Virtue

The first campaign of the Banner was an appeal for money for a charitable cause. Displayed side by side, with an equal amount of space, the Banner ran two stories: one about a struggling young scientist, starving in a garret, working on a great invention; the other about a chambermaid, the sweetheart of an executed murderer, awaiting the birth of her illegitimate child. One story was illustrated with scientific diagrams; the other—with the picture of a loose-mouthed girl wearing a tragic expression and disarranged clothes. The Banner asked its readers to help both these unfortunates. It received nine dollars and forty-five cents for the young scientist; it received one thousand and seventy-seven dollars for the unwed mother. Gail Wynand called a meeting of his staff. He put down on the table the paper carrying both stories and the money collected for both funds. “Is there anyone here who doesn’t understand?” he asked. No one answered. He said: “Now you all know the kind of paper the Banner is to be.”

The publishers of his time took pride in stamping their individual personalities upon their newspapers. Gail Wynand delivered his paper, body and soul, to the mob. The Banner assumed the appearance of a circus poster in body, of a circus performance in soul. It accepted the same goal—to stun, to amuse, and to collect admission. It bore the imprint, not of one, but of a million men. “Men differ in their virtues, if any,” said Gail Wynand, explaining his policy, “but they are alike in their vices.” He added, looking straight into the questioner’s eye: “I am serving that which exists on this earth in greatest quantity. I am representing the majority—surely an act of virtue?”

The public asked for crime, scandal and sentiment. Gail Wynand provided it. He gave people what they wanted.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

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