Shortly before that time, he had met Ralph Ingersoll. A graduate of Hotchkiss and Yale, Ingersoll had already been working for more than a decade near the top of the publishing world in Manhattan. He had joined The New Yorker in 1925 as one of Harold Ross’s first hires, and served as Ross’s right-hand man, doing all sorts of editorial chores, including trying to flim-flam writers by stalling on their payments. The New Yorker founder was exasperated in 1930 when Ingersoll defected to the camp of Ross’s great enemy, the Time Inc. president Henry Luce, who made Ingersoll a top editor at Fortune.
During the Great Depression, Ingersoll underwent a personal conversion similar to Field’s; both men even saw the same psychoanalyst, Dr. Gregory Zilboorg. At Fortune, Ingersoll also came under the political tutelage of poet and leftist Archibald MacLeish, who extolled the virtues of the labor movement, socialism, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Through the mid-1930s, Ingersoll grew unhappy with running magazines for Luce, with whose right-wing ideas he increasingly disagreed. In 1937, Ingersoll took a month off and went to his country house in Lakeville, Connecticut, where he came up with the initial prospectus for what would become PM. Meanwhile, he continued to bounce around the Luce empire, and while working at Time he started trying to line up editorial talent for his secret project. It wasn’t hard. In an era when most newspapers and magazines were slashing their staffs, there was no shortage of writers and editors looking for work. Some ten thousand applicants poured in for fewer than 200 jobs.
Securing investors proved more difficult. Ingersoll, who was good at running publications, reckoned he would need about $5 million to launch PM. Eventually, he decided to launch with about $1.5 million, which he raised in fifteen shares of $100,000 each. Field bought two shares.
As editor, Ingersoll wanted others to know where his paper would stand. A phrase from his prospectus, boiled down a bit, became PM’s motto: “We are against people who push other people around.” With that call to arms, Ingersoll attempted to reinvent the daily newspaper. For one thing, PM would be beautiful. It was printed in a single-fold, stapled tabloid format. Stories would not jump from page to page, and color ink would break up the traditional gray columns of type. As in Time, stories would be organized into departments. Ingersoll insisted on high-quality paper and inks, because he wanted the photos to pop from the newsstand murk. In a snub to the Fortune set, there would be no stock tables.
PM would be editorially innovative, too. Reporters chose their own topics and wrote in their own styles. Articles were edited lightly, if at all, in part as a matter of principle and in part out of necessity—Ingersoll acknowledged that he never managed to hire enough staff.
His most radical step was to shun advertising. (This was unusual, but not entirely unprecedented. A few other papers had attempted to survive on circulation alone—notably a Chicago-based paper called Day Book, which had been founded before World War I by E. W. Scripps and lasted about six years.) The business model for the big-city daily paper was, and still is, based on the dual-revenue stream: income from both advertising and circulation. Despite many misgivings, all publishers had come to rely on ads, and most tried to ensure that their products were congenial environments for bringing together advertisers and consumers.
Ingersoll’s views on advertising traced back to his old boss at The New Yorker. Like Harold Ross, Ingersoll believed that advertising corrupted the English language and threatened the independence of journalists by giving them a financial master. In PM, Ingersoll proudly dispensed with seasonal features urging women to buy entire new wardrobes, and proudly attacked wartime contractors without worrying about retaliation from big advertisers like General Motors or Ford.