How the breaking story of the Titanic sinking was covered by the New York Times in 1912

April 10th, 2012

Amazing how the media worked before all the stuff we have today:

Then the wait began. The Carpathia, the ship that had picked up the passengers, would not arrive until Thursday.

The mission was obvious: Interview Titanic survivors disembarking — as many as possible. The time pressure was impossible: The deadline was 12:30 a.m. Having waited most of the week for the Carpathia arrival, Mr. Van Anda and his staff would now have three hours to get the story.

To save time, The Times rented a floor in the Strand Hotel, across from the pier, and installed telephone lines that were connected to the newsroom in Times Square. As soon as a reporter had something — a quote, an anecdote — he was to dash to the Strand, grab one of The Times’s phones and dictate it.

“We must get the Titanic wireless man’s story, if he’s alive,” declared The Times’s city editor, Arthur Greaves, “and we want the Carpathia’s wireless man.”

So while most of the Times team left the newsroom for the pier, Mr. Van Anda sent one reporter in the opposite direction, to where Guglielmo Marconi was having dinner. Mr. Van Anda, who was friends with Marconi, apparently asked him to help his reporter, Jim Speers, onto the Carpathia.

Marconi and Mr. Speers — and Joseph Bottomley, the general manager of Marconi’s operations in the United States — went downtown together and pushed through the crowd at the pier. Marconi introduced himself and the two others to police officers posted at the Carpathia.

“No reporters,” said the officer, who mistakenly waved off Bottomley and admitted Marconi and Mr. Speers. Mr. Speers soon found the man on Mr. Greaves’s most-wanted list — the Titanic’s telegrapher, Harold Bride. The Times published Mr. Bride’s first-person account, dictated to Mr. Speers, on the front page.