Intelligencer is a blog featuring thoughtful essays on mass communication history teaching and research as well as highlighting the work of our members.
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By Donna Lampkin Stephens (Central Arkansas), AJHA President; Aimee Edmondson (Ohio), First Vice-President; Mike Conway (Indiana), Second Vice-President
If you’re like us, your social media feed has been filled this election year with news, rumors, misinformation and bizarre conspiracy theories. In mid-November, a public school teacher in Arkansas posed a question in a private Facebook group about a situation she faced in the days following the presidential election. In teaching the executive branch of government, she told her class, “When Joe Biden is inaugurated, he will be the oldest president ever to take office.” A student answered her by announcing to the class, “But he wasn’t elected,” and proceeded to argue with her about the results of the election. She then came to the Facebook group with sincere questions about how to handle this situation.
We all have spent most of the last year dealing with the new realities of life during the COVID-19 era, and now it is time for us as AJHA officers to take on the goals we’ve set for 2020-21. As journalists and media historians, we want to work to address the flood of misinformation and revisionist history narratives such as the above example.
Who better to add the context of history and media literacy than AJHA—the premier organization for journalism history? This need to serve our profession is growing more urgent by the day, and as AJHA officers, we plan to do so with tangible resources for our members.
One route to this end is to partner with the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), a nonprofit organization whose members are as passionate as we are about helping people become more critical thinkers and understand how to evaluate news sources. NAMLE executive director Michelle Lipkin (@ciullalipkin) spoke at the 2020 AJHA virtual conference on the panel on media literacy.
We urge AJHA members to join NAMLE, whose membership is made up of educators, journalists, and yes, even media historians. Our AJHA colleague Nathaniel Frederick from Winthrop University has inspired us with his own work relating to media literacy and the role of journalists and journalism educators to further this conversation on a local level.
We envision several action plans to support this initiative. As journalism historians, we can reach out to our own local civic organizations and offer to talk to the group about media literacy and journalism history. AJHA members who are already filling that role can tell us what has worked for them. We can amplify those messages through sharing on social media.
We believe outreach, perhaps especially to junior high school civics classes, could pay big dividends long term. We would like to focus on this age group to let these young students meet real journalists and former journalists.We believe that personal connections with journalists and journalism historians (like members of AJHA!) could make a real difference in youngsters’ perception of who we are and what we do.
We believe these relationships can help them understand it is the journalist’s duty to question our elected officials—whoever they are. As one of us responded over the summer to a Facebook “friend” who criticized journalists for not supporting the sitting president, “Real journalists tell the truth. It’s not our job to make the president look good or bad.” Students need to see that it is not un-American to hold our leaders accountable. Rather, it is just the opposite. As Marty Barron, executive editor of The Washington Post, says, “We’re not at war. We’re at work.”
We all need to be doing more of this outreach. Our democracy depends on such efforts.
While media literacy is our top goal for the coming year, we also want to continue the progress we’ve made in the last year toward structural reinforcement of our organization. Now that we have incorporated as a nonprofit, we need to decide on event and liability insurance to protect us, especially in this COVID-19 era.
As you can see, we have much to do. But with all of us working together, we are confident that our efforts will bear fruit.
Debra van Tuyll, pictured above on a trip to Ireland, is a professor in the Department of Communication at Augusta University. The 2019 winner of AJHA's Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism History, van Tuyll recently received the Donald Shaw Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression.
She has served twice on the AJHA Board of Directors and is co-coordinator of AJHA's annual student conference, the Southeast Symposium. She also is editor of the Southeastern Review of Journalism History, which focuses on student work.
In this member spotlight Q&A, van Tuyll discusses her Civil War-era research, the importance of providing outlets for student work, her international community of scholars, and her hobbies outside of academia. - Erika Pribanic-Smith
When and how did you first become involved with AJHA?
I actually got my start with AJHA by attending the Southeast Symposium as a graduate student. The meeting was in Gadsden, Alabama, that time, and I decided to give it a try since my home is Birmingham, and that meant I could visit my parents that weekend as well.
In the first meeting Friday night, I noticed a woman across the room who looked familiar, but I couldn’t place her at all. It finally occurred to me that she was Susan Thompson. Susan had been in a Media Law class for which I was TA at Alabama during my master’s program, and then we’d ended up working for the same newspaper in North Alabama, but I hadn’t seen her for probably close to 15 years. I went over and spoke to her, and after we had our momentary reunion, she introduced me to her dissertation adviser, Dr. David Sloan.
