“Don’t Say That About The Steamboat”

Photo by the author. Copyright (C) 2014 by Tony Held, all rights reserved.


Censorship crops up in the oddest places.  One such instance involved a museum newsletter I once was a volunteer editor for.

From 1999 to 2001 I served as an editor for a newsletter called “Steamboatin’ News” (later called “Steamboat and Trolley”).  This publication covered the Lake Minnetonka Division of the Minnesota Transportation Museum, which operated a historic steamboat named the Minnehaha and a streetcar line.

While drafting a news summary about the Minnehaha for an edition, I mentioned a minor accident the steamboat had suffered.  Shortly after that edition went to press, I was politely called on the carpet and informed, in essence “Don’t say that about the steamboat.”  The reason cited for this restriction was that copies of the newsletter were distributed to various local organizations such as chambers of commerce.  If bad news about the steamboat got out, it would make the museum look bad. Needless to say, when I next began compiling news about the Lake Minnetonka Division for the next edition, I did not include any news that was even remotely bad.

In retrospect, I’ve realized that the restriction was in place not just out of concern for the museum’s image but because local support for the museum would dry up if the organization looked unsafe.  Now that many museums posts copies of their newsletter online, I am sure a ban on reporting bad news is imposed on the editors of those publications lest those museums lose support too.