I have had this idea for a long time. Choose a very old newspaper edition reporting a world history making event. Then pick random and unrelated reports from its pages and juxtapose with the main event. This could make an excellent film as well a compelling novel as several disparate events unfold simultaneously and eventually all come together in a narrative.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of such old newspaper issues and certainly no dearth of epic news stories. I chanced upon many while going through the old issues of the European edition of The New York Herald, the original name for the International Herald Tribune, now rechristened The International New York Times. To mark the name change the Times opened up its archives of seminal issues dating back to 1887. I chose the March 17, 1917 edition because it reports the abdication by the Tsar of Russia. It is a vivid and captivating account reported by the Petrograd correspondent of the Times. I could not find the name of the correspondent.
This is a huge news story happening in the midst of the First World War (July 1914-November 1918). So it already has a dramatic historic backdrop of its own. Within that there are several other events happening simultaneously. Those events lend themselves brilliantly to movie scenes. Consider these four together happening in Petrograd, Paris, Baghdad, and Mexico City.
In Petrograd, the following is going on. The Times correspondent describes hundreds of empty cartridges littering the snow-covered streets with blood sprinkled all over. If that is not cinematic, what is?
Then take this scene in Paris which forms a complete contrast to the tumult in Petrograd. The little weather sidelight speaks of the “ethereal mildness” of the city weather that day. If Paris with its ethereal mildness is not cinematic, what is?
From Petrograd to Paris and from Paris, jump to Baghdad, where the British have captured part of Bakuba, north of Baghdad.
From Bakuba we travel all the way to Mexico where President Venustiano Carranza, who has maintained neutrality through World War I, is weighing his options whether to join the Germans. German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman had in a famous telegram in January 1917 offered his country’s help to Mexico to recapture the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona from the United States. The Herald has a strong editorial point of view on that, which is meant for Mexico but cites how the Germans never really kept their promise to Turkey.
In what seems like an editorial, the Herald warns Carranza not to fall for the German overtures because their intentions are to make Mexico its “catspaw.” To illustrate its argument, the paper talks of how Turkey was led to believe that Germany would get Egypt, Tripoli and Transcaucasia but was never delivered those.
Perhaps to some of you all this may seem too confusing but I can see the larger movie/book narrative quite clearly here. And all that from a single day’s newspaper.