Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Slow News Day

I just spent some time in Colorado and as I waited at Denver’s magnificent airport I remembered a story about a slow news day.

Back in 1899 the four major Denver Colorado newspapers sent reporters to cover a story in South Denver. The newsmen decided it was a dull story; they would like to make up a more interesting event.

It would be harmless, a little fun with the city editor. They discussed several possible stories and angles as they traveled to their assigned story.

Finally they decided to fake a foreign affairs story, figuring that would be the hardest for their editors to check.

The next day all the Denver papers had a page one fictitious story saying that a team of American Engineers traveled through Denver from New York on their way to China.

The Hoax story said the Chinese wanted an estimate of how much it would cost to demolish the Great Wall of China.

The copy claimed the Chinese were taking down the wall as a sign to Wall Street that China was open to greater foreign investment.

East coast papers picked up the story.

One New York reporter even quoted Chinese confirmation of the hoax.

The story was cabled to Europe and it quickly reached China where it helped touch off the famous Boxer Rebellion.

Many Chinese, already upset with the western influences in their country, were shocked at the story to destroy the Great Wall.

Even though the Chinese government denied the story, rioting broke out, foreigners were attacked, and it took a month to restore order. An order that vanished on a slow news day.

1 comment:

Connecting People with Nature, and Writers with Words said...

Rolland, good meeting you in Colorado. Your recent blog post reminded me of one of my favorite Colorado history tales.

While doing research on my the novel "All the Water Yet to Come," I came across a tall tale from Robert Perkin’s book about Denver, "The First Hundred Years".

The tale appeared in the Rocky Mountain News, and was picked up by newspapers all over the country, read and believed by readers in the East and West.

This is how the story goes:

“Some of the early Denver bunco schemes were scarcely less imaginative than the tall tales which delighted 19th century newspapers. A young editor from back East told of an interview with a man out West who said he had made an underground voyage from the Great Salt Lake to southern Colorado.

"Salt Lake, he pointed out, has no known outlet. In southern Colorado there was a lake with no known inlet. The mystery of this could now be solved:

“The voyager had been boating on Salt Lake and was caught in a whirlpool which bore him straight downward into the earth to a great underground river flowing in a tunnel-like cavern, hung with varicolored stalactites of great beauty.

"The man’s boat was whipped along this nether-world river for a distance of something over six hundred miles at breathtaking speed. Finally, he shot upward and popped out on the surface of the lake in southern Colorado!”

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