War Correspondents

Griffiths, Andrew (2023). War Correspondents. In: Demoor, Marysa; Van Dijck, Cedric and Van Puymbroek, Birgit eds. The Edinburgh Companion to First World War Periodicals. Edinburgh Companions to Literature and the Humanities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 175–189.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9781474494724-014


Recent scholarship has begun to challenge and complicate elements of this picture, with increased emphasis on the development of the correspondents’ style. A critical reassessment is underway, with significant works by Sara Prieto (2018) and Kevin Williams (2020). Williams places ‘the way in which reporting was managed’ at the centre of his analysis, noting that, as the war progressed, ‘correspondents appeared to be less willing and able to challenge and criticise [. . .] the official perspective’. Prieto traces correspondents’ efforts to ‘overcome very substantial epistemological and physical barriers before they could publish any news that was worth writing about’. Significantly, Prieto argues that ‘[t]he more censorship the correspondents were exposed to, the more literary their texts became’ as they sought to convey the experience of the war by indirect means. As these recent works indicate, close examination of the war correspondents’ reports in relation to the shifting contexts in which they were written reveals a more complex picture of their efforts to mediate between the front lines and their readers. War correspondents had to navigate profound changes in their relationships with readers, employers and the authorities. Focusing primarily on the work of the small group of officially accredited British correspondents on the Western Front, this chapter traces the evolution of the war correspondents’ writing in response to those external pressures.

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