WWII quiz: What prize went to the reporter who got Nazi surrender scoop?

 The Associated Press apologized today for firing World War II correspondent Ed Kennedy after he broke a pledge of secrecy to break the news of the German surrender on May 7, 1945.  

Did the people’s right to know the war was over in Europe trump the Allied chiefs’ plan to let Stalin stage his own Nazi surrender? What would you have done?

Here’s how the AP story on the apology explains the embargo: “British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman had agreed to suppress news of the capitulation for a day, in order to allow Russian dictator Josef Stalin to stage a second surrender ceremony in Berlin.”

Kennedy, who was one of 17 correspondents allowed to witness the surrender in a French farmhouse at 2:41 a.m. on May 7, 1945, originally agreed to hold off on reporting it – as the other 16 did. But he then decided that the news was too big to be kept from the world for 36 hours, for the sake of staged politics.

For going around the military censors and reporting the the surrender a full day before anyone else, Kennedy was excoriated by the other correspondents, expelled from the European Theater and fired by the AP.

What would you have done then? What would you do in a comparable situation today? 

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Ernie Gates

Stars and Stripes ombudsman

As a journalist for more than three decades, Ernie Gates has been a reporter, editor and news executive, including 10 years leading the enterprising print and digital newsroom of Tribune Co.’s Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va.

News for and about service members, families and veterans has always been a key focus in Hampton Roads, where every branch of the armed services has a significant presence.

As vice president and editor, Ernie was responsible for all news, business, features and sports coverage and oversaw the editorial page. He also wrote the daily Feedback column, responding to readers’ questions and comments about coverage, news judgment, journalism ethics, taste and other issues. Representing the paper as a public speaker, he focused on News Values and Credibility.

He is a past president of the Virginia Press Association and a past chairman of Virginia Associated Press Newspapers. 

Since leaving the Daily Press in 2010, Ernie has stayed active in public affairs. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at the William & Mary Law School.  He is also serves on the Coalition Partners Advisory Panel of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

Ernie and his wife, Betsy, live in Williamsburg, Va. They have three adult children.

Ernie Gates can be reached at ombudsman@stripes.osd.mil or (202) 761-0587.

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Congress created the post in the early 1990’s to ensure that Stars and Stripes journalists operate with editorial independence and that Stars and Stripes readers receive a free flow of news and information without taint of censorship or propaganda.

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