Well, he, of course, encouraged me to get involved in AJHA, as did Susan. She and I even shared hotel rooms at some of the conventions, and of course we stayed in touch because our dissertations touched each other – she was doing the penny press up to 1860, and I was doing the Confederate press. We even had some newspapers and editors in common. She ended up getting a teaching job at my undergrad alma mater, the University of Montevallo, after graduation and living in the house that my parents-in-law had lived in when my father-in-law was a professor at Montevallo. Yes, he was my professor, but that was before I met his son.
As editor of the Southeastern Review of Journalism History and an organizer of the Southeast Symposium, what do you believe is the importance of offering presentation and publication outlets for student research?
Well, that’s a no-brainer—I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the Southeast Symposium offering presentation opportunities for students! More importantly, though, it’s offered an outlet for my undergraduates as well. I discovered a long time ago—1999, in fact—that students respond better to learning history when you can make it real to them, and nothing makes it real like doing research, especially on local topics. I’ve had a host of students present at the symposium, and they’ve all gained confidence in their research abilities, which has led to a marked improvement in other academic areas as well.
What advice do you have for young scholars pursuing journalism history research?
Just do it, and don’t get discouraged when it isn’t easy. Nothing is as rewarding as research, and it’s fun, too. I remember my first archive visit as a Ph.D. student. I went to Emory in Atlanta to look at the papers of Joel Chandler Harris because he’d had a correspondence with an editor I was particularly interested in. I ended up looking at some other collections as well, and I remember so well picking up a letter on that thin blue stationary that was so ubiquitous during the Civil War and realizing it was from Robert E. Lee. I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh! They’re letting me hold a letter from Robert E. Lee!” That was a heady moment. I love it when my students have those moments, but the only way they do is by getting out and doing the research.
I had a student once, an older, returning student, who didn’t have a lot of confidence, but she took on a research subject whose children were still living. She contacted them, went to North Carolina to interview them, got access to some family papers, came home and wrote a paper that won best undergraduate paper at the Southeast Symposium the next semester. She couldn’t believe she’d done work at that level, and that was a turning point in her undergraduate experience. It is for so many students—we, their faculty mentors, just have to open up opportunities and get behind them.
You’ve been touted as the preeminent scholar of the southern press in the Civil War era. How did you become interested in that subject area?
So, that’s a story, too. My mother loved the Civil War period. Read every book she could about it. When we moved to western Maryland for my senior year of high school, we lived eight miles from Sharpsburg, the site of the Antietam battlefield. She dragged my brother and me to that battlefield, to South Mountain, to Harper’s Ferry. We weren’t interested. We could have cared less about the Civil War at that point in our lives.
Many years later, I was teaching—you guessed it—a journalism history class at the University of South Carolina, Aiken. I had a student who wanted to do a paper on a topic related to the Civil War, and I suggested she look at how the Augusta Chronicle covered Sherman’s March to the Sea. I knew what was then Augusta College, where my husband taught and I had done some adjuncting, had a full run of the paper, so source material was easy. She, however, didn’t want to read six weeks’ worth of papers, so she chose a different topic.
Well, one day, I was on the AC campus, waiting in the library for my husband to get out of class, and I decided just to go see what the Chronicle had done with its coverage of Sherman. I found the Chronicle microfilm, pulled the reel that covered November and December 1864, sat down at an old hand-cranked microfilm reader and fed the film in. I started reading, and I was hooked. Literally, that spur-of-the-moment decision changed the direction of my academic interests. I was expecting to do my dissertation on the different management styles required for visually and verbally creative people, based on my experience in public relations at Texas A&M.
You’ve also organized a transnational/international journalism history conference. How has that enriched your historical study?
I’d known—or at least thought I did—for a long time that the European understanding of news and entertainment media was different from the American, but my only direct evidence was published scholarship. Until 2007 or so, I’d never met a European journalism scholar. But then I attended my first international conference at Cardiff University, a conference on the future of journalism. I was in a conversation with a group of people during a tea break, and one of them caught my accent and exclaimed, “You’re American!” I responded, cautiously, “Yes, I am,” and he replied, “You’re the ones who invented journalism.” I was stunned. All I could say was, “We did? When?” I mean, we all know Americans didn’t invent journalism. It was around long before we were even a country.
That was verification that I had been reading the European literature properly—they do think differently about mass communication than we do. I mean, that wasn’t really a surprise. Media is shaped by culture, and their culture is different from ours. And because of those differences, European models and thinking don’t always make sense to Americans, but it’s worthwhile to understand how scholars who are different from us understand mass communication. That sort of exercise gives us a chance to look deeper and differently at the news and entertainment of American media.
