World War I -- Life Histories/Section 018/Elmer Roberts

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
File:Elmerroberts.JPG
Elmer Roberts, 1863-1937

Overview[edit]

Elmer Roberts (1863-1937) was an Associated Press correspondent and office chief from 1900-1927 in both Germany and France.[1] He left a collection of documents, letters, and personal memorandums after his death, which is currently held in the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Biography[edit]

Elmer Roberts was born in 1863 in the United States of America. Roberts began his career in journalism reporting on the Spanish-American War. In 1900 he began working as a correspondent for the Associated Press in Germany. In 1913, Roberts wrote the book Monarchial Socialism in Germany, which described the growing socialism in German leadership.[2] The next year, Roberts moved to Paris, France, where he served as the Chief of the Associated Press Parisian Office until 1927. In this capacity Roberts oversaw many reports on the First World War, sending them back to his superiors in America via the wireless telegraph.[3]

Roberts focused his writing on technological advances, such as Dussaud’s electrical inventions and the creation of a paralysis serum. He also compiled a small database on the French generals fighting in World War One for Associated Press Offices all over the world.[4] Despite working in France, in the war itself Roberts sympathized with the Germans. Roberts wrote that he believed that the war was the German military’s fault, not the fault of Wilhem II.[5] This idea was unpopular at a time in which the Germans were blamed entirely for the war, but it became a more common perspective after the fighting ended.[6] Roberts’ ideas could have resulted from his interviews with the Prince Albert I of Monaco. Prince Albert, a cousin of Wilhelm of German, worked to maintain peace by writing Wilhelm II and serving as an ambassador between Germany and France.[7] Roberts wrote a letter to a friend after one interview with the Prince of Monaco in which he echoed these ideas.[8][9]

Roberts retired from the Associated Press in 1927 and then moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Roberts had never married, so he lived alone in Jacksonville for ten years. Roberts was in poor health in the last few years of his life until, on November 17th, 1937 at the age of 74, Roberts died..[10]

Social Issues[edit]

The Wireless Telegraph in Journalism[edit]

Guglielmo Marconi invented the wireless telegraph in 1897. It allowed messages to be sent across the world wirelessly, although at a large cost per word. This technology was especially important in intercontinental communication, as telegraphs could now be sent across oceans. The wireless telegraph changed how the news industry operated by allowing media groups to quickly send and receive information. It enabled the media to respond to potential stories and publish within a day, even across the ocean. Because of the wireless telegraph, many of Roberts’ news stories were published in America. The wireless telegraph also changed how media groups operated on a day-to-day basis. With its invention, office chiefs like Roberts had to negotiate cheaper deals with telegraph companies and ensure that their staff avoided using too many words to ensure that the costs stayed low.[11]

Changing Subjects of Journalism[edit]

Journalism in the years before the First World War focused on new technology and sports instead of the political affairs in Europe. Roberts kept two copies of a New York Times article claiming that the most popular journalism was about new technology, and Roberts received two commendations for writing on that subject; one for an article on Dussaud’s electrical advances and another for an article on a new paralysis serum. In 1913, a year before the First World War, Roberts received a letter from his superior explaining that “we [the Associated Press] are judged more harshly for a sporting item… than probably for any one other thing”.[12] Despite the encroaching war, political affairs in Europe were not the most important events to journalists at the time.

Although the press was not very interested in the war before it began, when the war broke out the Associated Press switched over to wartime journalism and was able to have a large impact as a force for nationalist propaganda.[13] This continued a trend that began with the yellow journalism in the Spanish-American War, in which journalists wrote purposefully sensational and exaggerated pieces to attract and influence readers. Many Associated Press journalists like Roberts wrote in this way to gain prestige during the Great War, writing pieces to influence Americans by vilifying Germans and idealizing the French soldiers. This also shifted public opinion towards supporting the Allies in the war.[14]

References[edit]

  1. Elmer Roberts Papers Box 1, #2243, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Feb. 25, 2015.
  2. Roberts, Elmer. Monarchial Socialism in Germany. N.p.: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913. Print.
  3. Elmer Roberts Papers Box 1, #2243, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Feb. 25, 2015.
  4. Elmer Roberts Papers Box 1, #2243, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Feb. 25, 2015.
  5. Elmer Roberts Papers Box 1, #2243, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Feb. 25, 2015.
  6. Röhl, John C. G., Sheila De Bellaigue, and F. R. Bridge. Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile. Cambridge England: Cambridge UP, 2013. p. 150. Print.
  7. Smith, Adolphe. Monaco and Monte Carlo. Philadelphia: J.B. Lipponcott, 1912. p.144. Print.
  8. Elmer Roberts Papers Box 1, #2243, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Feb. 25, 2015.
  9. "Prince of Monaco Rebukes Kaiser." New York Times. N.p., 2 Nov. 1914. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
  10. "Elmer Roberts, 74, Newspaperman, Dies." The Atlanta Constitution 18 Nov. 1937: 5. Print.
  11. Elmer Roberts Papers Box 1, #2243, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Feb. 25, 2015.
  12. Elmer Roberts Papers Box 1, #2243, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Feb. 25, 2015.
  13. McEwen, Yvonne, and Fiona A. Fisken. War, Journalism and History War Correspondents in the Two World Wars. Bern: Peter Lang, 2012. Print.
  14. Pyle, Richard. "War I: A Circuit to Anywhere." Breaking News: How the Associated Press Has Covered War, Peace, and Everything Else. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2007. 1-52. p. 48. Print.