Saturday, March 7, 2009

Men first walk on the moon

On July 20, 1969, millions of Americans were glued to their televisions as time seemed to slow down. Neil Armstrong’s left boot graced the surface of the moon and he uttered the famous line, “That’s one small step for man… One giant leap for mankind.”

The Los Angeles Times front page the following day screamed Armstrong’s words under the headline “WALK ON MOON.” Complete with photographs of the momentous landing and crewmate Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. joining Armstrong to plant Old Glory, staff writers Marvin Miles and Rudy Abramson present a play-by-play of the night. It seems as if they were trying to transcribe the telecast for those who may have missed it, describing the landscape, other scenes of Armstrong and Aldrin setting up experiments and fellow Apollo 11 member Michael Collins waiting in orbit.

Armstrong and Aldrin are the main sources in the LA Times story and it is assumed that their quotes were taken from the telecast, not actual interviews. There is also a quote from then President Nixon, as he called the men in the “most historic telephone call in all mankind,” and from capsule communicator Charles M. Duke Jr.

On the other coast, the New York Times did not capture the moment quite as succinctly or with the same energy. Their headline on the same day read: “ASTRONAUTS LAND ON PLAIN; COLLECT ROCKS, PLANT FLAG.” Special reporter John Noble Wilford wrote in a style a little more familiar to that seen in stories today. While he also described the event in a fairly chronological fashion, he wrote it as more of an objective report. Halfway through, however, he does let a moment of color shine through in a section titled “Ancient Dream Fulfilled,” calling the landing “the realization of centuries of dreams.”

Most of the quotes again at the beginning are from Armstrong, Aldrin and Nixon, but there are also quotes from Collins, Duke, NASA administrator Dr. Thomas O. Paine and flight director Eugene F. Kranz. This suggests more of the balance that reporters try to show in their range of sources today.

Both papers framed the event in a way that obviously celebrated the accomplishment and reflected the pride felt by Americans everywhere. This was probably even more important at a time when the nation was recently shaken up by the Red Scare. Just as Edward Murrow and the media showed the state of fear the country was in just one decade before, television helped audiences around the nation regain a sense of hope.

This historic event marked not only the first time that man stepped on the moon, but also the first time his fellow Americans showed this much interest in the matter. In a similar way, the recent presidential election of Barack Obama was another night of firsts: our first black president and the first time in a long time that Americans—and the world—tuned in to await the results. A new kind of faith was restored in the same way that Armstrong’s iconic gesture ignited a wave of belief that anything and everything is possible.

"WALK ON MOON" by Marvin Miles; Rudy Abramson Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File); Jul 21, 1969; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986)pg. 1

"ASTRONAUTS LAND ON PLAIN; COLLECT ROCKS, PLANT FLAG" by John Noble Wilford Special to The New York Times New York Times (1857-Current file); Jul 21, 1969; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) pg. 1

Friday, March 6, 2009

1906 Earthquake

In recent memory one of the most deadly and financially costly natural disasters in the United States has been Hurricane Katrina, and as horrific as it was, it almost pales in comparison to an event much like it, that actually predates it by 99 years, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Which is why I find the 1906 San Francisco earthquake only being ranked 69th by the public, and 68th by journalists, of Newseum’s top 100 news stories of 1900-2000 to be a little low considering how big of a news story Katrina is, then again, it may only be that big because of how recent it is in our minds, but with all the coverage of Katrina, you can almost take a look back to how the 1906 quake was covered from those images and stories.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, over 1,800 people lost their lives due to Hurricane Katrina (1), but by comparison according to the U.S. Geological Survey over 3,000 had lost their lives due to the quake 99 years before (2), and in both cases hundreds of thousands were left homeless, either due to the flooding of Katrina, or the fires caused by to the earthquake. With Katrina, New Orlean’s seems to resonate in many minds, much like San Francisco and the earthquake of 1906, when in reality, a lot of the areas around New Orlean’s were damaged, much like throughout the bay area there was damage from the earthquake, but for both disasters it seems to simply focus on the one city.

We all remember the images of Katrina on front pages of newspapers and on television, literally the city of New Orlean’s under water, while the quake left San Francisco looking like a city of fire, but many images up close you could easily mistake one disaster for the other. Both had many photographs of people trying to rescue others, and damaged or destroyed buildings everywhere. With help from (3), I was able to find scanned images of newpapers only days after the quake, and the newspapers following hurricane Katrina seemed to mirror those same papers 99 years later.

Both had similar photographs, but even the stories written within the paers, the things published in the papers were similar. Whether it be the looting reported following Katrina, or on the front page of the San Francisco Examiner (3) reporting people taking the money that has left the safety of banks for some reason or another following the quake. The calls for aid and help and the reporting of how there will now be military action to help the scene.

While the actual response and action following the disasters may vary greatly, the reporting done and the stories written do not.


