Colorful Journalism in Fort Wayne, was presented before the Fort Wayne Quest Club on January 22, 1966 by Herbert Bredemeir: An early editor of the News was Jessie Austin Greene, who was born in Indianapolis March 3, 1867, the son of a pioneer Methodist minister. He graduated from Wabash College and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. For a while he tried teaching at Oregon, Missouri High School and then entered newspaper work at Crawfordsville, becoming editor of the Crawfordsville Journal in 1898. In 1902 he moved to Terra Haute where he became editor of the Tribune. In 1904 he purchased an interest in the Fort Wayne News. Although he never sought public office, he was actively interested in politics. He brought to the councils of the Republican Party a discriminating judgment of men and motives and expressed himself frankly, publicly as well as privately. His opponents (with the exception of Mr. Moynihan) respected him and his friends loved him. The Decatur Democrat wrote of him as, “a powerful writer of vitriolic style and…recognized because of his wonderful use of English and his ability to use pungent words and sentences in a very effective manner.” Fort Wayne’s distinguished journalist, Clifford Ward, remembers him as a brilliant writer with an excellent educational background. Greene was slight of build and Andy Moynihan said, “Jesse reminds me of a half-pint of skimmed milk.” Jesse had a reverential face and with gray hair that made him resemble a pious Casper Milquetoast, but he packed more dynamite in his editorial punch than any of his contemporaries in the news business.
While he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, he gave up wearing his key when one day he saw his barber wearing one. His hatred for smoking was violent. The Western Union once made the mistake of delivering a telegram to him by a youngster who was smoking a cigarette when he came into Greene’s office. Greene took him by the neck and the seat of his pants and threw him down the stairway. He then called Western Union saying that, if they ever sent him another such messenger, he would give all of his business to Postal Telegraph.
Even the manager of the Fort Wayne Traction Company was ordered out of Greene’s office for making the mistake of lighting a cigarette in his office. Whenever Greene was in the office, no one on the staff would dare to smoke, but a system of circumventing this was devised. The telephone operator kept a lookout in the morning and as Mr. Greene came down Main Street, she gave the signal and the boys all ditched their smokes. Mr. Greene would come into the office sniffing the air but would be unable to see the evidence. Greene was much opposed to the use of curse words and he often took his reporters to task for being unable to use decent English.
There was no doubt that several times Greene used “managed perception” to suit his purposes. Prior to World War I, whenever there was a discussion about the merits of Daylight Saving Time. A coupon was run in Greene’s paper for a public vote on the question. The no’s always came out a winner because Greene did not want to lose one hour of wire service. By his controlled public reaction, the city council, who counted votes before voting on any issue, then agreed with Greene and Daylight Saving Time was postponed until World War I. Which further proved the old axiom that, “It’s not the voters who count; it’s the vote counters.” To be continued.
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