Soaps and Circulation

An editor and “ace reporter” debated the news value and audience interest in a sensational murder case — versus coverage of the Korean War — in this December 1950 episode of “The Guiding Light” soap opera.

Joe Roberts of the City Times walks a soap-slippery ethical tightrope here, brought to you by Duz Detergent. And doesn’t that commercial announcer’s voice sound a bit newsroom-familiar?

If you need to know what happened next (or previously), try the collected (but incomplete) episodes at the OldTime Radio Researchers Library.

I hadn’t listened to enough of this series to know how long the City Times newsroom characters were regulars, but the episode title “Newspaper has story about murder” caught my attention… and ethical details about interviews with the accused woman may be a plot point. Here’s a second 15-minute episode from the following day.

And the next day, the accused woman — suffering from amnesia, the soap opera curse — tells her lawyer that she talked to Roberts because she thought the former war correspondent was someone from her past, and she didn’t know he was a reporter.

“When a newspaperman is out to get a story, fairness doesn’t enter into his assignment. Get a story, by hook or crook,” the lawyer tells her, but Roberts isn’t that cynical.

The Guiding Light was created by Irna Phillips in 1937 and in the 1950s made the transition from radio to TV, where it continued until 2009.

From J.David Goldin’s radiogoldindex.com episode summaries and Wikipedia, it looks like the 1950 murder case courtroom drama continued for months — more than 100 episodes, with reporter Roberts’ stories weaving in and out of the plot and leading to (in a triumph of soap opera plotting over journalism ethics?) love and marriage.

Roberts was played by several actors through most of the years that the program was on both radio and television. The radio series ended in 1956.

Goldin mentions that announcer Clayton Bud Collyer, who identifies himself after the last commercial, also played a radio news reporter in a later episode of the courtroom drama.

But that man of many radio voices was also a much more famous reporter — playing both radio’s (tenor voice) Clark Kent and (baritone voice) Superman! However, for most of his years on The Adventures of Superman, Collyer’s name was not given on the air to maintain the Superman mystique… And saving him from typecasting.

One last journalism connection, presumably just a coincidence… But the murdered man behind that murder trial was an advertising executive named Theodore (Ted) White — not to be confused with newsman Theodore H. White , who became even better known for his The Making of the President books in the coming decades.

For other cases of newspaper reporters appearing in soap operas and romantic series, see the JHeroes Soaps page on the main menu above, or at this link.

Updated from original Feb. 5, 2018, post.

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, courtroom, crime, ethics, Korea, newspapers, reporters, reporting, sensationalism, soap opera. Bookmark the permalink.

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