Mass Media Wages the Battle for Public Opinion
World War I was the first to feature embedded war correspondents, writing history as it happened and sending their stories directly back to their publishers. This immediately changed the nature of how ordinary citizens thought about and experienced the war. Because of this, parties to the conflict could take their arguments directly to the people.
Several high-profile correspondents made their names covering the biggest battles of the war. Mary Roberts Rinehart began writing after losing everything in the stock market crash of 1903. She became a war correspondent for The Saturday Evening Post at the Belgian front during World War I. During her time in Belgium, she interviewed Albert I of Belgium, Winston Churchill, and Mary of Teck.
Will Irwin is perhaps the most famous; with his muckraking background, Irwin was well-placed to expose controversial events such as the use of poison gas in battle. He was one of the first American correspondents in Europe, writing for Collier's, New York Tribune, and Saturday Evening Post.
Allowing this quick reportage was one particular technological advancement: the compact typewriter. The Bennett Typewriter Company of New York began production of this bantam-weight model in 1910. It boasts the smallest keyboard produced on any typewriter of the day.
Many of the photographs originally published in newspaper and magazine editions were later reprinted in the form of postcards and stereoscope cards. Stereoscope cards required a special viewer which gave the impression of a three dimensional image.
Many postcards highlighted the utter destruction of well-known landmarks, such as the Cathedral at Reims, France, and the Cloth Hall at Ypres, Belgium.
On the reverse of the stereoscope image taken near Lens, France, is this description:
Look as carefully as you can over this field of desolation and carnage and you will find hardly an inch of ground that has not been blasted over and over again by explosive shells. Those stumps, the remains of a beautiful orchard, show what kind of ground this No Man's Land was before the Allies and their foe came to grips here in the tremendous battle that raged for the channel ports in Northern France and Belgium.
Shell holes without number as far as the eye can reach, filled with stagnant gas-filled water, as deadly as the wells that the Germans poisoned as they retreated. At the edge of the hole nearest to you is discernible a rifle and bayonet; at your feet is a helmet still covering the head of its owner.
Farther on toward the largest tree stump you can see the body of one of the dead. Hundreds like this soldier have lain between the lines of the armies, for days, weeks, months, even when the fighting, fiercer than ever before, raged all about them. On the extreme right there are the remains of another of the men who strove in the dusk of some grey morning to make his way to the enemy's lines.
If you had gone the length of the line held by the British in France, you would have seen miles and miles of terrible desolation like this, "where all is still and cold and dead."