The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba - Chanel Cleeton Page 0,2

World’s price to one cent, saying he prefers power to profits, circulation the measure by which success is currently judged.

“You have the opportunity to reach readers, to bring about change, to help people who desperately need assistance,” I add. “I’ve admired the work you’ve done for years. You’ve long set the tone the rest of the New York newspaper industry follows. You’ve filled a gap in the news, given a voice to people who wouldn’t have otherwise had one. I’ve read the articles you wrote when you were a reporter yourself in St. Louis, and I admire the manner in which you address society’s ills. You’ve revolutionized the newspaper. I want to be part of that.”

“That’s all fine and good, but why should I hire you? What would you bring to the World that someone else wouldn’t?”

“My gender, for one. A woman knows what it’s like to be pushed to society’s margins. There are some who might argue that a woman cannot do this job as effectively as a man. They would be wrong. Nellie Bly has proven that. You did, too, when you hired her.”

“And what do you know of Nellie Bly?”

“You gave her a chance when others wouldn’t.”

“Cockerill gave her a chance,” he replies, referring to his editor.

“With all due respect, Mr. Pulitzer, we both know this is your paper. You saw something in Nellie Bly. And now she’s gone, and you need another reporter who can take on the kinds of stories she did and can go places your male journalists can’t. What she accomplished at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum”—the words “lunatic asylum” fall distastefully from my mouth—“on Blackwell’s Island, going undercover like that, was nothing short of extraordinary. Those women’s lives have been changed because of Miss Bly’s courage and her daring. Those placards out there, the philosophy with which you run your newsroom—I promise to uphold it every single day I work for you.”

Pulitzer leans back in his chair. “You’re plucky like Bly, I’ll give you that.”

“I am.”

“Your stepfather is Henry Shelton, isn’t he?” Pulitzer asks.

“He is.”

“And how does he feel about his stepdaughter sullying the family name with something as common as work—as a reporter no less? Considering how the papers are vilified these days, I’d imagine he wants something very different for you.”

“He isn’t pleased,” I admit.

Pulitzer is silent for a beat. “I have to say, I admire your gumption for coming here.”

I take a deep breath, hope filling me. This is it. The chance I’ve been waiting for to prove myself. I’ve already thought of a list of articles I want to write, can see my name on the byline—

“That said, we already have more stunt girl reporters than we need,” Pulitzer adds, sending the hope billowing inside me crashing down. “Nellie Bly is coming back to write a series of articles for us. The move to Chicago didn’t work out for her.” He shrugs. “Talented as you may be—you’re no Nellie.”

I bite my tongue, suppressing the desire to point out that they already have more than one male investigative reporter, but that didn’t stop them from hiring scores more.

“Everyone wants to be a reporter, but it’s not an easy thing. It takes instincts for this business. A nose for the news. It isn’t the sort of thing that can be taught. We could use more society reporters, though. Given your familial connections, you’d have an aptitude for that sort of thing. Our readers love learning about the foibles of the Knickerbockers, hearing about the balls, their entertainments.”

“With all due respect, Mr. Pulitzer, those aren’t the stories I want to write. It has not escaped my notice that the world I occupy—the society my family belongs to—is not what the rest of the city experiences. As a city, as a country, we are at a pivotal moment. We’re deciding who we are, what we stand for, who we stand for. I want to be part of that discussion.”

“I don’t disagree with you, and I can’t fault your enthusiasm or your convictions. But you’re young. And relatively inexperienced. I have a newsroom full of reporters who’ve been working their beats for a long time. You’re not ready.”

I was prepared for this. Sometimes it feels like I’m banging my head against all the doors closed to me. I just need one door to crack open a little bit, one shot to prove myself.

“You’re right. I’m not as experienced as some of your staff. Although, you’ve been known to take a chance on cub reporters.