Labour History

John Curtin’s Forgotten Media Legacy: The Impact of a Wartime Prime Minister on News Management Techniques, 1941–45

Labour History (2013), 105, (1), 63–78.


As Australia’s wartime leader, John Curtin generated international headlines for his “breaking news” broadcasts, candid media conferences and electoral success. Yet there has been a lack of studies on Curtin’s impact as a media communicator. To evaluate his legacy for government-journalist relations, this article conducts a multi-method approach, including analyses of rarely viewed archives about Curtin’s use of the media and the newspaper coverage of his major wartime speeches. The research indicates that Curtin expanded the ways that the prime minister communicated with public audiences through press interviews, the radio, films and television during World War II. Through his extraordinarily frequent media discussions, he opened up more opportunities for citizens to interact with political leaders, the government and parliament. Arguably, modern political communicators still borrow from Curtin’s news management legacy through the use of question-and-answer media conferences, news briefings, occasional off-the-record talks and use of the most advanced audio-visual technological innovations to communicate with voters.

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*The author would like to thank the two anonymous referees ofLabour Historyfor their excellent recommendations. This research was supported by the Australian Government under an Australian Prime Ministers Centre Fellowship, an initiative of the Museum of Australian Democracy. The author also thanks the editors ofLabour History, Associate Professors Bobbie Oliver, Steve Mickler and Martin Hirst, the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library, and the University of Southern Queensland. Google Scholar

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Author details

Coatney, Caryn