Classified ads become news

The Green Hornet Strikes

The Green Hornet Strikes — from 1940, A Better Little Book available at the Internet Archive

Page one news wasn’t the only part of the newspaper to make it into radio dramas. This story begins in the back pages — the classified ad section.

That’s where Lenore Case, secretary to the editor of The Daily Sentinel, is browsing ads for engagement rings in the opening scene — but not because of romance. Editor and publisher Britt Reid has received several letters from readers who answered an “engagement ring” ad and only when it was too late realized that the ad and the seller never explicitly said the ring was a diamond.

It’s not just crooked, it’s unpatriotic: In this 1946 broadcast, the swindlers’ targets are recently discharged World War II veterans. Reid has reporter Michael Axford read one of the letters:

“The police say there’s nothing can be done about it since the person who sold it to me didn’t say it was a diamond. So I’ve been gypped in a racket that the police can’t touch. I’m surprised a newspaper like yours would carry ads like that. — (signed) an ex-G.I.

Naturally, Reid says he will cancel the misleading ad. He sends Axford to pose as a prospective buyer to find out how the ring racket works — although he admits the racketeers have been too clever to be pursued by the law. While the newspaper might expose the racket, it can’t put the careful crooks in jail without the help of the editor’s alter-ego, The Green Hornet.

Coincidentally, Reid has another “inside the law” wrongdoer in his sights — a corrupt politician. So, with typical Hornet guile, he pretends to be a crook himself and turns the two wrong-doers against each other to put both in jail.

He breaks into the swindlers’ office and steals their stock of worthless rings, but leaves evidence implicating the politician to trick the ring swindlers into believing the he is the Hornet. They break into the politician’s house, hoping to both retrieve their property and collect a reward for turning the Hornet over to the police.

Of course they don’t find any Hornet paraphernalia at the politician’s house. But they do catch him with his safe open — full of evidence of the unrelated graft case. Their break-in triggers an alarm; Axford, accompanying the police, identifies the racketeers; the racketeers point out the graft evidence on a table in plain view.

Fortunately the 30 minute radio episode didn’t have to spend much time on laws of evidence — it suggests the arrival of the police led everyone to confess their wrong-doing.

As far as journalism lessons, this episode is pretty much limited to the continuing theme of a newspaper working to help the average citizen by exposing rackets and corrupt politicians, and perhaps a theme of
newspaper teamwork — Miss Case’s research, Axford’s undercover reporting and Reid’s editorial decision making.

The ethically scrupulous listener will notice that Reid’s executive approach includes a willingness to break laws in order to get evidence, tactics not recommended by the Society for Professional Journalists. But — as usual — Reid leaves that to his alter-ego wearing the Hornet mask, not to any press-card carrying members of the Sentinel staff.

JHeroes main Green Hornet page

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, GreenHornet, newspapers. Bookmark the permalink.

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