April 10, 2012

The Titanic Sinks

The RMS Titanic leaving Southampton, England. (National Archives and Records Administration)
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The RMS Titanic leaving Southampton, England. (National Archives and Records Administration)

The April 15, 1912, edition of <em>The </em>(N.Y.) <em>Evening Mail</em> erroneously reported  that all passengers on the Titanic were saved. (Newseum collection)
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The April 15, 1912, edition of The (N.Y.) Evening Mail erroneously reported that all passengers on the Titanic were saved. (Newseum collection)

<em>The New York Herald</em> focused on the  famous people aboard the Titanic in this April 16, 1912, edition. (Newseum  collection)
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The New York Herald focused on the famous people aboard the Titanic in this April 16, 1912, edition. (Newseum collection)

Real estate tycoon John Jacob Astor was the focus of the front page of the  April 16, 1912, edition of the <em>New York  American</em>. (Newseum collection)
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Real estate tycoon John Jacob Astor was the focus of the front page of the April 16, 1912, edition of the New York American. (Newseum collection)

"Band Played Till End!" screamed the headline in the April 19, 1912, edition of <em>The Newbury Morning Herald</em>. (Newseum  collection)
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“Band Played Till End!” screamed the headline in the April 19, 1912, edition of The Newbury Morning Herald. (Newseum collection)

<em>The Atlanta Constitution</em> reported on the  men &ldquo;who met death like heroes.&rdquo; (Newseum collection)
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The Atlanta Constitution reported on the men “who met death like heroes.” (Newseum collection)

The April 19, 1912, edition of <em>The Denver  Post</em> heralded hometown socialite called the 'Unsinkable Molly Brown."  (Newseum collection)
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The April 19, 1912, edition of The Denver Post heralded hometown socialite called the “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” (Newseum collection)

One of the Titanic’s two wireless operators gave his exclusive story to The New York Times in this April 19, 1912, edition. (Newseum collection)
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One of the Titanic’s two wireless operators gave his exclusive story to The New York Times in this April 19, 1912, edition. (Newseum collection)

A  full-page photo of Titanic survivors approaching the Carpathia rescue ship  appeared in the April 27, 1912, edition of <em>Harper&rsquo;s  Weekly</em>.(Newseum collection)
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A full-page photo of Titanic survivors approaching the Carpathia rescue ship appeared in the April 27, 1912, edition of Harper’s Weekly.(Newseum collection)

A passenger on the Carpathia took this photo of Titanic survivors, which  appeared on the cover of the April 27, 1912, edition of <em>The Graphic</em>, a British illustrated newspaper. (Newseum collection)
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A passenger on the Carpathia took this photo of Titanic survivors, which appeared on the cover of the April 27, 1912, edition of The Graphic, a British illustrated newspaper. (Newseum collection)

On April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage to New York
from Southampton, UK, struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean and sank within three hours. During the evacuation, there weren’t enough lifeboats to hold everyone on the ship. Most of the lifeboats were only partially full when launched.

More than 2,200 passengers and crew were on the Titanic; more than 1,500 perished. Among the dead was William Thomas Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. The controversial British journalist pioneered the use of newspaper illustrations, sensational scoops and big headlines.

Early newspaper headlines about the disaster were big and bold, but they also were inaccurate.

In their race to get the latest information, newspapers carried conflicting accounts.
The Los Angeles Express falsely reported that all the passengers were safe. The New York Herald declared that 675 passengers, mostly women and children, were saved.

One reason for the confusion was the limitations of technology. In 1912, the fastest way to spread news was through Morse code on a wireless radio. But wireless messages often became distorted, especially over long distances or in poor weather. The RMS Carpathia received distress calls from Titanic’s wireless radio 35 minutes after the collision and sailed to the site to rescue survivors.

Though the exact count may never be known, the tally for Titanic’s 2,208 passengers and crew: 712 were saved; 1,496 died. The Carpathia reached New York three days after the rescue.

A selection of more than 30 graphics and historic front pages reporting on the Titanic disaster will be in the Today’s Front Pages glass display cases on Pennsylvania Avenue April 13 to 20. Some of those newspapers are featured with this story.

The story about the Titanic, and an exhibit on how reporting errors are made, are displayed in the News Corporation News History Gallery.

An “Inside Media” program, “The Titanic: 100 Years Later,” will be held Sunday, April 15, 2012, in the Knight TV Studio on Level 3 at 2:30 p.m.

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