British Journalism and the First World War

At the end of July, 1914, it became clear to the British government that the country was on the verge of war with Germany. Four senior members of the government, Charles Trevelyan, David Lloyd George, John Burns, and John Morley, were opposed to the country becoming involved in a European war and they informed the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, that they intended to resign over the issue. When war was declared on 4th August, three of the men, Trevelyan, Burns and Morley, resigned, but Asquith managed to persuade Lloyd George, his Chancellor of the Exchequer, to change his mind.

David Lloyd George now became one of the main figures in the government willing to escalate the war in an effort to bring an early victory. Lloyd George was quick to realize that it would be important to persuade newspaper editors to fully support the war. His most important achievement was to persuade C. P. Scott, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, to give its backing to the government. Scott, like Lloyd George, had been one of the leaders of the anti-war group during the Boer War. Charles Trevelyan was especially disappointed with Scott's change of views as he had expected the Manchester Guardian to support his anti-war organisation, the Union of Democratic Control (UDC).

Lord Kitchener, the War Minister, was determined not to have any journalists reporting the war from the Western Front. He instead appointed Colonel Ernest Swinton, to write reports on the war. These were then vetted by Kitchener before being sent to the newspapers. Later in 1914, Henry Major Tomlinson, a journalist working for the Daily News, was recruited by the British Army as its official war correspondent.

Some journalists were already in France when war was declared in August 1914. Philip Gibbs, a journalist working for The Daily Chronicle, quickly attached himself to the British Expeditionary Force and began sending in reports from the Western Front. When Lord Kitchener discovered what was happening he ordered the arrest of Gibbs. After being warned that if he was caught again he "would be put up against a wall and shot", Gibbs was sent back to England.

Hamilton Fyfe of the Daily Mail and Arthur Moore of The Times managed to send back reports but these were rewritten by F. E. Smith, the head of the government's Press Bureau. Smith often manipulated the stories in order to shape public opinion. For example, in Moore's report on the Battle of Mons, Smith added the passage: "The BEF requires immediate and immense reinforcement. It needs men, men, and yet more men. We want reinforcements and we want them now."

Other journalists such as William Beach Thomas of the Daily Mail and Geoffrey Pyke of Reuters, who were still in France, were arrested and accused by the British authorities of being spies. Henry Hamilton Fyfe of the Daily Mail was also threatened with arrest and he overcame the problem by joining the French Red Cross as a stretcher bearer. In this way he was able to continue reporting on the war in France for a couple more months. However, the British military caught up with Fyfe and he decided to leave and report on the Eastern Front where journalists were still able to report on the war without restrictions.

Albert Rhys Williams was an American journalist in Belgium in 1914. He was asked by another journalist: "Wouldn't you like to have a photograph of yourself in these war-surroundings, just to take home as a souvenir?" The idea appealed to him. After rejecting some commonplace suggestions, the journalist exclaimed: "I have it. Shot as a German Spy. There's the wall to stand up against; and we'll pick a crack firing-squad out of these Belgians."

Williams later recalled: "I acquiesced in the plan and was led over to the wall while a movie-man whipped out a handkerchief and tied it over my eyes. The director then took a firing squad in hand. He had but recently witnessed the execution of a spy where he had almost burst with a desire to photograph the scene. It had been excruciating torture to restrain himself. But the experience had made him feel conversant with the etiquette of shooting a spy, as it was being done amongst the very best firing-squads. He made it now stand him in good stead." A week later the photograph appeared in the Daily Mirror. It included the caption: "The Belgians have a short, sharp method of dealing with the Kaiser's rat-hole spies. This one was caught near Termonde and, after being blindfolded, the firing-squad soon put an end to his inglorious career."

In January, 1915, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, received a letter from the former American president, Theodore Roosevelt. He warned Grey that the policy of preventing journalists from reporting the war was "harming Britain's cause in the United States." After a Cabinet meeting on the subject, the government decided to change its policy and to allow selected journalists to report the war. Five men were chosen: Philip Gibbs (Daily Chronicle and the Daily Telegraph), Percival Philips (Daily Express and the Morning Post), William Beach Thomas (Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror) Henry Perry Robinson (The Times and the Daily News) and Herbert Russell (Reuters News Agency). Before their reports could be sent back to England, they had to be submitted to C. Montague, the former leader writer of the Manchester Guardian.

Over the next three years other journalists such as John Buchan, Valentine Williams, Hamilton Fyfe and Henry Nevinson, became accredited war correspondents. To remain on the Western Front, these journalists had to accept government control over what they wrote. Even the disastrous first day of the Battle of the Somme was reported as a victory. Later William Beach Thomas admitted that he was "deeply ashamed of what he had written" but Philip Gibbs defended his actions by claiming that he was attempting to "spare the feelings of men and women, who, have sons and husbands fighting in France".

After the war most of the accredited war correspondents were offered knighthoods by George V. Some like Philip Gibbs, Herbert Russell, Henry Perry Robinson and William Beach Thomas, agreed to accept the offer. However, others like Hamilton Fyfe, Robert Donald and Henry Nevinson refused. Fyfe saw it as a bribe to keep quiet about the inefficiency and corruption he had witnessed during the war, whereas Nevinson feared it might influence his freedom to report political issues in the future.

He (Lloyd George), Beauchamp, Morley and Burns had all resigned from the Cabinet on the Saturday (1st August) before the declaration of war on the ground that they could not agree to Grey's pledge to Cambon (the French ambassador in London) to protect north coast of France against Germans, regarding this as equivalent to war with Germany. On urgent representations of Asquith he (Lloyd George) and Beauchamp agreed on Monday evening to remain in the Cabinet without in the smallest degree, as far as he was concerned, withdrawing his objection to the policy but solely in order to prevent the appearance of disruption in face of a grave national danger. That remains his position. He is, as it were, an unattached member of the Cabinet.

During the early months of the war in 1914 there was a conflict of opinion between the War Office and the Foreign Office regarding news from the Front. The War Office wanted to black out all but the official communiqués, and some innocuous articles by an official eye-witness (Ernest Swinton). A friend in the War Office warned me that I was in Kitchener's black books, and that orders had been given for my arrest next time I appeared in France.

All was well, until I reached the port of Havre. Three officers with the rank of lieutenant, whom afterwards I knew to be Scotland Yard men, came aboard and demanded to see my papers which they took away from me. I was arrested and taken into the presence of General Bruce Williams in command of the base at Havre. He was very violent in his language, and said harsh things about newspaper fellows who defied all orders, and wandered about the war zone smuggling back uncensored nonsense. He had already rounded up some of them and had a good mind to have us all shot against a white wall.

He put me under house arrest in the Hotel Tortoni, in charge of six Scotland Yard men who had their headquarters there. Meanwhile, before receiving instructions what to do with me, General Bruce Williams forbade me all communication with Fleet Street or my family. For nearly a fortnight I kicked my heels about in the Hotel Tortoni, standing drinks to the Scotland Yard men, who were very decent fellows, mostly Irish. One of them became quite a friend of mine and it was due to him that I succeeded in getting a letter to Robert Donald, explaining my plight. He took instant action and, by the influence of Lord Tyrell at the Foreign Office, I was liberated and allowed to return to England.

The game was up, I thought. I had committed every crime against War Office orders. I should be barred as a war correspondent when Kitchener made up his mind to allow them out. So I believed, but in the early part of 1915 I was appointed one of the five men accredited as official war correspondents with the British Armies in the Field.

I read this afternoon in Amiens this morning's Paris papers. To me, knowing some portion of the truth, it seemed incredible that a great people should be kept in ignorance of the situation which it had to face. It is important that the nation should know and realize certain things. Bitter truths, but we can face them. We have to cut our losses, to take stock of the situation.

