Book Review: The First Casualty – Phillip Knightley

Now personally I may have a bias for war correspondents as it is a distant dream of mine, but this book really hits the nail on the head when it comes to reporting media and conflict. After reading copious tomes by Max Hasting, Robert Fisk, Walter Cronkite – to name a few, I’ve always felt like the writing has been trying to hard to be clever and articulate in the regurgitation of events.  It’s nice to read a book that has cold hard fact entwined with experience and opinion and Phillip Knightley’s book “The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq ” does exactly that for me.
Initially I picked this book up after it was recommended as reading for my undergraduate dissertation, but I found myself coming back to it after the 12000 word slog to read it in a new light and not in an academic one. This book only reinforces my desire to continue into the journalistic field. Especially one that explores conflict  in a truthful way.

This book breaks down the media coverage of war from the Crimea, arguably the first “published” war to Iraq, a controversially covered war from the beginning of the 21st century. Oh how the media has changed over the span of 100 odd years. This book explores all the facets of media coverage, from the reviewing of truth, censorship and false news. Something that is ever more apparent in our political world.

The way the book reads is not like normal “history books” in the sense that Knightley engages in topics of debate rather than giving an opinion on one topic. Multiple facets are drawn upon and discussed, making the read refreshing and particularly non-bias.

Arguably this book does not necessarily have a lot of verified facts within and leaves many topics open ended for further research. For me this was great for researching my dissertation, but for someone looking for full knowledge and facts, this would seem unfinished.

As with all reviews, I can not delve too much into the details of the book as I do not wish to spoil the content, but I whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in modern warfare, media, journalism or all the above.


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