Journalism’s Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting by John Maxwell Hamilton - review by Jonathan Mirsky

Jonathan Mirsky

Silk Hats To Soundbites

Journalism’s Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting


Louisiana State University Press 655pp £29.95 order from our bookshop

Like any foreign correspondent John Maxwell Hamilton loves a story, and his book is stuffed with some good ones. It seems that in 1871, for example, when Henry Stanley (not his real name) of the New York Herald met Dr David Livingstone, thus putting foreign reporting on the map, he did not say, ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume.’ In fact, he ripped the page recording this bogus greeting out of his diary. It was, Maxwell writes, ‘very likely as made-up as his name, a clumsy effort to seem the understated British gentleman he was not’. Readers accustomed to 24-hour news updates will be interested to learn that Stanley’s account of his encounter with Livingstone in November 1871, much of it true, was not published in the Herald until 15 July of the following year. 

Journalism’s Roving Eye is thickly padded. As Samuel Johnson said of a similar sized book: ‘I would not have wished it longer.’ Admittedly, reporters like Stanley, in the early days of foreign reporting, went on and on. But Hamilton succumbs to their outpourings. He includes an account of

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