NY, LA, WWII & 911


The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor sent shock waves through America and changed the lives of people around the world. It is no surprise that it is ranked as the #2 news story of the 20th Century. In this blog, I will analyze the front pages and main articles from the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor in two newspapers from opposite ends of the country—the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times—and how this coverage relates to the industry of the time. I will then briefly compare this coverage with the papers’ coverage of 9/11.

The front page of the New York Times on December 8, 1941, the day after “the that will live in infamy”, devotes nearly half of the above-the-fold to an italicized and capitalized headline: “JAPAN WARS ON U.S. AND BRITAIN; MAKES SUDDEN ATTACK ON HAWAII; HEAVY FIGHTING AT SEA REPORTED.” Under the headline sits a map of where the attacks took place and a sea of small-print text that overwhelms my one-story-at-a-time, internet-era news brain. The most important story stands out on the right side of the page. Its headlines are longer and margins are wider, practically waving the reader over like an eager salesman.

The dateline says WASHINGTON. Frank L. Kluckhorn writes an informative but dry account of the attack and the international relations that shortly followed. In a post-Yellow Journalism, but pre-McCarthyism era, hard news of the 1940s relied heavily on official accounts, especially during a breaking-news event such as the attack on Pearl Harbor. Kluckhorn, perhaps because he is based in Washington, or because of the journalism environment of the time, only writes about official accounts from military and governmental personnel.

The Los Angeles Times’ front page screams at the reader in huge, bold type: “JAPS OPEN WAR ON U.S. WITH BOMBING OF HAWAII.” Other, gradually smaller headlines bring the reader down to an Associated Press story with wide margins similar to the New York Times story. This paper, however, does not have a map of the attacks but instead has a localized story about how Los Angeles reacted to the attack. The local story is graphically mirrored to the AP story with similar margins and headline size with a smattering of smaller stories in-between them.

I will not go into the culturally insensitive use of the term “Jap” in the headline (my Ethnic Diversity in News professor could have a field day, I’m sure.) I will not even talk about the AP story at all; I will instead analyze the local article. This article, whose author is not in a byline for whatever reason, describes the atmosphere of the city and the patriotic response. “Then came a reaction as truly American as apple pie … ‘They started it—we’ll finish it!’” Reminiscent of the black and white propaganda films that show the disjointed movement of proud American men boarding trains as they head off to war, this article is a great representation of the American support for WWII. But it is also shockingly similar to media treatment of 9/11.

Comparing the New York Times front page after the 9/11 attacks to the front pages after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a number of things strike me immediately. The first, naturally, is the impact of photographs. The image of the towers in flames is one that brings up a lot of emotions in Americans. These graphic images were absent on the front pages of a pre-internet paper covering events that took place thousands of miles away. The second thing is the language in the main article. Unlike the Pearl Harbor story, the language is less official and more graphic and emotional. It is as if the writer of the all-American propaganda story in the Los Angeles Times wrote the pure-facts news story of the New York Times. This integration of emotion with news allowed the American people to trust their government more than it deserved and demonstrates the power of the media.

How to find historical articles online!!!

Hello, Fellow Procrastinators!

I'm at the Big Bubble right now and the librarian just told me how to access the historical articles from home.

Step 1: Get a Library Account (Must be done at the library? I don't know, though.) / Just go to the Library
Step 2: Go to the Library Home Page
Step 3: Click "Research Guides"
Step 4: Click "History"
Step 5: Click "Primary Sources"
Step 6: In the top toolbar, click "Historical Newspapers and Magazines"
Step 7: Pick your newspaper and get to work!

So, I hope this helps. It's a lot easier than microfilm!


Thursday, March 5, 2009


(1) Daily News; Marshall, Mich. Sunday, April 14, 1912
(2) Los Angeles Times; Apr 16, 1912

While looking at stories written in the early 20th century, it looks as if no bylines were given to a story unless it was of high importance. What I find odd in the story of the sinking of the Titanic is that there is no byline, when in fact this story is and was extremely important.

The frame of the story written in the Daily News (1) is based around a current event, and was published to inform the public of a current, tragic event, regardless of the amount of accurate information they were able to supply. The reporter felt a responsibility to inform those concerned about the collision with as much information as they could supply, knowing full well that as they obtained further information, it would be included in later publications to either support, or make corrections to, this specific story. Important information that they were able to include; however, were names of noted passengers that were known to be aboard the vessel. It also mentions the near-crash between the Titanic and the American Liner New York, which is important detail to include in the story. The LA Times Article (2) does not mention this near-crash, it does mention previous marine disasters that could be related, although not as tragic, to the Titanic disaster.

An interesting fact the LA Times Article also reports is that there were false messages being received that the Titanic was only "badly damaged" but was not sinking.

