FLEMINGTON, NJ – Usually, journalists go where the action is.
So you might have expected a throng of them at Saturday’s demonstration in front of the old Historic Courthouse, where hundreds gathered to protest Trump’s immigration policies.
But the world of journalism has changed. Apparently, only TAPinto covered the protest organized by Hunterdon Democrats.
Yet there were other journalists on Main Street here, honoring a time and place when journalists competed to cover big stories. They were just down the street from the courthouse at the Doric House, the home of the Hunterdon County Historical Society. That’s where the Society of Professional Journalists unveiled a bronze plaque Saturday, recognizing the Union Hotel as the center of the worldwide media coverage during the Lindbergh kidnapping trial in 1935.
It was the Crime of the Century and at a time when radio was first establishing itself as an influential medium, Charles Lindbergh may have been the first media superstar.
At the historic courthouse, Bruno Richard Hauptmann would be tried and convicted for his role in the kidnapping and death of the 20-month-old son of the famed aviator. Reporters who covered the trial included household names of their day: Arthur Brisbane, H.L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker, Damon Runyon and Walter Winchell.
“Being newspaper folk, they spent their free time in the bar at the back of the old hotel,” said Jane Primerano, SPJ Region 1 director in a press release. “Photos of the trial lined the walls of the old hotel while it was open and the echoes of their conversation still permeate the woodwork.”
The Union Hotel is the first site in New Jersey to be named by the SPJ to its National List of Historic Sites in Journalism. Other historic sites include The Pennsylvania Packet in Philadelphia, the first successful daily newspaper in the United States and first to publish the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution; Freedom’s Journal in New York City, the first Black newspaper published in the United States; and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
At the Historical Society event were people with deep roots in Hunterdon journalism. Among them were Anne Moreau Thomas, whose family once owned the Hunterdon County Democrat; Catherine Langley, her daughter and one-time publisher of the paper, and Jay Langley, a former editor and executive editor of the paper who helped carry the publication’s mantle of excellence established by D. Howard Moreau, who bought paper in the early 1920s and whose son-in-law, H. Seely Thomas Jr., would take the helm after his death.
Unlike the protest happening just up the street, the Doric House event was non-political.
“The Historical Society has agreed to take temporary custody of the plaque until the future of the Union Hotel becomes more clear,” according to a press release. At the unveiling, the Friends of Historic Flemington – who have sued the borough as part of their efforts to protect the hotel – were not permitted to speak.