Driving from Boulogne we saw British soldiers and we heard the whole story. Orders had been given for a hasty retreat of all the British troops in and about Amiens. What had happened? They shrugged their shoulders. Where were they going? They didn't know. What Arthur Moore (The Times) and I felt instantly was that we had to know. There was nothing to keep us out of Amiens now. In less than two hours we were there, listening to the sound of not very distant guns. We drove about all that day seeking for news and realizing every hour more and more clearly the disaster that had happened. We saw no organized bodies of troops, but we met and talked to many fugitives in twos and threes, who had lost their units in disorderly retreat and for the most part had no idea where they were.

That Friday night, tired as we were, Moore and I set off to Diepppe to put our messages on a boat which we knew would be leaving on the Saturday morning. They reached London on Saturday morning. They reached London on Saturday night. Both were published in The Times next day. (The Times was then published on Sunday; the Mail was not.)

As they gave the first news of the defeat they must in any case have caused a sensation. But the sensation would not have been so painful if Lord Birkenhead, then F. Smith, had not been Press Censor at the time. The despatches were taken to him after dinner. When the man who took them told me about it later on, he said, "After dinner - you know what that meant with him."

Birkenhead saw that they must be published. He saw the intention with which they had been written - to rouse the nation to a sense of the need for greater effort. But he seemed to think that it would be better to suggest disaster by the free use of dots than to let the account appear in coherent and constructive form. With unsteady hand he struck out sentences and parts of sentences, substituting dots for them, and thus making it appear that the truth was far worse than the public could be allowed to know.

The ban on correspondents was still being enforced, so I joined a French Red cross detachment as a stretcher bearer, and though it was hard work, managed to send a good many despatches to my paper. I had no experience of ambulance or hospital work, but I grew accustomed to blood and severed limbs and red stumps very quickly. Only once was I knocked out. We were in a schoolroom turned into a operating theatre. It was a hot afternoon. We had brought in a lot of wounded men who had been lying in the open for some time; their wounds crawled with lice. All of us had to act as aids to our two surgeons. Suddenly I felt the air had become oppressive. I felt I must get outside and breathe. I made for the door, walked along the passage. Then I found myself lying in the passage with a big bump on my head. However, I got rid of what was troubling my stomach, and in a few minutes I was back in the schoolroom. I did not suffer in that way again.

What caused me discomfort far more acute - because it was mental, not bodily - were the illustrations of the bestiality, the futility, the insanity of war and of the system that produced war as surely as land uncultivated produces noxious weeds: these were now forced on my notice every day. The first cart of dead that I saw, legs sticking out stiffly, heads lolling on shoulders, all the poor bodies shovelled into a pit and covered with quicklime, made me wonder what the owners had been doing when they were called up, crammed into uniforms, and told to kill, maim, mutilate other men like themselves, with whom they had no quarrel. All of them had left behind many who would be grieved, perhaps beggared, by their taking off. And all to no purpose, for nothing.

One of the censors was C. Montague, the most brilliant leader writer and essayist on the Manchester Guardian before the war. Prematurely white-haired, he had dyed it when the war began and had enlisted in the ranks. He became a sergeant and then was dragged out of his battalion, made a captain, and appointed as censor to our little group. Extremely courteous, abominably brave - he liked being under shell fire - and a ready smile in his very blue eyes, he seemed unguarded and open.

Once he told me that he had declared a kind of moratorium on Christian ethics during the war. It was impossible, he said, to reconcile war with the Christian ideal, but it was necessary to get on with its killing. One could get back to first principles afterwards, and resume one's ideals when the job had been done.

While his little army rested from their manoeuvers the Director-in-Chief turned to me and said:

"Wouldn't you like to have a photograph of yourself in these war-surroundings, just to take home as a souvenir?"

That appealed to me. After rejecting some commonplace suggestions, he exclaimed: "I have it. There's the wall to stand up against; and we'll pick a crack firing-squad out of these Belgians. A little bit of all right, eh ?"

I acquiesced in the plan and was led over to the wall while a movie-man whipped out a handkerchief and tied it over my eyes. He made it now stand him in good stead.

"Aim right across the bandage," the director coached them. I could hear one of the soldiers laughing excitedly as he was warming up to the rehearsal. It occurred to me that I was reposing a lot of confidence in a stray band of soldiers. Some one of those Belgians, gifted with a lively imagination, might get carried away with the suggestion and act as if I really were a German spy...

A week later I picked up the London Daily Mirror from a news-stand. I opened up the paper and what was my surprise to see a big spread picture of myself, lined up against that row of Melle cottages and being shot for the delectation of the British public. There is the same long raincoat that runs as a motif through all the other pictures. Underneath it were the words: "The Belgians have a short, sharp method of dealing with the Kaiser's rat-hole spies. This one was caught near Termonde and, after being blindfolded, the firing-squad soon put an end to his inglorious career."

One would not call it fame exactly, even though I played the star-role. But it is a source of some satisfaction to have helped a royal lot of fellows to a first-class scoop. As the "authentic spy-picture of the war," it has had a broadcast circulation. I have seen it in publications ranging all the way from The Police Gazette to Collier's Photographic History of the European War. In a university club I once chanced upon a group gathered around this identical picture. They were discussing the psychology of this "poor devil" in the moments before he was shot. It was a further source of satisfaction to step in and arbitrarily contradict all their conclusions and, having shown them how totally mistaken they were, proceed to tell them exactly how the victim felt. This high-handed manner nettled one fellow terribly.

Our worst enemy for a time was Sir Douglas Haig. He had the old cavalry officers' prejudice against war correspondents and "writing fellows", and made no secret of it. When he became Commander-in-Chief he sent for us and said things which rankled. One of them was that "after all you are only writing for Mary Ann in the kitchen."

I would not let him get away with that, and told him that it was not only for Mary Ann that we were writing, but for the whole nation and Empire, and that he could not conduct his war in secret, as though the people at home, whose sons and husbands were fighting and dying, had no concern in the matter. The spirit of the fighting men, and the driving power behind the armies, depended upon the support of the whole people and their continuing loyalties.

I listened last night, at a dinner given to Philip Gibbs on his return from the front, to the most impressive and moving description from him of what the war (on the Western Front) really means, that I have heard. Even an audience of hardened politicians and journalists were strongly affected. If people really knew, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don't know, and can't know. The correspondents don't write and the censorship wouldn't pass the truth. What they do send is not the war, but just a pretty picture of the war with everybody doing gallant deeds. The thing is horrible and beyond human nature to bear and I feel I can't go on with this bloody business.

Every article that is received from you is submitted to me; but the censor "kills" an immense amount of matter. The articles from you are "killed" I put before important members of the Cabinet, either verbally or in your writing, so that nothing is wasted.

My next assignment was to the British Front in France. what a contrast I found there - in the comfortable chateau allotted to the correspondents, in the officers placed at their service, in the powerful cars at their disposal - to the conditions prevailing in the early months of the war! Then we were hunted, threatened, abused. Now everything possible was done to make our work interesting and easy - easy, that is, so far as permits and information and transport were concerned. No scrounging for food: we had a lavishly provided mess. No sleeping in hay or the bare floors of empty houses: our bedrooms were furnished with taste as well as every convenience, except fitted basins and baths. But then we each had a servant, who brought in a tin tub and filled it after he had brought early morning tea.

I felt a little bit ashamed to be housed in what, after my experiences, I could not but call it luxury. It had an unfortunate result too, in cutting us off from the life of the troops. I made application soon after I arrived to be allowed to stay in the trenches with a friend commanding a battalion of the Rifle Brigade. No correspondent, I learned, had done this. They knew only from hearsay how life in the front line went on.

I was thoroughly and deeply ashamed of what I had written, for the good reason that it was untrue. The vulgarity of enormous headlines and the enormity of one's own name did not lessen the shame.

