Little Lindy Is Kidnapped: How the Media Covered the Crime of the Century

Columbia Univ. Nov. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780231198486. $27.95. CRIME
Examining the media circus that surrounded the trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the 1932 kidnapping and murder of the infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Doherty (American studies, Brandeis Univ.; Show Trial) offers a largely noncritical view both of Lindbergh and of the conviction and execution of Hauptmann—though Doherty acknowledges that there were issues with the ransom exchange and evidence that was either not followed up or completely bungled. Instead, he focuses on the public’s ravenous appetite for the story and the explosion of news coverage at every twist and turn, including syndicated newspaper columnist and radio broadcaster Walter Winchell’s reporting of Hauptmann’s trial. The author explores the culture clash of three competing media types: the old guard of print journalism vs. newcomers radio and newsreels. Though barred from Hauptmann’s trial, the two newer forms of media tried to give the curious public what it wanted—lots of coverage, plenty of opinions, and, with newsreels, as many visuals as possible. Doherty provides an academic take on the case from a fresh angle—that of the changes in media reporting and public consumption of news.
VERDICT General true crime readers should probably pass, but Lindbergh kidnapping buffs, media scholars, and those interested in media history will be intrigued.
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