There is a class of publications whose lives depend upon their successful appeal to vicious instincts. According to the later significance given to the phrase of M. Dumas, these publications are the demi-monde of newspaperdom. Journalistic prostitution furnishes real prostitution with a large part of its sustenance. There are several phases of it. The least harmful is the frankly vicious phase represented the papers of the Police Gazette brand. The most insidious phase is represented by those papers that cloak their sensationalism with moral pretensions. Such a paper largely concerns itself with police and divorce-court records. Its best head-line reads in effect: “Testimony Unfit for Publication; It Was as Follows:” It may attain distinction by selling a few of its columns to thieves and libertines for assignation purposes, or by the light-hearted realism which animates its description of the underwear of a prominent actress. “Sensational” is the mildest epithet applied to such a paper, because it occasionally dallies with politics, or heads a subscription to purchase piano-lamps for starving infants. Its spirit is so insecure and debased that, in comparison, the editorial spirit of the New York Sun is positively one of lofty morality.
Reprinted from Puck, March 22, 1893.