Kenneally's book "examines the relationship between the competing protagonists [British government and Irish rebels] and the newspaper press during the time...The book examines what attempts were made to control, influence, or intimidate the press... The book also shows how the press in Ireland and England was not an impartial observer of events but a distiller of news and opinion of a certain bias." Because Britain was the incomparably more powerful protagonist, it was Britain which was able to exert the more wide-ranging, consistent, and effective control, influence, ad intimidation of the press. Britain's press policies were compared with those of Germany during World War I with regard to captive nations such as Belgium. But the Irish Republican Army and other nationalist groups did engage in such attempts at control, etc., as they were able when they saw this in their interest.
Four Irish newspapers making up about half of the daily readership in Ireland plus the leading British newspaper The Times of London are the focus of the study. The London Times is selected not only because of its stature and influence, but also for its developed perspective on the troubles in Ireland and their international dimension relative to other British newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Manchester Guardian which maintained a vocal opposition to Britain's Irish policies and behavior with little variation.
The four Irish newspapers The Freeman's Journal, the Irish Independent, the Cork Examiner, and the Irish Times, besides being the leading newspapers, represent views from different areas and social groups in Ireland and different political positions. The Irish papers could be assailed simply for reporting, or "distilling," news either protagonist found unfavorable. Their political views, ideas, condemnations, etc., were reserved for their editorials, however. These too could bring trouble for them. The editorials were thus often watered down or tangential. The Irish newspapers had to be concerned about survival and safety under the circumstances. Nonetheless, they managed to accomplish their primary purpose of keeping the Irish public informed of events from atrocities to political steps to leading individuals to international reaction.
Kenneally lives in Ireland and has an academic background in history. He is not interested in the more dramatic topics of suppression, censorship, and intimidation of the press in themselves. His picture of the legalistic, organized, and often unpredictable and vigilante forms of these mainly sets the stage for his true interest--which is how the newspapers, particularly the Irish ones, accomplished their role as providers of news and also to some extent shaped events and expressed their views. From familiarity by being close to the site of the historical events and independent research, including scrutiny of newly accessible documents, the author adds a unique, accomplished, informative book to the field of media and journalism studies.