‘Terrible fracture’ death lays rest to claims that modern York County journalism is sensational
Two days after Christmas in 1899, The York Gazette published this report about the death of an elderly man in Fawn Grove, in southeastern York County, Pa. Also of interest: York County, Pa., journalism goes back to the future and A list of traumatic, painful incidents that rocked York County and Suicide story: York hotel proprietor ‘found a package that had contained about a quarter of a pound of Paris green’.
A man who fell down stairs to his death would make news today.
But from time to time, it’s good to remind York Town Square readers of the reserve used in modern journalism to report such news vs. the newspapers of old.
For in accounting deaths 100 years ago, newspapers – even small-town newspapers like those in York County – went right to the point.
In those days, they used no Cheerios test, a concept in American newsrooms nowadays to help determine the level of details to include in a news story. The test is whether modern readers could read a story over breakfast and keep their appetite, so to speak. This isn’t even taking into account concerns in modern journalism about how overzealous detailing would affect families of the victims.
So here’s the rest of The York Gazette’s story “Terrible Fracture,” with the warning that it might not pass the test, if you are still reading this after seeing the headlines above on your computer with a bowl of Cheerios near your mouse pad:
“The family says that as usual he arose from bed somewhat earlier than the rest and it is supposed that he made a misstep on the stairs and fell to the bottom, fracturing his skull. The fracture was so great that the brains were oozing out and a large puddle of blood was also found where he was laying.
“The accident occurred Sunday morning.”
So much for claims that today’s general circulation journalism in York County and elsewhere in the U.S. is sensational.