Von Junzt (vonjunzt) wrote in williamseabrook,
Von Junzt

How does this stuff get published?

The articles I've been posting for "Your Weekly Seabrook" have come from the American Weekly, the Hearst papers' Sunday supplement insert. I've been asked what the journalistic standard were for this, admittedly very odd, paper. Part of this can be learned from Morrill Goddard, who edited The American. He wrote a book entitled What Interests People and Why, isolating 16 areas of interest which, coincidentally, form the basis of many of The American's articles. His list can be read here, in an old post.

Perhaps the best person to turn to on this, however, is Seabrook himself. Seabrook discussed the formulae for writing Hearst features in his autobiography (and in my opinion best book):

Meanwhile I'd kept my freelance desk in the Hearst Syndicate at Columbus Circle, went up around ten o'clock in the empty subway for our five mornings a week, and wrote whatever I pleased so long as it met Mr. Koenigsberg's and Jack Lait's approval. However, it had to fit always in the one frame, follow always the one formula -- it was always Hearst feature page syndicate writing. This formula had three sharply defined categories which I've already mentioned:

Science or pseudo-science.

Crime and horror.

Society high-jinks, comedies, scandals.

Each category had its flexible yet hidebound recipe. The science page must always be presented as an amazing new discovery and must always be based on something authentic. It must never be out-and-out fake. You may have made the 'amazing new discovery' yourself in a ten-year-old medical journal, or the Bible concordance, or for that matter in an old edition of Chambers's Encyclopedia, but there had to be authority for it somewhere. Or Jack Lait might get to wondering why the cat's whiskers grew horizontally instead of perpendicularly, or why bats slept hanging upside-down -- in which case you must go to the Museum of Natural History and dig up all you could on cats or bats or whatever it chanced to be.

The crime-and-horror story must be presented in all its red, juicy thrills, but always with suitable moral reflections -- Madame Tussaud flavored with Mary Baker Eddy -- the Marquis de Sade mixed with John Haynes Holmes.

The Society formula was simplest of all. You put 'em on a pedestal and then slyly thumbed your nose at 'em. If they included somebody who had snubbed Mr. Hearst, you threw a few mud pies.

All the stuff -- believe it or not -- had to be well written, for the farmed-out sterotyped pages sometimes ran into a circulation of ten million. It was well-written tripe . . .

We should also obviously take away from this Seabrook's own opinion of some of the stories we're reading in "Your Weekly Seabrook." They're probably not what he'd like to be remembered by, but I hope you find them interesting nonetheless.
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