By Matt Holzapfel
The Classics play a pivotal role in the journalistic society, telling the stories of people and places that have shaped history throughout the years. Journalists have uncovered injustices and unfair treatment across the world, from the treatment of prisoners to the ever-changing role of women in the workplace, to the death of a beloved friend and reporter. These are the classics.
“Prisoners With Midnight in Their Hearts” by Harold Littledale; The New York Evening Post, January 1917
Littledale uses repetition and “relentless authority” to talk about prison reform and the current state of New Jersey’s prisons. Littledale lists off fact after fact about the mistreatment of inmates, starting with “it is a fact” every time. This hard-hitting piece resulted in the formation of a commission appointed by the New Jersey Governor to offer recommendations for prison reform.
“Mary White” by William Allen White; The Emporia Gazette, May 1921
Obituaries are important too! What William Allen White penned for the Emporia Gazette of Kansas in 1921, however, was more than just an obituary. It was a touching piece written in remembrance and in honor of Mary White, even though Mary died from falling off of a horse. The obituary was written as a remembrance of Ms. White’s life, encouraging people to celebrate her, not to mourn her, as all good obituaries are.
“Iowa Village Waits All Night for Glimpse at Fleeting Train” by Lorena Hickok; The Minneapolis Tribune, August 1923
The story of a small town in Iowa who waits all night just to see a train pass by, saying “it was worth it, wasn’t it?” repeatedly after they see the train. This is exactly the kind of story that uncovers some small gem that otherwise would never have been talked about anywhere by anybody.
“Joe Louis Uncovers Dynamite” by Richard Wright; New Masses, October 1935
Another untold gem told this time through the eyes of Richard Wright, Joe Louis was a black boxer at a time when black people and police officers were sparring for one of the very first times in history. So they sent in black police officers. What happened during those years is a key part of American history, and it is essential that Wright decided to cover it when he did.
“Mr. Welles and Mass Delusion” by Dorothy Thompson; New York Herald Tribune, November 1938
Orson Welles once scared the entire world into demoralization solely with his movie “War of the Worlds”, and Dorothy Thompson was there to tell the tale. He supposedly made more of a contribution to Hitlerism, Mussolinism, Stalinism, and anti-Semitism than all other terrorists of the time.
Other Examples of The Classics:
“The History of the Standard Oil Company” by Ida Tarbell; McClure’s Magazine, 1902
“Conditions in Meatpacking Plants” by Upton Sinclair; 1906