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Reporting the Wars

Reporting the Wars

Copyright Date: 1957
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Reporting the Wars
    Book Description:

    News of the wars has always intrigued the public, from the time of the Napoleonic wars up to the present. In this period of the last century and a half, however, the character both of the public and of the news has changed. Mr. Mathews traces the history of war news coverage from John Bell, who, in 1794, was probably the first war correspondent, to Ernie Pyle of World War II fame. The account is colorful, since war correspondents are notably adventurous individuals, and it is significant for a basic understanding of history, since the reporting of war news has represented a constant struggle against the forces of censorship and propaganda. The book is illustrated with newspaper cartoons.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6358-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  3. 1 WAR NEWS
    (pp. 3-6)

    Recent war news is the product of mass education, mass communication, and mass participation in war. No government today would think of waging a large-scale struggle without devoting immense efforts to psychological warfare, a vital element of which is news. No reader of war news would think of it as restricted to formal accounts of battles. Ernie Pyle, widely regarded as the outstanding war correspondent of World War II, rarely wrote about battles; if he did, he wrote about individual participants, about the personal and human aspects of fighting. War news may now include production statistics, weather reports, and the...

    (pp. 7-11)

    At eight o’clock on the evening of June 10, 1794, a courier arrived in London bringing happy tidings from Lord Howe of a great English naval victory over the French. At the Admiralty

    His Royal Highness, the Duke of Clarence, in the ardour of his joy, was not unmindful that it would be equally gratifying to the Public to be informed of the Glorious Achievements of the British Navy.

    He very graciously, therefore, ordered his carriage, and went to the Covent-Garden Theatre, where he communicated his joyful intelligence to the Manager, who at the request of His Royal Highness, ordered...

    (pp. 12-30)

    Napoleon is sometimes given credit for inventing the military bulletin.¹ The contrast between his bulletins and the military dispatches of his predecessors and contemporaries is so striking that it is not unreasonable to consider them as a new device. But as a method of publicizing official war news the device has a pre-Bonaparte history. Napoleon merely seized an existing institution and remodeled it, applying an almost unparalleled intuitive understanding of the techniques of propaganda. He did not have to depend entirely on intuition, however, for there were numerous masters of the art of propaganda from whom he doubtless learned during...

    (pp. 31-51)

    Who was the first war correspondent? In the latter part of the nineteenth century when the war correspondent was the most glamorous and lionized person in the journalistic profession, almost everyone who wrote on a subject remotely connected with newspaper correspondence took a flyer at the answer. The profession was obviously deserving of a father, and writers who touched on the problem invariably produced one or more candidates. More recent research has turned up an occasional correspondent whose war reporting had somehow been forgotten. The result is a multiplicity of candidates for the honor, embracing a heterogeneous collection of functions...

    (pp. 52-78)

    The middle decade of the nineteenth century witnessed a striking transformation in the methods of gathering and presenting war news. So revolutionary were the innovations of the ten-year span, extending five years each way from the century’s midpoint, that it is necessary to recognize the beginning of a new epoch in war information. The instrument of change was, of course, the war correspondent. Sporadic, unpredictable, and of no more than incidental importance in their previous appearances on the battlefield, special correspondents suddenly began to appear wherever there were sounds of musket and cannon. They created new and appropriated some old...

    (pp. 79-101)

    The American Civil War was the only conflict of the middle or late nineteenth century that approached the twentieth-century concept of total war.¹ In contrast, the struggles waged by the great powers in Europe were conducted on the principle of limited liability, the objective being the defeat of the enemy, not his complete overthrow. The news in the journals of the North American belligerents reflected the intensity of their struggle: there was little space for anything not pertaining directly or indirectly to the conflict.

    The letters of the Paris correspondent of the CharlestonMercury, to choose a random example, were...

    (pp. 102-123)

    The peaceful European lull that followed the Crimean War was of short duration. Within three years the soldiers of Napoleon III were on the march to join in the wily scheme of Count Camillo di Cavour to drive the Austrian White Coats out of North Italy. The ensuing struggle proved to be the first in a chain of wars, extending from 1859 into 1871, which ended in the political unification of both the Italian and the German people and in a sudden and drastic revision of the European balance of power.

