Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The "Unsinkable" Titanic

“Rule of Sea” an article by the New York Times on April 16, 1912 reported that the Titanic sank at 2:20 a.m. Monday April 15th after “the biggest steamship in the world” was sunk by an iceberg and went to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean; possibly taking 1,400 passengers and crewmembers.

The article emphasized that members from the White Star Line, the company that owned and built the Titanic, did not want to admit that everyone aboard the Titanic was not safe. In addition, the article includes Mr. Franklin’s (Vice President and General Manager of the International Mercantile Marine) confession that it was impossible for neither one of the two ships sent to answer the Titanic’s call for help had reached the Titanic’s location before ten o’ clock, which would have been seven and a half hours after “the big Titanic buried her nose beneath the waves and pitched downward out of sight.”
Furthermore, the New York Times’ article revealed that Captain Haddock, from the Olympic, the Titanic’s sister ship, gave the public false reassurances saying that the Titanic was being towed to port by another ship. Only the White Star offices were aware that the Titanic sank.

The article concluded that no one ashore could say what caused the great ship to hit bottom because the Titanic could have sunk as a result of a mechanical error or a collision with an iceberg.

In Discovering the News, Michael Schudson writes that during the first two decades of the twentieth century, even at the New York Times, it was not common for journalists to see a clear separation between facts and values. However, I would argue that The NY Times article did a great job investigating and illuminating to the public about the two different stories that were told from members of the White Star. Though, I thought it was interesting that at the beginning of the article, the article affirms that an iceberg sank the Titanic; yet, at the end, the article poses two possibilities for the incident.

I learned that Carr Van Anda, an editor at the New York Times, organized coverage with survivors of the Titanic who had returned to New York by renting one floor of a local hotel and setting up four phone lines. The New York Times was the only newspaper to report that the Titanic had sunk.

I researched the Washington Post and the earliest article reporting on the Titanic I found was dated July 31, 1986.

“No Gash From Iceberg Seen on Titanic: Discovery of Buckled Hull Plates Casts New Light on Collision,” by Boyce Rensberger, says that explorers who completed eleven days in small submarines observing the Titanic did not find the presumable “300-foot gash” torn on the ship’s side as a result of a collision with an iceberg. The article provides six distinct pictures and a picture diagram with labeled sections of the ship.

Robert D. Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was the Washington Post’s source. Ballard examined most of the “882-foot Titanic’s hull” and stated that most likely, the separation of steel plates facilitated leakage to sink the ship.

Because a gash was not evident and survivors did not recall feeling a sudden collision, Ballard, along with other analysts believed that the “ship suffered not so much a crushing blow as a slicing by a sharp wedge of ice.”

I thought both articles were controversial because the one published in 1912 focused on challenging facts that the captain and manager provided. The Washington Post’s article proves that the Titanic sank due to a mechanical complication, which is controversial because then the public realizes that the incident could have been avoided if more careful attention would have been devoted to the structure of the ship.

The stories of the Titanic reminded me of September 11 coverage. News media gathered information and “informed” the public that the U.S. was under attack, it told us the number of passengers on the planes, the rescue plan, and it showed us emotional images continuously. As time passed, analysts began questioning the event and now, the public has sufficient news stories and documentaries where we learn that September 11 had been planned and that even former President Bush was involved.

I see that the event of September 11 is of greater magnitude compared to the Titanic because more lives were lost. But both events rose emotional and controversial stories that are still talked about and questioned today. What really happened?

1 comment:

  1. hey Brenda, I like your analysis on how your two articles presented different explanations for the sinking of the Titanic. I know this event took place way before I was born, but I never knew about the controversy surrounding how the story was reported. that's something you definitely didn't see in the 1997 James Cameron film. also, nice comparison to the 9/11 coverage and nice use of the front page of one of your articles.