Academic journal article Journalism History

From the Front: The Story of War

Academic journal article Journalism History

From the Front: The Story of War

Article excerpt

Sweeney, Michael S. From the Front: The Story of War. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2002. 320 pp. $40.

Michael Sweeney's From the Front: The Story of War embraces the best elements of single-topic, illustrated volumes: A compelling subject, abundant photographs, and a powerful narrative. It's of manageable heft and invites readers in at almost any page. Overall, it's an admirable work, tracing the ever-emerging story of war correspondence from the mid-nineteenth century. Media historians should find it a valued addition to their collections.

From the Front is comprehensive and insightful about the challenges and horrors of war reporting without becoming grim and forbidding. That's a notable accomplishment, due in no small measure to the author's brisk writing style and his eye for telling anecdotes.

Interestingly, the exploits of little-remembered war correspondents find a place in From the Front. These include George Wilkins Kendall, whose coordinated use of "horse, rail, and steam transportation" sped the news about the Mexican War of 1846-47; Henry Wing, who scored impressive scoops for the New York Tribune near the end of the American Civil War; and Frederic Villiers, who in Europe in 1897 was probably the first to take a motion-picture camera to war. Lesser-known work of more famous correspondents-such as Edward R. Murrow's television-reporting assignment to Korea in 1952-also are chronicled.

The volume's photographs, maps, and illustrations are well chosen. Portfolio sections are devoted to the work of such exceptional war photographers as Robert Capa, Margaret Bourke White, and Larry Burrows. In places, however, the images do not align with the text, which produces a jarring effect. …

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