Rescuing the Tabloid Competition in Big Town

EGR touches his nose to indicate coming within 5 seconds of allotted time.

Not only were newspaper reporters and editors cast as heroic characters in old-time radio dramas, they sometimes made heroic attempts to help the competition, no matter how bitter the rivalry.

Perhaps that’s because they recognized newspaper journalism as a higher calling than profit-making. And perhaps their attitude was summed up most eloquently by crusading journalist Steve Wilson — originally played by Edward G. Robinson — during the opening of Big Town:

“The power and the freedom of the press is a flaming sword. That it may be a faithful servant to all the people, use it justly, hold it high, guard it well!”

(I don’t know how many future journalists were inspired by that line, but it did inspire the heading of this blog.)

Episode: “The Lost and the Found,” December, 1948. (Click to download if no media player is visible.)

In this radio-noir episode from 1948, Wilson (then played by Edward J. Pawley) and his colleagues from the Illustrated Press set out to find a rival newspaper’s missing crime reporter. The newshawk has been kidnapped by the mob while on an undercover assignment. He’s roughed up by a gun moll — while tied to a love seat with her nylons — amid very pulp-magazine dialogue.

The bantering conversation between newspaper editors and a few other scenes are fun, but be prepared for some over-written dialogue, sexist comments (appropriate to the era?), and the repeated “B.O.” warnings of the era’s Lifebuoy commercials.

(My player streams an audio file from the Archive.org collection of old-time radio. See other selections from Big Town linked to my backgrounder page on the series.)

In future episodes of this blog I’ll discuss more examples of dramatic radio’s newspapermen setting out to rescue — or avenge — competing reporters.

Footnote: The Illustrated Press’s competition in “The Lost and the Found” is called The Graphic, possibly modeled after the New York Evening Graphic of the 1920s, a sensational tabloid that I’ve written about elsewhere, and will be writing about again.

In fact, Big Town’s first episodes, when it starred Edward G. Robinson, were reminiscent of the actor’s hit film Five Star Final which also starred Robinson and was based on a play by an editor at the Graphic.


Note: By popular demand (a friend named Phil Meyer), I’ve added to that Big Town page and posted this repeat of one of the trial podcast posts from last year at my Other Journalism blog.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who fell deeper into computers and the Web during three trips through graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s, then began teaching journalism, media studies and Web production, most recently as a faculty member at Radford University.
This entry was posted in competition, crime, ethics, j-heroes, movies, newspapers, reporters, sensationalism. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Rescuing the Tabloid Competition in Big Town

  1. Robert Gibson Corder says:

    Hi… You should add a photo of Edward J. Pawley and Fran Carlon who were the stars of Big Town at the peak of its popularity in the 1940s and early 1950s. Otherwise, I like your posting.

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