Socio-economic factors

We have previously seen that factors not directly related to politics, such as the financial situation of the Manchester Guardian and the access to technology to transmit the news from the continent to Britain, served to define the foreign correspondents and translators’ room for manoeuvre. In the following section, additional socio-economic factors will be presented to develop this further.

Spatial Restrictions: Like most other newspapers at the time, the Manchester Guardian had to bear both the size and layout of its issues in mind so as to keep the production costs low and to assure its own survival. Crozier reminded Werth: “Please keep an eye on the length of messages. Things are very crowded at present and we are endeavouring seriously to keep the size of paper down. On normal days I would be entirely content with a message of from 500 to 600 words” (Crozier to Werth 27/10/1937).

Newsworthiness: Closely related to spatial restrictions is the question of newsworthiness. According to Richardson, newsworthiness is expressed in news values, i.e. “the distillation of what an identified audience is interested in reading or watching, or the ‘ground rules’ for deciding what is merely an event and what is ‘news’” (91). There is a multitude of criteria that determine newsworthiness among which we find geographic proximity, unexpectedness, etc. In January 1936 for instance, Crozier explained to Werth, the foreign correspondent in France, that there was no more space for his article about the French cabinet crisis because “we have to make room for matters about the King” (Crozier to Werth 20/01/1936). The abdication of the British King Edward and the ensuing crisis were more important than political issues from abroad.

Credibility: However, there was more to be considered by the Manchester Guardian staff. As outlined in Scott’s famous essay (1921), the Manchester Guardian considered the provision of truthful and objective reports as its prime responsibility. This mission statement implicitly incorporates the requirement of credibility which becomes visible in several instances within the editorial correspondence. After the November Pogroms in 1938, Crozier refused to publish a report about 70 Jews who had allegedly been executed in Buchenwald. This was because Voigt was unable to provide the name of a reliable source of information for this piece of news. In a similar vein, he explained a couple of days later why one of Voigt’s articles had been amended. “I only omitted your last part because I think it might be advisable to break the shock to the public a little more. Perhaps you will return to it, but separate the crisis or in some way slightly modify the prophecy. I would like the public to believe these things because it is very necessary that they should, but they are frightfully disposed to ignore statements that are too disagreeable to them” (Crozier to Voigt 30/11/1938). While the first example illustrates that the credibility of the Manchester Guardians informants was considered to be pivotal, the second shows how Crozier’s conceptualisation of his readership combined with the newspaper’s need for credibility created a need for textual intervention.

Sub-editors: Nevertheless, it was not always the foreign correspondents or the editor who defined the final shape of a news article. The intervention of the subeditors who compared the printed versions of their articles with the versions the news translators-cum-foreign correspondents had originally sent was a continued source of complaints. On September 30, 1935, Dell, the paper’s foreign correspondent in Geneva, wrote to Crozier, “[i]n the article in question some of the paragraphs were transposed and that is a practice to be avoided, in my opinion. There may be cases in which it is permissible, but it destroys the balance of a closely reasoned message” (Dell to Crozier 30/09/1935). He further complained that sub-editors in general took too many liberties with altering the wording of messages and even introduced sentences from agency texts (ibid.). “This is a dangerous practice”, he argued, “for there is a risk that I may be made to say something inaccurate” (ibid.). The introduction of sentences from agency texts was a recurring issue though Crozier had already pointed out in a letter to Werth on September 8, 1935 that he disapproved of this practice: “It is a standing instruction to the subeditors that they must not put into foreign correspondents’ messages information or anything derived from other sources” (Crozier to Werth 08/09/1935). This instruction was probably issued in relation to credibility matters. However, the sub-editors did not seem to be impressed by it for we read: “[A]s to the interpolation, I have continually warned the subeditors against inserting sentences into correspondent’s work, and I have now warned them again. The sentence was of course highly misleading” (Crozier to Dell 30/05/1937).

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