Why have we launched Centenary News?

15 Dec 2011 - By Nigel Dacre

A blog on the reasons behind the launch of Centenary News - the new site that aims to cover the Centenary of the First World War.

The Centenary of the First World War is building up to be an important international event. The major participating countries are starting to announce plans on how they’ll commemorate the Great War – and these plans will no doubt further develop over the coming months.

We’ve launched Centenary News to provide videos, news, and information about the Centenary.

But why have we done it?

Well, I have a personal long-standing interest in the First World War. I’ve read a fair bit about it; visited the battlefields and memorials in France; and, when I was at ITN, I liaised with the Imperial War Museum on a series of projects, including a special exhibition on war reporting.

But I also believe that, as a company, we are well placed to offer video and digital services to Centenary organisations – and, as we announced last month, we are in the process of contacting museums, associations and other relevant groups.

A few pointers about Centenary News:

In general, we will only provide information about the Centenary, and not about the First World War as a whole (there are enough sites that do that already).

We will aim to stay independent, and set out to cover the Centenary in an impartial way.

And finally, we want to have an international approach. This won’t be easy for an English-language team based in London. Already we’re coming across far more information about UK events than those held in other countries. But we will do our best, given the resources that we have, to cover events around the world, and not just in the UK.

I think the biggest challenge, though, facing everyone in the run up to the Centenary is one of how we should view the First World War 100 years on. It’s all a question of perception – and how those perceptions have been affected and distorted by events since the war.

Do we just look back at the war and mourn the fact that it was one of history’s great tragedies, affecting millions of people, both those killed and injured, and those who lost relatives?

Or do we use the Centenary as an opportunity to try to resolve what is turning into the 100-Year Debate: whether the military tactics that led to such large-scale carnage were inevitable or avoidable?  We’ll see plenty of arguments about whether the forces on all sides were indeed ‘lions led by donkeys’, and whether leaders like Haig should be praised or vilified.

Do we attempt to understand more about how that the war changed society, from the toppling of monarchies to changing attitudes to women?

Or do we mark the Centenary by just setting out to capture the more positive things that were associated with the war - the bravery, the sacrifice, and cultural developments such as art and poetry? 

So it’s a complicated event to commemorate.

From our point of view on Centenary News, it means that we need to be careful about the use of words and phrases. It’s just too easy to slip into Blackadder-inspired clichés. We’ll do our best to avoid them

But it also justifies our independent, impartial and  international approach. This is not the time to take sides, use unnecessary or inaccurate hyperbole, or over-simplify issues. 

Anyway… have a look at Centenary News here – and let us know if we are getting the tone right, and whether you can suggest ways of developing or amending the site.

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