Extending news interviews: how John Curtin influenced Australian political journalism, 1941-1945

Coatney, Caryn (2013) Extending news interviews: how John Curtin influenced Australian political journalism, 1941-1945. In: Journalism Education Association of Australia Conference (JEAA 2013): Redrawing the Boundaries: Journalism Research, Education and Professional Culture in Times of Change, 2-4 Dec 2013, Sunshine Coast, Australia.

Text (Published Version)

Download (331kB) | Preview


As a former journalist, Australian Prime Minister John Curtin developed relatively new media techniques to persuade reporters to support his war leadership and articulate his rhetoric of crisis, masking the tensions within his governance. Yet there are gaps in the historical understanding of his news management techniques in World War II and their influence on prime ministerial-media relations and political journalism of the era. This paper contributes to a deeper understanding of the relationships of influence and consensus between Curtin and the news media, based on concepts of the governmental function of news in an administered society, developed by Ericson, Baranek and Chan, as well as Foucault's model of power. With the use of rarely researched confidential communications providing fresh insights into Curtin's news relations, this paper argues that press and broadcast journalists cooperated with him to visualise national deviance, in the form of Axis foes, and accentuate his language of the enemy to elicit public support for his governance. Through a dramaturgy approach, this study shows that Curtin stage-managed and expanded the prime minister's news interviews to appear as spontaneous, open-ended and inclusive; however, he relied on theatrical gesturing, camera techniques and rehearsed rhetoric to generate favourable news coverage about his leadership of Australia's military role in the Pacific war from 1941 until his death in 1945. Although he benefited from censorship, he used his professional journalism background and the nation's first full-time prime ministerial press secretary to share information leaks selectively with journalists. The political correspondents volunteered to withhold information and cooperated to portray him as a forceful, egalitarian leader, disguising the friction among the Allies. This study of Curtin's news management techniques and interactions with reporters indicates the democratic possibilities for journalism students of using expanded communication spaces for more critical inquiry to generate greater political responsiveness and accountability to public audiences.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 24367
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © The Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) 2013. You may view the contents of this website and save an electronic copy, download, or print all or part of this website for your own information, research or study. All other use requires permission. Permission, if given, will be subject to conditions that will include a requirement that the copyright owner's name, JEAA, be acknowledged when the material is reproduced or quoted, either in whole or in part.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication (1 Jul 2013 - 28 Feb 2019)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication (1 Jul 2013 - 28 Feb 2019)
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2013 23:54
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2015 06:41
Uncontrolled Keywords: John Curtin; World War II; wartime journalism; political journalism; political communication; government-media relations
Fields of Research (2008): 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 1903 Journalism and Professional Writing > 190301 Journalism Studies
16 Studies in Human Society > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160503 Communications and Media Policy
21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Fields of Research (2020): 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4701 Communication and media studies > 470105 Journalism studies
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4407 Policy and administration > 440701 Communications and media policy
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4303 Historical studies > 430302 Australian history
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 94 Law, Politics and Community Services > 9402 Government and Politics > 940299 Government and Politics not elsewhere classified
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/24367

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only