The media today has had to prove themselves accountable for each story they put out there. The fact that news is no longer really edited until after the fact, leaves their stories full of holes and often untruths. The term “fake news” goes back a long way. Even in the days of the supposedly beacons of news reporting, like Walter Cronkite, Huntley & Brinkley and Edward R. Murrow, there were those who tended to bend the truth to sensationalize a story.
I took some journalism classes in college which taught the necessity of the five “W’s,” the who, what, where, when and why questions which had to be answered to get at the truth. Somehow, those basic facts are no longer enough for the public. They relish hearing the motivation behind – the possible reasons – the unreal – the gossip and the second hand accounts before making judgments. Now with instant news raging across our internet, there is little time to fact check and often the untruths become truth in lieu of meeting a deadline,
In 1897, Walter Winchell was born in New York. He made a living reporting embarrassing stories about work associates in Vaudeville, writing bits and pieces about men in organized crime and even became involved in the McCarthy hearings which opened a witch hunt of almost everyone in the entertainment business.
He began his career in Vaudeville when he left the sixth grade. There sure didn’t seem to be a great emphasis on education in those days. While performing in a group called the Newsboys Sextet, which also included actor George Jessel. He began his career as a gossip columnist by writing notes about his fellow performers and posting them on the bulletin board. He was hired in 1929 by the New York Daily Mirror, to write a daily gossip column. Apparently folks were into fake news, big time in the nineteen twenties too.
In the thirties, Winchell had a lot of connections in the underworld of the prohibition. Fearing that he might be rubbed out for knowing too much, so he fled to California. He returned only a few weeks later with a new zeal for all things American – The FBI – organized crime – the Lindbergh Kidnapping case – things people wanted to read or hear about. During this time, he was responsible for turning Louis Lepke Buchalter of Murder, Inc. over to J. Edgar Hoover.
Winchell did a weekly radio and television broadcast in the 1950s. Because of his Jewish heritage and the atrocities towards Jews in Germany during WWII, he connected with McCarthy to fight against Communism in America. He soon lost favor with the American public and his popularity declined.
His own personal life included a marriage that lasted only a short time – a son who later committed suicide, a daughter who died of pneumonia and another daughter who was declared mentally unstable. She was the only one at his grave site on the day of his funeral. Winchell died in February, 1972 in Los Angeles, California.
“Winchell was a good newspaperman but a vain man, convinced he could change the course of world events — slightly deluded, but never mind. He also fancied himself a ladies’ man.” – Lauren Bacall.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WALTER WINCHELL!