Lindbergh and the Press

Westbrook Pegler

Decatur Daily Review/December 22, 1933

It looks as though the Lindberghs and the newspapers will have to reach an understanding that the Lindberghs are news any time they leave the ground but that their lives are their own. Otherwise the Lindberghs are likely to be killed in the performance of some unimportant feat of journalistic enterprise by some photographer sent out to shoot them on the wing—and this would be a disaster which the newspaper business would not be able to live down.

No paper or picture service considers that a somewhat foggy photograph of an airplane which might be just any airplane and a couple of indistinct figures which might be just any man and woman is worth killing the Lindberghs for. But the accounts of the dog-fights between the Lindberghs and the photographers’ ships in Miami and New York indicate that the risk was taken several times for the sake of some shots which, when they did get into print, weren’t much to look at after all.

Among the jobs which I do not desire at all is that of the newspaper photographer who is often assigned to get pictures of the Lindberghs under various conditions, some worse than others but all of them disagreeable. His orders are flat but he is under pressure from the office on one side and from public opinion on the other, so he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. If he annoys the Lindberghs the public is indignant. But to get the picture he must annoy the Lindberghs. And if he doesn’t get it the office is annoyed.

Up to now there has been no understanding at all. The news picture business is competitive so the photographers grow more and more daring. And the Lindberghs, stubborn through it all, refuse to make any adjustment and just challenge the camera planes to greater hazards.

The planes which gave Lindbergh so much trouble as they covered all the airports around New York on his arrival home were up not so much to get pictures as to make certain that nobody else got any which they didn’t have. If Lindbergh had agreed to be met and photographed by one ship the pictures companies would have been able to save a lot of money and bother and would have let him otherwise alone in the air. But Lindbergh challenged them to catch him and he and his wife could have been killed in a crash to provide some photographs which the papers then would have been ashamed to print. He ignores the fact that though photographers may crash they outnumber him and that there will always be more of them to chase him around unless he agrees to hold still or the papers agree to boycott such pictures. But there is only one Lindbergh and one Anne.

Lindbergh tired quickly of newspaper attention but he can’t cancel the public interest in him. He must be covered. He has had two accidents, one in Mexico City and another in China, which constantly remind the papers and the news services which handle both news and pictures that even the master isn’t crash proof.

It seemed to me that he was badly handled by his press-agents from the beginning. Any publicity operator should have known that the papers and picture services would have to cover Lindbergh from Paris on and should have reached an understanding as to how it should be done with the least inconvenience to him and the best results possible under the circumstances to the press. Instead of which he goes off on long flights refusing to tell anyone which way he is going or where he might sit down and the result is that the news and picture agencies cover all points and make much more trouble for him and work and expense for themselves than would be necessary under a considerate working agreement. If the Lindberghs had fallen into the sea the time they disappeared from England on their flight for France the whole world would have demanded the story. But he made it as hard as he could for the papers to cover him and the result was that they covered him anyway and were laying for him to make sure he wouldn’t elude them when he returned to New York.

Lindbergh insists that inasmuch as he minds his own business the world ought to let him be. Unfortunately that just isn’t the way it is. He is one of the few gods this country has and whether he owes the public anything or not he will have to pay something as the price of his fame, celebrity, glory, adulation or what. It certainly isn’t the demand of his public or of the papers, either, however, that he pay with his life and that of his wife.

If he would lean a little the papers would, too. The press is not only tired of the great expense which he imposes by his current way of doing but always afraid of being scooped and downright jittery for fear that sometime some newspaper ship might cause a crash that would kill the Lindberghs.

(Source: Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/42478874/the_decatur_daily_review/)

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