We identified ourselves absolutely with the Armies in the field. We wiped out of our minds all thought of personal scoops and all temptation to write one word which would make the task of officers and men more difficult or dangerous. There was no need of censorship of our despatches. We were our own censors.

The average war correspondent - there were golden exceptions - insensibly acquired a cheerfulness in the face of vicarious torment and danger. Through his despatches there ran a brisk implication that the regimental officers and men enjoyed nothing better than "going over the top"; that a battle was just a rough jovial picnic, that a fight never went on long enough for the men, that their only fear was lest the war should end this side of the Rhine. This tone roused the fighting troops to fury against the writers. This, the men reflected, in helpless anger, was what people at home were offered as faithful accounts of what their friends in the field were thinking and suffering.

Second World War

A new month, a new blog post! Today we’re exploring three events that took place in August – one from 150 years ago, one from 125 years ago, and the last from 75 years ago. Michael Faraday As we kick off this month’s theme of occupations, we are happy to remember the British physicist and chemist Michael Faraday (22 September 1791-25 August 1867) who died 150 years ago this month. Of all occupations, those relating to the sciences have been …

When John McCain made his first bid for public office in 1982, running for a House seat in Arizona, critics blasted him as a carpetbagger, pointing out that he’d only lived in the state for 18 months. “Listen, pal, I spent 22 years in the Navy,” the exasperated candidate . read more

“MIA” stands for missing in action, a term used to refer to members of the armed forces who have not returned from military service and whose whereabouts are unknown. Since ancient times, soldiers have gone to war and never returned, their fate unknown. In the wake of the Vietnam . read more

British Journalism and the First World War - History

The films and journalism of John Pilger

Vietnam: The Quiet Mutiny

John Pilger's first film, The Quiet Mutiny, made in 1970 for the British current affairs series World in Action, broke the sensational story of insurrection by American drafted troops in Vietnam. In his classic history of war and journalism, The First Casualty, Phillip Knightley describes Pilger's revelations as among the most important reporting from Vietnam. The soldiers' revolt – including the killing of unpopular officers – marked the beginning of the end for the United States in Indo-China.

Known as ‘grunts’, conscripted men complain bitterly to the camera about their given role as ‘frontline fodder’. One soldier describes how an officer who sent his men into danger ‘kind of got shot’. Even one of the ‘Donut Dollies’ - a female singing group sent to entertain the grunts – ‘kind of got shot’.

Pilger and his director, Charles Denton, camera operator George Jesse Turner and sound recordist Alan Bale base themselves on a remote American firebase codenamed ‘Snuffy’. Surrounded by jungle and an enemy they cannot see, the men of ‘Snuffy’ are determined to survive. They notch the days on their rifle butts, fire artillery into the darkness and call it ‘mad minutes’.

Pilger goes on patrol with a platoon of grunts who are ordered to ‘shoot everything that moves. including a chicken, because it might be a Vietcong chicken’. When they return to base, they report their ‘body count’ – including the chicken. More than half of all US Army deaths in Vietnam, says Pilger, are caused by ‘friendly fire’ – soldiers killing each other: mistakenly, accidentally or intentionally.

Much of The Quiet Mutiny's strength is its irony and black sense of humour, which were to become Pilger’s trademarks. His interviews with American officers who might have stepped out of the pages of Catch-22 could make viewers laugh in the middle of a film about war. There is the bored psyops (psychological operations) officer who plays a ‘Wandering Soul’ tape from a helicopter (‘the ghosts of the ancestors of the Vietcong exhorting them to surrender’) while throwing out whole boxes of leaflets. He muses that ‘maybe we're hoping to hit someone’ and produce a ‘direct result’.

The Quiet Mutiny ends with seriously wounded soldiers being stretchered on to a flight home while The Beatles lament, ‘Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…’ Pilger described the final sequence to Paul McCartney, who allowed him to use his recently composed classic, Yesterday, to accompany it.

Following its broadcast on the ITV network, Walter Annenberg, the American ambassador in London, a personal friend of President Richard Nixon, complained to the Independent Television Authority, then the commercial TV regulator in Britain. World in Action’s editor, Jeremy Wallington, and Granada Television’s joint chairman, Denis Forman, were summoned by the ITA's chief, Sir Robert Fraser, who was apoplectic. ‘He described you as a threat to Western civilisation,’ Wallington told Pilger.

This was a warning of the battles that Pilger would face for many years as he refused to compromise his hard-won reputation for independence. He credits the success of The Quiet Mutiny to his collaboration with a fellow renegade, the former BBC producer Charles Denton, whose haunting selection of popular music gives this rare and powerful documentary a lyrical sense. ‘Charles taught me to break rules in film-making,’ said Pilger. This principle is reflected in the four films they made together -- two in Vietnam -- and in all of Pilger's 60 documentaries. The Quiet Mutiny won seven awards. The war in Vietnam ended in defeat for the United States on 30 April 1975. As many as four million people lost their lives and a once bountiful land was laid to waste.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Posted On April 29, 2020 16:07:03

Donald Stratton, who served aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, passed away on Feb. 15, 2020. He was 97 years old.

Stratton was born and raised in Nebraska and joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18 right after finishing high school. He heard rumors of war and figured it was best to join sooner rather than later.

When he was asked why he joined the Navy he said, “My theory was you either had a nice place aboard a ship and were high and dry or you didn’t have anything. In the Army, you were crawling around in the mud and everything else, and I didn’t want to do that.”

After finishing training, he was sent to Washington state, where he would be assigned to his first duty station, the USS Arizona. When he saw the ship for the first time, she was in dry dock. He said, “It was quite a sight for an old flatlander like me to see a 35,000-ton battleship out of the water.”

The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship that was commissioned during the First World War. While she didn’t see action then, the Navy made good use of her first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific. She was 908 feet in length and had twelve 45 caliber, 14-inch guns as part of her armament.

When the Arizona made its way down to Pearl Harbor, Stratton went with her. Stratton and the rest of the crew settled into the routine of training and exercises, both in port and out at sea. There was no doubt in his mind that the U.S. was preparing for war. Like most Americans, though, he was still shocked at how the war began.

The “day that would live in infamy” started out pretty routinely for Stratton and the thousands of other Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. He woke up for Reveille and went to get chow. After bringing oranges to a buddy in sick bay, he stopped at his locker and headed up top. He heard screams and shouts and followed everyone’s points to Ford Island. There he saw an aircraft bank in the morning light and the distinctive rising sun emblem on the plane. Stratton quipped, “Well, that’s the Japanese, man – they’re bombing us.”

Stratton ran to his battle station, calling out coordinates for his anti-aircraft gun crew. His crew soon realized that they didn’t have range on the bombers and watched in horror as the Japanese made their bombing runs.

The Japanese had 10 bombers assigned to attack the Arizona. Of the bombs dropped, three were near misses, and four hit their target. It was the last hit that would prove catastrophic for the Sailors and Marines on board. The bomb penetrated the deck and set off a massive explosion in one of the ship’s magazines. The force of the explosion ripped apart the Arizona and tore her in two.

Stratton had the fireball from the explosion go right through him. He suffered burns over 70% of his body and was stuck aboard a ship that was going down rapidly. Through the smoke, he could make out the USS Vestal and a single sailor waving to him. He watched as the Sailor waved off someone on his own ship and tossed a line over to the Arizona. Stratton and five other men used the rope and traversed the 70 foot gap to safety. Stratton never forgot the sailor yelling, “Come on Sailor, you can make it!” as he struggled to pull his badly burned body to safety.

Two of the men who made it across died alone with 1773 other men on the Arizona. Only 334 men on the ship made it out alive. The Arizona burned for two days after the attack.

