Early 'Kuryente' Stories in American newspapers.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Article excerpt

THOSE bum stories fed to some newspaper reporters continue to annoy city editors. And displease readers when they find print.

Such hoax news accounts are often tipped off to new or naive reporters by the veterans on the beat - "for the fun of it" - who swallow them hook, line and sinker.

Curiously, the "kuryente" syndrome is contagious. It creeps into the corridors of politics, victimizing not only members of the Cabinet and legislators but even the highest person in the land.

Early accounts of those falsely concocted stories date back to the 1930s carried out by American reporters, and even tolerated by their own newspaper management.

The hard-cover Scoundrels and Scalawags - a Reader's Digest book - contains a number of those narrations.

Competition for readership and circulation, especially among the afternoon and evening tabloids in the United States is the raison d'etre why mock newspaper stories continue to appall not only American newspapers but also the wire services. Local newsrooms are not spared.

Lincoln Steffens of the New York Evening Post and Jacob A. Riis of the Evening Sun were rival police reporters. This was in 1931.

One day bored by an uneventful afternoon covering the police beat, Steffens wrote a "scoop" story about the house of a stock broker that was burglarized.

And, yes, to make the story more sensational and credible, the news item said two policemen who were around the vicinity but were unaware of the break-in even helped the thieves load the stolen items into the van.

Of course, it was a fake police story, it never happened.

Editors of the rival Sun irked for having been "scooped" berated Riis for missing the story. Even the morning papers were reprinting the fabricated beat story.

Riis knew it was a made-up account. So, to retaliate he wrote not only one but three spurious robberies. Also hoax stories. But they made Steffens' innocent editors squirm in their seats by the "exclusive" stories from their rival. …