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War correspondent

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Title: War correspondent  
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Subject: Denne Bart Petitclerc, Edgar Wallace, Alexander D. Shimkin, G. A. Henty, List of people educated at Bedford School
Collection: People Associated with War, Reporting Specialties, War Correspondents
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War correspondent

A war correspondent is a journalist who covers stories firsthand from a war zone. They were also called special correspondents in the 19th century.


  • Methods 1
  • History 2
    • Crimean War 2.1
    • Third Italian War of Independence 2.2
    • Russo-Japanese War 2.3
    • First and Second Balkan Wars 2.4
    • First World War 2.5
  • Notable war correspondents 3
    • 19th century 3.1
    • 20th century 3.2
    • 21st century 3.3
  • Books by war correspondents 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Their jobs require war correspondents to deliberately go to the most conflict-ridden parts of the world. Once there, they attempt to get close enough to the action to provide written accounts, photos, or film footage. Thus, being a war correspondent is often considered the most dangerous form of journalism. On the other hand, war coverage is also one of the most successful branches of journalism. Newspaper sales increase greatly in wartime and television news ratings go up. News organizations have sometimes been accused of militarism because of the advantages they gather from conflict. William Randolph Hearst is often said to have encouraged the Spanish–American War for this reason. (See Yellow journalism)

Only some conflicts receive extensive worldwide coverage, however. Among recent wars, the Kosovo War received a great deal of coverage, as did the Persian Gulf War. Many third-world wars, however, tend to receive less substantial coverage because corporate media are often less interested, the lack of infrastructure makes reporting more difficult and expensive, and the conflicts are also far more dangerous for war correspondents.


Battle council on the De Zeven Provinciën by Willem van de Velde the Elder. The prelude to the Four Days Battle in 1666.

Written war correspondents have existed as long as journalism. Before modern journalism it was more common for longer histories to be written at the end of a conflict. The first known of these is Herodotus's account of the Persian Wars, however he did not himself participate in the events. Thucydides, who some years later wrote a history of the Peloponnesian Wars was an observer to the events he described.

In the eighteenth century the Baroness Frederika Charlotte Riedesel's Letters and Journals Relating to the War of the American Revolution and the Capture of the German Troops at Saratoga is regarded as the first account of war by a woman. Her description of the events that took place in the Marshall House are particularly poignant because she was in the midst of battle.

The first modern war correspondent is said to be Dutch painter Willem van de Velde, who in 1653 took to sea in a small boat to observe a naval battle between the Dutch and the English, of which he made many sketches on the spot, which he later developed into one big drawing that he added to a report he wrote to the States General. A further modernization came with the development of newspapers and magazines. One of the earliest war correspondents was Henry Crabb Robinson, who covered Napoleon's campaigns in Spain and Germany for The Times of London. Another early correspondent was William Hicks who letters describing the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) were also published in The Times.[1]

Crimean War

William Howard Russell, who covered the Crimean War, also for The Times, is often described as the first modern war correspondent. The stories from this era, which were almost as lengthy and analytical as early books on war, took numerous weeks from being written to being published.

Third Italian War of Independence

Another renowned journalist, Ferdinando Petruccelli della Gattina, Italian correspondent of European newspapers such as La Presse, Journal des débats, Indépendance Belge and The Daily News, was known for his extremely gory style in his articles but involving at the same time. Jules Claretie, critic of Le Figaro, was amazed about his correspondence of the Battle of Custoza, during the Third Italian War of Independence. Claretie wrote, "Nothing could be more fantastic and cruelly true than this tableau of agony. Reportage has never given a superior artwork."[2]

Russo-Japanese War

Western military attachés and war correspondents with the Japanese forces after the Battle of Shaho in 1904.

It was not until the telegraph was developed that reports could be sent on a daily basis and events could be reported as they occurred that the short mainly descriptive stories of today became common. Press coverage of the Russo-Japanese War was affected by restrictions on the movement of reporters and strict censorship. In all military conflicts which followed this 1904-1905 war, close attention to more managed reporting was considered essential.[3]

First and Second Balkan Wars

The First Balkan War (1912-1913) between the Balkan League (Serbia, Greece, Montenegro and Bulgaria) and the Ottoman Empire, and the Second Balkan War (1913) between Bulgaria and its former allies Serbia and Greece, was actively covered by a large number of foreign newspapers, news agencies, and movie companies. An estimated 200-300 war correspondents, war photographers, war artists, and war cinematographers were active during these two nearly sequential conflicts.

First World War

The First World War was characterized by rigid censorship. British Lord Kitchener hated reporters, and so reporters were banned from the Front at the start of the war. But reporters such as Basil Clarke and Philip Gibbs lived as fugitives near the Front, sending back their reports. The Government eventually allowed some accredited reporters in April 1915, and this continued until the end of the war. This meant, though, that the Government was able to control what they saw.

