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Journalism of the Highest Realm

The Memoir of Edward Price Bell, Pioneering Foreign Correspondent for the Chicago Daily News

From Our Own Correspondent

400 pages / 6.12 x 9.25 inches / 4 Halftones

Journalism | Media Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807132852 / November 2007

Once considered the "best American newspaperman London has ever had," Edward Price Bell (1869–1943) helped invent the ideal of a professional foreign news service at the late and great Chicago Daily News, which in its heyday had the second-largest daily newspaper circulation in the United States. At the turn of the twentieth century, professional overseas reporting was still an experiment. The Chicago Daily News's visionary owner and publisher Victor Lawson was not certain how to organize the service or even what kind of news it should cover. Bell, who had distinguished himself as a young reporter in Chicago, became the anchor for the service when Lawson sent him to London in 1900. The course he set established the standard for the New York Times and other prestigious American newspapers. Unfortunately, few journalists or scholars are familiar with Bell's contributions, in part because his autobiography remained archived at the Newberry Library in Chicago. In Journalism of the Highest Realm, Jaci Cole and John Maxwell Hamilton have edited and annotated Bell's story, focusing on his lively account of the early days of the Chicago Daily News's foreign service as well as the dramatic stories his correspondents covered. James F. Hoge, Jr., the last editor-in-chief of the Chicago Daily News and present editor of Foreign Affairs, sets the stage for Bell's memoir with an informative foreword on the evolution of foreign news gathering over the last century.

A bright-eyed midwestern teenager who learned journalism on the job at a small newspaper in Terre Haute, Indiana, Bell quickly established himself as an enterprising reporter. Moving on to Chicago, he became the Daily News's go-to man. He was assigned big stories and landed interviews with leading politicians, a knack that became a trademark of his overseas reporting. Over more than two decades in London, Bell entrenched himself in politics and culture, sending back thoughtful background and analysis of current events. In his memoir, Bell recounts his exclusive wartime interviews with Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary, and Lord Richard Haldane, the minister of war; a later sit-down with the charismatic Il Duce, Benito Mussolini; and his rather tense exchanges with former vice president Charles Dawes, American ambassador to Britain.

The respect Bell commanded among British elites and his years of experience as a London insider thrust him into a diplomatic role. Bell became an unofficial envoy to the British government and also a conduit for British views to the United States and its leaders. After Bell returned to Chicago in the early 1920s, theDaily News dispatched him on special missions to Europe and Asia to interview leaders about world peace. His accounts were published in two books and earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1930s. Despite this acclaim—indeed, to some extent because of it—Bell fell out of favor when new owners acquired the newspaper in 1931, and he retired to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.With Journalism of the Highest Realm Cole and Hamilton put this great newspaperman into a broader context. As they show in their thoughtful introduction, Bell and the Daily News continually grappled with problems that still bedevil overseas correspondence. Foreign news, they show, has always been an enterprise that is at once valuable and vulnerable.

John Maxwell Hamilton, a former foreign correspondent, is the author of Journalism's Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting and other books. He is executive vice chancellor and provost of Louisiana State University, LSU Foundation Hopkins P. Breazeale Professor, and the founding dean of LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication.

Jaci Cole is a graduate student at LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication.
John Maxwell Hamilton , a longtime public radio commentator, has reported in the United States and abroad for ABC Radio, the Christian Science Monitor, and others. He is dean and LSU Foundation Hopkins P. Breazeale Professor at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University and the author or coauthor of five books.

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