Color painting of the R.M.S. Titanic at sea.
The Library of Virginia >> Exhibitions >> R.M.S. Titanic: Ninety Years Later

Introduction

Newspaper Coverage

Inaccurate or Misleading Reporting

Headline Coverage

Editorial Cartoons

High Society on the High Seas

Man vs. Nature…
Nature Wins

Aftermath and Inquiry

References


Even the technological advances of the telegraph and photograph (both of which gave a compelling immediacy to the Titanic tragedy) could not prevent the publication of a fair number or glaringly inaccurate reports regarding the events of the night of April 14, 1912. Most of these betrayed a touching optimism regarding the status of the stricken ocean liner. Any lingering doubts as to the Titanic's condition reported in the articles of April 15 were usually resolved by April 16.

Virginia newspapers had their fair share of speculative reporting, but national and international titles were also plagued by a marked lack of accurate news reporting that caused many readers to believe the Titanic was safely afloat, perhaps even unharmed.

Passengers Safely Moved and Steamer Titanic Taken In Tow; Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA), April 15, 1912

Crushed by Iceberg Mighty Steamer is on the Brink of Ruin; Evening World (Roanoke, VA), April 15, 1912

Richmond Man Escapes From Sinking Steamer Titanic, News-Leader (Richmond, VA), April 15, 1912

Titanic Sunk, No Lives Lost Daily Mail, London, England, April 16, 1912

Last of the Titanic; Daily Mail, London, England, April 16, 1912

Repair Problem, No Dock Large Enough in America; Daily Mail, London, England, April 16, 1912

The horror and loss involved in the sinking of the Titanic, evoked a strong human need to find something heroic, even redemptive in the event. Inflated tales of honor and daring-do were widely reported and gave great comfort to a stunned public. Later research by scholars of the disaster would discover no hard evidence to substantiate the following headline from The Los Angeles Times:

Maj. Butt with Gun in Hand, Held Back Frenzied Men, Saved Women; Capt. Smith a Suicide on Bridge; Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1912