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How do you cover a war on radio?

An international correspondent's life can be exhilarating — the travel, the adventure, the sense of being right in the middle of where it's all happening. But it can also be very risky, especially in a war zone. And it can take an emotional toll on even the most seasoned journalist. The job comes with ethical and philosophical considerations, not to mention practical questions — like what do you pack? From the Second World War to present day, CBC Archives examines what it's like to be a CBC journalist abroad.

CBC Radio first hit the airwaves in 1936. So when the Second World War broke out in 1939, the Canadian public broadcaster was still in its infancy. How do you cover a war on radio? It was completely new territory. In this 1984 radio clip, former CBC reporter Bob Bowman enthusiastically recalls the thrills and challenges of being one of the CBC's first foreign correspondents.

Bowman describes an early incident in wartime London where he had a half an hour of airtime to fill, and not enough material to fill it. So he simply decided to put Canadian servicemen on the air with messages to loved ones back home. It was a hit in Canada. "God bless you, I heard my son's voice tonight," wrote one grateful mother. This incident shaped the direction of the CBC's overseas war reporting during the early part of the war. 
• Bowman - accompanied by legendary CBC sound engineer Art Holmes - left for London on extremely short notice when the war broke out. This was the CBC's first foray into foreign reporting. The London bureau, established in 1939, became the CBC's first foreign bureau.

• In 2006, the Toronto Star's John Goddard reflected on the groundbreaking work of Holmes and Bowman. "It was a pioneering assignment. Until then, radio was mostly thought of as entertainment. Radio newsgathering didn't exist in Canada, and almost all foreign news came from American newspaper services. Now, Canada was at war, and the United States was not. The demand for Canadian news from the front became urgent."
Medium: Radio
Program: Voice of the Pioneer
Broadcast Date: March 25, 1984
Guest(s): Bob Bowman
Host: Bill McNeil
Duration: 8:41

Last updated: March 26, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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