In Defense of Editors

From the December 8, 1899 Skidmore Standard:

The average country editor is not a liar. Errors are frequently found in his publication; but he will not intentionally, deliberately and systematically tell a whopper. We make these statements because an impression to the contrary – uncomplimentary to the editor – prevails among many readers. Such items as the one which the editor of an exchange recently published saying that a man had husked 252 bushels of corn in ten hours, and the one in which it was stated that seven cords of wood, 47 posts, 13 squirrels and a quantity of honey were obtained by working up one tree, are almost too big for some people to swallow. Neither of the above mentioned items were the creation of the newspaper man; they are facts as related by some other man with an established reputation for truth and veracity and the editors played great moral courage by publishing the items, knowing that their veracity would be assailed by every reader unacquainted with the facts. No there is nothing an editor detests so much as a big windy story; and he will never knowingly print one. In his young and tender years he may have denied his guilt when his grandmother caught him in the pantry, drinking cream or stealing cookies; but as an editor, he will never lower the dignity of his calling by writing windy corn husking, cold weather, and other improbable stories. You can generally believe everything you read in the local paper – sometimes.

Elsewhere in that issue, the Standard’s readers could find:

And now, here comes J. W. Randall, who lives north of Forest City on Kimsey creek, and relates the following, which he vouches for, and says he can furnish several other witnesses in corroboration, all of whom are good citizens, and whose reputation for truth and veracity cannot be questioned. His nephew, Robert Randall, living west of Craig, was cutting wood on a Mr. Mush’s land; one of the trees was a large elm, from which he made seven cords of wood and 47 posts, and also killed 13 squirrels which had taken up their abode in the tree. Hold on, this is not all yet, the tree was hollow and a colony of bees had taken up their abode therein and stored away honey sufficient to have lasted them a long time, but Randall knowing a good thing when he saw it, robbed the bees, getting over 100 pounds of honey. This, together, with the seven cords of wood, 47 posts and 13 squirrels, is without parallel, we believe, even in this land of plenty. – Holt County Sentinel.

A good story can always be made better, and this was the case in the following week’s edition (December 15, 1899):

While the Standard man was on his daily round about town, Tuesday, Henry Bramble accosted him thus: “Well I read in the paper last week about the man who got 7 cords of wood, 47 posts, 13 squirrels and 100 pounds of honey out of one tree, and that was all right, but there was one thing forgotten; that was, the honey the man didn’t get, sweetened the water in the creek 9 miles in each direction up and down the stream.”

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