Stratton was sent to San Francisco where he spent all of 1942 recovering from his wounds. His weight dropped to 92 pounds, and he couldn’t stand up on his own. He almost had an arm amputated too. Shortly thereafter, he was medically discharged from the Navy

Stratton then decided that he wasn’t going to sit out the rest of the war. He appealed to the Navy and was allowed to reenlist, although he had to go through boot camp again. He was offered a chance to stay stateside and train new recruits, but he refused. He served at sea during the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa where he worked to identify potential kamikaze attacks. He called Okinawa 󈭂 days of hell.”

Stratton left the Navy after the war and took up commercial diving until his retirement. He settled in Colorado Springs, and he actively participated in Pearl Harbor reunions and commemorations. Stratton wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about the men who died that day.

It was at one of those reunions in 2001 that Stratton’s life found another mission to complete. He found out the Sailor aboard the USS Vestal was named Joe George. When the attack commenced the Vestal was moored to the Arizona. After the catastrophic explosion, an officer ordered George to cut lines to the Arizona as it was sinking. George frantically motioned to men trapped on the Arizona, burning to death. The officer told them to let them be and cut the lines.

George waved him off and threw a safety line and saved men, including Stratton. Stratton learned that George had passed away in 1996, so he wouldn’t get a chance to thank him. But to his disbelief, George had never been commended for saving his fellow Sailors.

The Navy looked at the incident and decided they couldn’t award a Sailor for saving lives because he disobeyed an order from an officer. (Some things never change.)

Stratton and fellow rescued Sailor, Lauren Bruner, took up the cause to get George awarded. They met nothing but resistance from the Navy. From 2002 to 2017 Stratton repeatedly tried to get George honored but was ignored. It wasn’t until 2017 when he was able to meet with President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the ball started rolling. Shortly thereafter, George’s family was presented with a Bronze Star with “V” for George’s heroic actions that day.

Stratton wanted to make sure people never forgot that day. He recounted his life’s journey in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.“

Stratton had the option to have his remains cremated and scattered at the Arizona memorial. But after a life at sea, he instead chose to go home and will be buried in Nebraska.

Of the men who served on the USS Arizona that day, only two surviving crew members are still alive: Lou Conter, 98, and Ken Potts, 98.

British Journalism and the First World War - History

Dr. Heidi Tworek is assistant professor of international history at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. She works on media, international organizations, and transatlantic relations. She is a member of the Science and Technology Studies program, the Language Science Initiative, and the Institute for European Studies at UBC. She is a visiting fellow at the Joint Center for History and Economics at Harvard University as well as a non-resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
Heidi's book, News from Germany: The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900-1945 was published in 2019 by Harvard University Press. In March 2018, she published a co-edited volume, entitled Exorbitant Expectations: International Organizations and the Media in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Heidi's many book chapters and journal articles have appeared in venues including Journal of Global History, Journal of Policy History, Business History Review, Journalism Studies, German History and Enterprise & Society. She is also the co-editor of The Routledge Companion to the Makers of Global Business, due to appear in fall 2019. She manages the United Nations History Project website to provide materials for researching and teaching the history of international organizations. Her further research interests include contemporary media and communications, German and transatlantic politics, the digital economy, the history of technology, legal history, digital history, the history of health, and higher education.

Heidi is committed to bringing a historical sensibility to policy discussions. She has briefed or advised officials and policymakers from multiple European and North American governments on media, democracy, and the digital economy.
Her writing has been published in English and German in major magazines and newspapers, including Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Politico, The Globe and Mail, Columbia Journalism Review, War on the Rocks, Wired, Nieman Journalism Lab, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel, ZEIT, Internationale Politik, and The Conversation. Heidi also appears regularly on national radio and television in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

She received her BA (Hons) in Modern and Medieval Languages with a double first from Cambridge University and earned her MA and PhD in History from Harvard University. Her dissertation received the Herman E. Krooss Prize for best dissertation in business history. She previously held the position of Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies and Lecturer on History in the History Department at Harvard University. Heidi has held visiting fellowships at the Transatlantic Academy in Washington DC, Birkbeck, University of London and the Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam, Germany. She is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Please visit my personal website ( to download papers not available here.

To control information is to control the world. This innovative history reveals how, across two d. more To control information is to control the world. This innovative history reveals how, across two devastating wars, Germany attempted to build a powerful communication empire—and how the Nazis manipulated the news to rise to dominance in Europe and further their global agenda.

Information warfare may seem like a new feature of our contemporary digital world. But it was just as crucial a century ago, when the great powers competed to control and expand their empires. In News from Germany, Heidi Tworek uncovers how Germans fought to regulate information at home and used the innovation of wireless technology to magnify their power abroad.

Tworek reveals how for nearly fifty years, across three different political regimes, Germany tried to control world communications—and nearly succeeded. From the turn of the twentieth century, German political and business elites worried that their British and French rivals dominated global news networks. Many Germans even blamed foreign media for Germany’s defeat in World War I. The key to the British and French advantage was their news agencies—companies whose power over the content and distribution of news was arguably greater than that wielded by Google or Facebook today. Communications networks became a crucial battleground for interwar domestic democracy and international influence everywhere from Latin America to East Asia. Imperial leaders, and their Weimar and Nazi successors, nurtured wireless technology to make news from Germany a major source of information across the globe. The Nazi mastery of global propaganda by the 1930s was built on decades of Germany’s obsession with the news.

News from Germany is not a story about Germany alone. It reveals how news became a form of international power and how communications changed the course of history.

The book was a #1 new release in international relations, media studies, and journalism on Amazon.

This provides an introduction to a special issue of Journal of Global History on capitalism and c. more This provides an introduction to a special issue of Journal of Global History on capitalism and communications. The six articles in this special issue retrace and unearth how communications and capitalism reciprocally constituted each other from the mid-nineteenth century.
Free access to the introduction here:

To control information is to control the world. This innovative history reveals how, across two d. more To control information is to control the world. This innovative history reveals how, across two devastating wars, Germany attempted to build a powerful communication empire—and how the Nazis manipulated the news to rise to dominance in Europe and further their global agenda.

Information warfare may seem like a new feature of our contemporary digital world. But it was just as crucial a century ago, when the great powers competed to control and expand their empires. In News from Germany, Heidi Tworek uncovers how Germans fought to regulate information at home and used the innovation of wireless technology to magnify their power abroad.

Tworek reveals how for nearly fifty years, across three different political regimes, Germany tried to control world communications—and nearly succeeded. From the turn of the twentieth century, German political and business elites worried that their British and French rivals dominated global news networks. Many Germans even blamed foreign media for Germany’s defeat in World War I. The key to the British and French advantage was their news agencies—companies whose power over the content and distribution of news was arguably greater than that wielded by Google or Facebook today. Communications networks became a crucial battleground for interwar domestic democracy and international influence everywhere from Latin America to East Asia. Imperial leaders, and their Weimar and Nazi successors, nurtured wireless technology to make news from Germany a major source of information across the globe. The Nazi mastery of global propaganda by the 1930s was built on decades of Germany’s obsession with the news.

News from Germany is not a story about Germany alone. It reveals how news became a form of international power and how communications changed the course of history.

The book was a #1 new release in international relations, media studies, and journalism on Amazon.

This provides an introduction to a special issue of Journal of Global History on capitalism and c. more This provides an introduction to a special issue of Journal of Global History on capitalism and communications. The six articles in this special issue retrace and unearth how communications and capitalism reciprocally constituted each other from the mid-nineteenth century.
Free access to the introduction here:

Disinformation and misinformation seem to be everywhere. They are often spread by foreign actors . more Disinformation and misinformation seem to be everywhere. They are often spread by foreign actors like the Russian government who aim to stoke tensions within the United States. Other state or non-state actors may already be starting to copy these tactics. The problem of disinformation is exacerbated by two deeper and longer-standing crises within the American media system: a crisis of business model and a crisis of norms.

