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CNHI Special Projects

April 15, 2012

Titanic was turning point in global news coverage

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

"We put out a 'flash' and the bare report of the crash," Crane recalled years later in a recollection now kept in the AP Corporate Archive. That news story, stitching together the unthinkable bits of detail from wireless messages, went everywhere in seconds.

At the Times, the now wide-awake copy boy stood by as Van Anda absorbed the one-paragraph wire dispatch:

"CAPE RACE, Newfoundland, Sunday Night, April 14 (AP) — At 10:25 o'clock tonight the White Star Line steamship Titanic called 'CQD' to the Marconi station here, and reported having struck an iceberg. The steamer said that immediate assistance was required."

The Times presses were already running for an early edition. The managing editor fired off assignments and began composing a new front page, trying to make sense of the silence that, according to wire updates, had followed the repeated distress calls.

Editors of many other papers would respond by "playing the story safe by printing the bulletins and writing stories that indicated that no great harm could come to the 'unsinkable' Titanic. Not Van Anda," wrote Meyer Berger in a history of the Times. "Cold reasoning told him she was gone. Paralyzing as the thought was, he acted on it."

The great ship's fate wouldn't be confirmed for many hours. White Star Line officials cast doubt on the seriousness of the accident when reporters from the AP, the Times and others called. But the Times city edition headlines anticipated the worst:

"New Liner Titanic Hits an Iceberg;

Sinking by the Bow at Midnight;

Women Put Off in Lifeboats;

Last Wireless at 12:27 a.m. Blurred"

___

"In terms of news dissemination, the Titanic disaster can be seen as the beginning of what media guru Marshall McLuhan called the 'global village,' though he coined that term with 1960s satellite communication in mind," said communications professor Paul Heyer, author of "Titanic Century: Media, Myth and the Making of a Cultural Icon."

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