ORIGIN OF SPECIAL ARTICLES. The rise of popular magazines and of

magazine sections of daily newspapers during the last thirty years has

resulted in a type of writing known as the "special feature article."

Such articles, presenting interesting and timely subjects in popular

form, are designed to attract a class of readers that were not reached

by the older literary periodicals. Editors of newspapers and magazines a

generation ago began to realize that there was no lack of interest on

the part of the general public in scientific discoveries and inventions,

in significant political and social movements, in important persons and

events. Magazine articles on these themes, however, had usually been

written by specialists who, as a rule, did not attempt to appeal to the

"man in the street," but were satisfied to reach a limited circle of

well-educated readers.

To create a larger magazine-reading public, editors undertook to develop

a popular form and style that would furnish information as attractively

as possible. The perennial appeal of fiction gave them a suggestion for

the popularization of facts. The methods of the short story, of the

drama, and even of the melodrama, applied to the presentation of general

information, provided a means for catching the attention of the casual


Daily newspapers had already discovered the advantage of giving the

day's news in a form that could be read rapidly with the maximum degree

of interest by the average man and woman. Certain so-called sensational

papers had gone a step further in these attempts to give added

attractiveness to news and had emphasized its melodramatic aspects.

Other papers had seen the value of the "human interest" phases of the

day's happenings. It was not surprising, therefore, that Sunday editors

of newspapers should undertake to apply to special articles the same

methods that had proved successful in the treatment of news.

The product of these efforts at popularization was the special feature

article, with its story-like form, its touches of description, its

"human interest," its dramatic situations, its character portrayal--all

effectively used to furnish information and entertainment for that rapid

reader, the "average American."

DEFINITION OF A SPECIAL ARTICLE. A special feature article may be

defined as a detailed presentation of facts in an interesting form

adapted to rapid reading, for the purpose of entertaining or informing

the average person. It usually deals with (1) recent news that is of

sufficient importance to warrant elaboration; (2) timely or seasonal

topics not directly connected with news; or (3) subjects of general

interest that have no immediate connection with current events.

Although frequently concerned with news, the special feature article is

more than a mere news story. It aims to supplement the bare facts of the

news report by giving more detailed information regarding the persons,

places, and circumstances that appear in the news columns. News must be

published as fast as it develops, with only enough explanatory material

to make it intelligible. The special article, written with the

perspective afforded by an interval of a few days or weeks, fills in the

bare outlines of the hurried news sketch with the life and color that

make the picture complete.

The special feature article must not be confused with the type of news

story called the "feature," or "human interest," story. The latter

undertakes to present minor incidents of the day's news in an

entertaining form. Like the important news story, it is published

immediately after the incident occurs. Its purpose is to appeal to

newspaper readers by bringing out the humorous and pathetic phases of

events that have little real news value. It exemplifies, therefore,

merely one distinctive form of news report.

The special feature article differs from the older type of magazine

article, not so much in subject as in form and style. The most marked

difference lies in the fact that it supplements the recognized methods

of literary and scientific exposition with the more striking devices of

narrative, descriptive, and dramatic writing.

SCOPE OF FEATURE ARTICLES. The range of subjects for special

articles is as wide as human knowledge and experience. Any theme is

suitable that can be made interesting to a considerable number of

persons. A given topic may make either a local or a general appeal. If

interest in it is likely to be limited to persons in the immediate

vicinity of the place with which the subject is connected, the article

is best adapted to publication in a local newspaper. If the theme is one

that appeals to a larger public, the article is adapted to a periodical

of general circulation. Often local material has interest for persons in

many other communities, and hence is suitable either for newspapers or

for magazines.

Some subjects have a peculiar appeal to persons engaged in a particular

occupation or devoted to a particular avocation or amusement. Special

articles on these subjects of limited appeal are adapted to

agricultural, trade, or other class publications, particularly to such

of these periodicals as present their material in a popular rather than

a technical manner.

THE NEWSPAPER FIELD. Because of their number and their local

character, daily newspapers afford a ready medium for the publication of

special articles, or "special feature stories," as they are generally

called in newspaper offices. Some newspapers publish these articles from

day to day on the editorial page or in other parts of the paper. Many

more papers have magazine sections on Saturday or Sunday made up

largely of such "stories." Some of these special sections closely

resemble regular magazines in form, cover, and general make-up.

