CNHI Special Projects

April 15, 2012

Titanic was turning point in global news coverage

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

"'Men, you've done your full duty... I release you ... Every man for himself,'" Bride quoted the Titanic's captain as telling him and his fellow radio operator Jack Phillips, as the end neared. "I looked out. The boat deck was awash. Phillips clung on sending and sending (distress calls). He clung on for about 10 minutes, or maybe 15 minutes, after the captain had released him. The water was then coming into our cabin."

On page 3 of that edition of the Times — and on April 19 front pages from San Francisco to Boston — another harrowing eyewitness account appeared. Minute-by-minute, it detailed the unfolding disaster, including a view from the lifeboats just after the Titanic disappeared: "There fell on the ear the most appalling cries that human being ever listened to — the cries of hundreds of our fellow beings struggling in the icy cold water, crying for help with a cry that we knew could not be answered."

Who wrote this widely disseminated story?

It was a rescued passenger named Lawrence Beesley, an English schoolteacher, who later explained: "It was written in odd corners of the deck and saloon of the Carpathia, and fell, it seemed very happily, into the hands of the one reporter who could best deal with it, The Associated Press."

So another forbidden reporter got on the Carpathia? This was Richard Lee, an AP staffer whose unsung duty was to be a sort of journalistic sentry, meeting incoming ships at New York harbor's "quarantine" before they docked.

"The AP office had forgotten him," according to internal reports in the news service's corporate archive. But somehow Lee "boarded the Carpathia down the bay and came up with her to the dock, met Mr. Beasley (Beesley's byline was misspelled) and secured his story."

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