Posts Tagged ‘world war two’

Women war reporters and ‘immersion journalism’

January 5, 2017
A glamorous female war correspondent similar to Martha Gellhorn shown in a 1946 issue of Woman magazine

A glamorous British female war correspondent similar to Martha Gellhorn shown in a 1945 issue of Woman magazine

The International Association for Literary Journalism Studies (IALJS) has some cracking meetings – gonzo journalism being a recent subject – and the next one is about ‘immersion journalism’. It is, they say, what Martha Gellhorn, a US war reporter for the US weekly magazine Collier’s during the Second World War, would have called ‘the view from the ground’.

The concept of the female war correspondent dates back at least to Sarah Wilson and Elizabeth Charlotte Briggs, who reported on the Boer Wars in the 1890s for the Daily Mail and Morning Post newspapers, respectively.

Gellhorn began writing in the 1920s and then went with Ernest Hemingway in 1936 to cover the Spanish Civil War. She married him in 1940, but they split up five years later. The Spanish conflict was the start of a career that saw her flying off to cover just about every war she could find until she developed cancer and later killed herself in 1998. Another American woman famous in the role was Lee Miller. She did so as a photographer, at first as a freelance and then from 1940 for Vogue. She was famously pictured soaping herself in Hitler’s bath. After the war, she married the artist Roland Penrose and settled in Britain.

Parisian glamour for British readers in a wartime Woman magazine

Parisian glamour for British readers in a wartime Woman magazine

These female correspondents were glamorous figures, and were depicted in a short story, ‘No Other Love’ by Leonie Mason (a pseudonym of Winifred Walker), in Woman in February 1945. The illustration, credited to ‘Koolman: Carlton’, shows two women in a Paris café. One is in uniform with the designation ‘Official War Correspondent’ on her shoulder; she is ‘Julie Wilson’ a British reporter for a paper called the Daily Record (there was then, and still is, a Glasgow paper of that name). On the table between them alongside what look like coffees in tall glasses with metal holders is a packet of Lucky Strike cigarettes, a US brand relaunched in 1942 with a white packet designed by Raymond Loewy to appeal to women.

In Leonie Mason's short story, Julie Wilson is an official war correspondent

In Leonie Mason’s short story, Julie Wilson is an official war correspondent

Gellhorn wrote reports and fiction for magazines throughout the war and after, with her short stories being published in both Britain and, the US. As I show in my book, British Magazine Design, ‘The Long Journey’, for example, was published in the June 1952 issue of Good Housekeeping and then Woman’s Own (December 4). Other examples have titles such as ‘Come Ahead, Adolf!’ (Collier’s, Aug 6, 1938); ‘Dachau: Experimental Murder’ (Collier’s, Jun 23 1945); ‘Java journey’ (Saturday Evening Post, Jun 1, 1946); and ‘The Lowest Trees Have Tops’ (Ladies’ Home Journal, Aug 1967). The Fiction Mags Index has a substantial list.

French coffee and Lucky Strike cigarettes would have been luxuries in wartime Britain - rationing would not end until 1952

Coffee and Lucky Strike cigarettes – luxuries in wartime Britain, where rationing would not end until 1952

As the literary journalism academics explain, such work ‘uses in-depth, on-the-scene reporting, research and literary techniques to take readers into worlds that would otherwise be off limits’. They also give a more technical definition:

Immersion attempts to address the limits of conventional reporting by replacing the emphasis on deadlines and objectivity with long-term observation and the building of enduring — and often psychologically and dramatically complex — reporter-source relationships.
Immersion practices link literary journalism to other disciplines, primarily anthropology and sociology, with their emphasis on the role of the participant observer and “thick” description techniques used in ethnographies.
Historically, immersion journalism often imbued reporters with a distinct moral authority to call for social reforms. Current discussions of immersion techniques highlight the ethical dilemmas of being part of the story, the quest for authenticity, and the necessity of finding narrative in the “every day-ness” of immersion. The economics of the news business also factor in. How can journalism now afford the time and resource-intense practice of immersion? How will traditional immersion techniques fare in contrast to new technologies of interactivity and virtual reality that purport to give the reader an “immersive” experience?
Immersion also presents a challenge to the pedagogy of literary journalism. What practices are best for teaching immersion, particularly given that few students will have the schedule and financial support to attempt it?

The IALJS sessions will take place at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications in the US city of Chicago on August 9-12. It is titled ‘The View from the Ground: Rethinking Immersion.’ The editors are seeking academic submissions.

When magazines dropped like flies

October 24, 2015
Recycling paper in the war, as shown on the cover of Everywoman magazine in January 1942

Recycling paper in the war, as shown on the cover of Everywoman magazine in January 1942

It’s been a dire few years for the big magazine publishers with many closures. Yet, things could be worse – as they were soon after the outbreak of the Second World War. Just as householders ripped out their iron railings and every scrap of metal was collected up for the war effort, so was paper.

People went around recycling their magazines and newspapers – as portrayed in this Everywoman cover by Clixby Watson from 1942. Even local libraries donated their bound volumes. Another form of recycling was reusing – the public was encouraged to hand their old magazines in to Post Offices so they could be sent out to the troops, as had happened in the Great war.

By 1942, the amount of paper publishers could use was reduced to a fifth of what it was before the war! Page sizes were reduced, print runs reduced, the number of pages cut and weeklies became fortnightlies, but even this was never going to be enough.

So titles had to close. And dozens of them did. You can see a clue as to what was happening below the title on this cover Woman’s Pictorial cover from 1940:

Woman's Pictorial magazine cover from 1940 -wartime rationing had already started to bite

Woman’s Pictorial magazine cover from 1940 – wartime rationing had already started to bite

And this one,

London Opinion magazine's cover from September 1940 reveals that another magazine has closed

London Opinion magazine’s cover from September 1940 reveals that another magazine has closed

And another.

And even Tatler has swallowed upon of its venerable rivals. This issue is from 1943 but the takeover took place in October 1940

And even Tatler has swallowed one of its venerable rivals. This issue is from 1943 but the takeover took place in October 1940

Home Journal, The Humorist and Bystander. Just three examples of the many magazines that were closed by publishers in just six months so they could meet their paper ration. And, look back above at the Everywoman magazine cover and you’ll see it had swallowed Woman’s Fair. There’s a particular poignancy in the loss of the Bystander, for that was the magazine that introduced Bruce Bairnsfather’s Old Bill cartoons – a great morale booster during the Great War.