Though issues of disinformation are not new, their appearance in new forms of weaponized information and social media call for new best practices within media organizations. This brief suggests some simple solutions to help journalists and editors avoid playing an unintentional role in information warfare and to increase trust in journalism. The recommendations fall into three categories: how to detect disinformation how to increase literacy about foreign interference how to anticipate future problems today.

Given the present challenges to what has been called the liberal world order, our conference seek. more Given the present challenges to what has been called the liberal world order, our conference seeks to revisit and reexamine the relationship of sovereignty and globalism in the modern era. We will use the case study of Germany and German-speaking Central Europe, which has been the site and source of extreme claims for both sovereignty and globalism over the last 150 years. From the colonial annexations of the late 19th century to the hypertrophy of sovereignty claims under the National Socialists, from the two Germanies' limited sovereignty within the postwar globalist projects of East and West blocs to unified Germany's current status as both global capitalist power and proponent of shared sovereignty in European institutions, modern Germany offers a paradigm case of the entangled histories of sovereignty and globalism. The arc of imperial dissolution annexation and independence in Austria offers a similar passage through degrees of self-rule.

Rather than seeing sovereignty and globalism as factual descriptions of the world or properties that states either have or lack, we seek to historicize the concepts in question, conceiving of them as claims that historical actors made, challenged, and denied. We invite contributions that analyze the often heated political and intellectual debates about how the principles of globalism or national sovereignty should shape the world. How has the slippery concept of sovereignty been stabilized as it moved between the scales of the individual, the people, the state, the empire, and the earth? How have abstractions with no fixed referents, such as sovereignty and globalism, taken on such power in the political imagination and history of our times? How do they retain political traction with advocates and adversaries who defy separation along the classical fractures of the political spectrum?

Possible themes may include, but are not limited to:
§ The status of sovereignty and globalism in German legal debates
§ Redefinitions of sovereignty in structures of multilevel governance in Europe and beyond
§ International human rights regimes
§ Ordoliberalism and neoliberalism as reflections on sovereignty and globalism
§ German and Austrian roles in globalist projects like the North-South Commission, the Club of Rome and international systems research § German participation in global standard-setting and norm creation
§ Imperial and National Socialist visions of global order

Scholars interested in presenting a paper at the workshop are invited to send a brief abstract of 250-300 words as well as a short CV by June 15, 2018 to Susanne Fabricius ([email protected]). Participants will be notified by mid-July and are expected to submit a paper for pre-circulation by February 15, 2019. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered, pending further approval, but we also encourage participants to draw on institutional funding when available.

Date: 10-12 March 2016 Venue: European University Institute (EUI), Florence, Italy, Deadline. more Date: 10-12 March 2016
Venue: European University Institute (EUI), Florence, Italy,
Deadline: 15 September 2015
Conveners: Jonas Brendebach (EUI), Martin Herzer (EUI), Heidi Tworek (Harvard/University of British Columbia)

Keynotes: Iris Schröder, (University of Erfurt), Glenda Sluga (University of Sydney)

International organisations throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are unimaginable without the media. People around the globe learned about international organisations and their activities largely through the media and images created by journalists, publicists, and filmmakers in texts, sound bites, and pictures. In many cases, the very existence and success of international organisations depended on media attention, communication, and publicity.

This conference explores how international organisations were communicated to the public via the media during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The conference aims to bring together two burgeoning, yet largely unconnected strands of research: the history of international organisations and media history.

The conference takes a deliberately expansive view of both international organisations and media. International organisations involve institutionalised cooperation in both looser and regional as well as highly institutionalised and global forms. This comprises ‘classic’ intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nations, but also the vast array of NGOs and other international fora. Media refers to newspapers, news agencies, radio, and television, but also to film, cinema, and photography.

The conference proposes four related fields of investigation.

(1) International organisations and the media. Publicity and media visibility played a crucial role for intergovernmental as well as nongovernmental international organisations. The League of Nations, the United Nations, or the European Communities devised public information strategies to attract, direct, or avoid media attention. NGOs drew on the powerful potential of media campaigns to promote the causes of international law, human rights, or environmentalism. What role did different international organisations attribute to various types of media? How did they work on their public image by influencing journalists and media coverage? In which circumstances did national governments and international organisations compete or cooperate in their communication to the media?

(2) The media and international organisations. For the media, international organisations represented new sources of information, new journalistic environments, and new topics to cover. How did individual or collective media actors adapt to the new hubs of internationalism in Geneva, New York, or Brussels? How did they position themselves vis-à-vis the morally charged ideas of liberal internationalism, European unity, or human rights, which functioned as raison d’être for many international organisations? How did they navigate between the dynamics of an international environment and national audiences?

(3) Infrastructures and politics of global media. International organisations became fora for debates on the standardization of transnational communication technologies and global norms of journalism and transborder media activities. What kind of technological and journalistic standards did international organisations promote? How did journalists, media companies, and national governments position themselves towards these standards? How did their cultural, social, and economic backgrounds determine their attitudes towards the social functions of the media, the desirability of international norms, or the relationship between governments and the media?

(4) Imagining a ‘global public sphere’ and transnational publics. The ideas of liberal internationalism were closely related to imaginations of a ‘global public sphere’ and a ‘global consciousness’. Similarly, many supporters of European integration came to see a European public sphere as a precondition for a democratic EU. Moreover, international organisations themselves became incubators for transnational publics in which international civil servants, diplomats, journalists, and interest groups debated international organisations’ activities. How did internationalist ideas of the ‘global public sphere’ evolve over time? What were the characteristics, scope, and durability of transnational publics based upon international organisations?

The timeline history of journalism:

1. Somewhere in 1556, the government of Venice introduced the monthly written notices known as Notiziescritte in which everything regarding politics, military activities, and economic news was conveyed in Europe.
2. The Gazette de France was in play in 1632 in France as a first-ever newspaper of France. The physician of the king Theophrastus Renaudot introduced it. It was used to promote the propaganda of the monarch. All these newspaper were checked before getting published.
3. James Augustus Hickey started India’s first newspaper as an editor which was named as Hickey’s Bengal Gazette in 1780 and later in 1826 on May 30th started a Hindi newspaper UdantMartand in Calcutta.
4. Somewhere in 1920’s radio and television evolved as a source of news. Before Second World War many experimental televisions were studied and were put in action in 1940’s. Radio reached its highest popularity in 1930’s to 1940’s but later television also gained popularity but not completely eliminating radio.
5. Let us talk about the latest phenomena i.e. internet journalism. Due to the rapid increase of internet usage people are able to access news anywhere and anytime at their fingertips. Many newspapers faced difficulties and bankruptcy due to the internet journalism. Her audience doesn’t require any paid subscription. Something like mobile journalism is also taking its place and evolving as the easiest method to acquire news through social media and other websites of different news channels by using the internet as the main source.

Journalism is an evolving field. It is getting bigger and stronger as a professional field. It has changed over past few decades and still developing day by day with the growing technology. From carving on walls to writing on scribes to writing on paper to typing on the computer till typing on the mobile phone shows us how it is changing each day. Therefore, there are many more innovations are left to unfold in this world in the field of journalism.

The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775­–1777

From the battles at Lexington and Concord in spring 1775 to those at Trenton and Princeton in winter 1777, American militiamen and then the ragged Continental Army took on the world’s most formidable fighting force. It is a gripping saga alive with astonishing characters: Henry Knox, the former bookseller with an uncanny understanding of artillery Nathanael Greene, the blue-eyed bumpkin who became a brilliant battle captain Benjamin Franklin, the self-made man who proved to be the wiliest of diplomats George Washington, the commander in chief who learned the difficult art of leadership when the war seems all but lost. Full of riveting details and untold stories, The British Are Coming is a tale of heroes and knaves, of sacrifice and blunder, of redemption and profound suffering. Rick Atkinson has given stirring new life to the first act of our country’s creation drama.

