Saturday, May 25, 2019

"The story of Ernest Hemingway’s $187,000 magazine expenses claim"

Journalism, especially at the top of the heap, used to be very profitable.
From our introduction to 2013's "Why Aren’t Top Journalists Rich?":
It wasn't always thus.
In 1898 young Winston Churchill, after a couple other writing gigs (Daily Graphic, Telegraph) went off to war with a commission to write for The Morning Post. He produced thirteen articles between September 23 and October 8, 1898 for which he was paid fifteen pounds each. According to the ever handy BoE inflation calculator that is the equivalent of  £1651.03 per, or  £21463.39 for the lot, $33,053 in today's reserve currency for 15 days work. Not rich but not bad.

More on Churchill another time but here are a couple more factoids: He charged a half-crown (2 1/2 shillings, $11.38) per word in the 1930's, in 1936 his writing income was the equivalent of $800,000 now.
Again, not rich but able to afford his Pol Roger.
Then he went on to become the highest paid scribbler of his day and did some other stuff too....
And today's headline story, from the Columbia Journalism Review:
Ernest Hemingway had just returned to London, after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, when he ran into Roald Dahl, then a British Royal Air Force officer. Hemingway told Dahl he’d witnessed a soldier escaping a burning tank on Omaha beach. Dahl responded that Hemingway should include the scene in his next piece for Collier’s, the New York magazine he wrote for at the time. 

“You don’t think I’d give them that, do you?” replied Hemingway. “I’m keeping it for a book.”
Collier’s, a glossy weekly with a circulation of 2.8 million, was known as a forum for stellar writing. It was perhaps the most prestigious magazine in America, rivaled only by The Saturday Evening Post.  It had commissioned Hemingway to cover what are now some of the most famous events in history, including the western Allies’ invasion of France and the collapse of the Third Reich.
We might have remembered that reportage alongside the best of his fiction. But we don’t—because Hemingway’s stint at Collier’s was a disaster. 

His editors in New York were unimpressed with the six articles he filed. They were heroic portrayals, as requested, but of himself as much as of the protagonists in the epic events he was covering. Though he’d proven himself a capable war correspondent in Spain, China, and elsewhere, he had grown to dislike journalism. The relationship with Collier’s was cursed from the outset, and by the end of the war it had descended into a spat over an expense claim for about $13,000—or $187,000 in today’s money.

Hemingway knew the magazine because his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, had covered conflicts for Collier’s in Spain, London, Finland, and China. She adored the editor Charles Colebaugh, described by publisher William Chenery as “one of those editors who are the true midwives of literature [who possessed] wit, a merry sense of humor, an almost eighteenth-century love of writers.”
The publisher, Chenery, was himself a demanding task-master. He and Hemingway had clashed previously, in 1941, when he had accused the novelist of scooping Gellhorn on a story in China, despite the fact the two were supposed to be collaborating on their coverage. Despite the previous bad blood, Hemingway signed a fresh contract with Collier’s in early 1944 that would pay him $3,000 per 2,500- to 3,500-word article and cover “reasonable expenses.”
In doing so, Hemingway, who could have worked anywhere, took a job that Gellhorn craved. “She saw his choice as full of spite,” Gellhorn biographer Caroline Moorehead wrote. “This way he effectively jeopardized her position on the magazine, which in theory at least was allowed only one accredited journalist at the front.” 

Hemingway, then 45, flew to London on May 17, while Gellhorn sailed on a munitions ship. In her absence, he drank heavily, and began to court Mary Welsh, who would become his fourth wife. On May 25, he suffered a gash to his head, concussion, and leg damage in a car accident. When Gellhorn landed days later, they fought. Hemingway was physically and verbally abusive. 

Meanwhile, at Collier’s, Colebaugh had died. The cause remains a mystery. There was no obituary in any major New York publication, and Collier’s paid no tribute to him. On May 13, New York papers announced that Henry La Cossitt, a 42-year-old Louisiana native who had joined the Collier’s group in 1941, would be the new editor. Hemingway had lost the one Collier’s executive he got along with.
On the night of June 5, Hemingway boarded the attack transport Dorothea L. Dix. His knees were still injured from his car accident, so he was lowered by a bosun’s chair into a landing craft, packed with soldiers heading for the Green Fox Sector at Omaha Beach. 

His cover story, which Collier’s sold heavily on his celebrity, started strongly. “No one remembers the date of the Battle of Shiloh,” he wrote. “But the day we took Green Fox Beach was the sixth of June, and the wind was blowing hard out of the northwest.”

His description of the tension and confusion aboard a landing craft was wonderful. But the article stressed his own role in finding the proper landing spot, and gives the impression the officers sought his guidance. He neglected to mention that, as a correspondent, he was barred from going ashore, and had returned to sea with the landing craft after the troops charged the beach. 

Gellhorn had learned about the invasion in a London briefing. She headed to the coast, stowed away on a hospital ship, and posed as a stretcher-bearer to get to the front. She is credited with being the first American correspondent to land on French soil after D-Day. She wrote a wonderful article—one that stands up to scrutiny more than most of Hemingway’s—entitled “The First Hospital Ship,” which later appeared in her anthology of war dispatches, The Face of War.

After D-Day, Hemingway remained in England with Mary Welsh. He wrote a fine article about RAF pilots fighting unmanned “buzz bombs”—a kind of German rocket. Gellhorn joined Allied forces in Italy. 

In July, Hemingway moved to France and joined the United States 22nd Infantry Regiment, which he would travel with until the Battle of the Ardennes began in December 1944. He continued to file articles to Collier’s, and to give the impression that he himself was a combatant....
....MORE (the money shot) 

As I've said, we like journos, they've given us some of our best ideas.