. Finally he falls through the bosom of his pantalettes. The sheriff levies on his stock of editorial “we’s” the paste sours, the office cat starves, spiders festoon the sawdust cuspidore and the dust settles like a pall on his collection of worn type and wood-base railway cuts. The second-hand engine ceases to snort, the rat printers disperse and the wheezy old cylinder press no longer alarms the neighborhood. But in a little while another yap scraps up $40 in cash, catches a sucker to endorse his note and there’s a renascence of the old plant. It is from shyster lawyers without clients, quack doctors without patients and peanut politicians without pulls that the ranks of amateur journalism are constantly recruited. Such people always imagine it dead easy to “run” a paper–that it is only necessary to grab the editorial stylus and pour forth their inexhaustible fund of misinformation to set the woods on fire. Such papers usually manage to wiggle through the fall and winter, for they can then sell advertising space at a dollar an acre, take pay in soft-soap and second-hand sad-irons and still make a reasonable profit–the time of their manipulators being worth nothing a week; but when the long dull summer dawns they go “up agin it” with a dull hollow groan. Every town between Sunrise and Last Chance has had experience galore with the amateur editor. He is one of those unhung idiots who rush in where angels fear to tread. He is an incorrigible but an unabateable nuisance. He never succeeds in making money for himself; he always manages to lose it for somebody else. You may mark this; The quack cannot achieve permanent success in any profession, in journalism least of all, for there his shortcomings cannot be concealed. To become a successful newspaper man one must begin at the bottom and climb by pure strength through long days of labor and nights of agony. It is the most exacting profession in the world today. It is true that some so-called yellow journals succeed in making money; but while they employ perverts they have no use for Smart Alecs and amateurs. Amateur journalists, like dog-fennel and jimson weeds, usually blossom in Jayville. Most Southern towns have suffered from their reckless depredations and will hail their excoriation with delight; still it is a wicked waste of nervo-muscular energy–the amateur journalist, like the poor, and the megalophanous jackass, we have ever with us.