Rick Atkinson is the bestselling author of the Liberation Trilogy―An Army at Dawn (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history), The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light―as well as The Long Gray Line and The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775–1777. His many additional awards include a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, the George Polk Award, and the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award.

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Notes on the New Journalism

The New Journalist is in the end less a journalist than an impresario. Tom Wolfe presents . Phil Spector! Norman Mailer presents . the Moon Shot!

It’s probably easier than it should be to dismiss the articles which appeared recently in New York magazine on the subject of “The New Journalism.” In the first place, the articles, which were by Tom Wolfe (himself a founding member of New York and author of The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby), had most of the defects of the form he was extolling—the pop sociology, the easy cultural generalities—with few of the compensating attractions—the dramatic scene-setting, the impressionistic color (such as had made, for instance, his own piece on the stock-car racer Junior Johnson so vivid and fascinating to read). “The voice of the narrator, in fact, was one of the great problems in non-fiction writing,“ Dr. Wolfe now intoned. Also: “The modern notion of art is an essentially religious or magical one … “ etc. Also: “Queen Victoria’s childhood diaries are, in fact, quite readable.“ Also: “Literary people were oblivious to this side of the New Journalism, because it is one of the unconscious assumptions of modern criticism that the raw material is simply ‘there.’” And so forth. In the second place, although it must have been fun to work at the Herald Tribune in its last few years of existence—when and where, according to Wolfe, the birth of New Journalism mostly occurred—he manages to describe this great moment in Western cultural life with a school-boy reverence which somehow doesn’t leave anyone else much breathing room, a combination of Stalky & Co. and The Day That Curie Discovered Radium. In Tom Wolfe’s world, in fact (as he might say), there is perpetual struggle between a large and snooty army of crumbs, known as the Literary People, who are the bad guys, and Tom’s own band of good guys: rough-and-tumble fellows like Jimmy Breslin, dashing reporters such as Dick Schaap, the savvy nonintellectuals, the aces, the journalistic guerrilla fighters, the good old boys who “never guessed for a minute that the work they would do over the next ten years, as journalists, would wipe out the novel as literature’s main event.”

It’s easy enough to fault this sort of treatment of a complicated subject. A bit too simpleminded. Too in-groupish. Me and My Pals Forge History Together. All the same, it seems to me that beneath, or despite, the blather, Tom Wolfe is right about a lot of it. And very wrong too. And journalism is perhaps in the kind of muddle it’s in today not, lord knows, because Tom Wolfe sat down at his bench one day and invented a new art form, but because people in general, editors as well as writers as well as readers, have had trouble figuring out how to deal with this terrain that he and many, many other journalists have steadily been pushing their way into over a period of a good many years.

To begin with, of course, one can say that the New Journalism isn’t new. That’s a favorite put-down: the New Journalist prances down the street, grabbing innocent bystanders by the lapels, and breathlessly (or worse, earnestly) declaiming about his “new fictional techniques,“ or his “neo-Jamesian point of view,“ or his “’seeing the world in novelistic terms” and all the rest of it, while the Old Literary Person gazes out his window and mutters: “New Journalism, indeed! What about Addison and Steele, eh? What about Defoe? What about Mencken? Joe Mitchell? Hemingway? Mark Twain?” That’s right in a sense, but not, I think, in the most meaningful sense. It’s right, at any rate, that there’s been a vein of personal journalism in English and American writing for a very long time. For example, Defoe in his Journal of the Plague Year developed for his subject the same sort of new techniques that the New Journalists discovered yesterday—namely, he wrote it in the manner of a personal autobiographical narrative, and made up the narrative although not the details, which he got from records and interviews) since he was about five years old when the incident took place. For example, Joseph Mitchell published a remarkable series of pieces in The New Yorker in the early 1940s on New York fish-market life—full of impressionistic detail, and centering on a man whom he had also invented: Mr. Flood. In a prefatory note to the first piece, Mitchell wrote: “Mr. Flood is not one man combined in him are aspects of several men who work or hang out in Fulton Fish Market, or who did in the past. I wanted these stories to be truthful rather than factual, but they are solidly based on facts.”

Here, by the way, is the opening passage from “Old Mr. Flood”:

“A tough Scotch-Irishman I know, Mr. Hugh G. Flood, a retired house-wrecking contractor, aged ninety-three, often tells people that he is dead set and determined to live until the afternoon of July 27, 1965, when he will be a hundred and fifteen years old. ’I don’t ask much here below,′ he says. ’I just want to hit a hundred and fifteen. That’ll hold me.′ Mr. Flood is small and wizened. His eyes are watchful and icy blue, and his face is … ”

Here is the opening to The Earl of Louisiana, by A. J. Liebling:

“Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly. They lose flavor with every hundred yards away from the patch. By the time they reach New York, they are like Golden Bantam that has been trucked up from Texas—stale and unprofitable. The consumer forgets that the corn tastes different where it grows. That, I suppose, is why for twenty-five years I underrated Huey Pierce Long … ”

Here is the opening to Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell, published in 1938:

“In the Lenin Barracks in Barcelona, the day before I joined the militia, I saw an Italian militiaman standing in front of the officers’ table. He was a tough-looking youth of twenty-five or six, with reddish-yellow hair and powerful shoulders. His peaked leather cap was pulled fiercely over one eye. He was standing in profile to me, his chin on his breast, gazing with a puzzled frown at a map which one of the officers had opened on the table. Something in his face deeply moved me. It was the face of a man who would commit murder and throw away his life for a friend … ”

And here is the opening of Tom Wolfe’s piece on Phil Spector, the rock music figure:

“All these raindrops are high or something. They don’t roll down the window, they come straight back, toward the tail, wobbling, like all those Mr. Cool snowheads walking on mattresses. The plane is taxiing out toward the runway to take off, and this stupid infarcted water wobbles, sideways, across the window. Phil Spector, 23 years old, the rock and roll magnate, producer of Philles Records, America’s first teen-age tycoon, watches … this watery pathology … it is sick, fatal … “

According to Tom Wolfe and the various unofficial histories of New Journalism, something marvelous, exciting, dramatic—a light of revelation—happened to Old Journalism in the hands of the young hotshots at Esquire and the Herald Tribune. Since then the novel has never been the same. A new art form was created. And so forth.

I wonder if what happened wasn’t more like this: that, despite the periodic appearance of an Addison, or Defoe, or Twain, standard newspaper journalism remained a considerably constricted branch of writing, both in England and America, well into the nineteen twenties. It’s true that the English had this agreeable, essayist, public-school-prose tradition of personal observation, which filtered down into their newspapers. “As I chanced to take leave of my café on Tuesday, or Wednesday, of last week, and finding myself sauntering toward the interesting square in Sarajevo,“ the English correspondent would write, “I happened to observe an unusual, if not a striking, occurrence … ” Even so, in spite of the “I,” and the saunterings, and the meanderings, and the Chancellor-Schmidlap-informed-me-in-private business, English journalism was for the most part as inhibited, and official, and focused as was the society, which paid for it and read it.

In America there was much of the same thing—some of it better, a lot of it worse. The American daily press didn’t go in as strongly for the sauntering I, except for the snobbier Eastern papers, which presumably were keen to imitate the English style. The American press rested its weight upon the simple declarative sentence. The no-nonsense approach. Who-What-Where-When. Clean English, it was later called when people started teaching it at college. Lean prose. Actually, it was two things at once. It was the prose of a Europe-oriented nation trying put aside somebody else’s fancy ways and speak in its own voice. But it was also the prose of the first true technological people—Who? What? Where? When? Just give us the facts, ma’am—the prose of an enormously diverse nation that was caught up with the task (as with the building of the railroads) of bridging, of diminishing this diversity.

