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Accident Crime

=210. Accident and Crime Stories
Accident and crime stories are
grouped together because they are handled alike and because they differ
from each other only in point of view, or in the fact that in the one
some one is guilty of lawbreaking, while in the other the participants
are merely unfortunate. The two, of course, frequently overlap, since a
death or a wreck which at first may seem purely accidental may later
prove to have been the result of a criminal act. In this chapter,
however, accident stories will be taken to include fires, street-car
smash-ups, railroad wrecks, automobile collisions, runaways, explosions,
mine disasters, strokes of lightning, drownings, floods, storms,
shipwrecks, etc. In the list of crime will be placed murders, assaults,
suicides, suspicious deaths, robberies, embezzlements, arson, etc. Of
the accident class, the method of writing a fire story may be taken as a
type for the whole group.

=211. Lead to a Fire Story
Ordinarily the lead to a story of a fire
should tell what was destroyed, the location of the property, the extent
of the damage, the occupants or owners, the time, the cause, and what
made the loss possible,--answering, in other words, the questions who,
what, when, where, why, how, and how much. Thus:

Fire originating in a pile of shavings crawled
across a 100-yard stretch of dry Bermuda grass at an
early hour this morning, destroying the cotton
warehouse at 615 Railroad Street, owned by J. O.
Hunnicut, president of the First National Bank. The
loss is $25,000 with no insurance.

=212. Lives Lost or Endangered
The fire lead may feature any one or
more of a dozen individual incidents. Loss of, or danger to, life,
unless other features are exceptional, should take precedence over every
other particular.

Six women are dead and ten seriously injured as a
result of the destruction by fire, Tuesday morning,
of the Gold and Green Club, 1818 Chestnut Street,
entailing a loss of $30,000.

=213. Lists of Killed or Wounded
In writing a story where a number of
persons have been killed or injured, the reporter should observe the
following directions:

1. Separate the names of the dead from those of the injured, putting the
list of dead first.

2. Record the names in alphabetical order, placing surnames first.

3. Put each name, with the age, address, occupation or business, nature
and extent of the injury, and any care given, in a separate paragraph.

4. Underscore the names with wave lines so that they shall be printed in
display type.


Three boys borrowed their father's pipes and took
their first lesson in smoking yesterday in John
Cadie's hayloft on the Anton road.

=The Dead=

=Heinie Pindle, 8 years old, charred body found in
ashes of the barn.=

=The Injured=

=Olin Swendson, 9 years old, burned about face and
arms while trying to save Heinie Pindle.=

=Ben Adams, 9 years old, leg broken in jump from the

=214. Acts of Heroism
Acts of heroism involving danger to or loss of
life are always good for features.

Remaining at her post through the thick of the fire
that destroyed the heart of Necedah to-day,
Wisconsin's only woman telephone magnate, Miss Hazel
Bulgar, proved the heroine of the day. While the
flames threatened her building, she took the
switchboard herself, called the fire departments of
all neighboring cities, and transmitted calls for

=215. Remarkable Escapes
Remarkable escapes from burning buildings,
in their appeal to the elemental struggle for life, make valuable

Using a window blind and a single thread of
telephone wire as a means of escape, Carl Hardiman,
24, 216 Northcliff avenue, swung himself into space
four stories above the level of the street at 8:00
o'clock this morning and crawled hand over hand from
the burning wax factory to a telephone pole across
the street.

=216. Humorous, Pathetic, or Daring Incidents
Humorous, pathetic, or
daring incidents are worth featuring strongly, particularly when they
involve children, aged persons, or animals.

Tige, aged 4, was only a collie dog, but he will
have the biggest funeral to-morrow ever given a
member of the Lilliman family. He dragged two of the
children out of the blazing kitchen at 487
Birmingham avenue and was so badly burned trying to
save the nine months baby, Dan, that he died this
morning. Every hair was burned from his body.

Just inside the front entrance, within six inches of
God's fresh air and life, the bodies of 21 girls,
ranging in age from 6 to 18 years, were found this
morning after the fire that destroyed the St.
Patrick's Girls' school.

=217. Cause of Fire
The cause of the fire, if unusual or mysterious,
may be featured.

A set of cotton Santa Claus whiskers and a Christmas
candle caused the death Wednesday night of Allen
Palmer, 18, 1416 Magnolia Avenue, and the
destruction by fire of the Lake Mills Methodist

=218. Buildings or Property
The particular buildings, if especially
valuable by reason of their age, location, or cost of construction, may
be features.

