Institute salutes a pioneer of investigative journalism
As interest surrounding the sinking of the Titanic reaches a crescendo point for the April centenary of the disaster, the Chartered Institute of Journalists will conduct its own ceremony of remembrance for one of the greatest journalists of all time who perished when the “unsinkable” ship sank.
William Thomas Stead, one-time editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, died as he sailed to answer a personal invitation from US President William Howard Taft to speak at a congress in New York’s Carnegie Hall on world peace and international arbitration. He decided to treat himself to a £26 11s (£25.55) first class ticket on the liner’s maiden voyage. He was 62 when he died.
The Institute, led by President Norman Bartlett, will lay a wreath at the Stead memorial on London’s Victoria Embankment, directly opposite the Temple tube station’s Embankment exit, at 10am on Sunday, April 15. This will be followed by a special service at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, at 11am. Drinks will be served afterwards.
All members of the Institute who can attend are being urged to do so because not only is this “our” event but the memorial is very much “our” memorial.
Three months after the sinking, the shock waves were still reverberating as the Institute organised a committee of the good and the great of British journalism to raise cash for a memorial. They appealed for “half-crowns and shillings” – and the cash poured into the Institute’s Hall, in Tudor Street.
So great was the response from journalists around the world who recognised Mr Stead’s achievements – which included him going to jail for “buying” a chimney-sweep’s daughter for £5 to expose child prostitution in Victorian London but resulted in the age of consent being raised from 13 to 16 – that the appeal committee had enough money to commission two identical head-and-shoulders plaques from Sir George Frampton, an eminent sculptor of the day.
The second memorial plaque was sent to the USA and is in New York’s Central Park.
We are hoping that some of the great-grandchildren of Mr Stead will be able to join with CIoJ members at the commemorative wreath-laying. Prof Roger Luckhurst, of Birkbeck College, who is organising a special conference in April (in conjunction with the British Library) examining W.T. Stead’s life achievements, has indicated that he, too, will attend the ceremonies.