Newspaper Editors Face Evil in Black & White

“So the forces of good and evil join battle in Monroe, as they are joining in battle through the whole world. There is only one way to enter the battle — unafraid, as do Betty and Bob.” — announcer Milton Cross

Two episodes:

Margaret Jameson Has Hit a Girl Betty Visits Ellsworth Jameson

Here are the last two in a 16-episode run of the soap opera adventures of newspaper publishers “Betty & Bob” from a storyline  first broadcast sometime in the 1930s or early 1940s. I do wish the dating was more definite and that the files were more complete. These 16 from the Internet Archive collection are followed by a 12-week gap during which a considerable number of plot developments took place.

The program was serialized using re-issued transcription disks, which probably explains why these episodes, dated in the summer of 1947, include speeches like the one above, presumably written in the early days of World War II.

War-years stress and anxiety might explain why newspaper publishers Betty and Bob Drake even sound a bit paranoid in these two episodes.

The plot: Convinced that a new city manager has been brought to town by corrupt politicians, the Drakes have set their new investigative reporter to work investigating the City Council, while they have taken it on themselves to get to know the manager, Ellsworth Jameson, and his troubled daughter, Margaret.

This may be a soap opera, but the Drakes face relatively realistic media-ethics problems along with the intrigues of investigating political corruption. A half-dozen episodes ago, the Drakes suppressed a story when Margaret Jameson was charged with drunken driving. Bob argued that not playing up the bad news would give the new manager a fair start in the city. Now there is worse news: Margaret’s car has struck a 10-year-old girl, who will be hospitalized for weeks.

While the announcer quoted above — and the Drakes — seem to see the story in black and white, the script suggests some shades of gray. Margaret insists she did nothing wrong, and that she hadn’t been drinking this time. The Drakes, meanwhile, seem to have a very unenlightened (or 1930s) view of mental illness, despite the prevalence of such troubles in soap operas — including earlier episodes of “Betty & Bob.”

The councilman who brought the new city manager to town comes to ask the Drakes to suppress the story about Margaret’s accident, but there are no threats, just a vague suggestion of quid-pro-quo.

“Why crucify the old man on account of his daughter?” councilman Martin Anderson says.

Bob: “Margaret Jameson has to be taught a lesson; maybe a jail sentence will set her straight.”

Anderson: “You’re sort of blood-thirsty, aren’t you, Drake?”

Bob: “No. I just hate to see blood being shed needlessly… It would be right for anyone else to go to jail for doing what she did.”

Earlier, talking about the case with Betty, Bob seemed to be acting out of guilt over suppressing the earlier drunken driving story. This time, he orders the managing editor to run the story, displaying it prominently in the edition about to go to press.

Bob: “Betty we made a terrible mistake suppressing the story the last time when Margaret Jameson was picked up for drunken driving. If we hadn’t this mightn’t have happened. If that little girl is seriously hurt, we’re partly to blame for it.”

Betty: “Margaret Jameson is a sick girl, mentally.”

Bob: “All the less reason for her to be running around loose in an automobile. A jungle lion in a children’s playground would be less of a menace…. a wild unbalanced girl who ought to be in a sanatorium somewhere.”

In any case, Anderson shows his true colors before leaving the Drakes’ office — he is ambitious in ways that suggest little regard for ethics. He predicts the girl will be let off with a stiff fine. He also predicts that Drake will someday want to get involved in politics, and will need friends and favors.

Anderson: “I know that you’d only go into politics to do even greater good than you’re doing now, but you can’t do that until you get to the top.”

Bob: “So getting to the top is the all important thing?”

Anderson: “Yes. And how you get there is of secondary importance.”

Bob: “That’s a philosophy that’s sort of popular these days, isn’t it… Yes, it makes for wars and the slaughter of innocents.”

Anderson: “Now, now, now, now Drake, let’s not take the whole world into this little picture.”

Bob asks Betty whether they should run the story. She agrees immediately, and Anderson goes away, mad.

Betty: “And that’s Martin Anderson… His ruthlessness and ambition show in every pore…”

Bob: “He’s a full-fledged enemy.”

Betty: “The kind of man you want for an enemy, because he’s probably the enemy of all good and decent people.”

Bob: “He’ll be out to get us, Betty.”

Betty: “We’re out to get him.”

Bob: “Who will win?”

Betty: “There’s no doubt in your mind about that, is there.”

Bob: “No Betty, none.”

… and that gets us to the announcer’s line that started this page.

At this point, there’s a three-month gap in the daily-episode archive, after which the storyline has changed quite a bit. New characters have been added and new complications include financial problems and the birth of a son to the widow of a murdered reporter.

But the Drakes are still in control of their newspaper, and Martin Anderson has become more obviously their enemy — suspected in both a bombing and a burglary at the paper. All-in-all, there are enough developments to come back to the Internet Archive Betty & Bob collection and discuss the Drakes and their newspaper again sometime.

Here are the past items in this 16-episode sequence, and my general page about radio’s soap-opera journalists.

Note: The Internet Archive copies of “Betty & Bob” episodes spell the city manager’s name “Jamerson,” but the audio sounds like “Jameson” to me. And the same titles spell his daughter’s name “Margeret.” If I find an archived script somewhere with a written version of the names, I’ll be happier.

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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