Negotiating in the Press
American Journalism and Diplomacy, 1918-1919
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Series: Media and Public Affairs
How do mass media institutions affect the making of peace? What happens when reporters and diplomats cross paths during international summitry? This study examines the role of the American press at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, looking at journalists’ influence on the peace process and their relationship to heads of state and other delegation...
Part 1: The War of Words
01 Federal Power and Publicity
America’s entrance into the Great War required a concerted national effort to prepare citizens for a level of bloodshed not seen since the days of the Civil War and for technological and logistical challenges simply without parallel in human history. World War I was the world’s first experience with “total war,” with conflict that would demand the entire resources...
02 The New Presidency
Numerous signs—Wilson’s creation of the CPI, the unprecedented growth of executive publicity generally, the auxiliary diplomatic group known as The Inquiry, even the establishment of censorship —all exemplified the progressive zeal for bold executive action in the realm of information management. Most historians have excelled in disregarding...
03 The New Diplomacy
Publicity and public opinion, indeed democratic rhetoric generally, would come to matter much even to as improbable a group of citizens as diplomats, a class of folk with an obviously precarious “image problem” during the war. High casualties, scant progress, and escalating costs tempted Westerners in 1915 and 1916 to blame their diplomats for the cessation...
Part 2: Professionalizing Journalism
04 The Professionalization of Journalism
Excitement about the new diplomacy spread quickly among journalists, who could not fail to notice the self-serving benefits in a cult of publicity. But writers and reporters also sincerely believed in the democratic value of such a movement. At the heart of diplomatic reform, in other words, lay an acknowledged tribute to public opinion and public...
05 Woodrow Wilson and the Press
At this height of the movement for professionalization in journalism, a select group of professional hopefuls and a pedigreed former college professor embarked on an often difficult working relationship. Wilson’s attitude toward public information was ambivalent, and his relationship with the press was a complicated one. Despite his approval of the...
Part 3: Rekindling Professionalism
06 "The Great Adventure"
Wartime tensions between the president and the press made the Paris Peace Conference appear to be something of a respite and, at the same time, a thrilling new opportunity as well. Journalists who were tired of the war, the restrictions, the rhetoric, the same old scenery, could look forward to a striking departure from the ordinary. Those...
Part 4: Confrontation and Stability
07 "The American Newspaper Men ... Went Bolshevik"
America’s news correspondents came to Europe in the winter of 1918– 1919 filled with optimism and a high degree of purpose. As they embarked upon their postwar duties, many individuals looked upon the peace conference as a professional opportunity for the press to assert itself prominently in the diplomatic resolution of World War I, as a chance...
Having gotten off to an unsettling and controversial start, the conference placed immediate demands on the press. The first challenge was the business of simply getting information, either the news or the “color stuff” (depending upon the correspondent’s specialty),1 not a simple affair given the conference’s early firestorm over publicity. After preparing...
What did American correspondents think of the work they were doing in Paris? How did they like it? Perhaps their strongest emotional reaction to their experience in Paris was a feeling of pride in doing important work and doing that work around important people. These feelings and experiences, especially early on, would have a profound impact...
The role of the American press at the Paris Peace Conference was shaped to a large extent by what Woodrow Wilson and the U.S. delegation did or did not do in the way of publicity. But that role was not altogether determined by American diplomats, nor would it have been fundamentally changed if it were so determined. For no less than other delegations,...
Participation is a fuzzy, subjective concept. If we define it, as the dictionary does, as joining in or sharing in something, then we are still left with the question: Did journalists join in or share in the experience of making peace? The answer is complicated because while journalists may have regarded themselves as participants, diplomats may not have accorded...
Part 5: The Democratic Din of Public Opinion
12 Anti-Treaty Opposition
For the most part, the close-up encounter between American reporters and diplomats in Paris ended once the Germans signed the treaty in June. That result was mainly circumstantial. Some correspondents stayed on in European posts or prepared to cover the developing organization of the League of Nations, but most came home for a well-earned rest. The experiment...
13 The Pro-Treaty Campaign
Animated discussion of an international league was lacking throughout most of the war, all the belligerents focusing on the fighting at hand rather than the negotiation somewhere down the road. Discussion that did seep out before the armistice was necessarily sketchy. As victory loomed for the Allies, however, articles began to appear more frequently, then...
14 The Printers' Strike and Other Distractions
In addition to an active campaign seeking to dispute the league’s supposed virtues, discredit the president, and vilify the treaty, the coalition of forces led by Lodge also benefited indirectly from all publicity unrelated to the issues at hand. In other words, any diversion away from talk about internationalism and the new diplomacy made selling the league, and...
15 The Press and the Senate
The majority of newspaper correspondents covering the ratification battle in the Senate were not, as a rule, the same journalists who had been to Paris to cover the treaty’s formulation. Robert B. Smith of the Chicago Tribune, Carter Field and Edmund Taylor of the New York Tribune, and John B. Pratt of the New York Times, for example, had been in...
Despite their many disappointments, journalists helped to “make” the peace in 1918–1919 almost as much as statesmen did. Their part was different in kind but not in degree, for the press of all belligerent countries prepared the way for the cessation of hostilities by its particular espousal of peace demands, pressured the delegates to take certain stances at...