This article examines the early years of Transocean, a news agency owned and run by the German government, and its use of wire- less telegraphy from 1914 to 1922. This investigation of the infancy of wireless technology demonstrates that technology plays a constitutive role in defining news. The German government used the new possibilities innate in the medium of wireless to carve out their own sphere of operation in the seas and on continents where German telegraph news had never played a major role, in particular East Asia. Wireless telegraphy enabled the German government to circumvent the British communications blockade in World War I. Afterwards, Transocean’s wireless transmissions to East Asia and ships en route caused an uproar in Britain disproportionate to its circulation. It was the Germans’ innovative use of wireless telegraphy that other nations, particularly the British, found most disturbing, rather than the content of the reports themselves.
The League of Nations Assembly passed a resolution in September 1931 to consult the press about the “spread of false information which may threaten to disturb the peace or the good understanding between nations.” By September 1932, 16 nations and two international associations of journalists had replied with suggestions for the Third Conference of Press Experts in Madrid in 1933. This article uses these proposals from journalists as a springboard to discuss how we can use comparative and transnational history to understand the press’s role during the interwar period. After analyzing the current methodological debates on comparative and transnational history, I address the uses of both for histories of the press. How can comparative or transnational history help us to investigate the press? How can scholars think about journalists’ associations and conceptualize their role within the interwar diplomatic framework? More specifically, how did the press fit into the League of Nations’ efforts towards disarmament? Ultimately, an investigation of the two methodologies shows that we cannot class the press neatly into national boxes, but rather have to recognize the messy networks that overlapped, crisscrossed, and intersected to create those apparently national press systems.