French authorities were equally opposed to war journalism, but less competent (criticisms of the French high command were leaked to the press during the Battle of Verdun in 1916). By far the most rigid and authoritarian regime was imposed by the United States, though General John J. Pershing allowed embedded reporters (Floyd Gibbons had been severely wounded at the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918). The discourse in mediated conflicts is influenced by its public character. By forwarding information and arguments to the media, conflict parties attempt to gain support from their constituencies and persuade their opponents.[4] The continued progress of technology has allowed live coverage of events via satellite up-links. The rise of twenty-four hour news channels has led to a heightened demand for coverage.

Early film and television news rarely had war correspondents. Rather, they would simply collect footage provided by other sources, often the government, and the news anchor would then add narration. This footage was often staged as cameras were large and bulky until the introduction of small, portable motion picture cameras during World War II. The situation changed dramatically with the Vietnam War when networks from around the world sent cameramen with portable cameras and correspondents. This proved damaging to the United States as the full brutality of war became a daily feature on the nightly news.

Notable war correspondents

19th century

20th century

United States World War II correspondents

Some of them became authors of fiction drawing on their war experiences, including Davis, Crane and Hemingway.

21st century

Books by war correspondents

  • Beaumont, Peter (2009). The Secret Life of War: Journeys through Modern Conflict. Harvill Secker.  
  • Behr, Edward (1992). Previously published by Hamish Hamilton in 1981.  
  • Danner, Mark (1994). The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. Vintage Books.  
  • Filkins, Dexter (2008).  
  • Garrels, Anne (2004).  
  • Gellhorn, Martha (1988). The Face of War. Atlantic Monthly Press.  
  • Hedges, Chris (2002).  
  • Herr, Michael (1978). Previous ed. also available.  
  • Hersh, Seymour (1970). My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath. Random House.  
  • Jagielski, Wojciech (2009). Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya. Seven Stories Press.  
  • Jagielski, Wojciech (2012). The Night Wanderers: Uganda's children and the Lord's Resistance Army. Seven Stories Press.  
  • Kapuściński, Ryszard (1991). The Soccer War. Knopf. . Wojna futbolowa Translation of:  
  • Loyd, Anthony. My War Gone By, I Miss It So. 
  • Politkovskaya, Anna (2003). A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya. University of Chicago Press.  
  • Rosen, Nir (2010). Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World. Nation Books.  
  • Tolstoy, Leo.  
  • Vulliamy, Ed (1994). Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnia's War. St. Martin's Press.  
  • Watson, Paul (2007). Where War Lives. McClelland & Stewart.  
  • Weber, Olivier (2002). Eternal Afghanistan. UNESCO.  
  • Wright, Evan (2004). Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War.  
  • Yon, Mike (2008). Moment of Truth in Iraq: How a New "Greatest Generation" of American Soldiers Is Turning Defeat and Disaster into Victory and Hope. Richard Vigilante Books.  
  • Unreasonable Behaviour: An Autobiography by Don McCullin
  • Soldier of the Press: Covering the Front in Europe and North Africa, 1936-1943 by Henry T. Gorrell
  • Dispatches from War, memoirs by Anderson Cooper
  • Ridding the Devils by Frank Palmos
  • "The Sorrow of War" translated Phanh Thanh Hao & Frank Palmos 1994.
  • "The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia" by Jacques Leslie

See also


  1. ^ "Rare Royal Naval uniform of Battle of Trafalgar survivor William Hicks goes on display - Daily Mail Online". Mail Online. 
  2. ^ Jules Claretie, La vie à Paris, Bibliothèque Charpentier, 1896, p.367
  3. ^ Walker, Dale L. "Jack London's War." World of Jack London website.
  4. ^ Kepplinger, Hans Mathias et al. "Instrumental Actualization: A Theory of Mediated Conflicts," European Journal of Communication, Vol. 6, No. 3, 263-290 (1991).
  5. ^ DIXIE, Lady Florence in Who Was Who online at 7345683 at (subscription required), accessed 11 March 2008
  6. ^ Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al. (2005). "Hyōbusho" in p. 692.Japan Encyclopedia, , p. 692, at Google Books
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Bio, Jacques Leslie",
  • Stephen D. Reese, Stephen D., Oscar H. Gandy and August E. Grant. (2001). Framing Public Life: Perspectives on Media and Our Understanding of the Social World, Maywah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. ISBN 978-0-8058-3653-0; OCLC 46383772
  • War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam by Tad Bartimus. NY: Random House, 2002. ISBN 9780375506284
  • On Their Own: Women Journalists and the American Experience in Vietnam by Joyce Hoffmann. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2008. ISBN 9780306810596; see Author Interview at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library on October 30, 2008

External links

  • War Correspondents: A Book Bibliography
  • "A statistical analysis of journalists killed in Iraq since hostilities began in March 2003"
  • "Covering D-Day: An Allied Journalist's Perspective" – a report written by David J. Marcou for British Heritage magazine for the 60th anniversary of D-Day
  • Biographical dictionary of 24,000+ British and Irish journalists who died between 1800 and 1960
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