A former Mail editor is delving into the archives as part of a research project looking at how the regional press covered the outbreak of the First World War 100 years ago.
John Dilley wants to compare their coverage with that of national newspapers for an academic study to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the war.
John, the director of the Leicester Centre for Journalism at De Montfort University, is working on the project with colleague David Penman, a former editor of the Mail’s sister title the Northamptonshire Telegraph.
John said: “I’m hoping to find the human interest stories: the stories about individual young men and their families and how that fits into the big tapestry of what we understand of The Great War, which is so vast, filled with mud, blood and tragedy.”
He will look at the archives of the Mail – where he was a reporter in the 1980s before returning as editor in the early 90s – as well as those of the Leicester Mercury, the Melton Times, Northants Telegraph and titles in Derbyshire.
A quick look at the 1914 editions of the Mail, then called the Market Harborough Advertiser, shows the outbreak of the war on June 28 was not covered in much detail.
However, the August 11 edition, the first to be published after Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, featured a two-page spread including stories on the mobilisation of troops who gathered on The Square on August 6.
Coverage by the regionals will be compared with national newspapers such as the Daily Mail, the owner of which Lord Northcliffe cut a controversial figure during the conflict, accused of war mongering before its outbreak and disloyalty during it as a result of his criticisms of British tactics.
Once the study is complete, John and David hope to present the study at conferences and publish it in academic journals as well as in newspaper supplements marking the 100-year anniversary.
John said: “I’ve always been interested in history, particularly 20th century history, and I wanted to be part of the way the whole country is going to be commemorating the start of the war, which was supposed to be the war to end all wars.”