Through the transnational journalism history community I’ve been able to put together with two European colleagues, I’ve had the chance to get to know scholars from Scandinavia, China, Latin America, Africa, and all over Europe, including Russia and its former satellite states. I’ve heard so many different perspectives on what the press is and what its functions are supposed to be. It’s really expanded my understanding of what the possibilities are. I’ve found my work in this field and with these people invaluable in helping me understand—truly understand—the connections between culture and media.
This work has also given me a global network of colleagues I can call on when I need help. For instance, I was writing something about the flow of journalism-related technologies and wondered whether the linotype had ever made its way to China. I mean, that’s a language with 2,000 characters, I believe. Imagine what a linotype would look like with those 2,000 characters plus all the other characters you’d need to set type. Those machines are huge just with English’s 26-character alphabet. But I knew exactly who in China to ask. He answered my question and even sent me some citations to check out about the history of the linotype in China.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside of journalism history?
I play the harp, the mandolin and the tin whistle in an Irish band—or I did before COVID hit. We’ve been together seven years now. I play harp with a former student who’s now a good friend, her father, and her son (father plays cello; son plays mandolin).
I also love traveling, particularly to Ireland where my husband’s oldest sister and her daughter and family live. My niece lives in Co. Tipperary, which is God’s country as far as I’m concerned. A friend who passed away two years ago had a farm there, Fairy Fort Farm, that his son now runs, and that’s where we stay most of the time. There’s a real fairy fort right behind the main farmhouse, and Larry the Leprechaun lives at the foot of a nearby tree. It’s a truly magical spot. We get to take care of the farm animals, including Pippi the dog, gather firewood from around the farm (there’s no central heating in the cottage where we stay), and just relax in a spot where no one can find us and there’s virtually no cell phone or WIFI access. It’s a slice of heaven!
You’ve recently won the Donald Shaw Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Symposium on the 19th Century Press, about a year after you received AJHA’s Kobre Award. Looking back on your illustrious career, what are you most proud of?
That’s sort of funny. I don’t think of my career as illustrious—I think of it as just doing what you’re supposed to do if you’re a scholar. But, to your point, I think the thing I’m most proud of is having spent the last 30 years producing professionals who are now spread throughout the country and who are shaping my field. I think particularly of my students at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky—so many of them started out so very underprepared for college. Union is in the heart of Appalachia, about 20 miles west of the Cumberland Gap. To give you an idea of how remote the area is, we lived halfway between Stinking Creek and Bimble. To watch students from that part of the world blossom into competent, high-achieving professionals has been a real blessing.
In terms of scholarship, that’s harder, but I’d say I’m proud of helping to build the literature on the Civil War-era press, particularly in the South, and of building a community of scholars who lend each other a helping hand rather than undercut one another. My colleagues in Civil War journalism history are the best—well, actually, I can say that about my journalism history colleagues generally. They’re the most generous, warm group of people you could ever want to know. We don’t compete with one another—well, not much, anyway. We build each other up. We offer support, we share knowledge and resources, and I love that about us. To the extent that I’ve been able to help build that sort of nurturing community is something I’m truly proud of.
Amie Marsh Jones is the recipient of the 2020 Margaret A. Blanchard Prize, awarded to the outstanding doctoral dissertation on a mass communication history topic completed in the 2019 calendar year. She completed her dissertation “The Forgotten Children of Bath: Media and Memory of the Bath School Bombing of 1927” at the University of Georgia under the direction of Janice Hume.
Jones is the the assistant director of student services at the University of Georgia Graduate School. In this Q&A, she discusses her research process, advice for doctoral students, and future plans for her work.
For information on the Blanchard Prize and details on how to submit for the 2021 award, visit the Blanchard Prize page. - Erika Pribanic-Smith
How did you get into historical study? Was it an interest going into your graduate program, or did you discover it while pursuing your degree?
I discovered it while pursuing my degree. One of the courses that we could select for research methodology was “Historical Research in Mass Communication,” taught by Dr. Janice Hume. I found that I enjoyed this methodology much more than the traditional qualitative methods. That semester, my paper was on the topic of how female reporter Amy Robsart of the Boston Post covered the Lizzie Borden murder trial of 1893. It was fascinating. I was hooked on historical method after that.
Was there a particular research focus throughout your graduate study, or did you dabble in different things?
I dabbled some in a variety of topics at first, but I have always been interested in media coverage of crime so that became my focus in the latter years of my studies.
How did you decide on the topic for your dissertation?