The articles published in newspapers come from three sources: (1)

syndicates that furnish a number of newspapers in different cities with

special articles, illustrations, and other matter, for simultaneous

publication; (2) members of the newspaper's staff; that is, reporters,

correspondents, editors, or special writers employed for the purpose;

(3) so-called "free-lance" writers, professional or amateur, who submit

their "stories" to the editor of the magazine section.

Reporters, correspondents, and other regular members of the staff may be

assigned to write special feature stories, or may prepare such stories

on their own initiative for submission to the editor of the magazine

section. In many offices regular members of the staff are paid for

special feature stories in addition to their salaries, especially when

the subjects are not assigned to them and when the stories are prepared

in the writer's own leisure time. Other papers expect their regular

staff members to furnish the paper with whatever articles they may

write, as a part of the work covered by their salary. If a paper has one

or more special feature writers on its staff, it may pay them a fixed

salary or may employ them "on space"; that is, pay them at a fixed

"space rate" for the number of columns that an article fills when


Newspaper correspondents, who are usually paid at space rates for news

stories, may add to their monthly "string," or amount of space, by

submitting special feature articles in addition to news. They may also

submit articles to other papers that do not compete with their own

paper. Ordinarily a newspaper expects a correspondent to give it the

opportunity of printing any special feature stories that he may write.

Free-lance writers, who are not regularly employed by newspapers or

magazines as staff members, submit articles for the editor's

consideration and are paid at space rates. Sometimes a free lance will

outline an article in a letter or in personal conference with an editor

in order to get his approval before writing it, but, unless the editor

knows the writer's work, he is not likely to promise to accept the

completed article. To the writer there is an obvious advantage in

knowing that the subject as he outlines it is or is not an acceptable

one. If an editor likes the work of a free lance, he may suggest

subjects for articles, or may even ask him to prepare an article on a

given subject. Freelance writers, by selling their work at space rates,

can often make more money than they would receive as regular members of

a newspaper staff.

For the amateur the newspaper offers an excellent field. First, in every

city of any size there is at least one daily newspaper, and almost all

these papers publish special feature stories. Second, feature articles

on local topics, the material for which is right at the amateur's hand,

are sought by most newspapers. Third, newspaper editors are generally

less critical of form and style than are magazine editors. With some

practice an inexperienced writer may acquire sufficient skill to prepare

an acceptable special feature story for publication in a local paper,

and even if he is paid little or nothing for it, he will gain experience

from seeing his work in print.

The space rate paid for feature articles is usually proportionate to the

size of the city in which the newspaper is published. In small cities

papers seldom pay more than $1 a column; in larger places the rate is

about $3 a column; in still larger ones, $5; and in the largest, from $8

to $10. In general the column rate for special feature stories is the

same as that paid for news stories.

WHAT NEWSPAPERS WANT. Since timeliness is the keynote of the newspaper,

current topics, either growing out of the news of the week or

anticipating coming events, furnish the subjects for most special

feature stories. The news columns from day to day provide room for only

concise announcements of such news as a scientific discovery, an

invention, the death of an interesting person, a report on social or

industrial conditions, proposed legislation, the razing of a landmark,

or the dedication of a new building. Such news often arouses the

reader's curiosity to know more of the persons, places, and

circumstances mentioned. In an effort to satisfy this curiosity, editors

of magazine sections print special feature stories based on news.

By anticipating approaching events, an editor is able to supply articles

that are timely for a particular issue of his paper. Two classes of

subjects that he usually looks forward to in this way are: first, those

concerned with local, state, and national anniversaries; and second,

those growing out of seasonal occasions, such as holidays, vacations,

the opening of schools and colleges, moving days, commencements, the

opening of hunting and fishing seasons.

The general policy of a newspaper with regard to special feature stories

is the same as its policy concerning news. Both are determined by the

character of its circulation. A paper that is read largely by business

and professional men provides news and special articles that satisfy

such readers. A paper that aims to reach the so-called masses naturally

selects news and features that will appeal to them. If a newspaper has a

considerable circulation outside the city where it is published, the

editors, in framing their policy, cannot afford to overlook their

suburban and rural readers. The character of its readers, in a word,

determines the character of a paper's special feature stories.

The newspaper is primarily local in character. A city, a state, or at

most a comparatively small section of the whole country, is its

particular field. Besides the news of its locality, it must, of course,

give significant news of the world at large. So, too, in addition to

local feature articles, it should furnish special feature stories of a

broader scope. This distinctively local character of newspapers

differentiates them from magazines of national circulation in the matter

of acceptable subjects for special articles.