When it came to the tragedy of the “Unsinkable” White Star Liner, RMS Titanic, it is very possible it proved to be difficult to write about, as the event took place in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Although no sources are directly quoted in the Daily News article, the writer does provide as much information as they could since they were writing the article less than 12 hours after the ship struck the iceberg. In the LA Times Article), a source is shown, though, that source being the White Star Line officials, who stated that there had been a "horrible loss of life."

Something noticeable; however, were some inaccurate facts that the reporter still should have been able to receive accurately without being at the scene of the vessel-iceberg collision. The subhead reads that there were 1,300 passengers on board the Titanic, when in fact there were approximately 2,223 passengers. Looking at various articles written around the same time frame, it seems as if no newspaper received a truly accurate number when these stories first printed. The estimated number of passengers is reported correctly in the LA Times Article (2), written two days later, which could either mean that they spent more time to get more accurate information, or they were just lucky enough to get a correct estimate.

The reporter of this article should have contacted, if possible, any member of White Star Line to obtain any information regarding what reports they had received of the collision. After reading the article, it was clear that the reporter did obtain information about the last received distress call from the Titanic, but fails to attribute where that information came from. This is a common occurrence throughout the story, as it explains the claims that the ship herself was thought to be “unsinkable,” along with facts of its construction and noted passenger list.

This story can very much compare to articles written on the day of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City. The Titanic, being the largest passenger steamship in her time, was viewed as an extremely iconic and luxurious project. The Titanic was a symbol of economic power and might, a symbolic statement to the rest of the world. The Twin Towers were viewed as powerful buildings, and as indestructible landmarks. Both tragic events, although at very different times, were received the same way, through shock and disbelief.


(1) New York Times; Wednesday, March 2, 1932
(2) The Washington Post; Times Herald; Aug 20, 1961;

The Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. kidnapping was not on the list of stories to cover as a “top news story of the twentieth century,” but I felt it deserved to be due to its value through topic and coverage. This New York Times story (1) reads more as a detectives report versus portraying the structure of a news story, as it provides a third person account of step-by-step events as they occurred, beginning with what happened exactly when the baby’s nurse, Miss Betty Gow, discovered Charles Jr. was missing.

The story was written the morning after the kidnapping of the child, and goes into detail of times that the child was checked on by the nurse, as well as the time he was discovered missing. It also includes much detail, almost exaggerated, when describing the scene of the crime and actions of those involved in some way or another, telling how the nurse “dashed downstairs” when she discovered Charles missing, to the description of Charles Lindbergh himself, “bareheaded, and wearing an old black leather jacket…” It reads almost as one would hear in a radio program, with the reporter describing every detail of the events occurring at that time in order to give the listener a visual of what is happening.

Looking through various articles written in the 1930s, it seems as if it was typical to find a news story with such great detail, although some of it may seem unnecessary and irrelevant. The NY Times was still working on its form of investigative news at this time, trying to separate it from a more sensationalist and interpretive approach by making the story the papers own.

It seems that although the reporters did gather much information of events, there are not many sources attributed to the information. The one and only quoted source was Colonel Lindbergh himself, and the way he is attributed is not in a fashion commonly seen in news stories today. The NY Times did not get the quote from Charles Lindbergh alone, but instead with a group of other reporters, so the quote is attributed as “Colonel Lindbergh explained to reporters.” Another source that was mentioned, although not quoted, was Mayor Schoffel and his announcement of obtaining a list of contractors that worked on the house during its construction.

If there were more sources quoted (including New Jersey state and county police officials and Nurse Gow) the story would read in a more structured way and would help with the accuracy of the information provided, although it is quite surprising for the reporter to have received a quote from Charles Lindbergh himself only a few hours after the kidnapping allegedly occurred, as that does not happen often in news stories today.

The Washington Post, Times Herald article (2), written 29 years after the kidnapping, provides a full history of detail, and adds some insight to information missing in the NY Times article. For example, in the NY Times article, the speculation of a ransom note is mentioned, but it is reported that "State police denied all knowledge of it." The Washington Post article does in deed mention a ransom note existence, demanding $50,000, and also includes details of the design of the note. A detail that the Washington Post mentions is the reporting, at the time of the kidnapping, of the anguish, sorrow and misery of Col. Lindbergh and his wife. Nowhere in the NY Times article is this mentioned, but instead just the description of how Col. Lindbergh looked on that day, as mentioned previously.

A story that could be compared with this is the kidnapping and homicide case of the nephew, mother and brother of American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson. When reading an article on this case, there are many differences when compared to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping stories. One of the factors that I noticed right away was that in the Lindbergh story, as stated, a quote and other information was obtained from Charles Lindbergh himself, whereas in news stories such as this today, it takes much more than a day, definitely, for a reporter to be able to get a direct quote from a source so closely involved with the case, if they are ever able to obtain one at all.