However, Premonitions of War by Robert J. Young gives a new and often compelling account of the rise of Adolf Hitler, not from the perspective of Europe, but rather through the career of Winnipeg Free Press editor John Dafoe and the stories that ran in the paper during the years preceding the Second World War.
One of the main themes of Premonitions of War is the tension the newspaper reporters felt between local, relatively minor events or trends on one hand and major international incidents on the other.
For the readers of the Free Press, for example, a report on increased rainfall in 1935 was welcome news after years of drought they had experienced, often garnering more attention than the news of Germany’s rearmament or the threat of invasion.
Making people aware of the dangerous state of politics in Germany was part of the task of journalists in the 1930s, as Robert J. Young shows in this book. The author traces the thematic trends in reporting in the Free Press from 1933 to 1939, showing the tension between local news, such as the latest Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers show and international stories, such as the annexation of Austria.
Finding a balance in reporting to include both items of local interest and international importance was a difficult task for Winnipeg Free Press reporters and editors in the 1930s, but the book traces the changes and developments in reporting during that very turbulent decade.
Although in the end their efforts were perhaps less effective than they might have hoped, reporters, cartoonists, and editorial writers had an important role in alerting the residents of Winnipeg to events going on beyond their borders.
Premonitions of War is a very detailed and thorough treatment of issues surrounding newspaper publication during the years leading up to the Second World War, and its themes remain very relevant today in the era of instant, multi-sourced news.
For anyone looking for information on specific stories, themes, and personalities, this book is a useful and well-researched guide to the influence of newspapers, particularly the Winnipeg Free Press in the 1930s, on its readers.
Despite its important contributions and very timely theme, Premonitions of War is not a particularly easy book to read. Paragraphs tend to be long and full of details, often making it difficult to understand the point the author is trying to make, and the chronological structure sometimes makes it difficult to see the underlying themes.
The book ends with a concluding chapter that helps to tie some of the many details together into the main point, but a less scattered approach to the topic and a more varied writing style would make the book more accessible for the general public.
Still, for people interested in how the media affected and was influenced by public opinion during the 1930s, Premonitions of War is a good place to start.
Premonitions of War: The Winnipeg Free Press in the Hitler Years by Robert J. Young. Winnipeg Free Press, 2015.