Who was that masked reporter?

A 19th century cub reporter faces an extra challenge on a big story in the “Race to the Wire” episode of The Lone Ranger. His competition is the villainous Jay Collins, so mean he is rumored to have killed another reporter’s horse to get the story of Robert E. Lee’s surrender.

This time Collins and young reporter Todd Rawley are both after the first report of a peace settlement with Sitting Bull, who had been in Canada since Little Big Horn.

Collins hires thugs to intercept Rawley and beat him within an inch of his life. Lucky for Rawley, the ambush is also within earshot of the Lone Ranger’s campsite.

The masked man does more than rescue Rawley, whose injuries send him to the hospital. He offers to get the story to the telegraph and — with Tonto’s notes on the surrender of Sitting Bull and his men — tell a true story, not the sensational, “lying and bigoted” version Collins is sure to file.

The Lone Ranger also presents his version of a piece of 19th century newspaper trickery that might even be true — a reporter monopolizing the only telegraph out of town by paying the Western Union operator to transmit a large book, page by page, tying up the line for however long it takes to ensure an exclusive “beat” on the real breaking news.

Meanwhile, the Lone Ranger certainly has his own touch when it comes to news writing:

“Sitting Bull and over 1,000 dispirited, hungry and heartbroken Americans today crossed the border and surrendered after years of exile in Canada…”

Pioneer old-time radio collector J. David Goldin’s online index lists only 17 newspaper-related Lone Ranger plots among more than 2,000 episodes broadcast between 1937 and 1957, often with the adjective “courageous” preceeding “editor” or “publisher,” but sometimes with villains running or taking over newspapers. This story is the only one I’ve heard where a reporter is anti-Indian, and where the Lone Ranger and Tonto wind up doing some reporting themselves!

See my JHeroes Lone Ranger page for a selection of stories with reporters and editors crossing that masked man’s path.

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 19th century, adventure, competition, ethics, historical figures, racial justice, reporters, westerns, wire services. Bookmark the permalink.

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