International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Communicating Compassionately in a Crisis: John Curtin and Journalists, 1941-1945
Caryn Coatney, PhD.

Professional communicators face more demands to develop caring and trustworthy relations with journalists. Corporate leaders increasingly need to develop skills in communicating compassionately with news teams during a largescale crisis or public emergency. Recently, scholars have been advocating for a historical approach in using the lessons of previous successes in crisis communication. One of the most acute emergencies in history has been the Second World War. Although often overlooked, the war generated remarkable innovation in political leaders’ engagement with the media. Relatively little scholarly attention has been paid to Australian wartime prime minister John Curtin’s exceptionally close relations with journalists from the US, Canada and Australia. His journalism-oriented ethos was forgotten as post-war leaders developed the technique of delivering impersonal, unidirectional news conferences to the largely undifferentiated mass media. Scholarly interest has recently resurged into communicators’ compassionate performances as they deliver personalized messages to audiences. This paper uses rarely researched archives that finds among the wartime leaders, Curtin elevated journalists’ roles to convey public appearances of being a caring prime minister, good neighbour and citizens’ friend. This conception of ethos is useful for the study of communicators’ roles in portraying compassion, trust, and friendship towards journalists during an extended crisis.

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