Tuesday, March 23, 2010

All the news that fits

And while we're on the topic of the press: a few comments on the Daily Herald's move in the 1920s away from featuring only serious news toward a certain 'frivolity':

On 20 December 1929, it might have been expected to lead on rural council attacks on Neville Chamberlain’s poor law policy. Instead the main headline was ‘Hunchback shot dead in billiard saloon’; undoubtedly the closest the Herald ever came to the New York Post’s immortal ‘Headless man in topless bar’.

Huw Richards, The Bloody Circus: The Daily Herald and the Left (London: Pluto Press, 1997), p. 133.

A quick check shows that the Post's headline was actually 'Headless Body in Topless Bar' (15 April 1983).

Either way, it's a classic.

[UPDATE]: Looking through the World's Pictorial News -- a paper that definitely focused on the sensational and bizarre -- it also appears that the hunchback-in-the-billiard-hall case occurred in October 1928 rather than December 1929. (Unless, of course, there was another hunchback killed in another billiard hall. But that seems a bit unlikely.)

The story in brief: 'Entering a Manchester billiards hall, a bookmaker's clerk shot a man dead and wounded another. Then dashing out of the saloon he made his escape in a motor-car. He was traced to his home by two detectives, whom he held up with two revolvers and then shot himself dead in his own bedroom.'

Man: drama.

The WPN, in any case, definitely had nothing to say about Chamberlain's poor law policy. Whenever that was released...

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