In 2012, when the tragic murders of 20 children and six adults occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I was looking into how media were covering the event. Many outlets were making comparisons to the tragedy at Columbine in 1999 or to the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007. Phrases such as “worst in a school since Columbine” were commonplace. I started thinking, “Just what is the worst attack in a school in American history?” A simple Google search revealed the fact that Andrew Kehoe’s attack on Bath Consolidated School back in 1927 in the small village of Bath, Michigan, remains the deadliest. I was shocked. I had never heard of this. The media do not mention this. Why don’t we remember this tragedy? Surely the newspapers in 1927 covered this event. How did they do so? How might that coverage differ from coverage we see today of these tragedies? And, what role, if any, do media play in our seeming collective amnesia of the Bath tragedy? This is how the idea was born.
Describe your process for researching and writing your dissertation. In particular, how did you access the primary sources that you needed?
In discovering how media covered this event, I started out searching keywords in various historical newspaper databases, and this did provide me with an initial small start into my sample. However, I quickly realized that many of the newspapers that I needed had not yet been digitized. I then entered the world of microfilm. Luckily, my university library has some very nice microfilm machines, and I spent many afternoons scanning and saving from them in the library basement. I divided my sources into nearby newspapers, regional newspapers, and national ones. Some of the microfilm required that I travel to Michigan in order to view it, so I arranged this research to occur during my two visits there. Much of the microfilm could be lent to me via interlibrary loan so I was grateful for that. After I gathered all of the articles, around 250 in total, I began to look for themes in coverage and to digest what it all might mean. For memory of the disaster, I visited memory sites in Bath, studied artifacts and court documents, got to know residents, and attended the local 90th anniversary commemoration event of the disaster in May of 2017. Through all of this, I had the guidance of my major professor, a master of memory and media history, Dr. Janice Hume. Her mentorship was invaluable, of course, throughout my entire research and writing process.
What advice do you have for graduate students who are considering an historical dissertation topic?
My advice is to not limit yourself. What is wonderful about history is that there is so much from which to choose. And, there is always a nugget of history out there, or an aspect of it, that has yet to be brought to light. You could be the one to bring it up and help enlighten others. And, the process of unearthing it, while tedious at certain points, is ultimately very rewarding. It is a journey, a specific one that you are the first to experience, and that makes it exceptional.
Do you have any future plans for your dissertation research? (Book, article, public history, etc.)
I would like to publish it with an academic press. I am in the process of editing it, as to make the successful transition from dissertation to book. If for some reason that does not come to fruition, I will certainly make it available to the Bath School Museum, the Michigan State University library, and to the various local historical societies and county libraries around Bath. In this way, it will add to collective memory of the Bath tragedy of 1927 and be a resource for future researchers.
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Michael Fuhlhage (00:03):
Hi, this is Michael Fuhlhage talking to you from the city of Detroit and Wayne State University. It is my profound honor to be selected for the national award for excellence in teaching. And I am so grateful to the American Journalism Historians Association for this award. I'm indebted to Erika Pribanic-Smith, who marshaled my nomination and my Wayne State University colleagues, Fred Vultee and Kat Maguire for their support of my nomination. I'm especially grateful to my graduate and my undergraduate students. More than anyone, they're my collaborators and co-creators, and they never fail to lift me up when I'm down. They always inspire me to be my best. And I'm thankful that I've been able to learn from and have the flame of my passion for history and writing fanned by some great teachers of my own. At North Carolina, Frank Fee, my advisor, Barbara Friedman, Lucila Vargas, Donald Shaw, William Barney, and Fitz Brundage. At the Missouri School of Journalism,
Michael Fuhlhage (00:59):
Earnest Perry, Lee Wilkins, Yong Volz, Don Ranly, and George Kennedy. And at the University of Kansas, Calder Pickett, Donald Worster, Paul Jess, and Tom Eblen. And here's a special shout out to Marcia Whittemore, my English composition teacher at Tonganoxie High School, and Marie McDaniel by junior high English teacher. Mrs. Mack was the best. Everyone, when you log off, find a way to locate the K through 12 teacher who gave you the fire for writing, and thank them, will you? Now, if I were able to do this in person with everybody in the same room, I would be calling out folks and sharing the love for what I've learned about teaching from all of you. Of course, that would take a lot of time. Feeding on the enthusiasm of everyone in this big research and teaching family of ours has made me a better teacher. So let's celebrate our obsessions with the past.
Michael Fuhlhage (01:51):
Our obsessions give us depth of knowledge and the fire of discovery, and I can't help but get excited along with you when you let your enthusiasm show. And that is the most important thing I can think of about teaching. Let your enthusiasm draw in your students. Your joy is infectious in the classroom and in collaboration and co-creation. We all love the archives. I always feel a sense of wonder when I encounter things that historical figures touched and created. So I try to recreate that wonder by bringing my own collection into the classroom for my students to experience. Share, tell, and invite them to make some meaning out of artifacts. It's it's, it's...it'll hook them. It's addictive. I always warn my students that I seed a lot of pop culture references into the classroom, and this talk is no exception. When you get them to feel the wonder of putting their hands on artifacts, you're sharing a Ben Kenobi moment with them.
