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Press War Coverage
The Civil War
The press flourished like it never had before during the Civil War.
The telegraph was the most important invention before the war. It was the cell phone of its time.
When the Civil War began in 1860, it was covered by war correspondents on the battlefields.
These correspondents sent their stories over the telegraph wires. The wires provided a way to quickly get stories directly to the newspapers.
At first, stories were written in chronological order, with the oldest news first. Because telegraph lines were frequently cut by soldiers, news story writing began to change.
The lead of the story became the most important part, with the story written in Inverted Pyramid Style.
War maps and drawings were used in newspapers, but there was no way to publish photographs for almost 40 more years.
Although none of his photos were printed in newspapers, a famous photographer during the Civil War was Mathew Brady.
Almost any Civil War photo you see was probably taken by him or one of his assistants.
Brady convinced President Lincoln to let him go anywhere during the war to make pictures. Although the government didn’t pay any of his expenses, Brady used his entire savings to finance his trips.
His photos show the horror and the glory of the Civil War.
Brady’s work is one reason we know the reality of the war. His camera served as the eyes of the country.
Spanish-American War 1898
During the 1890’s, a newspaper “war” was going on in New York City.
The New York World was published by Joseph Pulitzer.
The New York Journal was published by William Randolph Hearst.
Both of these men would stop at nothing to beat the other’s circulation.
The Spanish- American War is said to have come about because of the newspaper competition between Pulitzer and Hearst.
Hearst had heard that there were concentration camps in Cuba, run by the Spanish, where people were mistreated. He sent a reporter and an artist to Cuba to cover what was happening.
One of the artists wired Hearst that everything was just a rumor, there was really no war or problem. Hearst wired back, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
When the U.S. Battleship Maine blew up, both papers featured huge drawings of the ship.
Congress demanded that Spain leave Cuba and the U.S. went to war with Spain. Historians agree that the war was helped along by newspapers.
World War I
World War I began between Germany and the Allied Powers of Europe.
The U.S. wanted to remain neutral, since the population was made up of many different ethnic groups.
Although the U.S. was not involved in the war at first, submarine attacks by the Germans stirred the press to demand action to avenge America.
Then U.S. newspapers published an intercepted message from Germany to Mexico. In the message, the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas were offered to Mexico in return for attacking the U.S.
Stirred by the newspapers, the public supported the American declaration of war on Germany, putting the U.S. into World War I.
World War II
Coverage of the war by the press was said to be the best of any war up until then.
The main reason was the war correspondents. Direct battlefield reports came from radio and over the wire.
The best-known correspondent was Ernie Pyle. He wrote a weekly column read all over the U.S., for which he won a Pulitzer Prize.
He was killed in Okinawa by a Japanese sniper. Later, a movie was made about his life.
Television was now part of the media, but graphic coverage was not shown. Korean War news was reported by newsmen with little footage of the action on the battlefield.
Most coverage was provided by the U.S. government in the form of official press releases.
Coverage of the war by television changed the way Americans had seen war.
Families would come home at the end of the day, turn on the news and watch full graphic content of the battlefields. This either made people support the war or turned them totally against it.
The end of the Vietnam War was covered with much fanfare by the media. Cameras showed returning soldiers reuniting with families and other happy moments.
Gulf War I 1991
Media coverage of the first Gulf War was better than any coverage up to that time. Not only could the war be seen any time of night or day on CNN, but newspaper coverage was more complete.
The media focused on the human side to fighting the war – lots of features on the pilots who did the bombings, how the average soldier felt about leaving his family, etc.
Thanks to CNN, the public was even in the cockpit when bombs were dropped, bringing this war closer to home.
Gulf War II 2003
In the second Gulf War, war correspondents were embedded with troops for the first time in history so coverage was complete and timely.
Unlike any other war, this put reporters and photographers in the middle of the fighting.
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