"Delays and Vexation": Jack London and the Russo-Japanese War

By Sweeney, Michael S. | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Autumn 1998 | Go to article overview

"Delays and Vexation": Jack London and the Russo-Japanese War


Sweeney, Michael S., Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Jack London and his colleagues attempting to cover the Russo-Japanese War in Korea and Manchuria in 1904 were subjected to systematic and highly restrictive censorship as they tried to send their dispatches to their home newspapers. Little has been written about London and his work as a journalist; this paper examines one part of that career and focuses on the difficulties he encountered in his effort to report on that conflict.

Japanese censorship in the Russo-Japanese War astonished Jack London and his fellow journalists who were covering the combat in Korea and Manchuria in 1904. The Japanese army's censorship of the news from the first land battles between Japan and a Western power was of a new and unexpected magnitude and made little sense to them. "Practically everything" was a military secret, London wrote to the newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, and that included something as insignificant as a photograph he took of a Chinese blacksmith and was forced to relinquish to military authorities.1 The army did not allow correspondents representing friendly or neutral countries near enough to the front lines to witness actual combat and seldom left them free enough to send dispatches to the rear that contained significant news. The experience soured London and his fellow journalists on the future of war correspondence.

Despite a massive amount of research on London and his writings, little has been written about his work as a journalist.2 This paper, which examines the influence of Japanese censorship on London's war correspondence, draws on London's notebooks, letters, and newspaper articles. It underscores previous research about the significance of censorship in the Russo-Japanese War by focusing on the difference between London's expectations of covering the war and the surprising reality. It is the first to examine Japan's rules of conduct for foreign correspondents who were covering the combat in Asia in 1904. A copy of these regulations exists in the Jack and Charmian London Papers at Utah State University and is summarized in the text. According to the regulations, journalists had to have escorts at all times on the battlefield and agree to participate in an early form of press pools. Also, journalists had to submit all reports, private letters, telegrams, and other communications to military censorship, which would remove anything that was "liable to disturb the public peace or to dispirit the troops." If London and the other reporters did not like these arrangements, there was little they could do. As guests of the Japanese, they were expected never to do anything disorderly, the code said.3

The war apparently marked a turning point in the role of battlefield correspondents, subjecting them to new levels of censorship. In the nineteenth century, reporters from neutral or friendly countries were, if not welcomed, at least tolerated on most battlefields.4 Military authorities were slow to recognize the potential danger posed by the telegraph, which, through the speed of its transmission, conceivably could lead to combatants reading of their enemy's plans and reacting to them even before they were carried out. Reporters' freedom, despite the new threat of the telegraph, led historian Phillip Knightley to call the last half of the nineteenth century a "golden age" for war correspondents, which he said ended with the RussoJapanese War.5

However, telegraph lines were not an issue at the combat zones in Korea and Manchuria, most of which lacked such instantaneous channels of communication to the outside world. Instead, the Japanese army controlled information partly out of suspicion that foreigners were spies6 but mainly because it feared the potential social and political consequences of uncensored news on the home front. One overriding political interest was harmony. News stories that disturbed morale or the public peace were unlikely to be released by military or government authorities. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Delays and Vexation": Jack London and the Russo-Japanese War
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.