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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