Departures Podcast featuring Deborah Cohen, author of ‘Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took On a World at War’

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The role of foreign correspondents, especially during times of war, can be extraordinarily important not only in shaping public perceptions and strategic decisionmaking at the highest level, but also in informing on revolutionary shifts in social norms, as these reporters find themselves bringing their personal lives into the public and the newsmaking process into their own relationships.

In Deborah Cohen’s kaleidoscopic ensemble biography, “Last Call at the Hotel Imperial,” the reader is given unprecedented access to the personal lives of legendary American reporters John Gunther, H. R. Knickerbocker, James Vincent “Jimmy” Sheean and Dorothy Thompson as they reported on the rise of fascism in Europe and the gradual impending horror of what was to come.

In her conversation with Robert Amsterdam about the book, Cohen, who is a history professor at Northwestern University, discusses the incredible intimacy of how her subjects experienced the cultural changes that were taking place in the background in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.

Cohen describes it not only as a geopolitical history told through these colorful and glamorous journalists, but a book of personal history, of people discovering that they could not live the way that their parents did, and how the actualization of these new personal freedoms interacted with their careers.