The frequency of publication of newspapers, as well as their ephemeral

character, leads, in many instances, to the choice of comparatively

trivial topics for some articles. Merely to give readers entertaining

matter with which to occupy their leisure at the end of a day's work or

on Sunday, some papers print special feature stories on topics of little

or no importance, often written in a light vein. Articles with no more

serious purpose than that of helping readers to while away a few spare

moments are obviously better adapted to newspapers, which are read

rapidly and immediately cast aside, than to periodicals.

The sensationalism that characterizes the policy of some newspapers

affects alike their news columns and their magazine sections. Gossip,

scandal, and crime lend themselves to melodramatic treatment as readily

in special feature articles as in news stories. On the other hand, the

relatively few magazines that undertake to attract readers by

sensationalism, usually do so by means of short stories and serials

rather than by special articles.

All newspapers, in short, use special feature stories on local topics,

some papers print trivial ones, and others "play up" sensational

material; whereas practically no magazine publishes articles of these


SUNDAY MAGAZINE SECTIONS. The character and scope of special articles

for the Sunday magazine section of newspapers have been well summarized

by two well-known editors of such sections. Mr. John O'Hara Cosgrove,

editor of the _New York Sunday World Magazine_, and formerly editor of

_Everybody's Magazine_, gives this as his conception of the ideal Sunday

magazine section:

The real function of the Sunday Magazine, to my thinking, is to

present the color and romance of the news, the most authoritative

opinions on the issues and events of the day, and to chronicle

promptly the developments of science as applied to daily life. In

the grind of human intercourse all manner of curious, heroic,

delightful things turn up, and for the most part, are dismissed in a

passing note. Behind every such episode are human beings and a

story, and these, if fairly and artfully explained, are the very

stuff of romance. Into every great city men are drifting daily from

the strange and remote places of the world where they have survived

perilous hazards and seen rare spectacles. Such adventures are the

treasure troves of the skilful reporter. The cross currents and

reactions that lead up to any explosion of greed or passion that we

call crime are often worth following, not only for their plots, but

as proofs of the pain and terror of transgression. Brave deeds or

heroic resistances are all too seldom presented in full length in

the news, and generously portrayed prove the nobility inherent in

every-day life.

The broad domain of the Sunday magazine editor covers all that may

be rare and curious or novel in the arts and sciences, in music and

verse, in religion and the occult, on the stage and in sport.

Achievements and controversies are ever culminating in these diverse

fields, and the men and women actors therein make admirable subjects

for his pages. Provided the editor has at his disposal skilled

writers who have the fine arts of vivid and simple exposition and of

the brief personal sketch, there is nothing of human interest that

may not be presented.

The ideal Sunday magazine, as Mr. Frederick Boyd Stevenson, Sunday

editor of the _Brooklyn Eagle_, sees it, he describes thus:

The new Sunday magazine of the newspaper bids fair to be a crisp,

sensible review and critique of the live world. It has developed a

special line of writers who have learned that a character sketch and

interview of a man makes you "see" the man face to face and talk

with him yourself. If he has done anything that gives him a place in

the news of to-day, he is presented to you. You know the man.

It seems to me that the leading feature of the Sunday magazine

should be the biggest topic that will be before the public on the

Sunday that the newspaper is printed. It should be written by one

who thoroughly knows his subject, who is forceful in style and

fluent in words, who can make a picture that his readers can see,

and seeing, realize. So every other feature of the Sunday magazine

should have points of human interest, either by contact with the

news of the day or with men and women who are doing something

besides getting divorces and creating scandals.

I firmly believe that the coming Sunday magazine will contain

articles of information without being dull or encyclopædic, articles

of adventure that are real and timely, articles of scientific

discoveries that are authentic, interviews with men and women who

have messages, and interpretations of news and analyses of every-day

themes, together with sketches, poems, and essays that are not

tedious, but have a reason for being printed.

THE MAGAZINE FIELD. The great majority of magazines differ from all

newspapers in one important respect--extent of circulation. Popular

magazines have a nation-wide distribution. It is only among agricultural

and trade journals that we find a distinctly sectional circulation. Some

of these publications serve subscribers in only one state or section,

and others issue separate state or sectional editions. The best basis of

differentiation among magazines, then, is not the extent of circulation

but the class of readers appealed to, regardless of the part of the

country in which the readers live. The popular general magazine, monthly

or weekly, aims to attract readers of all classes in all parts of the

United States.

