Charles M. Sheldon
the week he was in receipt of numerous letters commenting
on the absence from the News of the account of the prize
fight. Two or three of these letters may be of interest.
of the News:
Dear Sir -- I have been thinking for some time of changing
my paper. I want a journal that is up to the times,
progressive and enterprising, supplying the public demand
at all points. The recent freak of your paper in refusing
to print the account of the famous contest at the Resort
has decided me finally to change my paper.
Please discontinue it.
Very truly yours,-------
Here followed the name of a business man who had been
a subscriber for many years.
of the Daily News, Raymond:
Dear Ed.--What is this sensation you have given the
people of your burg? What new policy have you taken
up? Hope you don't intend to try the "Reform Business"
through the avenue of the press. It's dangerous to experiment
much along that line. Take my advice and stick to the
enterprising modern methods you have made so successful
for the News. The public wants prize fights and such.
Give it what it wants, and let some one else do the
Here followed the name of one of Norman's old friends,
the editor of a daily in an adjoining town.
Dear Mr. Norman:
I hasten to write you a note of appreciation for the
evident carrying out of your promise. It is a splendid
beginning and no one feels the value of it more than
I do. I know something of what it will cost you, but
not all. Your pastor,
One other letter which he opened immediately after reading
this from Maxwell revealed to him something of the loss
to his business that possibly awaited him.
Editor of the Daily News:
Dear Sir -- At the expiration of my advertising limit,
you will do me the favor not to continue it as you have
done heretofore. I enclose check for payment in full
and shall consider my account with your paper closed
Very truly yours,-------
Here followed the name of one of the largest dealers in
tobacco in the city. He had been in the habit of inserting
a column of conspicuous advertising and paying for it
a very large price.
Norman laid this letter down thoughtfully, and then after
a moment he took up a copy of his paper and looked through
the advertising columns. There was no connection implied
in the tobacco merchant's letter between the omission
of the prize fight and the withdrawal of the advertisement,
but he could not avoid putting the two together. In point
of fact, he afterward learned that the tobacco dealer
withdrew his advertisement because he had heard that the
editor of the NEWS was about to enter upon some queer
reform policy that would be certain to reduce its subscription
But the letter directed Norman's attention to the advertising
phase of his paper. He had not considered this before.
As he glanced over the columns he could not escape the
conviction that his Master could not permit some of them
in his paper.
What would He do with that other long advertisement of
choice liquors and cigars? As a member of a church and
a respected citizen, he had incurred no special censure
because the saloon men advertised in his columns. No one
thought anything about it. It was all legitimate business.
Why not? Raymond enjoyed a system of high license, and
the saloon and the billiard hall and the beer garden were
a part of the city's Christian civilization. He was simply
doing what every other business man in Raymond did. And
it was one of the best paying sources of revenue. What
would the paper do if it cut these out? Could it live?
That was the question. But was that the question after
all? "What would Jesus do?" That was the question
he was answering, or trying to answer, this week. Would
Jesus advertise whiskey and tobacco in his paper?
Edward Norman asked it honestly, and after a prayer for
help and wisdom he asked Clark to come into the office.
Clark came in, feeling that the paper was at a crisis,
and prepared for almost anything after his Monday morning
experience. This was Thursday.
said Norman, speaking slowly and carefully, "I have
been looking at our advertising columns and have decided
to dispense with some of the matter as soon as the contracts
run out. I wish you would notify the advertising agent
not to solicit or renew the ads that I have marked here."
He handed the paper with the marked places over to Clark,
who took it and looked over the columns with a very serious
will mean a great loss to the NEWS. How long do you think
you can keep this sort of thing up?" Clark was astounded
at the editor's action and could not understand it.
do you think if Jesus was the editor and proprietor of
a daily paper in Raymond He would permit advertisements
of whiskey and tobacco in it?"
no--I--don't suppose He would. But what has that to do
with us? We can't do as He would. Newspapers can't be
run on any such basis."
not?" asked Norman quietly.
not? Because they will lose more money than they make,
that's all!" Clark spoke out with an irritation that
he really felt. "We shall certainly bankrupt the
paper with this sort of business policy."
you think so?" Norman asked the question not as if
he expected an answer, but simply as if he were talking
with himself. After a pause he said:
may direct Marks to do as I have said. I believe it
is what Christ would do, and as I told you, Clark, that
is what I have promised to try to do for a year, regardless
of what the results may be to me. I cannot believe that
by any kind of reasoning we could reach a conclusion
justifying our Lord in the advertisement, in this age,
of whiskey and tobacco in a newspaper. There are some
other advertisements of a doubtful character I shall
study into. Meanwhile, I feel a conviction in regard
to these that cannot be silenced."
Clark went back to his desk feeling as if he had been
in the presence of a very peculiar person. He could not
grasp the meaning of it all. He felt enraged and alarmed.
He was sure any such policy would ruin the paper as soon
as it became generally known that the editor was trying
to do everything by such an absurd moral standard. What
would become of business if this standard was adopted?
It would upset every custom and introduce endless confusion.
It was simply foolishness. It was downright idiocy. So
Clark said to himself, and when Marks was informed of
the action he seconded the managing editor with some very
forcible ejaculations. What was the matter with the chief?
Was he insane? Was he going to bankrupt the whole business?
But Edward Norman had not yet faced his most serious problem.
When he came down to the office Friday morning he was
confronted with the usual program for the Sunday morning
edition. The NEWS was one one of the few evening papers
in Raymond to issue a Sunday edition, and it had always
been remarkably successful financially. There was an average
of one page of literary and religious items to thirty
or forty pages of sport, theatre, gossip, fashion, society
and political material. This made a very interesting magazine
of all sorts of reading matter, and had always been welcomed
by all the subscribers, church members and all, as a Sunday
morning necessity. Edward Norman now faced this fact and
put to himself the question: "What would Jesus do?"
If He was editor of a paper, would he deliberately plan
to put into the homes of all the church people and Christians
of Raymond such a collection of reading matter on the
one day in the week which ought to be given up to something
better holier? He was of course familiar with the regular
arguments of the Sunday paper, that the public needed
something of the sort; and the working man especially,
who would not go to church any way, ought to have something
entertaining and instructive on Sunday, his only day of
rest. But suppose the Sunday morning paper did not pay?
Suppose there was no money in it? How eager would the
editor or publisher be then to supply this crying need
of the poor workman? Edward Norman communed honestly with
himself over the subject.
Taking everything into account, would Jesus probably edit
a Sunday morning paper? No matter whether it paid. That
was not the question. As a matter of fact, the Sunday
NEWS paid so well that it would be a direct loss of thousands
of dollars to discontinue it. Besides, the regular subscribers
had paid for a seven-day paper. Had he any right now to
give them less than they supposed they had paid for?
He was honestly perplexed by the question. So much was
involved in the discontinuance of the Sunday edition that
for the first time he almost decided to refuse to be guided
by the standard of Jesus' probable action. He was sole
proprietor of the paper; it was his to shape as he chose.
He had no board of directors to consult as to policy.
But as he sat there surrounded by the usual quantity of
material for the Sunday edition he reached some definite
conclusions. And among them was a determination to call
in the force of the paper and frankly state his motive
and purpose. He sent word for Clark and the other men
it the office, including the few reporters who were in
the building and the foreman, with what men were in the
composing room (it was early in the morning and they were
not all in) to come into the mailing room. This was a
large room, and the men came in curiously and perched
around on the tables and counters. It was a very unusual
proceeding, but they all agreed that the paper was being
run on new principles anyhow, and they all watched Mr.
Norman carefully as he spoke.
called you in here to let you know my further plans for
the NEWS. I propose certain changes which I believe are
necessary. I understand very well that some things I have
already done are regarded by the men as very strange.
I wish to state my motive in doing what I have done."
Here he told the men what he had already told Clark, and
they stared as Clark had done, and looked as painfully
in acting on this standard of conduct I have reached a
conclusion which will, no doubt, cause some surprise.
have decided that the Sunday morning edition of the NEWS
shall be discontinued after next Sunday's issue. I shall
state in that issue my reasons for discontinuing. In order
to make up to the subscribers the amount of reading matter
they may suppose themselves entitled to, we can issue
a double number on Saturday, as is done by many evening
papers that make no attempt at a Sunday edition. I am
convinced that from a Christian point of view more harm
than good has been done by our Sunday morning paper. I
do not believe that Jesus would be responsible for it
if He were in my place today. It will occasion some trouble
to arrange the details caused by this change with the
advertisers and subscribers. That is for me to look after.
The change itself is one that will take place. So far
as I can see, the loss will fall on myself. Neither the
reporters nor the pressmen need make any particular changes
in their plans."
He looked around the room and no one spoke. He was struck
for the first time in his life with the fact that in all
the years of his newspaper life he had never had the force
of the paper together in this way. Would Jesus do that?
That is, would He probably run a newspaper on some loving
family plan, where editors, reporters, pressmen and all
meet to discuss and devise and plan for the making of
a paper that should have in view--
He caught himself drawing almost away from the facts of
typographical unions and office rules and reporters' enterprise
and all the cold, businesslike methods that make a great
daily successful. But still the vague picture that came
up in the mailing room would not fade away when he had
gone into his office and the men had gone back to their
places with wonder in their looks and questions of all
sorts on their tongues as they talked over the editor's
Clark came in and had a long, serious talk with his chief.
He was thoroughly roused, and his protest almost reached
the point of resigning his place. Norman guarded himself
carefully. Every minute of the interview was painful to
him, but he felt more than ever the necessity of doing
the Christ-like thing. Clark was a very valuable man.
It would be difficult to fill his place. But he was not
able to give any reasons for continuing the Sunday paper
that answered the question, "What would Jesus do?"
by letting Jesus print that edition.
comes to this, then," said Clark frankly, "you
will bankrupt the paper in thirty days. We might as well
face that future fact."
don't think we shall. Will you stay by the NEWS until
it is bankrupt?" asked Norman with a strange smile.
Norman, I don't understand you. You are not the same man
this week that I always knew before."
don't know myself either, Clark. Something remarkable
has caught me up and borne me on. But I was never more
convinced of final success and power for the paper. You
have not answered my question. Will you stay with me?"
Clark hesitated a moment and finally said yes. Norman
shook hands with him and turned to his desk. Clark went
back into his room, stirred by a number of conflicting
emotions. He had never before known such an exciting and
mentally disturbing week, and he felt now as if he was
connected with an enterprise that might at any moment
collapse and ruin him and all connected with it.