Newspaper sensationalism of the sinking

Oct 15, 2000
I was going though the papers for my book on Helen Bishop, and the newspaper articles about the sinking...and the embelishments the reporters made...

A Chicago newspaper said of Helen and Dickinson:
"Clinging together in the mad scramble to get into the lifeboats" that is not true according to their various interview's.

Another newspaper wrote of women in evening gowns and jewels running through the ship amid the splintering and falling metal. I doubt that anyone who would have seen that had survied to tell the story.

Any other wild accounts out there?

Ben Holme

Feb 11, 2001
One newspaper quoted Lucile Duff-Gordon:

"many were felled at Captain Smith's revolver"

The headline was headed "Lucile's grusome experience" and also decribed a mad rush which certainly wasn't the case prior to the lowering of boat #1.

Hope this helps,


Sam Brannigan

Dec 20, 2000
I suppose the greatest one has to be the alleged suicide of Captain Smith, a report from Reuters that was later retracted.

Strange that almost 100 years later that he should be a suspect in the "officer suicide" mystery.

It makes you wonder if there was some truth in the original report after all.


Jul 20, 2000
It is not just Newspaper accounts. From the edited edition of Logan Marshall's: The Sinking of the Titanic.
In a Chapter entitled: Jack Thayer's Own Story of the Wreck; we have an opening statement which reads:
"..... When his mother was put into the life-boat he kissed her and told her to be brave, saying that he and his father would be all right. He and Mr Thayer stood on the deck as the small boat in which Mrs Thayer was a passenger made off from the side of the Titanic...."

Then follows Jack's own account: On the next page is the sub-heading: Separated from Parents: ........ "Father and mother went ahead and I followed. They went down to B deck and a crowd got in front of me and I was not able to catch them, and lost sight of them. As soon as I could get through the crowd I tried to find them on B deck, but without success. That is the last time I saw my father. ........."

It would seem that Marshall cannot have read Jack's account before adding his own opening comments.


Mike Shetina

To Sam
I think that Walter Lord was correct in his assumption that if anyone shot themselves, it would be Ofiicer Wilde. He lost two kids and a wife to scarlet fever just prior to his own untimely death.
Mike Shetina

Jemma Hyder

I was muddling through my research and found all these articles trying to make poor Harold Cottam look like he'd witheld all the details of the sinking from the moment they picked up the survivors for his own financial gain! The guy didnt even sleep he was so busy!

Charmaine Sia

Nov 25, 2001
Hmmm, I think that newspaper reports would definitely be misleading. Like Tracy, I take them with a grain of salt, firstly because of the want for publicity and sensationalism, and secondly because of the way many facts are covered up in the process of interviews.


Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
Along with the tale of Rigel the dog, my favourite newspaper story is the one that turned Edith Russell's toy pig into a real live pig and complained that it had been saved while humans died.

Inger Sheil

Feb 9, 1999
The accounts from the 19th are particularly dodgy. Some early stories are absolute gems - Randy recently reminded me of the interview with 'Officer Moody,' (in reality probably a jazzed up Hichens) who was on the bridge during the collision. 'Dead man talking', as Pat Winship once phrased it.

Quick note on the cause of the deaths in Wilde's family - his wife and newborn twins did not die of scarlet fever as has been sometimes rumoured in the Titanic community. Wilde's wife died a particularly lingering and probably extremely painful death resulting from complications arising from childbirth. The twins died as the result of a congenital defect rather vaguely described on the death certificate. The deaths occured in fairly quick succession in December 1910.

Adam Tarzwell

Even after it was known she sank and that many were lost the facts were still really garbled for quite sometime. Sinks 4 hours after htting iceberg: wrong

800 some saved: wrong

But I understand why the facts would be jumbled.
May 2, 2006
The reason the facts were jumbled was probably because the information got changed as it went from one ship's wireless to another and also because the newspaper reporters wanted to write about something, anything, to keep the customers coming. But that's just my opinion

- Carla
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>But that's just my opinion <<

And it's probably right on the money too. Yellow Journalism is a fine old custom and was alive and well in one form or another long before the term itself was invented. It still thrives today and not just in the tabloids. Watch the fun the next time a single large passenger jet goes down within range of a camera and you'll see what I mean.
Oct 28, 2000
While I know from 17 years first-hand experience that the news media seldom lets the facts get in the way of a good story...let me put a word in on behalf of the ink-stained wordsmiths of 1912.

Some key points of the story were true at one point. By the time they were translated into words and words into hot type and hot type into a page chase and a chase into a stereocast and a stero put on the press and paper converted into a had gone past the headlines. The result was that newspapers on both sides of the ocean looked foolish even though what they put in type had once been true.

We saw this recently at a coal mine disaster in West Virginia. First reports got confused that all were saved. Sound familiar? The news media ran with what was believed to be true, but even as the breathless reporters made their "stand-upper" reports the events were overtaking them. The truth was all but one man trapped in the mine was dead. Bad reporting? Or, the nature of events?

-- David G. Brown
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>Bad reporting? Or, the nature of events? <<

Perhaps all of the above? I recall that incident and having grown up near the Pennsylvania coal fields, I was hoping that the story would be true but also skeptical as well. Coal mine explosions and cave ins seldom ever leave survivors and I knew this. I'd seen it happen all too often.

In fairness to the media types out there, they probably reported their stories in good faith. But like David said, events moved faster then the facts couldbe checked.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>'Yellow Journalism',<<

"Yellow Journalism" is a century old term that dates back to the sensationalist rags and even some of the supposedly "repectable" publications of the 1890's. The modern equivalant would be something along the lines of the Weekly World News and other trash you see on the checkstands, only without the eeeeeeeeevile space aliens trying to conduct breeding experiments with Elvis and Princess Di. A couple of links for you.

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