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War Correspondent at IWMN Reviewed

David McCourt gains new respect for the conflict correspondents at IWMN

Published on August 21st 2011.


War Correspondent at IWMN Reviewed

“TO report war properly, you need to start with what it does to people. War is all about killing.” (Jeremy Bowen, War Stories, 2006) 

Martin Bell said, in 2011: “You can’t go through all this without being changed by it.” Sometimes the change is permanent and fatal. 

The opening line of text at the UK’s first major exhibition about British war correspondents at the Imperial War Museum North sets the tone for the experience that follows. 

War Correspondent is revealing, honest, and at times, gruesome. Taking an in-depth look into the tales of 12 of the most celebrated war correspondents, and some of their most memorable work, the exhibition shock its audience with true stories and personal accounts. 

Do we always get the full picture? How does war reporting affect the correspondent? Can you really get enjoyment out of a job where you may be killed? 

The personal accounts are emotive and interesting, and confirmed what we all suspect - war correspondents are generally news addicts, determined and calm (usually) in their pursuit of a story. The accounts by Michael Nicholson and Martha Gellhorn are particularly fascinating. 

It was the bigger picture of war reporting that’s most intriguing, dealing in detail with issues such as censorship, objectivity, technological restrictions, and consequence. War reporting has evolved over the last century - this exhibition starts at 1914 - and the struggle between censorship and control of access against advancing technology, citizen journalism and the fear that a small indiscretion could result in military action is one of the most interesting elements to be gained from the exhibition. 

Visitors learn how media coverage has evolved though peaks and troughs, from almost no access in WW1, through to WW2 - the most extensively reported conflict in history. From shocking TV images in the Falklands, to the technological limitations of the Gulf War, and eventually into Iraq and embedded reporters on the front line, the journey is a remarkable one. It’s told through a variety of texts, exhibits, photographs, and films. 

Martin Bell said, in 2011: “You can’t go through all this without being changed by it.” Sometimes the change is permanent and fatal. 

The penultimate exhibit displays the number of deaths per year of people killed whilst working as a foreign correspondent. Before leaving, visitors are invited to leave their comments, thoughts and questions on a piece of card displayed to others.  A quick glance reveals that many people been very moved by what they had learnt.   

It’s the chilling reminders of the risks war correspondents take, and the lasting implications their work has on their lives and ours that make the personal tales of this exhibition hard-hitting, absorbing and well worth a visit. 

Open daily from Saturday 28 May 2011 until Sunday 2 January 2012. FREE ENTRY. IWMN is at The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester M17 1TZ. 0161 836 4000

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