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Aspects of Australian newspaper journalism and the Cold War, 1945 - 1956

Gifford, Peter (1997) Aspects of Australian newspaper journalism and the Cold War, 1945 - 1956. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis examines how major Australian newspapers, through their various sources of overseas news and comment, reported to the Australian people on a range of developments as the Cold War intensified from 1945. It accepts that anti-Communism was general among mass-circulation capital city newspapers throughout the period, becoming more pronounced as the community generally became polarised on the issue. At the same time, however, it is maintained that anti-Communism did not necessarily affect the capacity of a significant minority of journalists, editors and - on some issues at least - newspaper proprietors to maintain independence of thought in reporting and commenting on the various manifestations of the Cold War throughout the world.

The thesis does not try to canvass all Australian newspapers tor the whole of the period to 1956, and all their coverage of foreign events. Apart from the immensity of such a task, that would have resulted in an enormous amount of repetition, given both the monopolistic nature -then as now - of Australian newspaper ownership and the tendency to syndicate news and feature stories between different newspaper groups. Newspapers in Western Australia and Tasmania in particular received their news and commentary on overseas events in this fashion, which is why virtually no attention is paid to the West Australian and the Hobart Mercury.

The year 1956 is seen as the end of the era of "monolithic" Communism, with the denunciation of Stalin by his successors in Moscow leading to an erosion of Soviet influence and prestige in the West and among Russia's own so-called satellite nations. The thesis is concerned with the period between 1945 and 1956 when the two major protagonists - the United States and the Soviet Union - were at the height of their hegemonic power following their successful alliance with the British Empire against the fascist nations during the Second World War. Australia, a minor part of the great alliance from 1941, became drawn increasingly into the American sphere of influence with the resumption in the United States of antagonism towards Marxist-Leninist ideas from 1945 onwards, and the corresponding hostility from the Soviet Union towards its former allies.

What has been done in part is to focus on the coverage in one major paper of certain matters, as for example the Sydney Morning Herald's treatment of the events leading to the end of the great alliance which had won the Second World War, with some comparisons involving the reporting of the same events in other Sydney and Melbourne newspapers. In other specific situations such as the Korean War, attention is again focused on one newspaper - the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial working around both interest in the war and in the individual correspondents who reported it for Australian readers. Elsewhere examination is made of the actions of proprietors, editors and commentators in relation to Cold War events both outside and in a few inter-related cases within Australia. This is on the basis that generalisations can be made from the events highlighted, supplemented with less intensive studies of papers and individuals not marked out for major attention. What results is not a history of the Cold War or of Australian journalism. But it does shed light on how newspapers in Australia's eastern States were reporting the Cold War in the decade after 1945.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Notes: Note to author: if you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library’s Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): De Garis, Brian
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