Maurice Farrell, managing news editor of Dow, Jones & Co., news agency, of New York, made the following statement to the Senate subcommittee investigating the Titanic disaster:
Reports published by Dow, Jones & Co. on Monday. April 15, regarding the Titanic disaster came chiefly from three sources - office of the White Star Line, the Laffan News Bureau, and the Boston News Bureau. At 8 a. m. on that day, upon interviewing representatives of the White Star Line in their New York office, a reporter received information which was summarized on the Dow, Jones & Co. news tickers as follows:
"Officers of the White Star Line stated at 8 o'clock this morning that passengers on the Titanic were being taken off in boats and that there was no danger of loss of life. The Baltic and the Virginian, they stated, were standing by to assist in the rescue."
On account of misconstruction of the expression "standing by" this item may have given rise to subsequent erroneous reports. To the lay mind "standing by" conveyed the meaning that the vessels were in the immediate vicinity, holding themselves in readiness to render aid. Its use, however, appears to have been in the technical sense, indicating that the vessels had received the C. Q. D., responded to it, and had headed their course toward the Titanic. The expression used in its nautical sense meant response to direction or the setting a course toward, rather than being in the immediate presence of the Titanic.
The statement was called to London, and later in the day at least two dispatches of similar purport, but different verbiage, were received from different quarters, and may have represented merely a return of the same report from other parts of the world. In New York they were at the time taken as confirming the earlier statement made at the White Star office. No one was willing to believe, and, in fact, at the time could believe, that the Titanic had sunk. Every scrap of what purported to be news indicating safety of the passengers was seized with avidity and rushed by telephone, telegraph, or cable to all parts of America and Europe. This process doubtless entailed duplication of the same messages flying back and forth, which was erroneously construed as confirmatory evidence.
As an example of the misunderstandings arising, I am informed that the White Star office at Boston called up the Allen Line in Montreal by telephone to get confirmation of a report that all Titanic passengers were transferred to the Virginian and the Titanic was proceeding to Halifax under her own steam. The Allen Line replied that they had such a statement, meaning that they had heard such a report. The White Star Boston office took this as substantiating the rumor, and accordingly called up the White Star office in New York confirming the message to Vice President Franklin. Doubtless many similar cases of unintentional errors occurred in the same way, the chances of error, of course, being increased as the reports went through different channels.