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Dewey defeats Truman

June 29, 2012
By Wes Burns , Times-Republican

I've heard a lot of people say that newspapers are an anachronism.

Correction: I've heard a lot of people say "Newspapers? Do people still read those?" I assume they would have liked to say "anachronism" but they don't read enough to know what the word means.

Newspapers have suffered at the hands of new technology. Why bother reading a newspaper when you can just look online for your news? Or TV? Or your more political-minded friends on Facebook?

I'm sure one of them has posted a still image from a movie with a funny caption that encapsulates everything you need to know about a major event; and if you need more ... insight ... you can always check out the picture's comments to read some critical, well thought discussion about just how much Hitler would have liked/disliked whatever the topic may be.

Newspapers being beholden to their technology isn't new.

DATELINE:?The Past. Specifically Chicago, November of 1948. The race for the presidency is being fought between the incumbent Harry S. Truman and Governor of New York Thomas E. Dewey.

With newspaper staffs around the country waiting late into the night for election results, the Chicago Tribune, which had just switched its printing process to one that was cheaper but required more time, goes to press with the now infamous headline "Dewey defeats Truman!"

As you've never heard of President Dewey I?think we all know what went wrong.

The technology of the time demanded that the Tribune go to print early, and it did so at the cost of accuracy.

But this couldn't happen again, right? Modern technology and instantaneous communication make all these problems disappear, how can the information be wrong if you hear the same message from a thousand different sources?

Unless those sources watch CNN, or FOX.

You've probably seen something, somewhere, about the Supreme Court decision today. The networks were all geared up: CNN had a countdown clock running for the last week, MSNBC had Lawrence O'Donnell downing glasses of Pinot to keep his blue-blooded anger up while at FOX, Roger Ailes loomed over his computer monitor, waiting to release coverage at the appropriate time since the stories had all been written last week.

Then the white smoke came out of the Court's chambers, and the decision was rendered.

Reporters around the globe scrambled for the decision, flipping through pages and pages, on air, seeking in vain to find the opinion.

Quick aside: All Supreme Court decisions look exactly the same. Why were they looking so hard? Have they never seen an opinion before? How do you cover the Supreme Court and NOT know where the opinion is located?

First out of the gate were FOX and CNN. Both networks leapt to the airwaves to proudly proclaim "Supreme Court strikes down individual mandate!"

You may have noticed the court did the exact opposite of that.

CNN and FOX corrected their stories, but not before it made it to air and all over Twitter.

Next time you hear about how newspapers are too slow for the modern world, remember that having more than two minutes to report a story might not be a bad thing.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Friday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or



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