    France was twice a participant in the four wars...

    (pp. 124-140)

    No newspaper adventure story has ever quite equaled Henry Morton Stanley’s quest for the lost missionary. The setting for the search was almost perfect. There was already wide and intense concern about Dr. Livingstone who had disappeared into the vast and “unknown continent.” And in the end—after a long period of suspense and heroic effort—there was success. Or was there? Doubting Thomases refused to accept Stanley’s word, and the suspense was prolonged until there was better proof that he had actually found his man. Yet, in spite of the intrinsic appeal of the adventure itself, it is entirely...

    (pp. 141-154)

    The history of modern war news tends to fall into logical and fairly well-defined periods. In these periods one can usually find central threads and dominant trends that offer basic themes for a historical narrative. Unhappily, the era from the end of the Franco-Prussian War to the outbreak of World War I does not fit easily into a formula. It was a time of extremes, contradictions, and numerous exceptions to the rule.

    For most of the last three decades of the nineteenth century the little imperialistic wars had the battle arena to themselves with an opportunity to develop their particular...

  12. 10 WORLD WAR I
    (pp. 155-173)

    A young French soldier, convalescing in early 1915 after five months of fighting at the front, gazed with amazement at the portrayals of heroism and glory in the war issues of theIllustration. “I never imagined war was like that,” he commented.¹

    Shortly after the war ended a great London daily declared: “The truth is about to be unmuzzled. For four years and a half she has been in quarantine. . . . Now the truth is about to come into the daylight and open her lips. She will be very unlike what we thought her to be — very...

  13. 11 WORLD WAR II
    (pp. 174-196)

    Before 1939 it was customary to think and speak of the Great War ortheWorld War. In the matter of news, as well as in many other respects, the World War stood alone. There was no conflict within a century’s reach with which it could be profitably compared. Adjectives in the superlative degree were applied in describing its news activities, at least whenever dimensions and scope were under consideration. After 1939, when no term other than “world war” would stick to the second global struggle of the century, the first had to relinquish its singularity of name and position...

    (pp. 197-216)

    The necessity for withholding information from the enemy is as old as warfare itself. Out of this necessity there developed during the past century a vital problem in censorship and associated news controls. The basic reasons for restrictions and the arguments that support them are not the same as those for other types of censorship. Consequently, military censorship in wartime, resting on different grounds, is a distinctly modern and separate problem from, say, political censorship, a fact that has made controls over military information palatable in democratic societies when political censorship was unacceptable.

    Unfortunately, the inherent dangers of military censorship...

    (pp. 217-240)

    During the Napoleonic Wars the chief sources of military news were the Napoleonic bulletins and the published dispatches of commanding generals. More than a century later in World War II a large portion of the news of the combat forces was once again official or quasi-official. In Napoleon’s time it was the unchallenged responsibility of governments to dispense information pertaining to the activities of the armies in the field. There were no independent news agencies strong enough to collect information speedily on battles fought at distant points. If governments had failed to perform the service, the war news available to...

    (pp. 241-258)

    Strictly speaking, the reporting of wars is not and, save for a brief period in the late nineteenth century, never has been a profession. The vast majority of journalists who have worn the title of war correspondent have acquired it in one or perhaps two wars. Even during the days when a few correspondents made war reporting their life’s work, their monopoly was assured only in the small, imperialistic wars. In the larger conflicts of the time, they were joined by a flood of reporters who could lay small claim to professional status.

    In spite of these limiting facts, war...

    (pp. 259-292)

    As used here, literature refers to the whole body of writing about wars when it has served as news. By far the greater portion of it has no place in the realm of belles lettres. On this point there is complete agreement. Occasionally a writer has described a battle so successfully that his effort has been acclaimed as a work of art. The LondonSpectatorwas not easily moved to high praise but it boldly asserted that G. W. Steevens’ “description of the Battle of Omdurman reaches, we do not hesitate to say, the high-water mark of literature.”¹ Napoleon’s military...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 295-312)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 313-322)