In the 1920s newspaper editors and owners discovered that the public became excited about one story at a time, and if they threw all their star reporters; their front page display, and the bulk of their space at this story they sold more newspapers.
"according to Mr Bent's compilations, the insignificant Gray-Snyder murder trial got a bigger play in the press than the sinking of the Titanic;Lindbergh's flight and the 1918 Armistice."
Unfortunately for Colonel and Mrs Charles Lindbergh his famous flight was overshadowed as a story a few years later when on 1 March 1932 their baby son was taken from his bed at their new house in Hopewell, New Jersey. The tabloids gave the kidnapping the full "ballyhoo" treatment and the other vultures that prey on such misery were able to thrive. Gaston B. Means wangled $100,000 out of Mrs Evelyn Walsh McLean on the false pretence that he could get the child back; and John Hughes Curtis of Norfolk, Virginia had hoaxed Colonel Lindbergh to take a boat out into the middle of Chesapeake Bay to make contact with the kidnappers.
Unfortunately the tabloid press have for the past few months feasted voraciously on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Never can have so many column inches and pictures been published about a case with so little definite facts. There is no question that the very sad McCann case will provide copy for newspapers and the subject matter for fiction and non-fiction books for many years to come. I just hope the search for Madeleine ends better than that in the Lindbergh kidnapping. "BABY DEAD" announced the tabloid headlines; those two words sufficed.
"Any truth is better than indefinite doubt." The Yellow Face by Arthur Conan Doyle
This post has been composed with material from two books by Frederick Lewis Allen; Only Yesterday, An Informal History of the 1920s published in 1931 and Since Yesterday, The 1930s in America published in 1939.
Mr Bent is Silas Bent author of Ballyhoo.