David Shedden

David Shedden is a researcher and the library director at the Poynter Institute. Poynter Online daily feature: Today in Media History http://www.poynter.org/category/media-history/


Today in media history: Edward R. Murrow describes the bombing of London in 1940

On September 15, 1940, CBS News radio correspondent Edward R. Murrow described the bombing of London during World War II’s Battle of Britain. Murrow usually opened his broadcasts with the words “This…is London.” During the war he often broadcast from rooftops as bombs fell on the city. But he also told countless stories about the daily life that goes on during a war. They were stories about ordinary people during extraordinary times.

“Even for those of us who live on the crest of London, life is dangerous. Some of the old buildings have gone, but the ghosts, sometimes a whole company of ghosts, remain. There is a thunder of gunfire at night. As these lines were written, as the window shook, there was a candle and matches beside the typewriter just in case the light went out.”

A week later he reported:

“I’m standing again tonight on a rooftop looking out over London, feeling rather large and lonesome.

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Today in media history: John Steinbeck as a journalist

On September 12, 1936, The Nation magazine published John Steinbeck’s article “Dubious Battle in California.” This Depression era article about California labor migrants helped the author develop ideas for his fictional novel, “The Grapes of Wrath.” Here is an excerpt:

“The drought in the Middle West has very recently made available an
enormous amount of cheap labor. Workers have been coming to California
in nondescript cars from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, and other states,
parts of which have been rendered uninhabitable by drought.
Proverty-stricken after the destruction to their farms, their last
reserves used up in making the trip, they have arrived so beaten and
destitute that they have been willing at first to work under any
conditions and for any wages offered. This migration started on a
considerable scale about two years ago and is increasing all the

Video: “Critics’ Picks: ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ — NYTimes.com/Video”

In October 1936 Steinbeck continued his work on this topic with a seven-part series for the San Francisco News called “The Harvest Gypsies.”

“John Steinbeck based much of his fiction on actual events and
experimented with several genres of nonfiction, including personal
essays, travel writing, and political and social commentary.

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Today in media history: 9/11 coverage on Poynter.org

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Bill Mitchell, the editor of Poynter.org, asked me to compile an online resource page about the terrorist attacks.

It was an incredibly busy day as we began posting articles and newspaper front pages about September 11th. Coverage continued for months. A book was soon published.

For the tenth anniversary Poynter updated its book and posted front pages about the 9/11 decade.

Now, thirteen years later, we look back at a few excerpts from Poynter’s original 9/11 stories.

Poynter.org, September 2001

Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark wrote this:

“Doesn’t my brother Ted work near there?

That was the first question I asked myself after witnessing, live on
the air, the second plane crash into what was once the World Trade

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Today in media history: The first Internet search engine is released in 1990

Early online journalists used an Internet search tool called Archie,
which was released on September 10, 1990.

Here’s a screen shot of a Web-based Archie search engine. And here is a link to an archival version posted by the University of Warsaw.

(archie.icm.edu.pl image)

“Originally, the Internet was nothing but a compendium of File
Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites that users could peruse in an attempt to
find specific communal files. As the list of web servers joining the
Internet grew, the World Wide Web became the interface of choice for
accessing information on the Internet. Naturally, the need for finding
and organizing the geographically dispersed data files developed.

In the early 1990s, search engines spawned from users’ needs to
readily navigate the files on the web servers that made up the

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Today in media history: The 1901 assassination and funeral of President McKinley

On September 9, 1901, the press continued to report on the status of President William McKinley after he was shot on September 6th at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. McKinley would not survive and died on September 14. The assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was executed the following October.

McKinley was one of the first presidents to appear on movie film. The Thomas Edison company traveled to Washington, D.C. in March of 1901 to film his swearing-in ceremony.

About six months later the Edison company filmed President McKinley giving a speech at the Pan-American Exposition the day before he was shot by Leon Czolgosz.

“William McKinley, President of the United States, was shot down at the hands of either an anarchist or a lunatic, a few minutes after 4 o’clock…The assassin was captured and is safely in custody, while the President has undergone an operation and is at the home of President Milburn of the Pan-American Exposition, whose guest he has been.

