Reporting can be dangerous

In this 1953 episode of a popular crime series, a Daily Clarion reporter calls “Mr. District Attorney” with news that he has uncovered a “Mister Big” crime boss.

Gunshots heard over the phone and a visit to the newsroom by the D.A. follow … as well as more than one murder plot involving the paper in “The Case of the Dead Reporter.’

Memorable quote from the city editor, “I’m going to get that interview, Mr. Garrett, if I have to ram this gun of mine right down (the crime boss’s) throat!” Needless to say, this is not a technique suggested at most journalism schools.

I wonder whether “Mr. Walker,” the city editor, could be a sly reference to Stanley Walker, once city editor of the New York Herald-Tribune, later at the Daily Mirror, and author of the 1930s book City Editor.

An appropriate quote from Stanley Walker is preserved at his Wikipedia bio page

Its last sentence:

“What makes a good newspaperman? The answer is easy. He knows everything. He is aware not only of what goes on in the world today, but his brain is a repository of the accumulated wisdom of the ages.
He is not only handsome, but he has the physical strength which enables him to perform great feats of energy. He can go for nights on end without sleep. He dresses well and talks with charm. Men admire him; women adore him; tycoons and statesmen are willing to share their secrets with him.
He hates lies, meanness and sham but keeps his temper. He is loyal to his paper and to what he looks upon as his profession; whether it is a profession or merely a craft, he resents attempts to debase it.
When he dies, a lot of people are sorry, and some of them remember him for several days.”

Any more about the Mr. District Attorney episode would spoil the mystery, but it’s online with 83 other episodes in the Oldtime Radio Researchers collection at the Internet Archive.

Mr. District Attorney ran from 1939 to 1952 on radio, and jumped to movies, television and comic books. So far this is the only episode I’ve found where a newspaper and its staff play a big part.

Don’t miss the D.A.’s epilogue about a newspaper as a force for good or evil!

The MP3 copy of the program is from the Old Time Radio Researchers Library.

The OTRR Group also has a collection of more than 80 Mr District Attorney episodes at the internet archive.

Update: Jan 11, 2020, the OTRR discussion group on Facebook included the cover of a DC Comics “Mr. District Attorney” cover (#8) as dramatic than anything in this radio story… Thanks to collector Larry Zdeb. On the cover, a drive-by machine gun strafes the ground-floor newsroom of the Globe-Herald through its front windows while reporters and the visiting D.A. dive for cover. A yellow-on-red text circle proclaims, “‘YOU CAN’T PRINT THAT!’ Wrote gangland’s guns. But read what happened when a fighting editor accepted this challenge to freedom of the press!”
Sounds like they borrowed a script from Big Town! I wonder if the comic story is anything like the radio script.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who sank into computers and the Web during graduate school in the 1980s and '90s, then taught journalism, media studies and Web production, retiring to write and play more music.
This entry was posted in 1950s, crime, editors, newspapers, publishers, reporters. Bookmark the permalink.

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