Historic Grace Episcopal Church in South Wabash
Avenue, considered one of the finest examples of
French Gothic architecture in the city since it was
erected nearly fifty years ago, was destroyed to-day
in a fire that did damage estimated at $500,000.

The main building of the Union Switch and Signal
Company, of the Westinghouse interests, at
Swissvale, where thousands of shells have been
manufactured for the Allies, was swept by fire this
afternoon, entailing a loss estimated at $4,000,000.
Officials of the company said that the origin of the
fire had not been determined.

=219. Other Features
Similarly, one may feature any one of a number
of other particulars: as, the occupants of the building, the owners, any
prominent persons involved, the amount and character of the damage, the
amount of insurance, how the fire was discovered, how it spread, when
the alarm was given, the promptness or delay of the fire department,
etc. Any one of these particulars may be featured, provided it has
unusual importance or interest.

=220. Body of the Fire Story
The body of the fire story may continue
with such of the details enumerated in the preceding paragraphs as are
not used in the lead. Somewhere in the story the extent of the damage
and the amount of insurance should be given. Those are sufficiently
important particulars to be included always. Greater emphasis and action
can be given the story, particularly in case of loss of life or great
damage, by quoting direct statements of eye-witnesses or of persons
injured. A janitor's account of how the fire started, or how he
discovered it, or a woman's story of how she knew the night before that
something terrible was going to happen, always adds greatly to the

=221. Rumors at Fires
In reporting a fire, however, particularly a
big one, the reporter should guard against the wild rumors about the
extent of the loss, the number of persons injured or burned to death,
the certainty of arson, etc., which usually gain currency among the
spectators. Such stories are always exaggerated, and they account for
the fact that first news accounts of fires are frequently overdrawn. The
reporter should never take such stories at their face value, but should
investigate for himself until he knows his details are accurate. Or if
he cannot prove them either false or true, he should omit them entirely
or record them as mere rumors. Above all, he must keep his head. With
the hundreds--sometimes thousands--of spectators pushed beyond the fire
lines, the roar of fire engines, the scream of whistles, the wild
lights, and the general pandemonium, it is often difficult to remain
calm. Yet it is only by keeping absolutely cool that one can judge
accurately the value of the information obtained and can put that
information into the best news form. Only the reporter who at all times
retains entire possession of himself is able to write the most forceful,
interesting, and readable fire stories.

=222. Accident Stories in General
Accident stories in general follow
the same constructive plans as those given for fires. The lead should
play up the number of lives lost or endangered, the cause of the
accident, the extent of the damage or injury, the time, and the place,
answering the questions who, what, when, where, why, and
how. Any one of these may be featured according to its importance. If
a number of persons have been killed or hurt, and their names are
obtainable, a list of the dead and the injured should be made as
indicated on page 150. Then the body of the story may continue in simple
chronological order, reserving unimportant details until the last. The
following is a good illustration of an accident story:


Wilmington, Del., Nov. 29.--Thirty-one men were
killed and six fatally injured to-day in an
explosion of approximately four tons of black powder
in a packing house at the Upper Hagley yard of the
E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., on Brandywine Creek,
three miles north of this city.

The cause of the explosion is not known. One
official says, "There is not a thread on which to
hang any hope that the origin will be definitely

After the blast, termed the worst in the last
twenty-five years, it was recalled that notices
recently had been tacked on trees and fences near
the yards, and even on fences within the plant,
warning workmen to quit the mills by Jan. 1. At the
time, the posting of the notices was believed to be
an attempt by German sympathizers to intimidate the
men. Extra guards were ordered about the plants and
the United States Secret Service began an
investigation, it was reported.

Du Pont Company officials have ordered a searching
investigation, and every employee who was near the
destroyed building will be put through an
examination in an effort to get some clue as to the
cause of the explosion....[21]

[21] New York World, December 1, 1915.

