The journalist Nellie Bly got bored of writing about fashion and gardening. Instead, she went undercover in a mental asylum to expose the horrible conditions there. She later travelled around the world by balloon in record time.
The notion of an “objective” media was a commercial product that only evolved in the late 1800s as newspapers shifted from partisan to nonpartisan in order to attract larger audiences from both parties and to sell these readers’ attention to advertisers.
More than 100 years ago, a French sports journalist suggested the idea of organizing a 6-day cycling race to the editor of a local newspaper to boost sales – because he couldn’t think of any other idea. That race was called Tour de France – it’s now the most prestigious bicycle race in the world.
In 1887 a reporter named Nellie Bly talked her way into an insane asylum in New York and published her experience after ten days in the asylum. She claimed many of the patients seemed completely sane and the conditions were horrid. This led to NYC budgeting $1,000,000 to care of the insane.
In 1920, the New York Times published an editorial titled “A Severe Strain on Credulity,” mocking scientist Robert Goddard’s contention that a rocket could conceivably leave the atmosphere and even reach the moon. They later printed a retraction, the day after the launch of Apollo 11.
60 Minutes ran a story on the Audi 5000 in 1986, claiming that it accelerated suddenly on its own. However, the demonstration used a rigged car whose transmission had been altered. Government agencies vindicated the car, but Audi’s sales were affected. 60 minutes never apologised to Audi.
In 1977 the Chicago Sun-Times bought a bar and ran it with undercover reporters to investigate widespread corruption.
Robert Dee, a British professional tennis player who was deemed “The world’s worst tennis player”, sued newspaper and media sites for giving him the embarrassing title. He would successfully win all of the court cases and post every formal apology letter written on his website.
Mika Brzezinski, an MSNBC News Anchor, refused to read a report about Paris Hilton’s release from jail on National Television and ranking it over a story on the Iraq War. Then after repeatingly being pressured to do the story, she attempted to light the script on fire on the air.
President Adams regularly swam nude in the Potomac River. Anne Royall, the first American professional journalist, knew of Adams’ 5 A.M. swims. After being refused interviews with the president time after time, she went to the river, gathered his clothes and sat on them until she had her interview. Before this, no female had interviewed a president.
Two student journalists proved the innocence of a man 50 hours before he was due for execution – saving his life and resulting in the real killer’s confession.