David Shedden

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David Shedden is a researcher and the library director at the Poynter Institute. Poynter Online daily feature: "Today in Media History"


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Today in Media History: 100 years ago the press reported on the sinking of the Lusitania

Editor’s note: After today, David Shedden will be taking a temporary break from Today in Media History to work on another project. The feature will return soon.

On May 7, 1915, the news media reported that the British ocean liner Lusitania had been torpedoed by a World War I German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. More than 1,100 people died.

Here is a story excerpt from The Washington Post:

LONDON, May 8– The Cunard liner Lusitania, which sailed out of New York last Saturday with more than 2,000 souls aboard, lies at the bottom of the ocean off the Irish coast.

She was sunk by a German submarine, which sent two torpedoes crashing into her side while the passengers, seemingly confident that the great swift vessel could elude the German underwater craft, were having lunch.

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Today in Media History: Hindenburg explodes and a reporter cries out, ‘Oh, the humanity’

On May 6, 1937, the German airship Hindenburg exploded over Lakehurst, New Jersey after a flight from Germany.

A reporter for Chicago radio station WLS described the accident, “It burst into flame and it’s falling….this is terrible, this is one of the worst catastrophes in the world….oh, the humanity.”

The front page of the Mount Carmel (Pennsylvania) Item:

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Herb Morrison was working for Chicago radio station WLS when he traveled to the Lakehurst Naval Station in New Jersey to record what should have been another routine landing of the German airship Hindenburg. WLS engineer Charles Nehlsen and Morrison brought a disc machine to record the story. Morrison’s detailed description of the ship’s landing was running quite smoothly when the hydrogen-filled dirigible burst into flames. Read more

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Today in Media History: In 1961 reporters described the first U.S. manned space flight

On May 5, 1961, the news media reported that Alan Shepard had become America’s first man in space. He reached an altitude of 115 miles during a 15 minute flight aboard his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule.

Alan Shepard was not the first man in space. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made the first manned space flight. His spacecraft, Vostok 1, circled the earth one time.

Shepard’s flight was a major news story around the world. Here is an excerpt from a Miami Herald article:

Alan Shepard’s remarkably uneventful space flight didn’t make the United States the front runner in the race to conquer space Friday, but it did put us ahead of Russia in one key way. It proved men can pilot space ships.

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Today in Media History: 1953 Pulitzer winners included Ernest Hemingway

One year before Ernest Hemingway won a Nobel Prize, he was awarded a Pulitzer.

The prizes were announced on May 4, 1953, and the news media soon reported that Hemingway’s book, “The Old Man and the Sea,” earned the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. (Trivia question: How many times are newspapers mentioned in the book? The old man not only liked to read newspapers, but he also used them to sleep on. The boy in the story carried bait wrapped in a newspaper.)

A headline and story excerpt from the Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Sentinel:

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The following comes from a New York Times article titled, “1953 Pulitzer Prizes Won By Hemingway and ‘Picnic’”:

….Mr. Hemingway, who became world-famous with the publication of “A Farewell to Arms” a generation back, was honored for a short novel about a simple Cuban fisherman.

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Today in Media History: In 2011, Twitter broke the news of Osama bin Laden’s death

Were you following Twitter four years ago today?

On May 1, select journalists received simple, three-word e-mails from the White House: “Get to work.” The President had an announcement to make, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said. Almost immediately, speculation of the news erupted on Twitter, and many zeroed in on a possible Osama bin Laden announcement. At 10:25 p.m. E.T., Keith Urbahn (@keithurbahn), chief of staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was the first who seemed to confirm the suspicions. President Obama confirmed bin Laden’s death himself during a live broadcast announcement at 11:35 p.m.

Time Magazine

CNN reported:

(CNN) — As U.S.

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Today in Media History: News reports described the end of the Vietnam War

Although United States military involvement officially stopped in 1973, it was South Vietnam’s surrender on April 30, 1975 that marked the end of the Vietnam War.

