History and Journalism: Examining the Events of World War II Through a Journalistic Lens

Guiding Question:

How can we reconcile the larger events of World War II in Northern Europe with the more personal stories and experiences of those who reported on it firsthand?


In this lesson students will use ABMC and other available resources to research and gather information regarding World War II news correspondents who made significant contributions to the field of journalism during the war. Students will read and listen to historical news items (articles, cartoons, photographs, radio broadcasts, etc.) from the time period and analyze and interpret them. Following this research, students will write a multi-genre research paper, based on the historical facts of their correspondent’s experience. Follow up will include a written editorial, wherein students will take a position on a current war, and write commentary for publication in the school newspaper’s op/ed page regarding the risks undertaken by journalists who cover war.

There are 11 civilian war correspondents buried in American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries abroad, including Brittany American Cemetery, Cambridge American Cemetery, Epinal American Cemetery, Florence American Cemetery, Henri‐Chapelle American Cemetery, Manila American Cemetery, Normandy American Cemetery, and Rome‐Sicily American Cemetery.


Historical Context

War correspondents have existed as long as journalism. However, as World War II began, new technology made it possible for news of the war to be communicated in increasingly modern ways, for the time. War correspondents of World War II were courageous, often controversial men and women who communicated the chaos and brutality of the battlefield to their fellow citizens on the homefront. Their experiences offer a fresh and compelling perspective on World War II, and raise questions about the rights and responsibilities of a free press in times of war. This lesson will delve into the history of those who served their country in a journalistic capacity during the war.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Understand, interpret, and synthesize information about the role of journalism in World War II;
  • Write in a variety of genres on the topic; and
  • Make conscious decisions about what information should be presented to the reader.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2.A Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.W.11-12.2.B Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.W.11-12.2.C Use appropriate and varied transitions and syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.W.11-12.2.D Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.His.1.6-8 Analyze connections among events and developments in broader historical contexts.
D2.His.6.6-8 Analyze how people’s perspectives influenced what information is available in the historical sources they created.
D2.His.6.9-12 Analyze the ways in which the perspectives of those writing history shaped the history that they produced.
D2.His.4.9-12 Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
D2.His.11.9-12 Critique the usefulness of historical sources for a specific historical inquiry based on their maker, date, place of origin, intended audience, and purpose.


Lesson Preparation

  • Copy the list of reporters in the “Murrow’s Boys” group. Share information with class as an introduction to this lesson.
  • Collect audio recording of World War II radio broadcast to play for class.
  • Print one copy of the Multi-Genre Explanation Handout and Rubric for each student.


Activity One: Introduce the concept of embedded journalism (45-60 minutes)

  • Embedded journalism is the practice of placing journalists within and under the control of one side’s military during an armed conflict. Embedded reporters and photographers are attached to a specific military unit and permitted to accompany troops into combat zones.
  • Discuss the “Murrow’s Boys” with students.

Activity Two: Multi-Genre Project Introduction (45-60 minutes)

  • A multi-genre research paper is a collection of pieces written in a variety of genres, informed by a student’s research on a particular subject that presents one or more perspectives on a research question. A primary goal of such a paper is to “experiment” with genres to represent key learnings and understandings.
  • In the multi-genre research project, the student completes research as if completing a traditional research paper: collecting information and recording it, synthesizing the information and then presenting it through writing. Instead of the single, extended prose piece of the traditional research paper, however, the multi-genre paper consists of a number of creative pieces—poetry, journal entries, news articles, lists, artwork, graphics, one-act plays, comic books, and etc. It is imaginative writing based on fact.
  • Unlike the research conducted for a traditional paper, research for a multi-genre paper often does not begin with a working thesis. Rather, the multi-genre researcher begins with an interest and discovers a unifying element along the way. This emergent theme often suggests a thread with which the writer may create cohesion among the separate pieces of writing.
  • Students will complete a multi-genre project with information regarding one of the journalists in the “Murrow’s Boys” group.

Assessment Materials

  • Following completion of the multi-genre project (which can be completed inside or outside of class at teacher’s discretion), students will write an editorial piece for publication in the school newspaper. This written piece will encourage students to take a stand on a current or historical conflict, commenting on a correspondent’s responsibility to report from the field, actions of valor, and risks undertaken.
  • Students can assess themselves and teachers can evaluate the project using this rubric.

  • Teachers can check multi-genre projects and observe and note student participation and accomplishment in group discussion.

Methods for Extension

  • Older or advanced students may choose to include more genres, or more in-depth information about the conflicts discussed.
  • Students can pair a print journalist with a radio journalist and compare how the two covered the same event.
  • The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains U.S. military cemeteries overseas. These cemeteries are permanent memorials to the fallen, but it is important that students know the stories of those who rest here. To learn more about the stories of some of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, visit the Understanding SacrificeInteractive Map.


  • Teachers can simplify the requirements of this project to make it more accessible to younger learners. Younger students can be assigned genres (such as one poem, one news article and one graphic element), rather than being allowed to choose their own genres.


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