Barnes graduated from Willamette University in 1922, majoring in economics and history, then attended Harvard, receiving his M.A. in 1924. Barnes started his distinguished career as a reporter for the old Brooklyn Eagle, but by 1926 he was off to France, covering the news for the Paris Herald. His first story of note was Gertrude Ederle’s historic swimming of the English Channel, the first by a woman. Barnes covered the event from a tugboat, which because of rough seas was unable to land him. He headed for shore in a lifeboat, which capsized, forcing him to swim ashore, whereupon he ran two miles down Dover Beach to phone his story in. Between the wars, Barnes covered the 1933 Ukrainian Famine, the 1934 treason trials in Moscow, the Chamberlain mission to Berchestgaden in September 1938, and the subsequent Munich settlement. His plainspoken dispatches from Berlin aroused the ire of Dr. Goebbles, particularly one in which he predicted war between Germany and Russia. The result was his expulsion from Germany. Barnes soon found himself embedded with the British Expeditionary Forces in France, and became the first American newspaperman killed in action when the British bomber in which he was riding during a bombing mission over Montenegro was downed by anti-aircraft fire. Barnes was 41.