In those days, when something happened, an event—a hotel fire, for example—newspapers generally gave you certain facts, embedded in an official view. No matter that the reporter himself, personally was a hotshot, a drinker, a roarer, an admirer of Yeats, a swashbuckler of the city room in most instances he gave you the official view of the fire. Where it was. How many people got burned. How much property got damaged. What Fire Commisioner Snooks said of the performance of his men. And so forth.

Then, after the First World War, especially the literary resurgence in the nineteen twenties—the writers’ world of Paris, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc.— into the relatively straitlaced, rectilinear, dutiful world of conventional journalism appeared an assortment of young men who wanted to do it differently. Alva Johnson. John McNulty. St. Clair McKelway. Vincent Sheean. Mitchell. Liebling. And god knows who else. A lot of them worked for the Herald Tribune. Later, many of them connected in one way or another with The New Yorker. What they did to journalism I think was this: first, they made it somehow respectable to write journalism. A reporter was no longer a crude fellow in a fedora. He was a widely informed traveler (like Sheean), or had an elegant prose style (like McKelway), or a gusto for listening and finding out things (like Mitchell or Liebling). Second, when they looked at this same hotel fire, and how it had been covered by their predecessors and colleagues, they noted that, at the Fire Commissioner’s briefing, for the most part no one started his camera, or pencil, until the Fire Commissioner came into the room, and walked to the lectern, and opened his Bible, and began to speak. One imagines that these young men saw things otherwise. Movies were already by then a part of the culture, although admittedly a lowly part of the culture. Motion was a part of the new vocabulary. And total deference to the Fire Commissioner, or to the General, or to the Admiral, had already begun its twentieth-century erosion. The new thing, it seems to me, that the writer-journalists of the 1930s and 40s brought to the craft was a sense, an interest, in what went on before (and after) the Fire Commissioner came into the room. What did he do when he got on the elevator downstairs? Did he drop a quarter on floor? What were his movements? For the first time in conventional reporting people began to move. They had a journalistic existence on either side of the event. Not only that, but the focus itself shifted away from the Fire Commissioner or the man who owned the hotel, and perhaps in the direction of the man who pumped the water, or the night clerk at the hotel across the way. Thus: reduced deference to official figures. (For example: James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.) Personal touches. Dialogue—in fact, real speech faithfully recorded. When you read a McKelway piece on Walter Winchell, for example, you found a public hero taken to task, you found out what Winchell did when he wasn’t in the public view, and you heard him speak—not quotes for the press, but what he said when he was ordering a ham on rye. “I’ll have a ham on rye.” Few reporters had done that before. Newspapers hadn’t had the space. And besides (editors said), who wants to know what Bismarck had for breakfast, or what his ordinary comments sound like.

Then time passes. The scene shifts—everybody shifts. The nineteen fifties. The nineteen sixties. Tom Wolfe writes that he came out of college, or graduate school, burdened like the rest of his generation with the obligation to write a novel—only to discover suddenly that the time of the novel was past. I don’t know whom Tom Wolfe was talking to in graduate school, or what he was reading, but back in the early nineteen fifties you didn’t have to read every magazine on the newsstand to realize that a fairly profound change was already taking place in the nation’s reading habits. Whether it was Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post, or The New Yorker, most magazines, which had been preponderantly devoted to fiction, were now increasingly devoted to nonfiction. It was also true, even then, that the novel itself was changing—changing, to be sure, as it had been since Henry James first gazed upward and noticed that the roof was off the cathedral. It was becoming easier, possibly, and more profitable, to become a novelist-disguised-as-screenwriter but harder, perhaps, to become, and stay, a novelist of imagination and interior truth, which is what people increasingly seemed to be wanting of them. Mostly, in fact, one hears about the Death of the Novel from journalists, or from novelists-turned-journalists. And although there is only one Painted Bird, or Separate Peace, or Play It As It Lays produced in every twenty thousand books, people, the audience, still seem to be looking for that one and the impress of each of those few books, I suspect, is still stronger and more lasting than nearly all the rest.

From the archives: This brings us to the present state of the craft: the New Journalism. There is no getting around the point, I think, that a number of writers in the last dozen years have been exerting a steady (and often a self-dramatizing) push at the already-pushed boundaries of conventional journalism. I think of Gay Talese in many of his Esquire pieces, and especially in his last book, Honor Thy Father. I think of Terry Southern’s magazine pieces, also for the most part in Esquire. Norman Mailer writing in Harper’s about the peace march to the Pentagon, and the presidential campaign of 1968, and then in Life on the moon shot. Tom Wolfe and Breslin and Gail Sheehy and a whole lot of people who write for New York. Dan Wakefield in The Atlantic. John McPhee and Truman Capote in The New Yorker. A whole lot of people—sometimes they all seem to be the same person—who write in The Village Voice. Also: Nicholas von Hoffman, David Halberstam, Marshall Frady, Barry Farrell and obviously a great many others. My guess is that anyone who denies that the best work of these writers has considerably expanded the possibilities of journalism—of looking at the world we’re living in—is hanging on to something a bit too tightly in his own past. And on the other hand, that anyone who feels a need to assert that the work, especially the whole work, of these men composes a new art form, and a total blessing, is by and large talking through his hat.

“The Class of ’43 Is Puzzled” (October 1968)
While the rebels in the present college generation raised their voices and their barricades, men and women of earlier generations traveled back to campuses to raise their glasses in that long-standing late spring rite, the class reunion. By Nicholas Von Hoffman

Consider the mythic hotel fire we were talking about. Today, when a New Journalist tells it, there is likely to be no deference to an official version—if anything, perhaps a semiautomatic disdain of one. There is virtually no interest in the traditional touchstone facts, the numbers—the number of people dead, or saved, or staying at the hotel, the worth of the jewelry, or the cost of damage to the building. Instead, there are attempts to catch the heat of the flames, the feel of the fire. We get snatches of dialogue—dialogue overheard. A stranger passes by, says something to another stranger, both disappear. Rapid motion. Attempts to translate the paraphernalia of photography—the zoom lens, film-cutting. Disconnection. And nearly always the presence of the journalist, the writer— his voice. Our event, in fact—the fire—has seemingly changed in the course of time from (once) existing solely as an official rectilinear fact, to (later) a more skeptically official, looser, more written, human account, to (now) its present incarnation in New Journalism as a virtually antiofficial, impressionist, nonfactual, totally personal account of a happening—which often now is only permitted to exist for us within the journalist’s personality.

The chief merits and demerits of New Journalism seem then as basic as these: the merit is—who really wants to read about this fire as it is likely to be presented in the New York Times or in a standard newspaper report? For those who do want to, the standard newspaper will give you the traditional facts: the number of people in the hotel, the number of people killed, who owns the hotel, etc. The standard newspaper considers these facts important, because (apparently) the standard newspaper for the last seventy-five years or more has considered these facts important. Here is the beginning of a front-page story in the New York Times on the controversial and emotional subject of housing in Forest Hills: “A compromise plan to end the fight over the Forest Hills low-income housing project has been worked out by top aides of Mayor Lindsay, including former Deputy Mayor Richard R. Aurelio, and has been discussed privately with leaders of blacks and Jews and with high-ranking officials. The plan would call for a scaling-down of the Forest Hills project by about a third and the revival of the project for the Lindenwood section of Queens that was recently killed by the Board of Estimate. The Lindenwood project, however, would be smaller than the earlier one … ” If this is the voice of conventional journalism speaking to us about our world, it is likely to find an increasingly restless, disconnected audience. The voice speaks too thin a language. The world it tells us about so assiduously seems but a small part of the world that is actually outside the window—seems a dead world, peopled largely by official figures, and by procedural facts, and written about in a fashion which is doubtless intended to be clear, and clean, and easy to understand, but which instead is usually flat, and inhuman, and nearly impossible to connect to.

