War correspondent

A war correspondent is a journalist who covers stories firsthand from a war zone. They were also called special correspondents.

Their jobs bring war correspondents 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, this 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. In contrast, the largest war in the last half of the 20th century, the Iran–Iraq War, received far less substantial coverage. This is typical for wars among less-developed countries, as audiences are less interested and the reports do little to increase sales and ratings. The lack of infrastructure makes reporting more difficult and expensive, and the conflicts are also far more dangerous for war correspondents.[1]


De krijgsraad aan boord van de 'De Zeven Provinciën', het admiraalschip van Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter, 10 juni 1666 (Willem van de Velde I, 1693)
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 War was a commander and 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 whose letters describing the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) were also published in The Times.[2]

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.

The discourse in mediated conflicts is influenced by its public character. By forwarding information and arguments to the media, conflict parties attempt to use the media influence to gain support from their constituencies and persuade their opponents.[3] 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.

Crimean War

William Howard Russell, who covered the Crimean War, also for The Times, is often described as the first modern war correspondent.[4]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."[5]

Russo-Japanese War

Foreign Officers and Correspondents after the Battle of Shaho
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.[6]

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 they 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 allowed the Government 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).

Vietnam War

The US conflict in Vietnam saw the tools and access available to war correspondents expanded significantly. Innovations such as cheap and reliable hand-held color video cameras, and the proliferation of television sets in Western homes give Vietnam-era correspondents the ability to portray conditions on the ground more vividly and accurately than ever before. Additionally, the US Military allowed unprecedented access for journalists, with almost no restrictions on the press,[7] unlike in previous conflicts. These factors produced military coverage the likes of which had never been seen or anticipated, with explicit coverage of the human suffering produced by the war available right in the livingrooms of everyday people.[8]

Vietnam-era war correspondence was markedly different from that of WWI and WWII, with more focus on investigative journalism and discussion of the ethics surrounding the war and America's role in it.[8] Reporters from dozens of media outlets were dispatched to Vietnam, with the number of correspondents surpassing 400 at the peak of the war.[9] Vietnam was a dangerous war for these journalists, and 68 would be killed before the conflict came to a close.[7]

Many within the US Government and elsewhere would blame the media for the American failure in Vietnam, claiming that media focus on atrocities, the horrors of combat and the impact on soldiers damaged moral and eliminated support for the war at home.[10] Unlike in older conflicts, where Allied journalism was almost universally supportive of the war effort, journalists in the Vietnam theater were often harshly critical of the US military, and painted a very bleak picture of the war.[8] In an era where the media was already playing a significant role in domestic events such as the Civil Rights Movement, war correspondence in Vietnam would have a major impact on the American political scene. Some have argued that the conduct of war correspondents in Vietnam is to blame for the tightening of restrictions on journalists by the US in wars that followed, including the Persian Gulf war and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.[7]

Gulf War

The role of war correspondents in the Gulf War would prove to be quite different from their role in Vietnam. The Pentagon blamed the media for the loss of the Vietnam war,[10] and prominent military leaders did not believe the United States could sustain a prolonged and heavily televised war.[11] As a result, numerous restrictions were placed on the activities of correspondents covering the war in the Gulf. Journalists allowed to accompany the troops were organized into "pools", where small groups were escorted into combat zones by US troops and allowed to share their findings later.[11] Those who attempted to strike out on their own and operate outside the pool system claim to have found themselves obstructed directly or indirectly by the military, with passport visas revoked and photographs and notes taken by force from journalists while US forces observed.[7]

Beyond military efforts to control the press, observers noted that press reaction to the Gulf War was markedly different from that of Vietnam. Critics claim that coverage of the war was "jingoistic" and overly favorable towards American forces, in harsh contrast to the criticism and muckraking that had characterized coverage of Vietnam.[12] Journalists like CNN's Peter Arnett were lambasted for reporting anything that could be construed as contrary to the war effort, and commentators observed that coverage of the war in general was "saccharine" and heavily biased towards the American account.[12]

These trends would continue into the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, where the pool model was replaced by a new system of embedded journalism.[7][9][1]

