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

IX. THE LONELY STRUGGLE:
MAN AGAINST HIS FATE

Hundreds of persons die in automobile accidents over summer week-ends in America. Yet, signs of public alarm are rare.

Thousands may be exposed to radioactive fallout; millions all over the earth may be facing starvation. Still, it is difficult if not impossible to make an impression on the public unless a person or a group, caught in a net of circumstance, arouses sympathy.

But let a seven-year-old boy like Benny Hooper tumble into a Long Island well and the whole country becomes avidly interested in the effort to save him. When Benny was rescued from the well at Manorville on May 17, 1957, he was king of American boys—for at least a day.

This public feeling for the drama of man's struggle against the elements, against disaster, disease, and death, has been familiar to storytellers throughout the ages. It is one of the basic ingredients of news, as we know it. Philosophers may deplore it, welfare workers and others may condemn this singling out of the individual rather than the mass of unfortunates, but there is precious little that any newspaper editor can do about it. Or, even if by some chance he could do something, I would suspect the average editor would print the story first and philosophize about it afterward. The editor doesn't live, regardless of what restrictions may be imposed on him, who doesn't love a good story.

This instinctive public interest in the plight of the individual has made many a hero in the past and will create many more. The captain striving to save his ship during a storm at sea ... the pilot

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