Written by by Edward J. Bennett
When radio stations began to move into smaller communities after World War II, they were staffed by an engineer to run the station, some salespeople, and an announcer or two.
Most radio people had no newspaper experience. They were not equipped to gather, edit and process news. In many cases the stations in small communities relied heavily for their news on the hometown daily; so fortunate indeed was the broadcaster with a newspaper in town.
One early radio station licensed to broadcast in the western part of New Hampshire was located at Claremont. WTSV was fortunate to have in town the Eagle which has been published there as a daily since 1913.
Soon after I became publisher of the Eagle in 1961, its managing editor, Nelson Bryant, complained frequently – and often bitterly – that WTSV was cribbing local news from our newspaper, then broadcasting it over the air; of course with no attribution to the Eagle.
Bryant explained that the station would send someone up to the Eagle’s pressroom right after the papers began to roll off the press around 1 o’clock in the afternoon. With a copy hot off the press, the radio station messenger would hightail it back to the station, just in time for the 1:30 PM news which would be read over the airwaves, direct from the pages of the Eagle.
“You can even hear the pages rustling,” complained the disgusted Bryant. The managing editor was outraged at this blatant plagiarism and argued with ingenuity that we manufacture a special edition, “just for the radio station”.
The Eagle’s news staff were pitched into this project with alacrity. Assignments were handed out by Bryant for all sorts of bogus stories, and when the work was done and set into type, it was a work of geniuses, motivated in their work as never before.
Before the plates of the regular afternoon edition of the Eagle were strapped to the press, this very special page passed through the stereotype room to the pressroom, where only one or two were in fact run through the press.
When WTSV’s representative arrived at the Eagle on schedule, he unknowingly picked up this bogus edition and hurried back to the station. Everyone at the Eagle gathered around the radio that afternoon for the news. And startling news it was.
“The fire department had been called out for suspicious fires at the Moody Hotel,” one story read. The broadcaster continued, “And the police report that the chief’s car was stolen right in front of the station.” Also, “the school superintendant was apprehended for impaired driving – and in a school bus.”
WTSV had swallowed the Eagle’s bogus front page hook, line, and sinker. The entire newspaper’s staff was rolling in the aisle. It was the best show to hit Claremont in a year.
Pretty soon the radio station’s phone was ringing off the hook. “What the hell do you mean,” asked the chief of police, “that my car was stolen? And the school superintendent (a known teetotaler) driving a bus under the influence?”
The station’s distraught manager soon admitted that its source of information had been that afternoon’s Eagle. “Blame them,” he said, “not us.”
But no copy of the Eagle to match the one at WTSV could even be found, and for good reason: Theirs was the only one extant.
Hot Off the Press is taken from "Yankee Editor" Vignettes & Anecdotes by a New England Country Editor and Legislator by Edward J. Bennett. The first printing of Yankee Editor was sold out and a second printing has been released by HNH Publishing.
Vignettes & Anecdotes by a New England Country Editor and Legislator
By Edward J. Bennett.
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