November 21, 2007

Black Days of Business News Read All Over

St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, Nov. 25, 2006
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St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, Nov. 25, 2006

Evening Express, Los Angeles, Oct. 29, 1929 (Newseum collection)
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Evening Express, Los Angeles, Oct. 29, 1929 (Newseum collection)

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Oct. 29, 1929 (Newseum collection)
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The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Oct. 29, 1929 (Newseum collection)

The Miami Herald, Oct. 20, 1987 (Newseum collection)
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The Miami Herald, Oct. 20, 1987 (Newseum collection)

The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 1987 (Newseum collection)
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The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 1987 (Newseum collection)

On the day after Thanksgiving, newspaper readers might be more interested in the advertisements than in the news. But on that day, shopping is the news.

Called Black Friday, it is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, as many Americans grab holiday bargains.

"I always do a Black Friday story," said Susan Stock, retail reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. "It always lands on A1."

Black Friday defines "the hard-core Christmas shopping season," said Marty Steffens, chair and professor of business and financial journalism at the University of Missouri. The media is lured to the story by action that makes good visuals, the former newspaper editor said.

Last year in Chicago — home of the Magnificent Mile — the Tribune pictured a couple already weary of shopping by 9:20 a.m. "Night Owls Beat the Early Birds," it said. Across the Mississippi River from the Mall of America, the St. Paul Pioneer Press declared: "Amid All the Frenzy of Black Friday, Fatigue."

Black Friday’s importance as an economic gauge might be questioned, but the day remains newsworthy. Last year, The New York Times pictured the rush at Macy’s in Herald Square: "Attention, Holiday Shoppers: We Have Fisticuffs in Aisle 2."

The "black" in the day’s name is a reference to profitability or "in the black." But other "black" days — those filled with panic, not profitability — also have been played prominently on front pages.

On Oct. 29, 1929 — Black Tuesday — the stock market’s crash precipitated the Great Depression. "All Records Are Broken for New York Exchange as Selling Runs Wild," the Evening Express of Los Angeles said. "Millions Lost in New Stampede of Selling," The Times-Picayune of New Orleans said.

Almost six decades later, Oct. 19, 1987, was declared Black Monday. The Miami Herald said "Market Collapses" and used red to chart the 508-point drop in the Dow. "Stock Market Suffers Largest Loss in History," The Washington Post said.

But gone are the days when it took the panic of Black Monday or Black Tuesday to bring business to Page One. "People vote their pocketbook," said Steffens, helping to push business news — including shopping — out front.

What historic event or topic in the news would you like us to feature next? Send your suggestion to talktous@newseum.org.

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