History of American Journalism Trivia
Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge
In 1835, The New York Sun reported that an eminent scientist had discovered life on the moon. The series of articles, part of an elaborate attempt to boost circulation, included descriptions of large lunar beavers that walked upright, lived in huts, and carried their children in their arms.35
Joseph Pulitzer, publisher and editor of the New York World, and the benefactor of the Pulitzer Prize, suffered from a series of illnesses and nervous disorder that left him highly sensitive to sound. When he stayed in a hotel, therefore, he rented the rooms above, below, and on each side of his own.36
The New York Herald, arguably the first successful modern newspaper, became America's most popular daily in the 1840s largely on the basis of its salacious, tabloid-like coverage of scandal and crime. The hottest story of the day was the gruesome murder, in her own bed, of the beautiful prostitute Helen Jewett; the Herald milked the story for all it was worth by printing titillating descriptions of her naked, dead body: "What a sight burst upon me!" wrote editor James Gordon Bennett after touring the crime scene. "There stood an elegant double mahogany bed, all covered with burnt pieces of linen, blankets, pillows black as cinders. I could scarcely look at it [the body] for a second or two. Slowly I began to discover the lineaments of the corpse, as one would the beauties of a statue of marble. It was the most remarkable sight I ever beheld—I never have, and never expect to see such another. 'My God,' exclaimed I, 'how like a statue! I can scarcely conceive that form to be a corpse.' Not a vein was to be seen. The body looked as white—as full—as polished as the pure Parian marble. The perfect figure—the exquisite limbs—the fine face—the full arms—the beautiful bust—all—all surpassing in every respect the Venus de Medicis.... For a few moments I was lost in admiration at this extraordinary sight—a beautiful female corpse—that surpassed the finest statue of antiquity."
Four years after he wrote The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx accepted a job as a London-based foreign correspondent for the New York Tribune, the popular penny paper operated by the decidedly capitalistic American publisher Horace Greeley. Predictably, Marx and Greeley eventually feuded; the intellectual godfather of international Communism quit the paper in 1861 following a dispute with Greeley over his wages. At one point, Marx described Greeley to his fellow revolutionary Friedrich Engels as a "jackass with the face of an angel."