J. Edgar Hoover (Courtesy The Associated Press)

J. Edgar Hoover

As formidable as he was, J. Edgar Hoover could not have built the FBI’s reputation without the help of reporters, but the press profited, too. Hoover cultivated friendly reporters, giving them “Interesting Case” memos with inside details about the FBI’s crime-solving skills.

Editors and reporters happily responded with headline-grabbing stories. After FBI agents gunned down bank robber John Dillinger in Chicago in 1934, one edition of William Randolph Hearst’s Chicago American carried seven pictures of the corpse.

In the early 1930s, freelancer Courtney Ryley Cooper developed what came to be called the “FBI formula” — writing stories that stressed team-oriented scientific crime-solving, a constant Hoover theme. An aggressive public relations machine — the Crime Records Division — also churned out positive articles, often under Hoover’s byline. Cooper and Rex Collier of Washington’s Evening Star worked with Hoover on books, screenplays, radio programs and even a comic strip. The book “The FBI Story,” a Hoover-authorized history of the FBI, stayed on the best-seller list for 38 weeks in the mid-1950s.

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