We’ve all seen the tabloid headlines in the supermarket checkout aisles: “Duck Hunters Shoot Angel!” “Trump Catches Russia’s White House Spy!”
The New York Post is often cited as having had one of the most memorable headlines ever, published in the 1980s: “Headless Body In Topless Bar.”
None of this is new, of course. More than 100 years ago, William Randolph Hearst’s flashy New York Evening Journal was famous (or infamous) for its sensational headlines: “Dreyfus Trial Reveals Lower Depths of Depravity!” and “Rich Woman Taken In Ball Gown To Bellview … Becomes Suddenly Violently Insane!”
In 1919, UM journalism students “Eck” Mosby and Neal McKain gave tabloid headlines a try, issuing a special edition imitating the style of William Randolph Hearst’s flashy New York Evening Journal.
The pair apologized in advance – not for departing from journalistic standards – but to the Journal, “for putting out such a far better news sheet than published by them!”
Mosby and McKain admitted “we have not the gossip and scandal at the University that there is in New York, so we cannot fill the front page of this issue up to the Journal’s standard in that respect. However, we believe we have succeeded fairly well.”
So they did, with their flashy banner headline on the front page: “Con From Candidates At Con – Large Crowd Packs Hall To Hear Bunk From Politicians.”
On any other day, the story about candidates for ASUM offices would have dealt with each student’s profile and platform. But for this special edition of the Kaimin, McKain and Mosby ignored such mundane matters, opting instead for lines like, “Wildest excitement has prevailed,” and “No loss of life has yet been recorded.”
The campus was said to be dotted with “(e)xcited little groups” discussing various candidates’ chances, while “(l)urid sounds have been heard coming from many of the fraternity houses and general mass meetings, resembling mobs, are held at irregular intervals.”
The writers said all the candidates for ASUM offices appeared at a campus forum except for one group.
“Reticence or underhand work of some sort kept the candidates for the vice presidency from being present. We had never expected these office seekers of being silver-tongued orators, but we did think they would welcome this opportunity to talk.”
They concluded their story with: “Self-respecting citizens are in constant fear of their lives, as the candidates outnumber them almost two to one. Great anxiety is felt as the primaries do not take place until next Friday.”
Similarly the local stock report dealt not with the giants of industry, but the popularity of campus outerwear (sport shirts, duck trousers and Panamas) and student finances, or as it was referred to in stock terminology: IOU.
“Reports just taken from the ticker showed a big advance in sport shirts and duck trousers. Panamas preferred and straws common have also taken a leap skyward. Old-timers on the street say that these articles always rise with the thermometer.”
A music program at the main auditorium on campus was the subject of a story under the headline: “Co-Ed Songsters Will Warble Tuesday.” The author declared, “A stupendous program has been arranged and local authorities are of the opinion that at least part of it will be permitted.”
Then the pair turned their attention to rumors of union organizing on campus – specifically, a petition by the “local hashers’ union at Simpkins hall” to affiliate itself with a national organization.
The culinary union had “organized only a short time ago when the University began serving meals in the men’s barracks.
“The Buzzards is a national organization composed to date of only one chapter, the one located at Craig Hall. Being very exclusive, no other campus has ever been granted a chapter by Montana Alpha.
“Speaking of their hopes for a national, President K. McKain of the local union said, “Should we be so fortunate as to become a member of this great national, we can only attempt to uphold its good name. If we are not at first successful, we shall attempt to overcome our deficiencies so that we may in time become real Buzzards.”
As the Montana Kaimin scribblers take up their quills this fall, perhaps they could issue a special 2019 edition honoring their brethren of 100 years ago.
Then again, in the highly charged political atmosphere of today, with daily claims of “fake news,” it’s probably best to steer clear of humor.
Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.