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Charlottesville Survives the Great Depression!

Reporting in Charlottesville: The Story of a Far-Off Crisis

CHARLOTTESVILLE -- From the crash of the stock market on October 29, 1929 until the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Charlottesville newspaper The Daily Progress told the story of the legislative, social and militarisitic events of the nation during The Great Depression. But for the most part they did not tell a story of tragedy, poverty or loss. Instead they portrayed the image of a well-to-do city casually observing a national disaster -- from a comfortable distance. While the local newspaper did use Asssociated Press stories that told the events of the national disaster, the local news stories, editorials and advertising gave a different story. It told the tale of a small Virginia community which was protected from the financial ills of the time by its old money.

Inside Today's Edition:

The News Stories

The news stories in The Daily Progress of this era for the most part did follow the major events of the Depression. But the fact that very few of them were actually written by local staff writers helped show that these Associated Press stories told a national story, not a local one. When there were local stories on Depression-related events, they were almost always local color stories attempting to show that Charlottesville was unaffected by national trends.

The Daily Progress editorial staff created the perception to counter the Associated Press stories and calm the public, telling them that life was normal. The tone of the editorials throughout these dates was one of "status quo" and "normalcy," not one of alarm. Many even indicated that the measures in the New Deal were unnecessary and questioned the democratic motives.

The local merchants and other financial organizations in Charlottesville used The Daily Progress as their personal megaphone to announce to local consumers that business was going on as usual. They down-played the bank closings, showed that business was prosperous and encouraged buyers to keep spending as usual.
The Journalism of Reassurance

Through the combination of these elements the editors, publishers, writers and advertisers reassured the Charlttesville public that this was not a local problem -- life was going on as normal in Charlottesville. Instead, they helped the public watch a far-off dilemma much like modern television viewers watch distant wars and famines on television.

Reporting on Key Dates in the Depression

October 29, 1929: Stock Market Crash March 4, 1933: FDR Innaugurated March 5, 1933: FDR declares 'bank holiday' March 9, 1933: Emergency Banking Bill passed May 12, 1933: Federal Emergency Relief Act passed December 5, 1933: Repeal of Prohibition
May 6, 1935: WPA established August 14, 1935 Social Security Act passed November 3, 1936: FDR re-elected February 3, 1937: National Guard prepared to strike workers in Flint, Michigan September 16, 1940: Selective Service Act passed December 7, 1941: Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor


Works Cited