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Sunday, 23 August 2015

American Press coverage of the 1930 World Cup.

World Cup 1930 - Copa del Mundo 1930

(This is not a comprehensive review of the American press coverage of the 1930 World Cup, but rather a snapshot of the information that I have found thus far.)

The paper of record, The New York Times, appears to be the only American newspaper to give any real serious coverage of the first World Cup in Uruguay in July 1930. This may be down to the relative popularity of the professional  American Soccer League (ASL) in the 1920's which drew its clubs from the Northeastern Unites States. The paper didn't send one of its correspondents to Montevideo, but rather printed the cablegrams from news-wire agency, the Associated Press (AP)

One of The New York Times earliest dispatches, published on 5th May 1930, was headlined, 'US Soccer Team Is Selected To Compete for World's Title.'

On 2nd July 1930, the newspaper carried the story that the US team had received a warm welcome in Montevideo.

It carried an AP report in the 14th July edition of the paper of the Americans opening match against Belgium (13 July), headlined, 'US Soccer Team Beats Belgium by 3-0, 20,000 See World's Tourney in Montevideo.' Containing four short paragraphs, two which referred specifically to the match, it noted the good performance of James Brown and William Gonsalves as well as the Belgium keeper. It didn't provide the identity of the scorers but did carry the result of France's 4-1 victory over Mexico and the upcoming fixtures between Peru and Romania and Yugoslavia versus Brazil.

For the United States next match on 17th July, the paper of record, once again posted a AP cablegram (United States Soccer Team Turns Back Paraguay, 3 to 0, in International Play, The New York Times, 18 July 1930). The five paragraph article unfortunately misidentified the goalscorers. Instead of giving Bert Patenaude credit for the hat-trick it described Florie scoring in the ninth minute and Gonsalves five minutes later, with Patenaude scoring the third in the second half. Its not clear if there was some kind of editorial decision to run with the AP rather than the other American news agency, United Press. The UP report published in the O Estado de Sao Paulo (18 July 1930)  did credit Patenaude with all three goals.

The New York Times would carry reports of other results of the teams involved in the competition, but after the Americans two victories and its advancement to the semi-finals it published a serious lengthy article of the teams chances of reaching the final. Six paragraphs long and titled 'US Favorite to Win World's Soccer Title', it was described as a special cable to The New York Times (21 July 1930). It read that the Americans were ''considered now the most likely winner of the title'', informing its readers that the pre-tournament favourites, Uruguay and Argentina, had struggled to reach the semi-finals. It would go on to state the Americans performance in their two victories had surprised the experts and that ''the local newspapers now agree that they are serious contenders to take the world's honors homeward.''

The predictions of the press turned out to be wrong as the United States lost its semi-final 6-1 to Argentina but The New York Times did give lengthy space to the final between Uruguay and Argentina. Titled 'URUGUAY ANNEXES TITLE AT SOCCER', 70,000 Spectators See Argentina Lose Contest for World's Honors by 4-2. VICTORS STAGE COME BACK. Trailing by 1-2 at End of First Half, They Launch Attack Which Brings Triumph (31 July 1930). The Associated Press dispatch comprised of three decent paragraphs of some hundred plus words. 

The coverage of The New York Times was a lot more extensive than that of the British press, who barely took notice, despite being the inventors of the game.

Its curious to how The New York Times referred to the World Cup, instead calling it variously as the 'worlds soccer tourney', the 'international tournament', the 'world soccer football championship tourney' or the 'world's open soccer championship tournament'.

The New York Times wasn't the only one to refer to the World Cup in such terms. The Pittsburgh Press, covering the Americans opening day victory over Belgium with a United Press dispatch, ran the headline 'U.S. Scores Upset In Soccer Tourney, Yankees Take First Round Victory From Belgians'. The article contained only three paragraphs and was lacking much in match detail, but did praise the performance of American goalkeeper, Douglas.

