• Manchester and its press under the bomb: Britain’s ‘other Fleet Street’ and its contribution to a myth of the blitz

      Huggins, Michael; McLay, Keith A. J.; Hodgson, Guy R. (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2014-01)
      The Manchester Blitz was relatively short, lasting two nights in December 1940, when around 1,000 people were killed and more than 3,000 injured in the city centre, Salford and the residential areas near Old Trafford. This thesis focuses on the reaction to this heavy bombing by the local and regional newspapers of Manchester, which was Britain’s second press centre at the time. The newspapers, the Manchester Guardian, Manchester Evening News and Evening Chronicle, are studied over an eight-week period from mid December 1940. According to these editions, Mancunians were unbowed by the death and destruction wrought by the Luftwaffe and had a steely determination to win the war. Contemporary writing, including individual diaries and reports from Mass Observation and Home Intelligence, tells a more complicated and nuanced story. The thesis finds that the Manchester newspapers submitted their coverage to more self-imposed censorship than was being demanded even by a government desperate to maintain morale. They did so partly because they feared they would be closed down if they offended the censor, but also because they felt that patriotism had a greater priority than maintaining the news values of the time. The newspapers could have exposed local authority incompetence and shortcomings in the emergency services but chose instead to paint a rosy picture of defiance by omission, distortion and, in some cases, deceit. They did not do so independently, but in accordance with the reporting norms in Fleet Street and other British provincial cities during the Second World War. Circulations rose for both national and local newspapers during the war, but the cost was a further severing of the confidence people had in their press. When readers themselves became the story by being the victims of the Blitz they discovered there was often a gap between the truth and what appeared in print. It is a trust that has not been recovered to this day.