NEARLY A CENTURY ago, newsboys were hailed by the newspapers they sold as model young “capitalists in training” and beatified by reformers as viciously exploited child labor. I am writing about them because National Newspaper Week is Oct. 3-9.

In my many decades in the industry, I’ve had numerous men now in their 80s and 90s tell me they were newsboys in their youth as were Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Ben Franklin, Jackie Robinson, John Wayne and Warren Buffet. They learned valuable life lessons. In those early days, girls were rarely news carriers.

Vincent DiGirolamo, a former reporter, filmmaker and New York college history teacher, authored “Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys.” It was a job for young boys to deliver newspapers to subscribers, hawking them on the streets for pennies, real money in those days.

It was an education. Many young boys had better news judgment than many editors because they had to size up the appeal of every edition to determine how many copies to buy from the publisher. The boys had to hawk the papers by hyping the headlines of the day.

It was dangerous work for many of the kids. They had to get up before dawn to fetch their papers from the press, then trudge the icy or steaming streets for up to 10 hours to bring home bags of change, the equivalent today of $40 a week. Many were immigrants or children of immigrants.

Some were the main support for widowed or sick mothers and siblings of drunken or disabled fathers. Many risked being beaten up, robbed of their coppers and preyed on by perverts. Being a newsboy was once a staple of American life, an icon of unflagging industry.

DiGirolamo concluded that newsboys were early adopters of fake news because they had to embellish stories to lure readers to buy their papers. It was marketing at its finest.



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AMERICA HAS a vital interest in good journalism, but journalism confronts serious challenges, according to Walter Hussman Jr., publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

One of those challenges is a loss of public trust. While news organizations claim they are fair and objective, and many try hard to be, Americans perceive wide-spread bias in news reporting.

Another challenge is the fact advertising-based business models that supported it for more than a century have been disrupted. More than 1,800 U.S. newspapers have closed in the past 15 years, mostly weeklies, but also more than 75 dailies. Survivors have significantly reduced their news staff and pages.

Hussman said credibility is the greatest asset of any news medium and impartiality is the greatest source of credibility. That means reporting, editing and delivering the news honestly, fairly, objectively and without opinion or bias except when clearly noted on the opinion pages.

The pursuit of truth is a noble goal of journalism, but the truth is not always apparent or known immediately. Journalists’ role is to report as completely and impartially as possible all verifiable facts so that the readers can, based on their own knowledge and experience, determine what they believe to be the truth.

To provide the most complete report, a reporter must not just cover the news, but uncover it. The staff must follow the story wherever it leads, regardless of any preconceived ideas on what might be most newsworthy. There needs to be a sharp and clear distinction between news and opinion.