It is worth noting, in this story, the shrewdness with which the
reporter plays up the probable cause of the accident, adding to the
actual facts and promising possible further developments in to-morrow's

=223. Stories of the Weather
The weather takes its place in the
accident division of news stories because of its frequent harmful
effects on life and property. Men's pursuits are all a gamble on the
weather. Usually a story about the weather depends for its value largely
on the felicity of its language, though when there has been severe
atmospheric disturbance, resulting in loss of life, destruction of
property, or delayed traffic, a simple narrative of events is sufficient
to hold the reader's attention. The following are different types of
weather story, the first being of the pure accident type, the second, of
the more commonplace daily routine.


Rain, hail, snow, sleet, gales, thunder and
lightning combined in an extraordinary manner early
yesterday to give New York one of the most peculiar
storms the city ever experienced. Four persons died
and scores were injured. Unfinished buildings were
blown down, roofs were blown off, and signs

The storm played havoc with the railroads, delaying
trains and adding to the difficulty of moving
freight. It made so much trouble for the New Haven
that the company last night issued a notice saying
that "on account of storms and accumulation of
loaded cars" only live stock, perishable freight,
food products, and coal would be carried over
portions of the line.

Adrift in the gale, fifteen canal barges and cargo
scows from South Amboy, N. J., went ashore at Sandy
Hook after those on board, including twenty women
and children, had suffered from exposure and one man
washed overboard from the barge Henrietta had been
drowned. The California and the Stockholm, with
passengers on board and inbound, were delayed by the
storm and will reach port to-day.

The wind in Newark unroofed the almshouse, injuring
two aged women, blew down buildings, smashed
windows, and crippled the entire wire service of the

(Then follows a detailed account of the dead, the
injured, and the delay of traffic.)

[22] New York Herald, December 27, 1915.


Indianapolis to-day stands on the brink between rain
and snow. Before to-morrow dawns it may bend
slightly one way or the other, meteorologically
speaking, and the result will be little flakes of
snow or little drops of water. It is forecast that
to-morrow its feet will slip entirely and it will be
plunged into the abyss of cold weather. The forecast
is the work of the weather man, who has some
reputation locally and elsewhere as a forecaster of
questionable accuracy.

Cold weather is drifting this way on northwest
winds, says the weather man, and soon will be hard
by in the offing, ready to pounce on Indianapolis.
The fate of Indianapolis is to be the fate of
Indiana also, and of the entire Middle West, for the
weather man is no respecter of localities, and when
he once gets started forecasts with utter

The Northwest has experienced a drop of 20 degrees
in temperature and the cold wave is rapidly sweeping
this way. It is due to reach Indianapolis to-morrow
morning. The local forecast is for cloudy to-night
and Wednesday, with probabilities of rain or snow,
and colder Wednesday. It was the same for the state,
but rain was predicted for the south part and snow
for the north.

The temperature in Indianapolis at 7 o'clock this
morning was 38 degrees, a drop of 6 degrees being
recorded in the last twenty-four hours. The coming
cold wave is expected to give this part of the
country its first real touch of winter. The
temperature hovered near the zero mark in the
northwest. The weather bureau reported snow in
Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.[23]

[23] Indianapolis News, October 28, 1913.

To write this second type of story interestingly means that the reporter
must exert himself especially, since the daily routine of weather
reports soon becomes wearing in its monotony,--so much so that one finds
it exceedingly difficult to present with any degree of originality the
same old little-varying facts from day to day. Yet one's readers are
always interested in just this item of news, and one can be sure of
more expectant readers for this particular story than perhaps for any
other single item in the paper.

=224. Deaths and Funerals
Stories of deaths and funerals may be
included in the monotonous class of accident news. There is this
additional difficulty in writing death and funeral stories, however,
that in attempting to write sympathetically, appreciatively, of the
person who has died, and so meet the expectations of surviving friends
and relatives, one is running always on the border line of bathos. It is
probably easier to make oneself ridiculous in such stories than in any
other kind of news article. As a result, most newspapers require their
reporters to confine themselves to bare statements of facts concerning
the dead person's life.

=225. Content of Death Stories
There are a few facts which all death
stories should contain. The person's name, age, street address, and
position or business should normally be included in the lead, with
possibly a statement of the cause of his death. The duration of his
illness may well follow. Then may come the names of surviving relatives
and any relationships with persons well known, locally or nationally. If
the person is married, the date of the marriage, the maiden name of the
wife, and any interesting circumstances connected with the marriage may
be recalled. The length of residence in the city should also be
included, with possibly a statement of the person's birthplace and the
occasion of his settlement in the city. If the person is a man or a
woman of wealth, an account of his or her holdings and how they were
acquired is always interesting. The story may close with the names of
the pallbearers, the time and place of the funeral, the name of the
minister officiating, and the place of burial. The following story of
the death of Justice Lamar, while not observing the order of events just
given, is an excellent illustration of a dignified presentation of the
facts in a man's life. (The article has necessarily been abbreviated
because of its length.)