HOW MAGAZINES GET MATERIAL. Magazine articles come from (1) regular

members of the magazine's staff, (2) professional or amateur free-lance

writers, (3) specialists who write as an avocation, and (4) readers of

the periodical who send in material based on their own experience.

The so-called "staff system" of magazine editing, in accordance with

which practically all the articles are prepared by writers regularly

employed by the publication, has been adopted by a few general magazines

and by a number of class periodicals. The staff is recruited from

writers and editors on newspapers and other magazines. Its members often

perform various editorial duties in addition to writing articles.

Publications edited in this way buy few if any articles from outsiders.

Magazines that do not follow the staff system depend largely or entirely

on contributors. Every editor daily receives many manuscripts submitted

by writers on their own initiative. From these he selects the material

best adapted to his publication. Experienced writers often submit an

outline of an article to a magazine editor for his approval before

preparing the material for publication. Free-lance writers of reputation

may be asked by magazine editors to prepare articles on given subjects.

In addition to material obtained in these ways, articles may be secured

from specialists who write as an avocation. An editor generally decides

on the subject that he thinks will interest his readers at a given time

and then selects the authority best fitted to treat it in a popular way.

To induce well-known men to prepare such articles, an editor generally

offers them more than he normally pays.

A periodical may encourage its readers to send in short articles giving

their own experiences and explaining how to do something in which they

have become skilled. These personal experience articles have a reality

and "human interest" that make them eminently readable. To obtain them

magazines sometimes offer prizes for the best, reserving the privilege

of publishing acceptable articles that do not win an award. Aspiring

writers should take advantage of these prize contests as a possible

means of getting both publication and money for their work.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR UNKNOWN WRITERS. The belief is common among novices

that because they are unknown their work is likely to receive little or

no consideration from editors. As a matter of fact, in the majority of

newspaper and magazine offices all unsolicited manuscripts are

considered strictly on their merits. The unknown writer has as good a

chance as anybody of having his manuscript accepted, provided that his

work has merit comparable with that of more experienced writers.

With the exception of certain newspapers that depend entirely on

syndicates for their special features, and of a few popular magazines

that have the staff system or that desire only the work of well-known

writers, every publication welcomes special articles and short stories

by novices. Moreover, editors take pride in the fact that from time to

time they "discover" writers whose work later proves popular. They not

infrequently tell how they accepted a short story, an article, or some

verse by an author of whom they had never before heard, because they

were impressed with the quality of it, and how the verdict of their

readers confirmed their own judgment.

The relatively small number of amateurs who undertake special articles,

compared with the hundreds of thousands who try their hand at short

stories, makes the opportunities for special feature writers all the

greater. Then, too, the number of professional writers of special

articles is comparatively small. This is particularly true of writers

who are able effectively to popularize scientific and technical

material, as well as of those who can present in popular form the

results of social and economic investigations.

It is not too much to say, therefore, that any writer who is willing (1)

to study the interests and the needs of newspaper and magazine readers,

(2) to gather carefully the material for his articles, and (3) to

present it accurately and attractively, may be sure that his work will

receive the fullest consideration in almost every newspaper and magazine

office in the country, and will be accepted whenever it is found to

merit publication.

WOMEN AS FEATURE WRITERS. Since the essential qualifications just

enumerated are not limited to men, women are quite as well fitted to

write special feature and magazine articles as are their brothers in the

craft. In fact, woman's quicker sympathies and readier emotional

response to many phases of life give her a distinct advantage. Her

insight into the lives of others, and her intuitive understanding of

them, especially fit her to write good "human interest" articles. Both

the delicacy of touch and the chatty, personal tone that characterize

the work of many young women, are well suited to numerous topics.

In some fields, such as cooking, sewing, teaching, the care of children,

and household management, woman's greater knowledge and understanding of

conditions furnish her with topics that are vital to other women and

often not uninteresting to men. The entry of women into occupations

hitherto open only to men is bringing new experiences to many women, and

is furnishing women writers with additional fields from which to draw

subjects and material. Ever since the beginning of popular magazines and

of special feature writing for newspapers, women writers have proved

their ability, but at no time have the opportunities for them been

greater than at present.

The Ex. Question THE FIGHT AGAINST ILLUSION facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail