Academic journal article Journalism History

Reporting the Second World War

Academic journal article Journalism History

Reporting the Second World War

Article excerpt

Best, Brian. Reporting the Second World War. South Yorkshire, UK: Pen and Sword, 2015. 223 pp. $34.95.

As someone who has been well paid to produce history books (including several about war) for broad and not particularly scholarly audiences, I recognize and salute the masonry and carpentry of fellow toiler Brian Best's Reporting the Second World War.

What we have here is an attractive quilt of secondary sources without original research or primary sources, told in a freeflowing and engaging way to give readers an exciting but brief overview. Not something a serious academic would cite, most likely, but nevertheless a solid but limited introduction to the topic that might encourage a novice to check out any of the three dozen books in the bibliography that Best has synthesized.

It's a system that Best has used before. A year ago, he produced a similar volume about the reporting of World War I.

The two books have been cut from the same cloth, with similar strong and weak characteristics. Both present a broad crosssection of English-language correspondence from reporters covering battles around the world, with a slant toward European conflicts and British participants. Both are organized chronologically and rest upon an easy storytelling style unencumbered by dense academic analysis or language. Both lack footnotes and subject index, making them of limited value to historians who must trace information to an original source. Yet both benefit from the author's admirable job of synthesis, marked by his selection of quotations from contemporary newspapers that give the reader a feel for the time and place, as well as the power of language to reconstruct (as much as censors would allow) the atmosphere of battle.

Ihe book opens with a prelude, an account of the Spanish Civil War in which the Axis tested its military machine and professional war correspondents such as Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway cut their teeth. It moves through the German invasion of Poland, the spread of war throughout Europe, the expansion of war to include the Far East and Pacific, and the final push toward V-E Day, but not V-J Day-no doubt reflecting Best's primarily British take on the war. Further biases (or preferences) for selection are evident: Best devotes fourteen pages to "The Russian and Pacific Fronts, 1941-42," but gives twentyone pages to the events of D-day. Fully a third of the book examines the final eleven months of the war in Europe. …

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