Notable war correspondents

19th century

20th century

Public Domain World War II Correspondents (NARA)
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

  • Tolstoy, Leo (1855). Sevastopol Sketches.
  • Hemingway, Earnest(1929). A Farewell to Arms
  • Herr, Michael (1978). Dispatches. Knopf. OCLC 3732647. Previous ed. also available.
  • Weber, Olivier (2002). Afghan Eternities. Le Chene/UNESCO (with Reza).
  • Hedges, Chris (2002). War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-58648-049-9.
  • Filkins, Dexter (2008). The Forever War. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780307266392. OCLC 213407458.
  • Junger, Sebastian (2010). War

See also


  1. ^ a b "Olivier Weber". radionz.co.nz. 3 December 2016. Archived from the original on 5 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Rare Royal Naval uniform of Battle of Trafalgar survivor William Hicks goes on display - Daily Mail Online". Mail Online. Archived from the original on 2011-10-23.
  3. ^ Kepplinger, Hans Mathias et al. "Instrumental Actualization: A Theory of Mediated Conflicts," Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine European Journal of Communication, Vol. 6, No. 3, 263-290 (1991).
  4. ^ Matters, Military History (2012-11-12). "WAR CULTURE – War Correspondents". Military History Matters. Retrieved 2019-02-12.
  5. ^ Jules Claretie, La vie à Paris, Bibliothèque Charpentier, 1896, p.367
  6. ^ Walker, Dale L. "Jack London's War." Archived 2012-10-17 at the Wayback Machine World of Jack London website.
  7. ^ a b c d e Mitchell, Bill (December 9, 2002). "When a Journalist Goes to War". Archived from the original on December 17, 2015. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c Hammond, William (1998). Reporting Vietnam: Media & Military at War (vol. 1). University Press of Kansas.
  9. ^ a b "The war without end is a war with hardly any news coverage". www.niemanwatchdog.org. Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-12-11.
  10. ^ a b Hallin, Daniel (1986). The Uncensored War : The Media and the Vietnam War. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198020864.
  11. ^ a b "The persian gulf war - Television". www.americanforeignrelations.com. Archived from the original on 2015-12-07. Retrieved 2015-12-11.
  12. ^ a b Bennett, W. Lance; Paletz, David L. (1994). Taken by Storm: The Media, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Gulf War. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226042596.
  13. ^ Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al. (2005). "Hyōbusho" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 692., p. 692, at Google Books
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-18. Retrieved 2010-02-28.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ El corresponsal despechado
  16. ^ "Bio, Jacques Leslie", jacquesleslie.com
  17. ^ "Opinion - Flawed Justice for the Butcher of Bosnia". New York Times. 22 November 2017. Archived from the original on 14 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.

External links

Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Arturo Pérez-Reverte Gutiérrez (born 25 November 1951 in Cartagena) is a Spanish novelist and journalist. He worked as a war correspondent for RTVE and was a war correspondent for 21 years (1973–1994). His first novel, El húsar, set in the Napoleonic Wars, was released in 1986. He is well known outside Spain for his "Alatriste" series of novels. He is now a member of the Royal Spanish Academy, a position he has held since 12 June 2003.

Brooks Atkinson

Justin Brooks Atkinson (November 28, 1894 – January 14, 1984) was an American theatre critic. He worked for The New York Times from 1925 to 1960. In his obituary, the Times called him "the theater's most influential reviewer of his time." A war correspondent during World War II, he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for his work as the Moscow correspondent for the Times.

Caspar Whitney

Caspar William Whitney (September 2, 1864 – January 18, 1929) was an American author, editor, explorer, outdoorsman and war correspondent. He originated the concept of the All-American team in college football in 1889 when he worked for Harper's Magazine.

Charles Bateson

Charles Bateson (4 August 1903 – 5 July 1974) was a maritime historian, journalist and author.

Charles Collingwood (journalist)

Charles Collingwood (June 4, 1917 – October 3, 1985) was an American journalist and war correspondent. He was an early member of Edward R. Murrow's group of foreign correspondents that was known as the "Murrow Boys." During World War II he covered Europe and North Africa for CBS News. Collingwood was also among the early ranks of television journalists that included Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, and Murrow himself.

