Reporting tips: Lois Lane at work

Here’s Lois Lane’s first on-air interview, in the episode about Stolen Fuel for the Atomic Beam Machine from the 1940 Superman radio serial. (Click the title to download an MP3 if a player icon isn’t visible.) As mentioned here last week, Miss Lane reluctantly accepted the assignment to talk to America’s leading atomic energy researcher. The interview is in progress when we join the new episode, and we hear her asking one of the best follow-up questions in the reporter’s arsenal: “What do you mean?”

In fact, her interview is a pretty good collection of open-ended questions:

  • “Now tell me about the machine, the atomic beam…”
  • Why do you think it was stolen?”
  • “Can you tell me how the machine works…?”

Along with being a good interviewer, Lois also shows her scrappy, competitive nature, accusing Clark Kent of trying to “horn in on my story,” and later of being a bit too mild-mannered. Courage is one of the things she expects in a reporter:

“Well, are your worries about being blown sky high quite laid to rest, Mr. Kent? You thought the paper would be blown up tonight, didn’t you… And yet you take the first chance you get to run out like a rat and leave the rest of them there to face whatever happens… I can stand freshness and amazing luck and even boasting, but not cowardice, Mr. Kent.”

The next episode wraps up the story with more super-heroics than reporting, including Superman’s first dramatic rescue of Lois, in Threat to the Planet Building.

The villains have an appropriately bad-guy sexist attitude toward women reporters. When they intercept Lois on her way to get the police, they drag her to their boss: “Got a visitor for you chief… She belongs to the fella from the newspaper.”

“Belongs to…”! Ouch! I’m disappointed that the script writer didn’t give Lois any great comeback for that remark. She just gets to say things like “Put me down. You beast! You fiend! Let me go! Stop!” Popular culture does act a bit schizophrenic about women reporters — smart, curious, risk-takers one day, “damsel in distress” the next.

Later, the Yellow Mask threatens to drop Lois out of a plane without a parachute. Clark Kent’s response is, as mentioned last week, surprising, even if it doesn’t impress Lois. In any case, he and a news photographer named Mike are off to cover a fire next, another example of the radio serial’s emphasis on newspaper journalism as a source of plots, and its making more use of Clark and Lois as reporters than younger Superman viewers might have seen.

My audio links are to downloadable episodes from two sets of Internet Archive Superman pages, presumably uploaded by different collectors, but with different gaps in the collections and varying audio quality. (The second link is to a large, multi-page collection; it is missing episode 8, although it has better copies of episodes 9 and 10 — the stand-alone fire story — if MP3 file size is an indicator of quality.)

If you’re inclined to become a regular listener to the archived programs, be warned that later stories in the Superman radio serial took more than three episodes to tell. The program’s first months of three-times-a-week broadcasts gave listeners frequent entry points and strong cliff-hanger elements at the end of each episode.

I hate to ruin the suspense, but despite a plane crash at the end of the episodes I’ve posted here, the dastardly Yellow Mask returned more than once. That fall his $5 million jewel robbery spanned 15 episodes — taking a month and a half to tell.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
This entry was posted in 1940s, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, reporters, reporting, Superman. Bookmark the permalink.

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