Here’s an exercise in journalism ethics: Take a small farm town (say, Santa Rosa in 1907, with a population of about 10,000 people) and imagine there was a serious incident of food poisoning. At least ten people were sick enough that a doctor was called, one so seriously ill that “a hypodermic injection was necessary to restore life.” The source of the “Ptomaine poisoning” was immediately determined to be the shrimp salad sold by a popular downtown market.

So here’s the problem: Does a newspaper have a responsibility to identify the place that sold the contaminated food? If that shop was an exclusive advertiser in your newspaper, should the editor avoid mentioning the name of the business when reporting the story?

(RIGHT: Portion of Press Democrat advertising section, March 16, 1907)
Numbers of Persons Rendered Seriously Ill

Shrimp salad from Apostolides’ California Grill and Oyster Market was responsible for wholesale ptomaine poisoning in this city Friday night. Calls for doctors came from several directions and some of the poisoned persons writhed in agony all night long. Saturday afternoon they are all reported out of danger, thanks to prompt medical attendance, but are still suffering from the effects of the salad.

Mrs. M. E. Carithers was probably one of the most seriously poisoned, and anxious watchers remained with her all night long. When William R. Carithers was called to the bedside of his mother he found her almost pulseless and she was as cold as she will ever be in death. Medical attendance was hastily summoned and a hypodermic injection was necessary to restore life to Mrs. Carithers.

Mrs. Henry C. Cline also partook of the salad and was rendered violently ill. She suffered all through the night and was in intense agony. Her sister, Miss Mattie Stewart, was likewise afflicted from having partaken of the salad, and her suffering did not begin until after she had left the home of Mrs. Cline to go to her own home on Mendocino avenue. She had gone to drive to the depot to meet her parents who were returning from the Geysers, but the sudden illness prevented her moving at all.

Miss Hyer, the well known artist, was another of the residents who partook of the salad and suffered the baneful consequences. She was ill all night, but like the rest is now resting comfortably. She was treated my Mrs. Cummings, who reports that the patient had an awful bad night.

All of those who partook of the salad were seized with retchings and vomiting and suffered excruciating pains.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 3, 1907
Physicians Are Kept Busy Night and Day With Sudden and Serious Cases of Poisoning

About a dozen cases of ptomaine poisoning set the doctors’ telephones a jingle with emergency calls Friday evening, and kept about a dozen doctors busy all night long. There were more on Saturday. Shrimp and crab salads were the mediums of the poison. Among the sufferers were Mrs. M. E. Carithers, Mrs. Henry C. Cline and her sister, Miss Mattie Stewart, Miss Hyer the artist, Miss Cecile C. Septrion, William S. Hunter, and Jack Matthews. Mr. Matthews was the last one to suffer. He ate crab salad Saturday afternoon and his illness soon followed.

Mrs. Carithers was one of those most painfully and most dangerously affected…most heroic treatment was necessary to restore her to animation. Mrs. Cline and Miss Stewart suffered all night, as did Miss Hyer.

Miss Septrion and Mr. Hunter were also seriously affected. It was not until Saturday noon that their physicians declared them out of danger. Both are deaf mutes. Miss Septrion is supervisor and Mr. Hunter a teacher in the school for the deaf at Vancouver, and are here visiting Miss Septrion’s brother-in-law and sister, Prof. and Mrs. J. D. Martin.

– Press Democrat, August 4, 1907

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