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Newspaper Page Text
HOW HENRY WOOD LANDED A BIG SCOOP ON POPE'S DEATH
FOR UNITED PRESS
BY J. W. T. MASON.
Former European Manager United
New York, Aug. 21. Henry Wood,
United Press start correspondent in
Rome, put to the credit of American
newspaper methods one of the great
est beats in the history of journal
ism Wednesday by getting the news
of Pope Plus' death out of Italy more
than eight hours before any other
This feat of journalistic enterprise
ranks with other recent United Press
beats, such as Ed L. Keen's an
nouncement of the Franco-German
war declaration six hours before the
news reached other correspondents;
his second beat of one and one-half
hours on the Anglo-German war
declaration, and William G. Shep
erd's clean scoop on the landing of
American marines on Mexican soil.
The death of Queen Victoria was
another historic United Press beat
comparable to Wednesday's. At that"
time, as well as now, a press asso
ciation which supplies most of the
American morning papers and some
afternoon papers with news, attempt
ed to explain its defeat to its clients
by declaring that the death couldn't
have occurred officially until its own
correspondents heard it.
As a matter of fact in the case of
most foreign potentates, and particu
larly at the Vatican, there is always a
long interval between the actual
medical pronouncement of death and
the public issuance of the' news.
When a pope dies certain ceremonies
must occur, and until they are ended
every effort is made to withhold the
news of the holy father's demise.
The most important action to keep
the news secret is taken by the Ital
ian government, which, as a courtesy
to the Vatican, establishes a rigid cen
sorship as soon as it is notified that
the pope .has passed away. This cen
sorship, for the time being, is the
strictest in the world and operates to
delay all telegrams regardless of their
By this means, code messages are
held up as well as plain language tele
grams while the Vatican officials are
given time officially to pronounce the
pope dead and to notify the various
governments and papal legates
throughout the world.
There is always a brief interval,
however, between the tinje that the
pope dies and the news gets to the
Italian government. During the in
terval the telegraph wires are open.
Henry Wood was able to take ad
vantage of this fact and to score an
other epochal beat for the United
Press and American journalism.
Wood is an American. He is the "
only American staff correspondent in
Rome. He served in the Cleveland
and New York bureaus of the United
Press "before being sent abroad three
years ago. An Italian, with a close
relationship to the Vatican, repre
senting an American news agency, is
Wood's chief competitor. Wood used
American methods and got his news
It was a plain case of American
methods contrasting with old world
methods. Old world methods take
for granted events cannot happen
until somebody makes an official an
nouncement that they have happen
ed. American methods are to make
public the news when it happens and
as soon as it is verified, independent
of official permission to publish it
When Leo XIII. died there was a
long interval between the actual
death and the official announcement
of the news. The Vatican held back
announcement of the news of the
death of Pope,Pius IX. for 20 hours.
Wood arranged to get the death of
Pius X. so soon as the doctors in
formed the Vatican officials and be
fore the Italian government closed
the telegraph wires. He succeeded.
He sent two code messages an
nouncing the death to different Ne
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