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 This change from insecurity to being an newspaper man was . For a very little while, a year or so, it seemed to open up a clear straight course which if followed energetically must lead me to great heights. Of course I found that beginners were very badly paid. Salaries ranged from fourteen to twenty-five dollars for reporters; and as for those important missions about which I had always been reading, they were not even thought of here. The best I could learn of them in this office was that they did exist—on some papers. Young men were still sent abroad on missions, or to the West or to Africa (as Stanley), but they had to be men of proved merit or budding genius and connected with papers of the greatest importance. How could one prove oneself to be a budding genius?  
Salary or no salary, however, I was now a newspaper man, with the opportunity eventually to make a name for myself. Having broken with the family and with my sister C——, I was now quite alone in the world and free to go anywhere and do as I pleased. I found a front room in Ogden Place overlooking union Park (in which area I afterwards placed one of my heroines). I could walk from here to the office in a little over twenty minutes. My route lay through either Madison Street or Washington Boulevard east to the river, and morning and night I had ample opportunity to speculate on the rancid or out-at-elbows character of much that I saw. Both Washington and Madison, from Halsted east to the river, were lined with and tumbledown yellow and gray frame houses, , rancorous, unsolved and possibly unsolvable and degeneracy, whole streets of degraded, dejected, souls. Why didn’t society do better by them? I often asked of myself then. Why didn’t they do better by themselves? Did God, who, as had been drummed into me up to that hour was all wise, all merciful, omnipresent and make people so or did they themselves have something to do with it? Was government to blame, or they themselves? Always the of the poor, the scandals, and physical deteriorations which trail , weakness, uncontrolled passion fascinated me. I was never tired of looking at them, but I had no solution and was not willing to accept any, suspecting even then that man is the victim of forces over which he has no control. As I walked here and there through these truly terrible neighborhoods, I peered through open doors and patched and broken windows at this wretchedness and squalor, much as a man may tread the poisonous paths of a jungle, curious and yet fearsome.
It was this nosing and tendency, however, which helped me most, as I soon found. , even in Chicago, was still in that stage which loved long-winded upon almost any topic. Nearly all news stories were padded to make more of them than they deserved, especially as to color and romance. All specials were being written in imitation of the great novelists, particularly Charles Dickens, who was the ideal of all newspaper men and editors as well as magazine special writers (how often have I been told to imitate Charles Dickens in thought and manner!). The city editors wanted not so much bare facts as feature stories, color, romance; and, although I did not see it clearly at the time, I was their man.
Why, I could write reams upon any topic when at last I discovered that I could write at all. One day some one—Maxwell, I suppose—hearing me speak of what I was seeing each day as I came to or went from the office to my room, suggested that I do an article on Chicago’s slum, which lay between Halsted and the river, Madison and Twelfth streets, for the next Sunday issue, and this was as good as meat and drink for me. I visited this region a few times between one and four in the morning, wandering about its boardwalks, its dark , its gloomy and muck atmosphere. Chicago’s wretchedness was never tame, or hang-dog, whatever else it might be; rather, it was , bitter and at times larkish and impish. The vile slovens, slatterns, prostitutes, drunkards and drug fiends who this region all led a strident if beggarly or horrible life. Saloon lights and smells and lamps gleaming smokily from behind broken lattices and from below wood............
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