Colorful Journalism in Fort Wayne was first presented before the Fort Wayne Quest Club on January 22, 1966, by Herbert Bredemeir, a long time local journalist: Another who had but short journalistic experience in Fort Wayne but who accomplished much after leaving the city was William Rockhill Nelson. He served for a while with the Fort Wayne Sentinel. In 1880 he established the Kansas City Evening Star. Nelson demonstrated that a newspaper could be cheap in price without being cheap in quality. He did not believe in resorting to comics or to sensational news and large headlines or to the inartistic and vulgar order to build up circulation. On his death his widow stated that Mr. Nelson was always dedicated “to the great purposes and high ideals in service of humanity—to honest elections, to democratic government, to the abolition of special privilege, to fair dealing on the part of public service corporations, to larger opportunities for boys and girls, to progress toward social and industrial justice, to all things that make for the richer, fuller life that he coveted passionately for every man, woman and child.”
The editor of the Dispatch, a weekly newspaper, was James Mitchell. He was its founder and issued its first number on September 10, 1878. The Dispatch was National Greenback in politics and apparently had a fairly good circulation in Allen and adjoining counties. According to reports, Mitchell was a great alcoholic and eccentric. Nasty little boys called him “Shakespeare.” The boys would shout this at him on the streets and then take off with Mr. Mitchell in full pursuit, his ankle-length overcoat trailing behind him. The nicest thing, the boys thought, was that he could not run very fast.
One of the outstanding reporters in Fort Wayne was Bill Gill. He was born and educated in Fort Wayne. After leaving this city, he worked for Randolph Hearst in New York. He made himself famous by breaking the story of the sinking of the Titanic. How did this happen? He was an amateur wireless operator, and while toying with his new wireless set in his apartment he happened on to the news of the sinking. Bill immediately went to his newspaper, wrote a terrific story, and Hearst broke the story 24 hours before other papers. Later Bill moved to California and married an oil heiress by the name of Snowden, and after that lived the life of Riley. He was a member of the Old Friar’s Club in Fort Wayne which at that time was the equal of any of the most exclusive clubs in any metropolitan city.
The day of personal independent journalism in its former sense has disappeared, and today we are confronted with institutional journalism, corporate and government-managed perception.
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