Final Public Oral Exam: Kathryn J. McGarr

Final Public Oral Examination
Event date: 
May 10, 2017 - 10:00am
Kathryn J. McGarr
Princeton University
Seminar Series: 
Final Public Oral Exam

Gentlemen of the Press: Post-World War II Foreign Policy Reporting from the Washington Community


Julian Zelizer, adviser
Margot Canaday
Kevin Kruse
Michael Schudson, Columbia Journalism School


"Gentlemen of the Press: Post-World War II Foreign Policy Reporting from the Washington Community" rethinks the role that print journalism played in creating a Cold War consensus about American foreign policy. By creating one conversation for public consumption and tolerating another behind closed doors, reporters in the capital created an appearance of consensus about foreign policy that for decades shaped American international relations—most significantly that, after World War II, the United States would have to "win the peace," a phrase and idea soon replaced with that of waging a Cold War.

I contribute a new element to the historiography of the Cold War by emphasizing the importance of World War II experiences to the post-war diplomatic press corp, as well as the social and professional spaces in which they operated. The exclusive information economy operating on the ground in the capital limited dissent about the government's foreign policy decisioins. In paying particular attention to the social world that fostered consensus reporting and the role of fellowship, expressed through whiteness and masculinity, I contribute to ongoing scholarly discussions about gender and foreign policy as well as communications scholarship on the sphere of consensus. While some observers have written about "boys on the bus," or "pack journalism" in campaign coverage that limited independence of thought, they have failed to understand how daily life in Washington created a much larger and more permanent consensus.

I also examine how war institutionalized journalistic practices and norms that continue to the present day. I trace the roots of "background sessions" between reporters and officials to World War II, when the government took reporters into confidence on war-related matters, and kept them there as the Cold War necessitated limiting the circulation of information. The ambivalence reporters felt about whether the Cold War was peacetime created tensions between their obligations to be good reporters and their obligations to be good citizens in an unprecedented, nuclear era.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review one week before the exam in the History Graduate Student Lounge, 105 Dickinson Hall.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Area of Interest: 
Cultural History
Gender & Sexuality
Political History