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Today in media history: ‘NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw’ begins

Although he co-anchored with Roger Mudd starting in 1982, Tom Brokaw began anchoring the “NBC Nightly News” as a solo anchor on September 5, 1983. His last broadcast came on December 1, 2004.

Video: “Tom Brokaw’s Road to NBC Nightly News – Oprah’s Master Class – Oprah Winfrey Network.”

“Brokaw began his journalism career in 1962 at KMTV in Omaha, Nebraska. He anchored the late evening news on Atlanta’s WSB-TV in 1965 before joining KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. Brokaw was hired by NBC News in 1966 and from 1976-1981 he anchored NBC News’ ‘Today’ program.”

NBC biography

“While his news credentials are extensive — Mr. Brokaw served as NBC’s White House correspondent in the Watergate era, conducted the first American interview with Mikhail Gorbachev and was the only television journalist to broadcast live from the Berlin Wall as it fell — his impact has had much to do with his personality and his skill as a reliable, measured, classically Middle American storyteller.

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Today in media history: Newsies start delivering papers in 1833

On September 4, 1833, 10-year-old Barney Flaherty answers an ad in the New York Sun and becomes one of the first newsies, or newsboys to distribute newspapers.

“The first unemployed person to apply for a job selling Suns in the streets was a ten-year-old boy, Bernard Flaherty, born in Cork. Years afterward two continents knew him as Barney Williams, Irish comedian, hero of ‘The Emerald Ring,’ and ‘The Connie Soogah,’ and one time manger of Wallack’s old Broadway Theatre.”

— “The Story of the Sun (1833-1918).”
By Frank Michael O’Brien, 1918.

Video: “Newsies at the turn of the century”

“In the movies, scrappy, urban newsboys hawk papers with screaming headlines, shouting, ‘Extra! Extra! Read all about it!’ Real newsboys in the late 19th and early 20th century, however, were very different from the Hollywood image of lovable street urchins singing and dancing in the streets.

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Today in media history: Pierre Omidyar starts eBay

AuctionWeb, an online auction website that would later be known as eBay, was founded by Pierre Omidyar on September 3, 1995.

Posted below is an excerpt from one of the first AuctionWeb messages.

Hello folks,

Here is the current listing of non-computer items for auction at AuctionWeb:


All items are offered by the individual sellers, and anyone is free to bid on any item, or to add items, free of charge.

For more information about any of these items, please visit the AuctionWeb site at the above URL.



AuctionWeb Listings

Click on the title to get an expanded description or to bid on that item. These items are not verified by AuctionWeb; caveat emptor. You may jump to a particular category using this list:
– Antiques, Collectibles
– Automotive
– Books & Comics
– Computer Hardware
– Computer Software
– Consumer Electronics
– Miscellaneous

In 2002 the CBS News program “60 Minutes” profiled the company.… Read more

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Timeline of Katharine Weymouth and The Washington Post

The Graham family connection to The Washington Post began on June 1, 1933 when Eugene Meyer, the great-grandfather of Katharine Weymouth, bought the paper at a bankruptcy sale for $825,000.

We have compiled this short timeline about Weymouth and The Post as a reminder of the most interesting chapters in the history of the Graham dynasty’s relationship with its former paper.

May 1966
Katharine Weymouth is born to Lally and Yann Weymouth. She grows up in New York City. Her mother is the eldest of four children of Katharine and Philip Graham.

Benjamin Bradlee is named executive editor of The Post.

June 15, 1971
The Washington Post Company goes public with the sale of common stock.

June 18, 1971
The newspaper starts publishing the Pentagon Papers.… Read more


Today in media history: Continuing coverage of Princess Diana’s death and funeral

On September 2, 1997, the major news story continued to be the death of Princess Diana. She, along with her companion Dodi Fayed and their driver, were killed August 31st. They were traveling in a Paris tunnel near the Eiffel Tower. Questions arose immediately whether attempts by the paparazzi to photograph the couple may have led to their high-speed car crash. Her Westminster Abbey funeral took place on September 6th.

(Video from the BBC: “Breaking News of Lady Diana Crash”)

“Diana, Princess of Wales, was reported to have died in a road crash in France early this morning in which her close companion, Dodi Fayed, was also killed.

The accident happened as their limousine was allegedly chased through the west of Paris by paparazzi — freelance photographers — on motorbikes.

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