Saturday, April 04, 2009

How a Murder Should Be Advertised, by Will Rogers

Bad news= Attractive News
Good news= No News

One always wants to publish what is going on in the world. An opening of a new factory would be a great benefit to the community or even a new school. This is what most newspapers in the 1920’s and the 1930’s wanted to write about. But this type of coverage in the press is not what catches the peoples eye. The death of a well-known mobster, the mass killings of a serial killer and priests caught in scandals are all topics that kept the American people interested in the press back then and even today.
Will Rogers wrote an article called ”How a Murder should be Advertised” in 1927. In his article, he explains how Chicago criminal news was getting more press than Detroit criminal news. Detroit has had twice as many crimes than Chicago but Detroit citizens were more interested what was going on in Chicago and Detroit papers were wondering why.
Detroit was known as the “car making” state and published a lot about the production of their cars in the press. But this type of press was very boring. Not only that but if you put all your crimes into one paper, the crimes are more like numbers and statistics…you lose the interest in it . If you want your papers to fly off the racks of the newsstands, focus solely on the crime that is going on within the state and choose the pick of the litter.
Rogers explains how to write an exciting paper and how to choose the murder stories that gets put into the press. Again, it is not about the quantity of murders stories that you have in the press but the quality. He states how crimes about women in the press being the killer often fails as a good read. Only because if the case goes to trial, it is often either too drawn out or dropped and people lose interest. Also, if you put an important figure that has been involved in a crime that is also well known into the press, the people will latch onto the story for the duration of the investigation/ trial(Like the notorious Al Capone trial). This should make the paper very popular and raise the amount of advertising and profit on the paper.

He also suggests choosing a murder/crime story that is also easy to follow. If a paper writes too many crime stories all together or writes about a crime story that has too many components, it will be too complicated for the people to read or understand it.
Pictures of the murders also give the murder story a different element. This gives a graphic element to the viewer on how serious the crime was. Also, it will make the people want to see more of it. Rogers states how tabloids will help the press by taking the pictures from the story and writing about it again in their papers. All of this helps the publicity of the paper.
Crime back then and even today is the highlight of every paper and every news story published. It is okay to have some of the good news in the paper but if you want your paper to be popular and profitable, select your crime stories wisely. In order to make a paper successful, according to Will Rodgers, “ …quit yapping about your production and start talking about your destruction.”

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


At 10:02 PM, Blogger A. Mattson said...

Quite a post! Nice images.

Rogers was writing a satirical commentary on the press of the day. Tongue-in-cheek he proposes that any city that wishes to make a name for itself will have to sell itself like Chicago with gang-land violence. Productivity and prosperity wasn't enough to make the news.


Post a Comment

<< Home