Publisher’s Note: Main Street Nashville reprints some of the best covers of the Nashville Banner, an afternoon newspaper that was published from 1876 to 1998. The pages are courtesy of the Nashville Public Library, Nashville Banner Collection.
75 YEARS AGO IN THE
As you would expect, many newspaper articles from decades past use language and cover topics that would be very offensive to most readers today. Such is the case of a story about the capture of two refugees on the front page of the September 6, 1946 banner.
After a nightly search and a hail of bullets, two of the four people who had fled the “prison for the mentally ill” on Antioch Road two days earlier were arrested in Smyrna thanks to blood dogs, among other things.
One of the men hid under a shop, the other in an outbuilding behind the shop.
The other two fugitives were still at large.
In a way, the coverage shows the progress we have made as a country on mental health and racial relations. The way newspapers approach these issues has inevitably evolved as well.
For example, the first sentence of the escape story – what journalists refer to as “Lede” – mentions the race of the prisoners. These days, a person’s race is only included in stories if it is relevant. Many publications have made other changes to their crime coverage, including not naming those arrested for minor offenses.
Derogatory terms like “insane,” “insane,” and “insane” are no longer used in relation to mental illness unless they are part of a quote that is essential to a story.