Washington, D. C., Sunday.--Mr. Joseph Rucker Lamar,
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United
States, died to-night at his home in this city after
an intermittent illness of several months. The
immediate cause of his death was a severe cold,
which he contracted ten days ago, and which proved
too great a strain for his weakened heart.

Justice Lamar's health began to fail early last
summer and he was obliged to absent himself from his
duties on the bench. His physicians advised a long
period of rest, as they feared that over-work would
seriously affect the action of his heart.
Accordingly, he spent the greater part of the summer
at White Sulphur Springs and returned to Washington
about two months ago feeling much improved.

His condition was not such, however, that it
permitted him to attend the sessions of the Court,
although he was able to take outdoor exercise. Two
days before Christmas he contracted a heavy cold and
was obliged to go to bed. Specialists were
consulted, but he gradually grew weaker until this
afternoon, when he sank into unconsciousness and
passed away peacefully just before nine o'clock.

At his bedside when the end came were Mrs. Lamar and
their two sons. Chief Justice White arrived at the
Lamar home within a few minutes after the death of
his colleague.

The funeral ceremonies will be in accordance with
the custom of the court. It is probable that the
services will be held on Tuesday and that interment
will be at the family home in Ruckersville, Ga.

Justice Lamar was born at Ruckersville, Elbert
county, Ga., on October 14, 1857, the son of the
Rev. James S. and Mary Rucker Lamar. He attended the
University of Georgia. He was graduated from Bethany
College, West Virginia, in 1877. After a year in the
Washington and Lee University Law School, he was
admitted to the bar at Augusta, Ga. There he lived
until appointed to the Supreme Court.

He was a cousin of the late Associate Justice L. Q.
C. Lamar, of Mississippi, who was a member of the
United States Supreme Court from 1888 to 1893.

When Justice Lamar went on the Supreme Court bench
he was little known beyond the borders of his own
state. Mr. Taft became acquainted with him a short
time before his inauguration when the
President-elect was playing golf at Augusta. Justice
Lamar had been a member of the Supreme Court only a
few months, however, when his ability was
recognized. His opinions were regarded as
masterpieces of logical reasoning and applications
for rehearings were made in few cases he helped to

Justice Lamar was selected by President Wilson as
the principal commissioner for the United States in
the ABC mediation at Niagara Falls in 1914 between
this country and Mexico over conditions in the
neighboring republic.

Justice Lamar made many notable contributions to the
legal literature of his state. Among them were
"Georgia's Contribution to Law Reforms," "A History
of the Organization of the Supreme Court," "Life of
Judge Nesbit" and "A Century's Progress in Law."
More than two hundred of his opinions are embraced
in six volumes of Georgia Reports.

Justice Lamar married, on January 30, 1879, Miss
Clarinda Pendleton, a daughter of Dr. W. K.
Pendleton, president of Bethany College. He is
survived by his wife and two children, Philip Rucker
Lamar and William Pendleton Lamar.[24]

[24] New York Herald, January 3, 1916.

=226. Obtaining the Information
The gaining of information about a
man who has just died is not difficult. One should be cautioned,
however, against seeking details from members of the family. If the
person is of little prominence, one should go first to the undertaker.
He will have all the details about the funeral--the names of the
pallbearers and of the minister, the time and place of the funeral, the
place of burial--and probably all the facts about the person's life that
the family wishes made public. If the undertaker does not have this
information, he will be able to tell the reporter from whom it may be
obtained. Additional facts may sometimes be had from the county and
state directories, and even from the city directory. Old residents or
close friends, too, often are able to give interesting details about the
person's life, his failures and his successes, and in this way a
reporter can publish an appreciative account without editorializing on
the man's accomplishments. If the one who has died is of decided
prominence, the reporter can find accounts of him in the various Who's
Who volumes and probably a rather full obituary all ready in the
morgue. One must be careful in using the morgue write-up, however, to
bridge naturally and easily the gap between the new and the old
material, so that the reader shall not suspect he is reading a story
partly written years ago. The following is an illustration of poor
coherence between the two parts:

Paris, August 12.--Pol Plancon, the opera singer,
died to-day. He had been ill since June.
Pol Plancon was a bass singer and made his Paris
debut in the part of Mephistopheles in 1883. He came
to the Metropolitan Opera house in New York in 1893,
where he sang with Melba, Calve, Eames, Nordica and
Jean and Edouard de Reszke. Plancon sang for many
years at Covent Garden, London....

