Friday, October 26, 2012

Today in journalism history

Wondering what to do with your Friday night in Chicago? Here's the menu at the Chicago Telenews (part of a national chain of newsreel theaters) from Oct. 25, 1946, as it appeared in the World's Greatest Newspaper.

The Nuremberg executions had occurred just over a week earlier (Oct. 16). As far as I know, the only visual record of the actual event was a set of stills by an official photographer, kept under wraps for a few days by the Allied Control Commission and then released -- except in Britain, which thought that sort of a display pretty barbaric -- to the press. (The Trib ran them as a backpage spread.) Here's how the Detroit News saw the matter in 1946:

A Reuters report has Nuernberg swept with rumors that none of the Nazis condemned to death by the war crimes tribunal was hanged Wednesday morning, but that straw dummies were strung up in their places.

Another indestructible myth is born.

... All of this could have been foreseen by anyone familiar with the traditional circumstances in which dozens of such fantasies have become imbedded in popular superstition; and it was, in fact, foreseen by many, speaking for the American press, who argued fruitlessly for the widest possible publicity for the hangings, against exactly the possibility which has now materialized.

 ... The whole episode should have been photographed by the press ... and these photographs should have  been widely circulated. The secrecy which shrouded the occasion was ill-advised from the start; it is conceivable that at some later day it may prove disastrous. And those responsible are in no position now to say they were not warned.
It was in some ways very much like, and in others very much not like, the on-and-off feud over the Bin Laden photos. Kind of interesting to think of all that in an era in which a nine-day delay was as close to "real time" as moving images got. (Well, that and CLOSEUPS OF OCEAN MONSTERS for a chaser.)



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