The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

CNHI Special Projects

April 15, 2012

Titanic was turning point in global news coverage

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

He later described the scene: "I got off the first line and a half, where it said, 'The Titanic sank at 2 o'clock a.m.,' and there was not a reporter left in the room — they were so anxious to get out to telephone the news."

Another information blackout followed: The Carpathia relayed lists of the survivors it had picked up, but didn't respond to the clamor for other news. It turned out that a Marconi company official had advised the ship's telegraph operators not to divulge anything; the news would command greater value on arrival. In fact, a deal between Marconi and the Times for exclusive interviews of the radiomen had been worked out — a news-withholding arrangement that Giuseppe Marconi himself later promised not to repeat.

Editors knew the story would reach a crescendo with the Carpathia's arrival in New York harbor, and they prepared as if for war.

"The Associated Press established headquarters in a hotel facing the dock where the Carpathia landed, with special telegraph and telephone lines reaching the general office at 195 Broadway," a brief history in AP's corporate archive reported. Supplemental staffers arrived from Washington and Albany, and the news service's general manager, Melville Stone, spent the night at the emergency offices.

Other news organizations similarly girded. The Times booked an entire floor of the nearby Strand Hotel, and laid plans for 16 reporters to meet the ship. Van Anda had an ace up his sleeve: He sent reporter Jim Speers to meet Marconi, who was dining with a company official, John Bottomley. The Marconi men would be among the few allowed to board the Carpathia before passengers disembarked. Reporters were strictly forbidden.

When Marconi, Bottomley and Speers arrived together at the Carpathia's gangway, a policeman barked, "Mr. Marconi can come, and his manager." But who was the manager? Without hesitating, reporter Speers bounded aboard with Marconi. He sought out Titanic radioman Harold Bride, and interviewed him for a riveting front page story.

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