It's all in the pen of the writer, perspectives

Sandy Vasko

    In today's society a new term has been coined - the words “fake news” are heard, ironically, all over the newscasts.
    Is this something new or has it always been with us? Perhaps no news is fake, it may all be in the way you look at it, or perhaps the way the writer looks at it. Hop on the way-back machine, destination Wilmington 1879.
    I first took notice of the example of different perspectives when I was transcribing a column from the Joliet Signal from the fall of 1879. The column was written by an anonymous writer who called himself “Sionilli.”
    His name is not the only thing backwards about him. His perspective of life in Wilmington seemed totally dead, dull and boring.
    My evidence is his Sept. 30 column, “What a blessing rain is! There are some who don't like rain, but I believe no one in Wilmington objected to the one we had Tuesday afternoon and night.”
    “The schools are all in good condition, and under the supervision of our able principal,     are likely to do more and better work this year than ever before.”
    “Prof. Fargo, of Bloomington, delivered a lecture on vocal music and breathing last Monday evening, in the Presbyterian Church, to an attentive and appreciative audience.”
    His final bit was a blatant commercial if I ever read one. “We learn that wherever Zell's Condensed Cyclopedia has been shown, it has met with great approbation and immeasureable sales. Having examined the work, we are prepared to say, as most of our eminent educators have said, that Zell's Condensed Cyclopedia is a very valuable and useful work, and one that ought to be in the hands of every person who cares any thing for intelligence. Wm. A. Crawford, agent, is now in Wilmington introducing this work.”
    Really! Is this the most interesting newsworthy stuff you could have sent to the Signal from Wilmington? You have got to be kidding me. I decided to look back at what previous columns were like.
    I found that our friend Sionilli had only taken over writing about Wilmington that month. The previous Wilmington news had been gathered by the editor of the Signal himself. There I found the real news.
    In the previous month, August of 1879, we read, “The residents of the neighboring city of Wilmington were startled in an unusual manner last week by a series of fatalities. Last Thursday the news was rapidly circulated that a well-known citizen named Samuel Rauworth had committed suicide in front of his own house by shooting himself with a Winchester rifle, death ensuing almost instantly. No cause was assigned for the deed although domestic trouble was hinted at by those more familiar with the life of the deceased.”
    “During the afternoon of the same day an 18-month-old child of Joseph Coash, while playing on the street, was run over by a heavily loaded farmer's wagon and instantly killed. It is said that the driver's attention was attracted by other children in the road, and that he is considered blameless for the accident.”
    “Dispatches from Wilmington of last Saturday announce, that Charles Woods shot and dangerously wounded John Hayes and Frank Gavican, whom he caught in the act of stealing melons. The shooting occurred about five miles from Wilmington. The boys shot at were aged respectively 16 and 19 years, while Woods is said to be a large and powerful man.”
    “During the races at the Wilmington race course Saturday afternoon, a collision occurred which resulted in knocking down two horses and very seriously injuring Willie White, one of the riders.”
    “Sunday morning an infuriated bull, in a pasture near the city, chased a 10-year-old boy named Jefferson, who was mounted on a horse owned by Senator White. The horse took fright and ran against a barbed wire fence, throwing the boy on the opposite side and injuring him seriously.”
    This column certainly gives us a wholly different view of Wilmington. So, was the first mentioned column “fake news” giving the world a different viewpoint of Wilmingtonians?
    No, it is just a different viewpoint on what should be reported on and why? In one case the reporter chose to highlight the grizzly details, while in the other, pleasant social dignity and selling books were the highlight of Wilmington life.
    Just a different perspective.