Baldwin of the Times: Hanson W. Baldwin, A Military Journalist's Life, 1903-1991

By Horning, Michael | Journalism History, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Baldwin of the Times: Hanson W. Baldwin, A Military Journalist's Life, 1903-1991


Horning, Michael, Journalism History


Davies, Robert. Baldwin of the Times: Hanson W. Baldwin, A Military Journalist's Life, 1903-1991. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2011. 416 pp. $32.95.

Hanson Baldwin of the New York Times was the first reporter in the country to be assigned the role of military analyst and writer. In his book, Baldwin of the Times, Robert Davies chronicles the life of this Pulitzer Prize-winning author from his early naval training to his eventual appointment as military editor at the Times. During his career, he was most noted for providing the American public with detailed and often controversial insights into U.S. military actions and policies.

The first four chapters cover Baldwin's early life. He received his formal training at the U.S. Naval Academy and after graduation served for a time in the Navy before drawing upon some of his father's connections in the newspaper industry to secure a reporting position at the Times. He spent eight years there as a general assignment reporter before his big break in 1937, when he toured Europe to report on the military rearmament of major European powers. Davies documents how these reports caught the attention of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, who reassigned him exclusively to military coverage.

The bulk of the book documents Baldwin's coverage of U.S. military actions and policies starting with World War II and ending with Vietnam. Readers will be interested in learning how he used his connections at Annapolis to cultivate sources and work with a U.S. military that, at the time, had little regard for reporters and no established public relations personnel to work with the media. Nevertheless, he soon established his reputation as a knowledgeable and fair-minded reporter, who could simultaneously be blunt and critical in his reports. For example, during World War II, he was critical of the United States military for failing at the start of the war to develop a unified war plan, for failing to procure and develop appropriate materials for wartime, and for failing to establish a unified command structure among the different divisions of the military. At the same time, he praised the Germans for their discipline and their development of superior weaponry. Such statements caused some of his opponents to accuse him of pro-Nazi sentiments.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book for journalists will no doubt be to see how Baldwin navigated the difficult ethical dilemmas that any reporter covering military matters must consider. At times, his writing was at deep odds with presidential policies. …

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