Cora Crane

Cora Crane, born Cora Ethel Eaton Howarth (July 12, 1868 – September 5, 1910) was an American businesswoman, nightclub and bordello owner, writer and journalist. She is best known as the common-law wife of writer Stephen Crane from 1896 to his death in 1900, and took his name although they never married. She was still legally married to her second husband, Captain Donald William Stewart, a British military officer who had served in India and then as British Resident of the Gold Coast, where he was a key figure in the War of the Golden Stool (1900) between the British and the Ashanti Empire in present-day Ghana.

Crane accompanied Stephen Crane to Greece during the Greco-Turkish War (1897), where she was a war correspondent. She is sometimes reported as the first recognized woman war correspondent, but Jane McManus Storm Cazneau covered the Mexican–American War fifty years earlier. After Crane's death, she returned to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1901, where she developed several properties as bordellos, including the luxurious Palmetto Lodge at Pablo Beach; she had financial interests in bars and related venues. In this same period, she regularly contributed articles to such national magazines as Smart Set and Harper's Weekly.


A correspondent or on-the-scene reporter is usually a journalist or commentator for magazines, or more speaking, an agent who contributes reports to a newspaper, or radio or television news, or another type of company, from a remote, often distant, location. A foreign correspondent is stationed in a foreign country. The term "Correspondent" refers to the original practice of filing news reports via postal letter. The largest networks of correspondents belong to ARD (Germany) and BBC (UK).

Dickey Chapelle

Georgette Louise Meyer (March 14, 1919 – November 4, 1965) known as Dickey Chapelle was an American photojournalist known for her work as a war correspondent from World War II through the Vietnam War.

Ernie Pyle

Ernest Taylor Pyle (August 3, 1900 – April 18, 1945) was a Pulitzer Prize–winning American journalist and war correspondent who is best known for his stories about ordinary American soldiers during World War II. Pyle is also notable for the columns he wrote as a roving, human-interest reporter from 1935 through 1941 for the Scripps-Howard newspaper syndicate that earned him wide acclaim for his simple accounts of ordinary people across North America. When the United States entered World War II, he lent the same distinctive, folksy style of his human-interest stories to his wartime reports from the European theater (1942–44) and Pacific theater (1945). Pyle won the Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for his newspaper accounts of "dogface" infantry soldiers from a first-person perspective. He was killed by enemy fire on Iejima (then known as Ie Shima) during the Battle of Okinawa.

At the time of his death in 1945, Pyle was among the best-known American war correspondents. His syndicated column was published in 400 daily and 300 weekly newspapers nationwide. President Harry Truman was among those who paid tribute to Pyle: "No man in this war has so well told the story of the American fighting man as American fighting men wanted it told. He deserves the gratitude of all his countrymen."

Hold Back the Night

Hold Back the Night is a 1956 American war film about the Korean War based on the 1951 novel by Pat Frank, who had been a war correspondent in Korea. The film was directed by Allan Dwan; his third film with John Payne and his third film about the United States Marine Corps, the others being Abroad with Two Yanks (1944) and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949).

Homer Bigart

Homer William Bigart (October 25, 1907 – April 16, 1991) was an American reporter who worked for the New York Herald Tribune from 1929 to 1955 and for The New York Times from 1955 to his retirement in 1972. He was considered a "reporter's reporter" and an "enduring role model." He won two Pulitzer Prizes as a war correspondent, as well as most of the other major journalism awards.

Jim G. Lucas

James Grifing Lucas (June 24, 1915 – July 22, 1971) was a war correspondent for Scripps-Howard Newspapers who won a 1954 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting "for his notable front-line human interest reporting of the Korean War, the cease-fire and the prisoner-of-war exchanges, climaxing 26 months of distinguished service as a war correspondent." He also reported on the Vietnam War and wrote a book about his experiences, Dateline: Vietnam.

