After the last flight on December 17, the Wrights walked to Kitty Hawk to send the telegram to their father. In their message, they asked him to inform the press because they wanted the big news to break in their hometown. The Kitty Hawk operator sent the message to a relay office in Norfolk, Virginia. The Norfolk operator tapped back a reply: he wanted to know if he could share the story with a friend of his, a young reporter for the Virginian-Pilot. “Positively no,” said the Wright brothers. But the operator could not help himself. That afternoon, the reporter friend burst into the Virginian-Pilot city room with the bootlegged news.
The city editor filled out the few facts with information from sources in the Kitty Hawk area—and, it seems, with pure fantasy. The Wrights’ thirty-word telegram about the brief, fluttering flights grew into a story headlined FLYING MACHINE SOARS 3 MILES IN TEETH OF HIGH WIND OVER SAND HILLS AND WAVES AT KITTY HAWK ON CAROLINA COAST. The editor was “able to state authentically” that Wilbur Wright executed “all sorts of maneuvers” before letting go a cry of “Eureka” like “the alchemist of old.”
The Associated Press picked up the story while the Wrights were on their way back to Dayton by train. At the depot in Huntington, West Virginia, they sent a telegram to their sister, Katharine Wright, that put a punch line on the whole episode: “Have survived perilous trip reported in papers. Home tonight.”