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Reporting from the front during WWII

December 6, 2015
Estherville News

It's Dec. 7. Seventy-four years ago today, was the day that would live in infamy, the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. We tried to imagine what that day, and the days during the four years that followed, would look like if they had happened with today's 24 hour news cycle and the constant stream of public opinion happening in real time on social media. It was very difficult. Rolling back three-quarters of a century in technology is, in the pace of advances in tech, several lifetimes. In the 1940s of course, newspaper, radio and newsreels at the movie theater were the vehicles for the news from the war, and for the other news that happened.

As we created this editorial, we began thinking of the journalists who reported the war from the front. According to the Library of Congress, many of these journalists were women. Just as men were gone from factories and farms to serve in the armed forces, many reporters also signed up and in their absence, women who could write and report took their places.

By war's end, at least 127 American women had secured official military accreditation as war correspondents and even took on front-line assignments. Others took the homefront beat, documenting the ways in which America changed under wartime conditions.

Despite hard news having been dominated by men, these women had some experience. During the Depression years, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt instituted a weekly women-only press conference, in part to force newspapers, magazines and radio stations to employ at least one female reporter.

Whatever route led them to the hospitals, battlefields, and concentration camps, female reporters found that the war offered an unanticipated opportunity. Political-reporter-turned-war correspondent May Craig best summed up their achievements in a 1944 speech at the Women's National Press Club: "The war has given women a chance to show what they can do in the news world, and they have done well."

That's not to say we feel war is a positive thing, nor that we don't wish one of these battles was really the War to End All Wars. But in troubled times, citizens depended upon the press to keep them informed of developments that were as important as life and death, and we salute the ones who were willing to travel to the most dangerous places in the world to report the news.



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