In her beautifully crafted and engrossing Fighting Words: The Bold American Journalists Who Brought the World Home Between the Wars, Harvard historian Nancy F. Cott vividly portrays the important work and complicated lives of four prominent foreign correspondents during a time of monumental change ... This wonderfully readable narrative will hold your attention from beginning to end...
Full of evocative detail, with a sophisticated grasp of the politics of the time, [Fighting Words] reanimates a harum-scarum journalistic age all the more appealing for its raffish ambition and often misguided idealism ... One of the virtues of Fighting Words is that it plunges the reader into the great issues of the era ... Retrospect has made the right reading of these events seem obvious, but to those in the midst of history being made, the questions could be devilishly hard to parse ... Ms. Cott deals as frankly with the emotional lives of her subjects as with their careers ... Stars in their time, they witnessed and shaped history in careers that would be impossible to match in today’s media whirlwind.
Those who dug in and stayed long enough became some of the best-informed voices to speak up against American isolationism in the years of fascism’s march, as Nancy F. Cott shows in Fighting Words ... Eventually history solved the problem of objectivity ... Sheean was in the Sudetenland at the time of the Munich Crisis. By then, he wrote, 'objective reporting' was 'hardly possible': the threat from German aggression was too abundantly clear. He, Gunther and Thompson were unequivocal about the dangers of fascism and vocal in encouraging the US to take an active role in world affairs. Cott is explicit about parallels between their time ... Cott...crams a lot into this book, but there’s a lot to cover. Geopolitics jostles with affairs, adventures, marriages, break-ups and break-downs, births, deaths, careers and friendships. At its core are the influence and responsibility of journalists.
Drawing on considerable archival and published material, Cott profiles Dorothy Thompson, Vincent James Sheean, John Gunther, and Rayna Raphaelson as representative of their profession. Excepting Raphaelson, whose career was cut short by her death in her early 30s, the other three serve well to illuminate the perils and triumphs of gathering foreign news ... A revelatory history of a time when journalism was respected and vital.