In this case it is too obvious that the first two sentences constitute
the bare cable bulletin and that the second paragraph is the beginning
of the morgue story.

=227. Crime Lead
In the lead to a crime story, one may feature
either the names of the persons involved, the number of lives lost or
endangered, the motive of the criminal, the nature of the crime, clues
leading to the identification and arrest of the criminal, possible
effects of the crime, or even public sentiment resulting from the deed.
Of the possible leads, probably the names of the persons involved,
either of the criminal or of those whose rights were infringed, are most
often played up. Thus:

Leo M. Frank was lynched two miles outside of
Marietta, the home of Mary Phagan, at an early hour
this morning.

Mrs. Allie Detmann, 1409 Broad St., was shot and
killed yesterday by Stanley Mouldan, 1516
Philadelphia Ave. The man then shot himself in the
right temple, dying an hour later in St. Elizabeth's

The other features, however, may be found at random in any paper.

Number of Lives Lost

Two women are dead at the Good Shepherd's Rest
because Pat Nicke kept the back door of his saloon
open on election day.


To get money to pay for his grandmother's funeral,
Robert Hollyburd, 24, 1917 Monaco St., yesterday
robbed the cash register of the Lengerke Brothers,
sporting goods dealers, at 1654 Bradley St.

Nature of the Crime

The most brutal murder ever committed in Calloway
county was discovered at an early hour this morning
when the body of Dr. Otis Bennett, literally hacked
to pieces, was found in the basement of his home.


The Davenport police have in their possession a
large bone-handled knife which has been identified
as the property of Hugo O'Neal, colored, of Cushman.
The knife was found under Col. Andrew Alton's
bedroom window after an attempted robbery of his
home at an early hour this morning. O'Neal has not
been seen since yesterday.


Tim Atkins is probably dying at his shanty on Davis
Street as a result of a difficulty between him and
Isom Werner over a woman they met on their way home
from the circus last night.

=228. Body of the Crime Story
The body of the crime story, like that
of the accident, follows the lead in a simple chronological narration of
events. Interest may be added by quoting direct statements from persons
immediately connected with the crime,--how it feels to be held up, how
the robber gained entrance to the building, how the bandits escaped. In
stories of burglaries and robberies the value of the stolen goods and
any ingenious devices for gaining entrance to the house, stopping the
train, or halting the robbed party should always be given. It may be
added that, unless the purpose is entirely obvious, as in robberies and
burglaries, due emphasis should be given to the motive for the crime.
One should be on one's guard, however, against accepting readily any
motive assigned. The star reporter never takes anybody at his word--the
police, the detectives, or even the victims--in any statement where
crime is involved. He investigates for himself and draws his own

=229. Caution against Libel
An additional caution should be added
here against libel, because of the strong temptation always to make an
accused person guilty before he has been adjudged so. According to
American law, a person suspected of or charged with crime is innocent
until he has been proved guilty. In writing crime stories, therefore,
the reporter must be doubly careful to have a supposed criminal merely
"suspected" of misappropriating funds, or "alleged" to have made the
assault, or "said by the police" to have entered the house. And in order
to present an unbiased story, the side of the supposed malefactor should
be given. In the intense excitement resulting from a newly committed
crime, or in the squalid surroundings of a prison cell, an accused
person does not appear to his best advantage, and it is easy for the
reporter to let prejudice sway him, perhaps causing irreparable injury
to innocent persons. The race riot in Atlanta, in 1905, in which numbers
of innocent negroes were murdered, was a direct result of exaggerated
and sensational stories of crime printed by yellow newspapers. And the
whole long trial and verdict against Leo M. Frank were directly affected
by the same papers. If the opinion of readers is to be appealed to, the
reporter should leave such appeals to the editorial writers, whose duty
it is to interpret the news and sway the public whenever they will or
can. The reporter's duty, as far as possible, is to present mere facts.

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