The Pulitzer Prize Story: News Stories, Editorials, Cartoons, and Pictures from the Pulitzer Prize Collection at Columbia University

By John Hohenberg | Go to book overview

IV. IN DEFENSE OF JUSTICE:
THE REPORTING OF CRIME

On the blustery afternoon of March 1, 1954, Puerto Rican fanatics began shooting up the House of Representatives in Washington, D. C.

Reporters in and around the august chamber heard gunfire at 2:32 p.m. Suddenly, incredibly, they saw one representative collapse. Another staggered outside and slumped to the floor. Still others ducked.

Within three minutes, flashes and bulletins broke into the orderly news routine of the nation's city rooms. And for hours afterward, reporters who had been in or near the line of fire developed the fantastic story that created an uproar in the nation's capital.

It is given to few reporters to cover such an outbreak. Many can go through a lifetime of newspapering without hearing a shot fired in anger. But always, there is that chance. Always, a good reporter remembers the lessons of his first police story . . . get the facts straight . . . go to the nearest phone . . . let the desk know what's going on.

True, after the hazards of two world wars and the still greater dangers of the new era of atomic bombs, rockets, and outer space missiles, the fancied glamor of crime reporting has paled for many a newspaperman. And for editors, even on the liveliest papers, there is no longer much point to stretching out a crime story for days and weeks. Today, except for the very biggest spot news breaks, such a story often lasts only an afternoon, or an evening, and then is dropped in favor of something more important. In fact, the more

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