November 5, 1906: Herald claims News Tribune sensationalized story

On this day in Duluth in 1906, the Duluth Herald took the Duluth News Tribune to task for its reporting on the odd circumstances surrounding the death of a foundling infant. The child, born premature, had been left in the care of Mrs. Clara Butler, who operated a “boarding house for infants” and wasn’t expected to live long. Within a week Butler found the child lifeless and had the body retrieved by the Durkan & Crawford Morgue on Friday, November 2. The News Tribune reported on Sunday, November 4, that the child was placed on a slab on Friday night, but the next day a “visitor” (a “stranger to the place”) found the child alive, its “face contorted with pain, its body almost coal black.” Mr. Crawford was summoned, and he rushed the child to a physician, then to a hospital, where it was placed in an incubator. The child didn’t last through the day. On the 5th, another News Tribune story made claims of the child’s mother, a “beautiful young woman” named Wilkinson, and a “fashionably dressed man of 30 with plenty of money” who wanted to adopt the child—but neither could be located by the paper. That same day the Herald reported on the story, but it did something the News Tribune had not: interviewed undertaker John Crawford. He set the story straight and clarified that the child had not spent the night on the slab, was not discolored and had not contorted in pain, and that there was never any “visitor.” The Herald also defended Mrs. Butler, who they described as a “good-hearted widow woman” who “doesn’t run a baby farm.” Still, the next day the News Tribune ran a story to underscore that its first two stories were absolutely true, and that Mrs. Butler had told them she wanted the reporter to know that she felt obliged to him for the “advertising he has given the business of baby farming.” On November 11 the News Tribune took it a step further by proclaiming that its “exposé” of the event “may benefit abandoned infants.”

The headline ofr a Duluth News Tribune story the Duluth Herald argued was completely sensationalized. (Image: Zenith City Press)