Newspapers as Madness: Is Bob Ready to Take Control?

“You wouldn’t have made a bad detective, either of you”
 ex-police chief to editors Betty & Bob

In last week’s eighth episode in our 16-part “Betty and Bob” story, crusading editor and publisher Bob Drake hired a former police chief as an investigative reporter, then threatened to risk a nervous breakdown by getting back into harness himself too soon after a serious illness. At least that’s what his wife thinks.

Now, if you fast-forward past the two-minute musical intro, Bob Is Ready to Take Control starts with a recap that puts his mental state in perspective. So does this conversation between Betty and her friend Claire, widow of a star reporter who was killed in the line of duty.

Betty: “All the rotten things we fought to get rid of in Monroe… are moving right in again, and Bob wants to go back and get into the thick of the fight.”
Claire: “I guess he can’t help wanting that. It’s the kind of man he is. I think that’s what Hal used to admire in him so much.”

When “Betty & Bob” was first broadcast in the 1930s, Radio may have been competing with newspapers for advertisers’ dollars and the audience’s time, but soap opera script writers — often former reporters themselves — clearly had no qualms about showing newspaper people as idealists. The Drakes are in the business to work for the public’s interest, even at the risk of their health and domestic bliss.

At least some newspaper publishers in radioland are like that. Near the end of this episode, a Mr. Newton appears, an agent for another kind of publisher — “Walter Humboldt,” owner of the big paper in the state capital — offering the Drakes $250,000 over what they paid for their newspaper. He casts little doubt that Humboldt is in league with the corrupt politicians the Drakes had been fighting back in Monroe, before Bob’s illness made them consider selling.

Bob: “What would Humboldt do with The Trumpet?”
Mr. Newton: “That’s a fine question! Whatever he pleased with it… What’s wrong with that?”

Later, Bob sums up:

“I’d be crazy to let Humboldt and his type of journalism take over The Trumpet.”

To find out what kind of journalism that is, and how it compares to the crusading Trumpet, you’ll just have to listen to the program… or come back next week for a new summary.

For more background, here’s my soap-opera overview page, and the earlier “Betty & Bob” episodes: 8th & 7th, 6th & 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st.

I’m still waiting for the Drakes to consider joining forces with Britt Reid or Clark Kent.

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 1930s, editors, journalism, newspaper crusades, political corruption, publishers, radio, soap opera. Bookmark the permalink.

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