The Pittsburgh Press didn't publish an edition on the 18th July nor the 19th and its 20th July edition carried no news of the Americans 3-0 victory over Paraguay played on the 17th July 1930. Which is unfortunate because it favoured the United Press cablegrams, which had reported on Bert Patenaude's hat-trick. Then again, in its reports on the Belgian victory and the Americans 6-1 defeat to Argentina (The Pittsburgh Press, 27 July 1930), neither made any mention of the goalscorers.

Another paper from the same city, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ignored the Americans two first round victories but did publish a short piece on the semi-finals (Uruguay, Argentina Enter Soccer Finals, 28 July 1930) buried at the bottom of page 14 of the first column. There was no mention of the final in its 31st July or 1st August editions.

Soccer fans in Berkeley, California could follow the progress of the US national team in the pages of the Berkeley Daily Gazette which published brief match reports of all three of the US matches. The first dispatch (14 July 1930) from the United Press contained thirteen lines and provided the score of the US-Belgium match and the France - Mexico result. The next two dispatches (18 July and 28 July) remain unsourced, but most likely from the United Press and contain a mere nine and ten lines respectively and little in the way of detail of the matches.

The Chicago Daily Tribune didn't report on either of the US team's two first round victories. The only soccer news of an international flavour reported in the 14th July edition (the day after the Americans 3-0 win over Belgium) was the Chicago Bricklayers 5-3 victory over the Mexican army before 5,000 fans at Sparta field.

When it did report on the national teams semi-final match ('Argentina Defeats U.S. in Soccer Tourney, 6-1', 27 July 1930) it was sourced from the Chicago Tribune Press Service and gave the most basic of detail and contains in total a mere twenty words. The elimination of the United States mean't their interest waned and they didn't bother reporting the final.

Nearly all the newspapers mentioned, published very brief match reports from the cablegrams of the Associated Press or United Press, both American news agencies. Its evident that many dispatches they received were editorialized when published in print, either due to space or perhaps reflecting the level of interest in the geographical location that they circulated. Both AP and UP wrote more detailed dispatches of the matches that were published in other newspapers outside of the United States that were reporting on the World Cup.

The Associated Press was founded in New York City in 1846 and would become the world's most prominent news agency. According to Wikipedia, in 1914, ''it introduced the teleprinter which transmitted directly to printers over telegraph wires. Eventually a world wide network of 60 - word -per - minute teleprinter machines [were] built.''

The United Press Associations, otherwise known as United Press or UP was created in 1907 by Midwest newspaper publisher, E.W Scripps to compete with AP. By 1921, UP had eroded AP's hold on the European mainland.

At the time of the 1930 World Cup, both had bureau's in South America and were deploying their journalist to report on the event. Mostly all of the Uruguayan and Argentinian newspapers had their own correspondents that reported on the matches. However, other South American newspapers, which couldn't afford to dispatch a reporter to Montevideo, relied on the Associated Press and UP cablegrams, as well as other news agencies such as Agencia Americana and Havas

Some newspapers would even publish the dispatches from both AP and UP alongside one another. Readers would find themselves reading different version of events that sometimes gave conflicting information to the identities of goalscorers (players didn't wear numbers on their jerseys).

The Brazilian newspaper, Correio da Manha, is an illustrative example of the practice of drawing on the services of both news agencies. Reporting on the Brazil versus Yugoslavia match (15 July 1930 edition) it dedicated several columns to the shock 2-1 defeat of the Brazilians, and published lengthy cablegrams not only from Agencia Americana but also United Press and AP.

Madrid's ABC (31 July 1930) used both relatively detailed dispatches from the two American news agencies for its report on the World Cup final. Peru's El Comercio would also draw on the services of both agencies.

O Estado de Sao Paulo published the lengthy dispatches of United Press as well as Agencia Americana and Rio's O Jornal also used United Press along with other news wire services on its reporting of the tournament. These are just a few examples of many.

While both Associated Press and United Press employed local journalist on its reporting, the two American news agencies, with the use of its international infrastructure, were instrumental in diffusing and disseminating reports on the events that took place at the first World Cup in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1930.

If your interested in an analysis of the Brazilian press coverage at the 1930 World Cup, see the link below, although it is in Portuguese.

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