EPISODE ONE : THE ROMANCE OF WAR
The first 90-minute episode of Reporting America at War explores the relationship between the press, the military and the public from the Spanish American War through the Allied victory in World War II. Through the experiences of veteran war correspondents and the observations of scholars, the challenges of battlefield reporting are brought vividly to life and the essential patriotism of the press in this period is illuminated.
The film opens with a brief history of war reporting, then goes on to relate the exploits of Richard Harding Davis, the dashing and ambitious reporter who covered the Spanish-American War for The New York Herald. Among the first reporters to portray war as a grand adventure, Davis sought out military figures to cast as heroes in his stories. Foremost among them was Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, whose national reputation owed much to Davis’s rousing account of the Americans’ victory at San Juan Hill.
Davis’s views on warfare were later reflected in the reporting of World War I, when journalists cooperated with the government’s propaganda campaign and depicted the conflict as a great crusade for democracy. As a result, the average citizen had no inkling of the extent of the slaughter until well after the war had ended.