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The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero & Myth-maker from the Crimea to Iraq

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  256 ratings  ·  20 reviews
"The first casualty when war comes, is truth," said American Senator Hiram Johnson in 1917. In his gripping, now-classic history of war journalism, Phillip Knightley shows just how right Johnson was. From William Howard Russell, who described the appalling conditions of the Crimean War in the Times of London, to the ranks of reporters, photographers, and cameramen who capt ...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published September 13th 2004 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published January 1975)
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Simon Wood
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
FIRST DRAFTERS DEBUNKED

"The first casualty when war comes, is truth"
- Senator Hiram Johnson, 1917.

Phillip Knightley is a fine journalist with a long career of first class investigative reporting, as well as a number of fine books under his belt including "The Second Oldest Professtion: Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century" and his biography "A Hack's Progress". In "The First Casualty" (originally published in 1975, but updated in 2000 and 2003) he casts his eye upon his own profession and
...more
The Final Chapter
High 4. Knightley traces the history of the war correspondent from its first celebrated individual, William Howard Russell, who termed himself "the father of a luckless tribe". Prior to the Crimea War, newspapers had relied on foreign coverage or reports from junior officers with no nose for news. The popular enthusiasm for the Crimean War finally led the 'Times' to abandon this trend and despatch Russell in Feb 1854 and this stocky Irishman would greatly influence the conduct of the war. The Br ...more
Muhammad Ahmad
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first edition of this book are an excellent read that takes one through the history of western war reporting but the segments appended since then are perfunctory and derivative, more the work of a polemicist than a historian. Since the recent cases are more familiar to me, it made me wonder if the earlier parts of the book would seem just as superficial to a historian of Korea, WWII or Spain.
Erik Graff
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Ponderous and with extraordinarily small print, I almost didn't read this one, but having only it to hand upon going to bed I was sucked in, finishing the thing in a couple of days.

Basically, this is an account of the work of war correspondents. The wars treated include the Crimea, the Boer, WWI, the Russian revolution, the invasions of the U.S.S.R., the Spanish Civil War, WWII, Korea, Algeria and Vietnam during the involvement of the U.S.A. Most of the correspondents discussed wrote or broadcas
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Michael Gerald
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Do not always believe the things that you see and hear on the TV, radio, print, and in the Internet.

It's not always what you see is what you get.
...more
Brian Page
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
THE FIRST CASUALTY: THE WAR CORRESPONDENT AS HERO AND MYTH-MAKER FROM THE CRIMEA TO IRAQ is Phillip Knightly’s classic, influential, and angry look at the relationship between the press and governments at war. He spares no one: “Had the correspondents had the moral courage to refuse to play their part in the charade, the government might have been forced to reconsider its attitude.” (p. 103) Here he’s speaking of World War I, but this same indictment is applied to essentially every conflict unti ...more
Joshua Greer
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thought provoking work that should be read by more than just journalists and military personnel.

As a journalist in college and a military officer of 14 years now; I identify with both sides. Does the military lie, spin, obfuscate? Absolutely. Does the military do so because the people feel like it is necessary and the right thing to do in order to win? Yes. Is this right in a democratic society where the military is ostensibly subservient to the will of the people? There are no easy answers.

It
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Ian Boyle
A compelling detailed book about war reporting
David Rush
The early chapters of the Crimean War and the American Civil War lay out pretty clearly what follows for the rest of the book, mainly that any contemporary reporting of war is at best, crap, and even more likely totally wrong.

In WWI the very purposeful use of “news” as actual propaganda is developed. Usually with the full cooperation of the reporter. During WWI, the prime minister is at a dinner and after hearing actual stories from the war says..”if people really knew, the war it would be stopp
...more
Melissa
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
I have a lot of issues with the book and I'm not going to list them here. Besides the lack of verifiable facts and the constant use of specific chosen stories, I would say what annoyed me most was the not so very hidden normative ideas. Let's just leave it here... ...more
Jerry
Oct 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bazin
The First Casualty seeks to fill two needs: to catalog the failures and successes of war reporting since it began as a recognizable form, and to analyze its failure to engage news viewers into ending war.

As a catalogue of press behavior and roadblocks in the major wars from the Crimean war to Vietnam, this is an extensive and useful tome. But analyzing the press’s failures and censorship’s failures, it gets lost. Even transparency seems to end up a failure when it comes to war reporting… but he
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Pascal Lapointe
Un livre des années 1970, mais plus d'actualité que jamais, à l'heure de nos interrogations sur la couverture de la guerre en Irak (en fait, la version que je viens de lire date des années 1970, mais je viens d'apprendre qu'une réédition, incluant la guerre en Irak, est récemment publiée). Ça commence avec les tout premiers correspondants de guerre, au milieu du 19e siècle, et ça va jusqu'à la guerre du Vietnam: l'auteur passe en revue des générations de manipulations de l'information, de censur ...more
Christopher Saunders
Knightley provides a polemical history of war correspondents, analyzing their general failure to provide accurate reporting. In broad strokes it's an effective argument, showing how easily journalists are influenced by government pressure and personal beliefs. But Knightley is extremely inconsistent in his criticisms. He excoriates anti-Bolshevik reporters during the Russian Revolution but upholds John Reed as a paragon of integrity (!). He similarly praises Herbert Matthews' pro-Fascist writing ...more
jeano
Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: chapter readers and historians
organized chronologically with each chapter devoted to a war (and not limited to the wars that america was involved in), the book is a compendium of the courageous, lazy, romanticizing war correspondents and the plotting military and conspirational government forces that met them, from the 1800s til Iraq. its best feature is the rampant use of punctuating, romping, outrageous, hilarious, or merely cold and sinister quotes from everyone. a little difficult to make it straight through as it seems ...more
Gordon Howard
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was going to say this book, written in 1975, is out of date, but I see that the author published an updated version more recently. Nonetheless, the book was too far into the weeds, and skimmed too much material.
Tom
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book a while ago and it set me on the road to becoming a journalist, a road, I might add, that I have long-since turned off. Nevertheless, this is first rate stuff from the first man to interview Phiby.
Missmath144
Mar 19, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
Dull reading at first, but gave an impressive feeling for the drudgery, callousness, and injustices of war. I read it in conjunction with The Naked and the Dead, Hiroshima, and For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Ava Semerau
Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've just started this book and frankly, had to put it down because it was so personally upsetting as a journalist. I am now reading it in small pieces, digesting what I've read and learned, and then going back to it. Powerful. Provoking and deeply disturbing. ...more
Richard
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: project-2013


Truth is the first casualty of war. Want to learn a bit about world history, wars of consequence and war reporting…read this book.

Cody VC
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly even-handed and very engaging; a real shame it ends in the 1970s.
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Phillip Knightley was a special correspondent for The Sunday Times for 20 years (1965-85) and one of the leaders of its Insight investigative team. He was twice named Journalist of the Year (1980 and 1988) in the British Press Awards. He and John Pilger are the only journalists ever to have won it twice.

He was also Granada Reporter of the Year (1980), Colour Magazine Writer of the Year (1982), hol
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“I love the infantry because they are the underdogs. They are the mud-rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they even learn to live without the necessities. And in the end they are the guys that wars can’t be won without.”60” 1 likes
“all studies of propaganda tell what a powerful weapon it is; that since armies fight as people think, it is essential to control that thought. This means some form of managing the news, and the only question is the degree to which the news should be managed openly and the degree to which it should be managed subtly.” 0 likes
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