It is now two centuries since a newspaper conceived the idea of sending a reporter overseas to observe, gather information and write about war. With no experience to draw upon, both newspaper and correspondent gradually worked out a procedure that has evolved into today’s incredibly sophisticated and unrecognisable form.
FIGHTING FOR THE NEWS The Adventures of the First War Correspondents from Bonaparte to the Boers
The first special correspondent employed by a newspaper to gather information about a current war was Henry Crabb Robinson. In 1807, the proprietor of The Times, John Walter II, sent this 32-year-old lawyer to act as their man in Germany, ostensibly to follow and report the movements of Napoleon’s Grande Armée. He was almost arrested, escaping from the Continent in disguise – the first of many exploits and adventures this bold group of individuals undertook to bring news from the seat of war. This included William Russell in the Crimean War, whose reports helped bring down the Government, and perhaps the most famous correspondent of all, Winston Churchill, who reported on conflicts in Cuba, the Indian frontier, Sudan and the Boer War.