Born in Checotah, Oklahoma, the son of Jim Bob Lucas, Jr. and Effie Lincoln Griffing, he began his journalism career as the editor of his high school newspaper. Lucas attended the University of Missouri before going to work for the Muskogee Phoenix as a feature writer. He also worked in broadcasting for KBIX in Muskogee and for the Tulsa Tribune. During World War II, Lucas became a combat correspondent with the Marines, and began his association with Scripps-Howard before the end of the war. At the Battle of Tarawa, he was listed as killed in action for three days. For Lucas' vivid descriptions of that battle, he was awarded the 1943 National Headliners Award.

He was the first recipient of the Ernie Pyle Memorial Award, and the first person to receive it twice: first for his 1953 reporting on the Korean War, and again for his 1964 reporting on the Vietnam War. Lucas also was awarded a Bronze Star and a Presidential Unit Citation for his Marine service. The Virginia Chapter of the United States Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association is named the Jim G. Lucas Chapter.

He remained single all his life and died of abdominal cancer in Washington, DC.

John Sack

John Sack (March 24, 1930 – March 27, 2004) was an American literary journalist and war correspondent. He was the only journalist to cover each American war over half a century.

Mark Fritz

Mark Fritz is a war correspondent and author. A native of Detroit and graduate of Wayne State University, he won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1995 for his stories concerning the Rwandan Genocide.

News Chronicle

The News Chronicle was a British daily newspaper. It ceased publication on 17 October 1960, being absorbed into the Daily Mail. Its offices were in Bouverie Street, off Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 8DP, England.

Nordahl Grieg

Johan Nordahl Brun Grieg (1 November 1902 – 2 December 1943) was a Norwegian poet, novelist, dramatist, journalist and political activist. He was a popular author and a controversial public figure. He served in World War II as a war correspondent and was killed while on a bombing mission to Berlin.

Ralph Allen (journalist)

Ralph Allen (August 25, 1913 – December 2, 1966) was a Canadian journalist, editor, and novelist.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Allen was raised and educated in Oxbow, Saskatchewan. At sixteen he became a sports reporter for The Winnipeg Tribune, before moving to Toronto's renowned The Globe and Mail where he served as a war correspondent during the Second World War. In 1946, he joined newsmagazine Maclean's, becoming editor in 1950. He left Maclean's in 1960 and worked for The Toronto Star from 1964 until his death in 1966.

Allen was the author of several books, including the novel Peace River Country (1958) and Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945 (1961), a history of Canada during the period of the two world wars. In 1967, Christina McCall edited a collection of Allen's newspaper and magazine columns entitled The Man From Oxbow.

Oxbow's town museum is named in Allen's honour. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

William Beach Thomas

Sir William Beach Thomas, (22 May 1868 – 12 May 1957) was a British author and journalist known for his work as a war correspondent and his writings about nature and country life.

Beach Thomas was the son of a rural clergyman. He attended Shrewsbury School and the University of Oxford before embarking on a short-lived career as a schoolmaster. Finding that work unpleasant, he turned his attention to writing articles for newspapers and periodicals, and began to write books.

During the early part of the First World War, Beach Thomas defied military authorities to report news stories from the Western Front for his employer, the Daily Mail. As a result, he was briefly imprisoned before being granted official accreditation as a war correspondent. His reportage for the remainder of the war received national recognition, despite being criticised by some and parodied by soldiers. His book With the British on the Somme (1917) portrayed the English soldier in a very favourable light. Both France and Britain rewarded him with knighthoods after the war, but Beach Thomas regretted some of his wartime output.

Beach Thomas's primary interest as an adult was in rural matters. He was conservative in his views, and feared that the post–Second World War socialist governments regarded the countryside only from an economic perspective. He was an advocate for the creation of national parks in England and Wales, and mourned the decline of traditional village society. He wrote extensively, particularly for The Observer newspaper and The Spectator, a conservative magazine. His book The English Landscape (1938) includes selections from his contributions to Country Life magazine.

William E. Beard

William Ewing Beard (July 12, 1873 – December 21, 1950) was a college football player, soldier, journalist, war correspondent, naval historian, and long-time officer of the Tennessee Historical Commission and member of the Tennessee Historical Society. He wrote several books on Nashville and dubbed Vanderbilt University the Commodores.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.