If then the merit of New Journalism is that it affords us the possibility of a wider view of the world, a glimpse of the variousness and disorder of life, its demerits, I think, are that these possibilities are so seldom realized, or at such cost to the reality-mechanism of the reader. For instance, in the matter of our hotel fire there is no need, it seems to me, for a journalist today to relate all the traditional facts (especially since most of them, in this sort of story, are basically concerned with Property) but if he is to tell it as a real story, an account of an event that actually happened, I think there is a very deep requirement on the part of the reader (usually not expressed, or not expressed at the time) that the objects in the account be real objects. If the fire took place at the Hotel Edgewater, probably one ought to know that much, and certainly not be told that it was the Hotel Bridgewater. “But what does it matter?“ says the New Journalist. “That’s not the important thing, is it?” In many ways it isn’t, but in serious ways it is. It’s a commonplace by now that contemporary life doesn’t provide us with many stable navigational fixes on reality and that we need them, and have trouble, privately and publicly, when we are too long without. Families. Schools. The Government. Movies. Television. None of these contribute much anymore to informing us of the actual objects in the actual room we move about in. Journalism should materially help us with this, but all too rarely does—is either too conventionally timid, or, with the New Journalist, too often (I think) gives up the task of telling us of the actual arrangement of the objects, or at any rate of trying to find out, get close to it, in favor of the journalist’s own imposed ordering of these objects.

By no means all New Journalism is careless. Talese, for example, seems to be remarkably meticulous to detail. Mailer’s account of the march on the Pentagon seems to have been extremely faithful to what happened. There are other examples, although not, I suspect, all that many. A careful writer. That was Joe Liebling’s way of praising a fellow journalist, his highest praise. There are probably few careful writers around anymore. And few careful editors. Few careful generals. Few careful stockbrokers. Few careful readers. This doesn’t seem to be a very careful period we are living in. Relationships seem to break apart … carelessly. Wars are waged … carelessly. Harmful drugs are put on the market … carelessly. A soldier kills (“wastes”) two hundred unarmed civilians … carelessly and his countrymen, when told of this, first don’t want to hear, then turn away … carelessly. The point is not that it is a better or worse era than Liebling’s, nor that there is any sure way of measuring it—but it is different.

And swirling all about us—still swirling, although the motion has somewhat abated—has been the great sexual lather of the 1960s. It was in the sixties, wasn’t it, that we first had the miniskirt. Wife-swapping. Sex clubs. Swinging. The Pill. The sexuality of Kennedy politics. The new dark Grove Press best sellers. I Am Curious, Yellow—and showing at a chic theater. The sexual emancipation of women. Kaffeeklatsches about the clitoral orgasm. All those strident sexy costumes—the cutout clothes, the glaring colors, the threads that lawyers started to wear on weekends, the big wide ties, the sideburns. Esalen. Touch therapy. Everybody (it seemed) committed to being sexy, or at any rate aware of it, or at any rate trying to deal with it. Since then, some of the stridency has quieted down a bit. Sex in writing, for instance, seems to be less insistent and obligatory. We’ve just had Love Story, haven’t we? Fashion magazines have started muttering about a Return to Elegance, whatever that may mean. But it was back in the sixties that New Journalism made its big push—a debut which Tom Wolfe seems to think derived from some magic confluence of the stars, or at least from some solemn discovery of the Death of the Novel. I wouldn’t say that it wasn’t at all the way he says it was—but my guess is that a lot of what’s happened in New Journalism has as much to do with the New Carelessness of the times, and the sexual stridency of writers (and of nearly everyone else), as it has to do with attempts to evolve freer journalistic techniques.

At any rate, the new journalistic techniques have produced a mightily uneven body of work. Some of it as good as, for instance, Wolfe’s own Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test—but much of it—for example a recent piece in Rolling Stone by Hunter Thompson on the New Hampshire primaries—is slipshod and self-serving. Partly this is because of the times we live in, and both writers and readers respond to the times. Partly, too, it’s because—with one, or two, or two-and-a-half exceptions there are virtually no prose editors anymore. Already in reporting, one notes that what used to be called a reporter is now called an “investigative reporter” the reporter is presumably the fellow who informs us that the President is now standing in the doorway of the plane. And in editing, the person who deals with the bloody manuscript is somebody called the “copy” or “text” editor, and works in a small office behind the broom closet while the Editor, of course, is the man having lunch with Clifford Irving. Editors today lunch, and make deals, and assign subjects—“concepts”—and discourse airily on the “new freedom” which they now provide writers which in fact means that the Editor can remain at lunch, and not be much bothered on his return by a responsibility to his writer’s story, or to his writer’s subject, because he usually has none, claims none. And writers, for their part, just as keen to escape the strictures of traditional editing—as indeed are so many others in our society to escape the traditional strictures of their lives, marriages, families, jobs and possibly for the same sort of reasons.

Writers. Writer-journalists. It is clearly a splendid thing, a sexy thing, to be a writer-journalist these days. Admirals, aviators, bishops—everyone has his day. Today it is the journalist (and some others). He declaims about the end-of-the-novel while he hitch-hikes on the novel. He has small patience for the dreary conventions of the Old Journalism, although he rides upon its credibility, on the fact that most people will buy and read his work on the assumption (built up by his predecessors) that when he writes: “Startled, the Pope, awoke to find the Hotel Bridgewater in flames,” it was indeed the Bridgewater, not the Edgewater, and that it was, in fact, the Pope. Even so, this is not the worst of crimes. When people complain too much about inaccuracy, or inattention to detail, it seems to me they are usually talking about something else, perhaps a larger, muddled conflict of life-views.

Where I find the real failure in New Journalism, or in much of it anyway, is in the New Journalist’s determination and insistence that we shall see life largely on his terms. Granted one knows, by now, the pitfalls of conventional “objectivity.” One is aware of the inaccuracies and timidities which so often have resulted from on-the-one-hand … on-the-other-hand reporting. Still, there is something troubling and askew in the arrogance—and perhaps especially in the personal unease—that so often seems to compel the New Journalist to present us our reality embedded in his own ego. A classic example of this, I thought, was Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon, with its generalities about engineers and scientists—generalities which seemed less concerned with what scientists or engineers might be, even if one could generalize about them, than in the ego-ability of the writer to generalize about them. Lesser talents and egos than Mailer are less noticeable, although it seems to me that much, if not most, routine New Journalism—I am thinking of the dozens of pieces about movie stars and politicians that appear in magazines each year—consists in exercises by writers (admittedly often charming, or funny, or dramatically written exercises) in gripping and controlling and confining a subject within the journalist’s own temperament. Presumably, this is the “novelistic technique.” But in fact Madame Bovary is a creature of Flaubert’s—regardless of whether Flaubert once spent a summer in Innsbruck with a lady who looked vaguely like her, and who expressed dissatisfaction with her husband. Whereas Phil Spector, for example, in the Tom Wolfe piece, or Bill Bonanno in Honor Thy Father, or George Meany in a Harper’s piece by John Corry all are real people, nobody’s creatures, certainly not a journalist’s creatures—real people whose real lives exist on either side of the journalist’s column of print. The New Journalist is in the end, I think, less a journalist than an impresario. Tom Wolfe presents … Phil Spector! Jack Newfield presents … Nelson Rockefeller! Norman Mailer presents … the Moon Shot! And the complaint is not that the New Journalist doesn’t present the totality of someone’s life, because nobody can do that—but that, with his ego, he rules such thick lines down the edges of his own column of print. Nothing appears to exist outside the lines—except that, of course, it does. As readers, as audience, despite our modem bravado, I don’t think we show much more willingness, let alone eagerness, than we ever did to come to terms with this disorder—the actuality, the nonstorybook element in life. And it seems to me that, on the whole, the New Journalist (despite his bravado) hasn’t risked much in this direction either and if you think none of it matters, my guess is you’re wrong.

Watch the video: Britain and World War I. 1750s to Present: Unit 6. World History Project. OER Project (January 2022).