Ever since 1912, when the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten employed Ross as a war correspondent in the Balkan wars, Ross had gradually established himself as war and travel reporter. His articles appeared in major national newspapers and illustrated magazines and were often syndicated in other German and foreign language press organs.
Between the outbreak of the First World War and 1934, Ross worked for the renowned Vossische Zeitung, a liberal daily owned by the Ullstein company (where Ross’s brother Fritz worked as an editor). Here he published not only war and travel reports, but also articles on geopolitical problems. Ever since 1922 Ross was also among the most featured travelogue writers of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, a widely read Ullstein family magazine. Here, he made a name for himself as a photographer and established his ‘brand’ as the head of a traveling family. In 1923-1924 he convinced the liberal Berliner Börsen-Courier to partly finance an around-the-world trip and print the reports he wrote along the way. This arrangement was similar to his Germany-wide travels in early 1934, when he was commissioned by the Berliner Morgenpost, by then brought into line, to report positively on the political, economic, and administrative developments in Nazi Germany. In January 1934, after the enactment of the Schriftleitergesetz (Editors’ Law), a bill that allowed the National Socialists to control the entire press, his ideologically informed reports and articles were featured in the leading dailies and weeklies of Nazi Germany and the occupied territories.
Ross’s main source of income were his lectures, for which he often used his war or travel reporter experience to authenticate his narrative. Ross’s lectures can roughly be divided into travel reports and presentations of his pseudo-philosophical world view. However, these subgenres were mostly combined in order to cater to his audiences’ expectations and realize the speaker’s intentions.
Ross treated his presentations as a marketing device and a way to go beyond press reports and books and directly address his audience (see Preferring the spoken word). Most reviews praised Ross for his rhetorical abilities. He seemed to be able to combine the objectivity of a reporter, the subjectivity of individual impressions, and his interpretation of a given subject matter. The lectures, however, varied according to the venue and the audience, the chosen format, and the topics addressed.
His lectures come into two types. On the one hand, there were his travel lectures, which were combined with slide shows and/or film screenings. They were mostly commended for their pictorial qualities rather than for the text of the lecture itself. His geopolitically-oriented presentations, on the other hand, were more content-based, even when they were accompanied by slide projection and film excerpts. According to reviews, Ross’s ideas regarding the contemporary and future political shape of the world were much more appreciated than the photographic or filmic evidence of his travel reports.
In 1930, film sound becomes the newest of many means and techniques Ross uses to stress a reporter’s sense of immediacy.
The truth claim of the reporter is different from that of the scientist, the pedagogue or the artist. It is rooted primarily in having been there, in the immediacy of the observer’s experience. ‘The journalist as a cameraman’, reads the title of a review of Mit dem Kurbelkasten um die Erde (1925).1 Even when making feature-length films, Colin Ross was perceived as a reporter first and foremost: moving fast; informed, but not scholarly; focused not only on exotic attractions, but on everyday life and the occasional newsworthy event. In his reporting on the Oceania-Asia trip of 1928-30, Ross’s journalistic approach shifts between cool factual observations and a more impressionistic mode of evoking experiences.
In describing his approach to the soundtrack for Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! (1930), Ross stresses sound’s ability to support the impression of witnessing a “report made on the spot”. (See: Riding along with Colin Ross) In Der Wille der Welt, published two years after the film’s release, he argues that while knowledge travels well in modern mass media channels, concrete experience is still hard to impart. (See: Seeing for himself) His travel writing highlights that struggle, as Ross occasionally resorts to the platitude that situations, persons or places he encountered are beyond description.
1 See: Dr. M. I. Der Journalist als Kameramann. Lichtbild-Bühne. 1925 Jan 3; 1; 16–7.