A young foreign correspondent's adventures amid the outset of a world war, recounted in a book and enhanced ebook.
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A Journalist's Glimpse Of History
"We sit by the side of a Bataan roadway waiting — our visions of past months of war are vivid, clouded only momentarily during this waiting by thick sheets of Bataan dust rolling off the road every time a car or truck races by. We wonder for a moment when we will return — and how...."
-Melville Jacoby, March 17, 1942
Melville Jacoby never returned to Bataan. The reporter died about a month after writing these words in a cable from the Philippines. He was only 25 years old. Yet those 25 years were packed with more accomplishments than many of us can claim in twice as many years.
Your support will help me tell the story of Mel's life in a book and ebook enhanced with multimedia elements. It's a story about adventure, romance and tragedy during a time of great global upheaval. It's a perspective on a moment of history as seen from the eyes of one young journalist, and a glimpse at how that moment colors our world today.
Melville Jacoby never got to write his book. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jacoby had lived with a Chinese warlord's son, met Henry Luce and worked as a stringer for Time, Life, the UPI and others. Mel quickly earned respect for his coverage of the undeclared war between Japan and China. He sent radio broadcasts and photos from the nationalists' bombed capital at Chungking; chronicled the exiled Jewish community in Shanghai; interviewed Chiang Kai-Shek and profiled Madame Chiang; and was arrested by the Japanese on suspicion of espionage. Along the way, Mel earned a masters degree from Stanford. His thesis challenged newspapers' lack of interest in the violence ravaging Asia while breathlessly covering the hostilities looming over Europe.
Amid the onset of war, Mel fell in love with fellow journalist Annalee Whitmore, one of the first female war correspondents. The two married just before Pearl Harbor, cut their honeymoon short in a dramatic escape from the Phillipines, and proceeded to cover the conflict. Five months later, Mel died alongside an Army Air Force general during a freak airfield accident. Among the grieving family he left behind were his adoring cousins, my grandmother Peggy and her sister, Jackee.
I need your help to write the book Mel never got to write.
What I've done so far, and why me?
I'm uniquely positioned to tell Mel's story. Not only do I have the memories of my grandmother and her sister, we also have all of Mel's letters to and from his mother, much of his other correspondence with editors and colleagues and lovers and friends, reporting notes, photographs from all across Asia, and other primary sources.
In addition to using this material and other research to describe Mel's life and career, I plan to ask questions about the work foreign correspondents are doing today during another era of global upheaval. I've established contact with others connected to Melville, such as the daughter of Mel's Chinese roommate when he was an exchange student, and I hope to use some of the funding from this Kickstarter project to pay for travel to consult archives, conduct interviews and do other research.
The electronic version will be published in a variety of formats, including Kindle, iBook, Nook and PDF. I may also use the soon-to-be-beta-tested publishing platform from the Atavist. Kickstarter funding will enable me to digitize Mel's old radio broadcasts, develop interactive maps and timelines describing his reporting and historic events surrounding his life and career, and produce audio and video clips of interviews with sources.
It will also involve less glamorous work involved with self-publishing these materials. To tell Mel's story properly means to tell it professionally, and that means bringing an editor on board to guide the development of this project and help me hone this story. I'll also need to collaborate with a designer to create my cover and typeset the book. Additionally, I'll be paying for printing and distribution myself, and taking the lead on marketing the project.
Wait, Bill! Why should I care?
Besides the really cool incentives that you can see to the right (and they are pretty sweet)? Besides the possibility of a fascinating story of adventure, love, tragedy and family? Besides a glimpse at history? Besides the chance for a note written with a piece of that history?
Do you ever wonder which stories news outlets are telling effectively, and which they're overlooking? Mel and other journalists of his time saw the war with Japan brewing but couldn't get newspapers to cover it adequately. What does Mel's experience teach us about the way journalists cover the world today?
Melville didn't go to China because he loved Asia. He went because his dream was to be a great journalist, but in going he fell in love — both metaphorically with the country and literally, with Annalee — and had a number of adventures along the way. Your support will help me tell his story.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.