The News From Ireland:
Foreign Correspondents and The Irish Revolution

By Maurice Walsh
I.B. Tauris
258 pages, £20

At the end of World War I, the victorious Allies brought self-determination to Europe, forging whole new nations out of disparate nationalities. The Irish decided that they too were entitled to self-determination, as well as dissolution of the Act of Union that had bound them firmly to Britain for more than a century. They began a shadowy resistance that came to be recognized as a revolution. The British government under Lloyd George was inclined to crush it in the good old imperial way, but failed. Just how journalism contributed to that failure is the subject of Maurice Walsh’s study. He sees newspaper and magazine correspondents not as bystanders but as an active force in creating the climate that brought London to the negotiating table. He describes how even journalists from the British establishment papers, stung by accusations that they had become government propagandists during the Great War, now flaunted their independence by laying bare the brutal reprisals of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the infamous Black and Tans. Foreign reporters, notably Americans, also contributed. Walsh takes note of the literary journalist Francis Hackett, an Irish emigrant to America who stated the Irish case in the pages of The New Republic. The author also recounts the advocacy of Carl W. Ackerman, correspondent for the Philadelphia Public Ledger (and later the first dean of Columbia University’s journalism school). Even at the age of thirty, Ackerman seems to have felt hemmed in by the humble role of reporter, and got himself involved as a mediator of sorts between Sinn Fein leaders and the British government, apparently without notifying his newspaper. (Walsh coldly concludes that Ackerman was more a tool of his British contacts than a genuine go-between.) In any case, there was an eventual settlement, which created the Irish Free State out of 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties: a partition that spawned a subsequent civil war and continues to reverberate into the twenty-first century. Walsh, a distinguished correspondent and scholar, has made a first-rate contribution to the history of “the Troubles,” in which journalists are not merely recorders but actors.

Cleveland Amory:
Media Curmudgeon & Animal Rights Crusader

By Marilyn Greenwald
University Press of New England
252 pages, $27.95

James Boylan is CJR’s founding editor.