The catalogue of journalistic misdeeds is a matter of record: the willingness to publish propaganda as fact, the apparently tame acceptance of censorship and the failure to hold power to account.
The journalists, however, were, he says, not wholly to blame for this, because they ‘were prevented from informing the public by three powerful forces – the government, the military and their own proprietors.’
Of course there is much truth in Greenslade’s article, especially when he discusses the inhibiting effect of DORA, the Defence of the Realm Act.
One of its regulations stated: “No person shall by word of mouth or in writing spread reports likely to cause disaffection or alarm among any of His Majesty’s forces or among the civilian population.” Its aim was to prevent publication of anything that could be interpreted as undermining the morale of the British people.
True, but as he acknowledges, this did not stop Lord Northcliffe spinning the news against Kitchener. Nor, one might add, did it stop the press barons playing a crucial role in the fall of Asquith.
In fact, censorship was very strict on military matters, or on matters that might possibly affect the military (even weather forecasts were banned because they might help the enemy). Political comment was very free, however. I have written before about the extreme personal vituperation against ministers and other politicians in Horatio Bottomley’s John Bull (much nastier than anything you’s find in today’s papers, more like the pitbull viciousness of the comments below the line on even the nicest newspaper websites).