THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION AND ITS REPORTS.
AT the recent convention of the National Association of Fire Engineers, held at Providence, some valuable papers were presented by the different chiefs on a variety of subjects of interest both to firemen and to the public. We were anxious to secure copies of these papers, but were unable to do so for the reason that they belong to the records of the association, and are retained in the custody of the secretary till published in his annual report. This report is not usually issued until several months after the convention has adjourned, and consequently, interest in the papers read wanes very ☺materially. A resolution was adopted at the Providence convention to the effect that the representatives of the press should have access to all papers presented, provided that in so doing they should not interfere with the work or the movements of the secretary. This proviso to the resolution was sufficient to prevent the representatives of the various papers present from obtaining copies of the documents referred to. The secretary very naturally was loth to let these out of his possession, and the work of copying them would involve several hours’ labor, so that, as a matter of fact, while the resolution contemplated the early printing of the various papers, it was in fact absolutely prohibitory. THE JOURNAL did print the full report of the committee on exhibits submitted at the Providence convention, but in order to obtain a copy of the paper it was necessary for our representative to work long after midnight, so that the original paper could get into the custody of the association the following morning. We have had several calls to print different ones of the papers there read, and have been unable to comply with these requests for the reasons stated. THE JOURNAL, when it was first established, undertook to publish full reports of these conventions. It did so for two or three years, the editor being present and assisting the secretary in his work. There was then no objection made to his taking the originals of the papers submitted to the office of THE JOURNAL, having them put in type and subsequently returning them to the secretary. We did this on several occasions, and not a paper was lost, nor was there any interference with the work of the secretary, while, as a result, the firemen and the public had the advantage of the early publication of these valuable and instructive papers. Of late years, however, as before stated, it has been impossible for the fire papers to obtain the reports referred to, obstructions having been placed in the way of the representatives of the fire papers, but who is responsible for such obstructions we do not pretend to say. The secretary may be acting on his own responsibility or under the instructions of the executive committee or of the association itself. However it may be, it is an injustice to the gentlemen who take the trouble of preparing special papers for presentation to the convention, and deprives the public of information that it ought to have. So far as we are concerned, we have no feeling in the matter whatever, because the publication of the reports of the convention, as formerly made by us, always cost us in the neighborhood of $200 for necessary expenses, extra printing, paper, postage, etc. We do not hanker for the continuance of the job. Nevertheless, if the facilities formerly extended to us had been continued, we should have published reports of late years as fully as we did those of former years. We could obtain these reports by the employment of a stenographer at an additional cost of $roor $15 a day, but we do not feel called upon to make this outlay, nor do we propose to do it
This subject has been brought up recently in consequence of our having applied to Chief Leshure of Springfied for a copy of his paper on water-works, a document which we have heard spoken of very highly, and for the publication of which we have received several requests. Chief Leshure replied to us that he had no copy of it, the only one in existence being in the hands of the secretary. The editors of other fire journals were also anxious to obtain this paper of Chief Leshure’s, and through our various and several applications for it, it happens that communication has been made to the secretary implying that he has withheld from the fire journals access to the papers read. We certainly have never made such a charge against him. It is a matter that concerns us only as it concerns the association and firemen at large. These ought to have, through their accredited journals, full reports of the proceedings of an association of the importance of the National Association of Fire Engineers. We should be very glad to give these reports gratuitously, and should take pride in making them full and complete, but as it appears to be the wish of some, at least, to prevent the report appearing anywhere previous to the publication of the secretary’s official report, it takes the matter out of our hands, and we bow to the will of the association.
We might say in this connection that we know of no other body of intelligent men who meet together for instruction and for the exchange of ideas, that is not at all times ready, and even anxious, to have full reports of its proceedings published, and that does not afford every facility to the representatives of the press to obtain such report We are in the habit of attending various conventions every year, and we are entrusted frequently with valuable papers, long in advance of their presentation, in order that we may get them in type and have them -ready to print by the time the convention occurs. In such cases we pledge »ourselves that no document shall appear in print till it has been presented to the convention ; also, that we will promptly return the copy either to the author or to the secretary of the association as may be desired. These pledges have never been violated, nor has there ever been a complaint made as to our good faith in the matter. This is a point of honor among journalists, that we never yet knew to be betrayed. Uusually at gatherings of this kind there is more or less confusion prevailing, and it is seldom that careful attention is given to the prepared papers that are read. The members expect always that they will be printed, and when so printed they can give them more careful consideration than they possibly can in the midst of a large and possibly noisy assemblage. It is because the members expect to see these papers in print that they pay so little attention to them when they are read; and when they are deprived of the privilege of reading them, as in the case of the National Association, there is disappointment both to the authors of the articles and those who expected to profit by them. Just what is expected to be gained by delaying their publication for six months or more, till the secretary’s report is fully made up, we do not understand. The secretary is an exceedingly busy man, holding an important position in connection with a prominent railroad, having but little time to devote to the work of the association, and when in attendance upon the convention he is an overworked man, having all the details of the gathering pretty much thrown upon him. In fact, too much is placed upon him, and it might be a good thing to give him an assistant in the shape of a recording secretary, whose duty it should be to take entire charge of the proceedings of the convention and the publication of the reports, leaving to the secretary the management of the general affairs of the association, in which he has proved himself so proficient heretofore. Certainly, until something of this kind is done, the firemen of the country are likely to be deprived of the benefits that would otherwise accrue from these gatherings. We go into this matter at this length, at this time, for the purpose of explaining to our numerous readers the reasons why a full report of the specially prepared papers read at the late conventions has not appeared in THE JOURNAL We hope that in the future such arrangements may be made as will remedy the difficulties herein alluded to.