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The Fog of War: Censorship of Canada’s Media in World War Two

by Mark Bourrie

Ottawa journalist and academic Mark Bourrie’s new book has taken an unfortunately difficult road to bookshelves. Scheduled to be published by Key Porter Books before the publisher suspended operations, it was subsequently picked up by Douglas & McIntyre. The book’s rescue is heartening, as it ensures Bourrie’s largely engaging account of an otherwise under-reported aspect of the Second World War gets a much-deserved public airing.

Developed from Bourrie’s doctoral thesis, the book provides deeply researched accounts of the bureaucratic hoops reporters and editors at Canada’s newspapers, wire services, and the relatively nascent CBC had to jump through for their Second World War reporting to reach the eyes and ears of Canadians. Throughout, Bourrie mixes to great effect background detail about the war with accounts of the interference of censors.

Despite the academic origins of this project, Bourrie’s prose is clear and readable. More importantly, he brings an understanding of the news business to his subject matter and conveys the motivations of all parties with fairness. It would have been very easy to paint the censors and government officials as pseudo-fascists and the journalists as dupes, but Bourrie wisely avoids the temptation to oversimplify.

The author could have more clearly and convincingly explained how he arrived at his largely laudatory conclusion – that the censors’ “insistence on fairness and their fight for freedom of the press reflected well on them and on Canada” – and a greater frame of reference for the censorship apparatus in other Allied countries would have strengthened his case. But even in the absence of these elements, The Fog of War will please both history buffs and students of news media.