Tuesday, December 13, 2011

100 years ago today: Some are more equal than others

One hundred years ago today, December 13 1911, this is what the left hand side of the front page of The New York Evening World looked like:

Princess Louise was not an American. Her husband was not an American. Her children were not Americans. Neither the Princess, nor her husband, nor her daughters were (or had been) involved in negotiations with the American government. The steamship in question had not departed from, nor was it heading to, the United States of America. Had the Princess Royal, her husband or their daughters, been injured or even killed there would have been no direct or indirect impact on the government of the United States.

The miners whose desperate raps signaled to rescuers that there were still men alive in the "ruined colliery"--they were citizens of the same country as the editors, writers and readers of The Evening World. The collapsed mine and the dead and endangered miners were not even located on the other side of the country let alone across an ocean and off the coast of a different continent. Yet the news of that scores of men had yet to be rescued after the explosion at the Cross Mountain coal mine was not even one of the two most important stories of the day as one can see:

One could make the argument that the stories about Sheepshead Bay and Ethel Conrad were of parochial interest to New Yorkers. One might even make the argument that the trial of the "labor bombers" in Indianapolis was also relevant to New Yorkers because, "New York, Brooklyn and Hoboken Ask Evident to Use in Local Prosecutions" though that relevance does not seem so pressing that it merits sharing the top half of the front page with news of a mine disaster in Tennessee. But the news about Princess Louise? That unmasks the news values that underlie the choice and placement of stories. News about the lives of rich and socially "important" people from other countries was at least as important as the lives of working class Americans.

The last bodies of trapped miners were not located until December 19 1911. Those two men, Alonzo Wood and Eugene Ault, had survived long enough to build a barricade in an effort to protect themselves from the gasses in the mine and to write farewell messages to their families on the wall.

1 comment:

  1. So I see that nothing much has changed. Did last spring's "Royal Wedding" change any American's life one iota? But what a kerfuffle about it!

    Also, I read that other headline as "Eight Labor Men Will Be Inducted As Bomb Plotters." And I'm thinking, they had public ceremonies to admit people into secret evil conspiracies? Cool.


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