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How the local press reported the Great War

Two former editors have teamed up to embark on research examining how the Great War was reported in the local press.

John Dilley and David Penman, both now journalism lecturers at Leicester’s De Montfort University, have been initially focusing their attention on two small rural weekly titles to examine how well informed readers were of the progress of the conflict.

Each week David and John are blogging extracts from the Ashbourne Telegraph (now the Ashbourne News Telegraph), in Derbyshire, and Leicestershire’s Market Harborough Advertiser (now the Harborough Mail).

As the research progresses they hope to draw comparisons with reporting of the war in the national press.

Dilley blog

John, a former Mail editor, has exclusive access to the original papers and David is carrying out his research at the Derbyshire County Records Office in Matlock.

John, pictured above, said: “We are both fascinated by the differences – and similarities – between the way newspapers report stories today and how they were reported a century ago.

“Contrary to popular opinion the newspapers of 1914 were not dull and dusty but full of vibrant, human interest stories that reflected not only what went on in their own communities but in the wider world too.

“This is even more significant during 1914 in the run-up to the outbreak of war and, of course, its aftermath.”

David, who previously edited the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, Scarborough News and Rugby Advertiser, added: “There are some really fascinating stories.

“Within weeks of war being declared the Ashbourne Telegraph was carrying a report of young men being bullied and threatened by landowners and employers to enlist – a far cry from the popular perception today of willing volunteers.”

John’s blog can be read here.

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