News From Terre Haute, Indiana

CNHI Special Projects

April 15, 2012

Titanic was turning point in global news coverage

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

Yet another journalist evaded the police embargo, though his story involved luck as well as pluck. Carlos F. Hurd of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch happened to be aboard the Carpathia for a vacation with his wife when it rescued the Titanic survivors. En route back to New York, he interviewed many of them, and then, defying the crew's orders, hurled his copy, which he'd tied to a buoy, onto a tug sent alongside in the Hudson River by the paper's fiercely competitive owner, Joseph Pulitzer.

Although Titanic news would remain on many front pages for weeks, it became a different story now.

There was coverage of the return of the dead. From Halifax, Nova Scotia, AP's Frank Elser described the "rough coffins" stacked at the stern of a recovery ship.

Newspapers closely followed a U.S. Senate investigation, at which, among many others, some top editors were called to testify about how well or poorly the public had been informed. AP's Stone spoke against withholding information from the public in a major disaster, calling it a "mistake to make merchandise out of that."

When the Senate inquiry turned to whether aid might have reached the Titanic sooner, it got an explosive assist from a news story.

There were suggestions that the ship Californian, which had stopped for the night because of the ice danger, might have been close enough to make a rescue; its captain waved the notion away. But a crewmember, Ernest Gill, told The Boston American a devastating version of events: The Californian, its wireless turned off for the night, saw the Titanic's repeated distress flares, and the captain was informed but took no action before going back to sleep. In the story, Gill estimated the ships were just 10 miles apart.

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