Running a crusading newspaper as a ‘line of duty’

“Miracles don’t happen twice in a lifetime,” Betty Drake warned her husband Bob in last week’s episode, titled “Bob Is Returning to Monroe to Fight.”

She was reminding him that only an advanced operation restored his ability to walk after he was injured in the line of duty during his last newspaper crusade. It sounded like she was hinting that perhaps he should take it slow this time — but her passion for the fourth estate comes through in this next pair of episodes.

Bob’s first stop in the city was a meeting with the new city manager, because the former police chief has raised suspicions about him — that he might be a tool of corrupt political bosses. The newspaper editor immediately did the new official a favor by playing down a story about his daughter being picked up for drunken driving. His reasoning is interesting to hear.

In this 12th episode of 16, Bob gets back to the newspaper office and his wife arrives to announce the news: Betty Has Found a House for Them. The new city manager, Ellsworth Jameson, is a nervous and weak-sounding former economics professor and state budget official who, according to Bob, probably fell under the control of “political plunderers” at the state capital.

Since Bob overheard Jameson telling his daughter they had tickets for a theater opening that night, Betty comes up with the idea of going to the same play and getting to know the Jamesons better, and does quite a job of engineering a night out with them, which is the subject of the next episode: Drakes Go Out With Jameson

During their dinner conversation, the daughter is the one who suggests there was something wrong with the newspaper’s decision not to play up the story about her drunken driving arrest. Drake makes the decision sound innocent enough — after all, he was not giving in to political pressure; he was just trying to give her father a fair start on a new and difficult job. But wasn’t he also manipulating the city manager, trying to get on his good side?

As far as journalism goes, the radio soap opera’s focus on the publishers and their agenda is quite different from the tales of crime-busting reporters and editors of other programs, from Big Town and Crime Photographer to The Green Hornet.

Betty wins high praise from City Manager Jameson, who tells the Drakes, “I know what newspaper work is like. It’s a hard task-master; it drains your energy, and for a woman with other responsibilities, and in times like these, especially…”

That’s Betty’s cue to not only express the Drakes’ commitment to public service journalism (emphasis added, below), but to give us a hint that this 1947 radio transcription was actually recorded almost a decade earlier, near the start of the World War.

“Yes, Mr. Jameson, in times like these especially, when the world has gone raving mad, all of us must seek some line of duty to preserve what little sanity there is left. Well, running a newspaper is our line of duty. Your helping run a city is your line of duty. And to do our best along those lines, well that’s the least we can do.” — Betty Drake

The also Drakes pull no punches telling the city manager that something is rotten in the city, while hearing some of his problems with his headstrong and angry 23-year-old daughter.

Come back next Wednesday, and we’ll find out what the paper’s new investigative reporter is digging up.

Earlier JHeroes posts on Betty & Bob and radio soap operas in general.

This storyline is a June-July 1947 sequence from the collection of 40 Betty & Bob episodes.

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, newspaper crusades, newspapers, political corruption, publishers, soap opera. Bookmark the permalink.

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