Minor characters from old novels guide you along the bleeding edge of blue-sky thinking. Episode two in what, at this rate, might actually be a series. Episode one and rules of the game here.
This week: Press baron George Roads on the role of editorial judgment in decision-making. No questions needed; he speaks far too well for himself:
You mark up the daily net sales of your paper -- on a curve -- a diagram thing. And then, some time when sales seem pretty average, you try a new feature -- 'Turf notes and notions,' or 'Books that have Pep,' or that thing we're trying out now in The Day -- 'The Bread of Life: the Christian's Daily Crumb.' You keep it up every day for a fortnight and watch the curve on the chart. Then you drop that feature for a fortnight; then you put it on again; and all the time you keep on watching your sales on the chart. The chart may show nothing at all -- the feature hasn't mattered a damn, either way. But now and then the curve goes up a little bit during the second week of the fortnight the feature is in, and down again during the second week of the fortnight it's out. Then you may -- though it isn't sure yet -- have yourself a winner; so you feel round a bit more, just to eliminate possible causes of error. And then, when at last you've got a dead cert, you back it, all in, like a man. Science and guts -- that's all there is to it. Simply keep your hand on the pulse of the nation.