The news media first began reporting on U.S. involvement in Vietnam during the late 1950s. And the press was there when the war ended in 1975 as North Vietnamese forces captured the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon.

Page one news from The (Pennsylvania) Courier-Express:

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The Associated Press described the fall of Saigon:

The Saigon government surrendered unconditionally today and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops occupied the capital….And U.S. officials struggled with the logistics of resettling the estimated 45,000 South Vietnamese it helped evacuate from the country before the surrender. The end of official American presence in the country came late Tuesday.

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Today in Media History: Wall Street Journal launched its first full online site in 1996

On April 29, 1996, The Wall Street Journal launched its first full online news site. It was called “The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition.”

The newspaper had earlier experimented with an online dialup service and a money & investing website.

They described their new site in a story titled, “The Wall Street Journal Launches Interactive Edition”:

The Wall Street Journal Monday introduces its Interactive Edition, an electronic newspaper that works through the burgeoning Internet to deliver high-quality, timely business news and information around the clock and around the globe.

The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition provides continually updated news 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a personalized news report, updated stock and mutual-fund prices and in-depth background information. The publication draws on the world-wide news-gathering resources of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Journal.

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Today in Media History: News apps were still years away when iTunes opened in 2003

The Apple iTunes music store opened for Mac users on April 28, 2003. iTunes for Windows was released a few months later in October 2003.

On July 11, 2008, Apple’s iTunes App store opened with 500 third-party applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. By the end of 2009 there would be more than 100,000 applications available. The New York Times and Associated Press were two of the first iPhone news applications launched.

Here is an excerpt from the Apple press release announcing iTunes:

CUPERTINO, California — April 28, 2003 — Apple today launched the iTunes Music Store, a revolutionary online music store that lets customers quickly find, purchase and download the music they want for just 99 cents per song, without subscription fees. The iTunes Music Store offers groundbreaking personal use rights, including burning songs onto an unlimited number of CDs for personal use, listening to songs on an unlimited number of iPods, playing songs on up to three Macintosh computers, and using songs in any application on the Mac, including iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD.

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Today in Media History: The big computer story of 1981 was about a little mouse

We mentioned in an earlier “Today in Media History” that computer mouse technology can be traced back to the 1960s.

But it wasn’t until April 27, 1981 that the mouse was introduced commercially as part of the innovative, yet very expensive, Xerox 8010 Star Information System.

The Xerox Star workstation was a commercial failure, but the mouse lived on with the release of Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh computers.

“In April of 1981, Xerox introduced the 8010 ‘Star’ Information System. Star’s introduction was an important event in the history of personal computing because it changed notions of how interactive systems should be designed.

….When Star was first introduced in 1981, its bitmapped screen, windows, mouse-driven interface, and icons were unique in the marketplace. They were readily-apparent features that clearly distinguished it from other computers.

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Today in Media History: The U.S. aborted a rescue mission to free the hostages in Iran

Thirty-five years ago, the U.S. aborted a Delta Force operation to rescue the U.S. hostages in Iran.

Here’s a story excerpt from The Washington Post:

“The United States tried and failed to rescue the American hostages in Iran with a commando-style raid in which eight U.S. crewmen were killed, the White House announced today.

The military operation, according to a post-midnight statement from the White House, was ‘aborted’ because of an equipment failure, followed by a collision of two aircraft, at a remote desert location, in which the eight were killed and others injured.

The American troops, including the injured, were then airlifted safely from the unknown staging site in Iran, according to the statement issued by White House press secretary Jody Powell….”

A page one headline from the suburban Chicago newspaper, The Daily Herald:

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The Daily Pennsylvanian published an AP story titled, “Hostage Rescue Aborted, Ends In Plane Crash”:

“The White House announced early this morning that a daring military effort to rescue American hostages held in Tehran was aborted because of ‘equipment failure.’ A collision of two U.S.

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