American Journalists in the Great War: Rewriting the Rules of Reporting

American Journalists in the Great War: Rewriting the Rules of Reporting

American Journalists in the Great War: Rewriting the Rules of Reporting

American Journalists in the Great War: Rewriting the Rules of Reporting

Synopsis

When war erupted in Europe in 1914, American journalists hurried across the Atlantic ready to cover it the same way they had covered so many other wars. However, very little about this war was like any other. Its scale, brutality, and duration forced journalists to write their own rules for reporting and keeping the American public informed.

American Journalists in the Great War tells the dramatic stories of the journalists who covered World War I for the American public. Chris Dubbs draws on personal accounts from contemporary newspaper and magazine articles and books to convey the experiences of the journalists of World War I, from the western front to the Balkans to the Paris Peace Conference. Their accounts reveal the challenges of finding the war news, transmitting a story, and getting it past the censors. Over the course of the war, reporters found that getting their scoop increasingly meant breaking the rules or redefining the very meaning of war news. Dubbs shares the courageous, harrowing, and sometimes humorous stories of the American reporters who risked their lives in war zones to record their experiences and send the news to the people back home.

Excerpt

In 1904, when American war correspondent Stanley Washburn traveled with the Japanese army, a telegraph wire extended from a mud hut at army headquarters, across hundreds of miles of barren Manchurian plain, and over the Korean mountains to Fusan, where it connected by cable to Nagasaki and from there to the outside world. It was through that link that Washburn’s editor at the Chicago Daily News could reach him with the news that the Russo-Japanese War had ended. Washburn knew it before the Japanese army. the next morning he pounded out a story on what the army thought about peace and cabled it off. It ran in the Daily News that afternoon. Before Washburn could catch his breath, revolution stirred in Russia, and he was off to his next assignment.

Stanley Washburn was what was known in the trade as a “cable man.” the job owed its existence to the vast network of telegraph lines and undersea cables that crisscrossed the world as the twentieth century began. the first transpacific cable had just been completed in 1903. Washburn chased down wars and political upheaval in any dark corner of the globe, tethered himself to a telegraph line, and filled it with stories that would interest newspaper readers in the American Midwest. His job was to inform readers about the war—even wars in which America did not participate—but also to maintain their interest. a good war sold newspapers. a good reporter found a hundred ways to squeeze the juice out of a conflict. When public interest in one conflict waned, Washburn’s editor sent him to the next. Fortunately for American newspapers, the world never lacked for conflicts or adventurous individuals wanting to report on them.

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