1947 Top U.S. & British Journalists Condemn Chicago Newspapers Reportage In Heirens "Lipstick Killer" Case


                               London Sunday Pictorial, 1946

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                William Heirens, today, age 81, is serving his 64th year in prison.  

Excerpt from the book, YOUR NEWSPAPER: Blueprint For A Better Press (The MacMillan Co. NY, 1947) pg. 49:

The Tribune trying to live up to the slogan of being “the world’s greatest newspaper,” claimed four “great beats” during the case. [Heirens] In a three-column story the Tribune wrote:

“For the first time in newspaper history, the detailed story of how three murders were committed, naming the man who did them, was told before the murderer had confessed or was indicted…”

These are the Tribune’s own words!

In 1946, boldly declaring their bragging rights, the Chicago Tribune announced to the world that their paper had obtained a “historical first” by declaring to the public that teenager William Heirens was the “Lipstick Killer” of  three Chicago women BEFORE he was charged with any crime or had “confessed.” They played it as – “The Scoop of the Century.”

In reality, the Chicago Trib’s role was that of mob leader in the public lynching of an innocent man. That newspaper provided the rope, put the noose around young Heiren’s neck, and tossed it over the transom. 

 “The Trib” served as prosecutor, judge and jury and with deliberate and cold premeditation forced young Bill Heiren’s to plead guilty, or die.

It was one of American Journalism’s worst hours and their crime is ONGOING.

Read the full condemnation written by both U.S. and U.K. journalists in 1946 and published in their book, YOUR NEWSPAPER: Blueprint For A Better Press (MacMillan NY 1947)  just months after the Tribune’s public lynching by headlining false evidence and a fictional confession shouted out on Page One and run nation-wide before Bill Heirens was even charged with any crime. (All of the book’s contributing journalists were Harvard Nieman Fellows.)


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Your Newspaper Blueprint For A Better Press.pdf




  1. Sarah on July 15, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    As horrid as it is… it doesn’t surprise me. News Papers, from a historical perspective are never reliable. How often have I read of history muddled by papers of the day that were trying desperately to “scoop” each other.
    It happens now too unfortunately. I learned in high school just how reliable the news was when a boy was beaten to death on campus. The papers made the teachers and student body out to be monsters… letting the attackers beat the boy for 15 minutes while we just watched… The truth was, he was knocked down after a couple of punches, then stomped… the whole thing took about 15 to 20 seconds. One news station even “interviewed” a girl that claimed to be there (she wasn’t I was right around the corner when it happened… I turned that corner and saw him die…) she said he laid on the ground for 5 to 10 minutes while other students stepped over him to get to class… Nevermind that a teacher, also a lifeguard ran out from a couple doors down and was trying to save his life… that doesn’t sell… brutality and callousness sells, so that’s what was reported. Truth doesn’t matter, the story does.

  2. Kathleen on July 16, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Talk about injustice – this is over the top! I will never believe William Heirens committed this crime! I hope that he will be released soon.

  3. Jean on July 19, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I agree with Sarah’s comment. The story is what sells, and there is very little concern for the veracity of the story. From what I can see even the gentlemen that did the evaluations on Most Evil did not feel that Will Heirens was guilty of anything other than petty theft. The tragedy of it is that he has been incarcerated for so long and is now so ill that he probably wouldn’t do well on the outside. I believe his case needs to be reviewed and his record wiped clean even if he is never totally released from prison. He knows no other way of life.

  4. josie ndapussycats on July 15, 2013 at 5:47 am

    I really feel an innocent man was sent to prison and there he spent the rest of his life. But what he accomplished its really. incriedable & ♥ didn’t deserve to be locked up…im so glad to learn his story and lawyer who helped him ♥ prove his innocence. ;( RIP

  5. luigi warren on July 29, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Steve: Just watched “While the City Sleeps,” Fritz Lang’s 1956 movie inspired by this case. I was curious to see if there was anything in there that might have inspired Zodiac, in the manner of “The Sniper.” Didn’t spot any smoking guns but some points of interest: (1) The movie focuses on personalities and rivalries within the press covering the murders; (2) telex machines feature quite prominently; (3) there’s a thing with a comic book inspiring the murderer (who is clearly based on Heirens). Overall it’s minor Lang and not a patch on “M.” -LW

    • Steve Hodel on July 29, 2016 at 11:45 am

      LW: There are some amazing synchronicities on that, which I should probably blog, but to name a few with a broad brush here:

      Charles Einstein Bizarre Synchronicities

      1940s Charles Einstein and William Heirens at Univ of Chicago. Classmates? Einstein reporter for Chicago newspaper.
      1953 Charles Einstein writes Bloody Spur which repub in ’56 as While the City Sleeps and made into film by Fritz Lang
      1960s Charles Einstein becomes a sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle there from ’65-70.
      GHH commits the Lipstick murders while Einstein and Heirens are fellow alums
      Heirens wrongfully convicted
      Einstein writes the book based on the Lipstick Murders
      Book adapted into a Lang Film classic
      Einstein later employed by SF Chronicle
      GHH/Zodiac, the real Lipstick Killer sends messages to San Francisco Chronicle as Zodiac while Einstein working there as a sports columnist
      The whole “playing field” is landmined with Rabbit Holes.

  6. luigi warren on July 29, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Steve: With GHH possibly on the Chicago campus cramming Chinese before going on a convenient overseas assignment to let things cool off after poisoning his secretary, Elizabeth Short reportedly dropping in to play Nancy Drew after she hears about the Lipstick Murders, plus George conning her with a fake police ID on his sudden return from China, and the real story may be even more involved than the movie. And that’s before we even get to the sequel. -LW

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