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Reporting from the battlefield: censorship and journalism

Casey, Steven (2015) Reporting from the battlefield: censorship and journalism. In: Bosworth, Richard and Maiolo, Joseph, (eds.) The Cambridge History of the Second World War. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 117-138. ISBN 9781107034075

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Identification Number: 10.1017/CHO9781139524377.007


In the autumn of 1940, at the height of the London Blitz, Robert Casey, a war correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, compiled a mock dispatch in a vein he thought would most appeal to the British censor. ‘An undetermined number of bombers’, he wrote, came over an unidentified portion of an unmentioned European country on an unstated day. There was no weather. Had there been it would have been considered a military secret. The alert sounded at no particular hour because the enemy – one hesitates to label them with a proper name – are not supposed to know the right time. The bombs fell on a golf course killing seventy-five unnamed rabbits. Casey's sarcasm typified the hostility that reporters, accustomed to working in a system with no overt controls, often directed toward military censorship. In their view, the censors’ cuts were invariably excessive; they also prevented journalists from doing their job, which was to relay fairly accurate depictions of the fighting to the home front. At a deeper level, moreover, such stringent censorship undermined these reporters’ professional self-image. War correspondents like Casey were heirs to a long tradition that dated back to the Crimean War and the colonial conflicts of the nineteenth century. It was a tradition that emphasized glamour, danger and the prospect of fortune and fame. A war correspondent, as one of the most illustrious once observed, ‘was a more romantic figure, more dependent on his own resources, initiative, daring, imagination, and audacity’ than other types of journalist. At the start of the Second World War, many reporters headed for the front with images like these fixed firmly in their minds. And on arrival, they did not take kindly to being told by overly officious censors that they could only write anodyne and antiseptic dispatches.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: International History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2015 13:58
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 00:39

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