All of us know the story about the Titanic, sunk on this day, 102 years ago. It struck an iceberg at 23:40 on 14 April 1912, and sank some hours later, at 2:20 on 15. The number of casualties is unclear, between 1.490 and 1.635, according to different sources. (Wikipedia: RMS Titanic)
|Titanic sinking, engraving by Willy Stöwer, 1912 – source: Die Gartenlaube|
But always it’s possible to know new facets about a disaster like this one. For example, how did media informed about this tragedy? Let us read what the newspapers said on the next days after the sinking.
The Evening Sun, from Baltimore, was one of the first newspapers informing, in its 15 April edition: “All Titanic Passengers are safe; transferred in lifeboats at sea”. There weren’t victims, and also the Titanic soon would reach port, despite of some minor damage: “The latest word received by wireless was that there was no doubt that the new White Star liner would reach port.” (White Star was a shipping company, the owner of the Titanic).
These were calming news, of course, and other newspapers confirmed it, there was some damage in the ship, but no victims. Passengers had been rescued and Titanic was being towed.
The New York Evening Mail: “Titanic’s passengers saved; liner being towed to Halifax”.
The Lowell Sun: “Passengers safe. Steamer badly damaged crawls towards Halifax, 600 miles off”.
The vice president of White Star Line, Mr. Franklin, announced on the morning of April 15 that the Titanic was absolutely unsinkable (“We believe the host is absolutely unsinkable”), although sadly there would be some inconvenience for the passengers (“we are extremely sorry for the annoyance and inconvenience to our passengers”). Mr. Franklin did this statement at 9:20 h, when the Titanic was laying at the bottom of the ocean for almost 7 hours, and 1.500 or 1.600 passengers really had suffered some incovenience, they had died. (What if… the Titanic hadn’t sunk 100 years ago?)
The next day other papers confirmed that the Titanic and its passengers were safe, for example, Daily Mirror: “Everyone on board the world’s greatest liner safe”
The Wall Street Journal editorialized about the accident, confirming as well the fact that the Titanic remained on the water: “The gravity of the damage to the Titanic is apparent, but the important point is that she did not sink. Her watertight bulkheads were really watertight”.
But there was a discrepant media, The New York Yimes, surely making worse the little accident to sell more papers: “Titanic sinks four hours after hitting iceberg; 866 rescued by Carpathia, probably 1260 perish”. It was soon chided by other newspapers for its sensationalism.
Well, soon all that newspapers and Mr. Franklin had to change their assessment of the incident. This was a very odd issue, a great company and media giving misinformation. Really incredible, isn’t it?