The Scopes Trial - What Really Happened?

Essay by BamaMickUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 2006

download word file, 3 pages 5.0

The Scopes trial took place in Dayton, a small town in Rhea County, Tennessee during the summer of 1925. The trial is best known for pitting William Jennings Bryan, a popular evangelist, against a legendary defense attorney Clarence Darrow. Bryan argued that Tennessee's anti-Darwin law should be upheld and Darrow agued for freedom of speech. The trial was one of the biggest media events in history. There were over 200 news media representatives and Dr. Cornelius reported that Michael Williams of The Commonweal suggested that, "There is a bigger representation of writers, telegraphers, artists, photographers and the other items of the newspaper circus than at any other big story since the naval limitation conference in Washington". (Cornelius, 2005) In China, there were 27 newspapers that published daily accounts of the Scopes Trial and a Chicago radio station WGN sent a crew to make the event the first live national radio broadcast of an American trial.

The event had quantity but lacked quality historical coverage. The Scopes trial was one of superficial sensation, unjustified bias, and disregard for significant issues.

The daily reporting of the Scopes Trial was sensationalized to gather public interest and increase revenue for the various media companies present. In the article, The Trial Gavel Heard Round the World, one reporter did not attend the trials and when confronted, he replied, "I don't have to know what's going on; I know what my paper wants me to write." (Cornelius, 2005) A majority of the reporters came from the North with preconceived notions about small southern towns and fundamentalist Christians. Their bias and racist attitudes towards the south led to improper reporting and slanting of the real events that took place in and out of the courtroom in Dayton, Tennessee.

Today, many of the phrases and descriptions that...