Michael Fuhlhage (02:49):
If you'll pardon the Star Wars reference, you've taken them on their first step into a larger world. By way of a statement of my own way of teaching, I will draw from my teaching philosophy--just the lead and some bullet points. Okay, it's a long lead. We'll call it an anecdotal lead. So here goes: History is as alive as we are. And our students' grasp of how it influenced the development of journalism and mass media is vital to their ability to thrive in the field. It's up to us to convince the students that this is true, that learning to be a contributor to history through their own original research will make them better practitioners of their chosen field and that they have it within themselves to one day, be celebrated by future historians for their own contributions to journalism. I tell my students, I see journalism history as the story of the tension between control and conscience control pertains to attempts by government and other powerful actors to constrain what journalists and citizens do. Conscience guides journalists' responses to that. We explore that history together by feeding off one another's interests, enthusiasms, and aspirations while unearthing the past and the hidden, the marginalized and the forgotten people and struggles in journalism's past. In doing so, we learn more about each other, how we can be better scholars and human beings, and how to have fun all at the same time. So what follows are my guiding principles for teaching and learning? So here come the bullet points. First point:
Michael Fuhlhage (04:24):
Let your students' interests become your interests. Find out what your students aspire to do when their time with you is up. What historical events fascinate them, and which journalists do they admire the most? This can help you to identify topics that will fascinate them when the time comes for them to start doing historical research of their own. Second point: Meet the students where they are.
Michael Fuhlhage (04:50):
Do this regardless of their level of preparation and personal circumstances and regardless of their social identity. And regardless of whether we're in the classroom as usual, or if we were driven online by a global pandemic, this thing that's all around us right now. In the socially distanced virtual classroom, find ways to connect them with the resources that they need and base your teaching on what will serve their needs best. Third point:
Michael Fuhlhage (05:17):
Let inclusivity and diversity be a driver in your class. The canon that I was taught consisted mainly of white men, which was unacceptably limited, so enlist their help to expand the pantheon so it includes the underemphasized contributions that women and people of color made to journalism's development. For example, you can't teach history of investigative reporting, which I was taught mainly involved Woodward and Bernstein, without discussing the methods and motivations of Ida Tarbell, Ida B. Wells, and Elizabeth Cochran. Further, it's vital to remind students that these heroes' tales were overlooked until someone in their future recognized their value, which in turn implies that they, the students, can be the ones who resurrect the stories of the marginalized but deserving. Fourth point: Adaptability and flexibility are crucial. Winter 2020 presented a special challenge. The coronavirus pandemic led us to be cautious, shut down our campus, and shifted to remote learning.
Michael Fuhlhage (06:24):
My class was always driven by lecture, discussion, and hands-on examination of primary sources in about equal measures. I would draw from my own collection of antiquarian newspapers and magazines and other communication artifacts, such as petroglyphs, Edison cylinders, and retired lead type. I surveyed the students about their access to the internet and other circumstances that might hold them back. It became clear that not everyone could do Zoom live. So we went asynchronous, and we found low bandwidth ways to share lecture. I found digitized artifacts and created online discussions where we talked about them, again in a low bandwidth manner. We didn't do live Zoom. We had really lively discussion threads, though. So fourth point: Have fun. When I was an undergraduate, I heard W. Edwards Deming speak at the University of Kansas. The last point that he made--after describing how he helped Japanese automakers to refine their production systems using ideas that American companies had rejected--consisted of those two words, which he wrote on a chalkboard to punctuate the end of his presentation.
Michael Fuhlhage (07:33):
My test reviews are fun, and they're meaningful for my students because they pick what they think is the most important material to be tested on. They write multiple choice questions, and we review by running the review like a trivia contest, with historical artifacts like clippings from ancient comic strips or retired lead dingbat type as prizes. You can find this stuff pretty easily for not too much money on eBay. This puts students in charge of one another's learning in a lighthearted way. This way I do what Deming taught: to attain quality, empower everyone and have fun along the way. So I'll wrap this up with one final thought: Encourage your students to see their own potential by considering the achievements of previous generations, and empower students to be co-creators in learning and creating knowledge. I'm a curator of things that are knowable about communication history, but I'm not the master of all that. It's not possible for any one person to be that. Once I've learned about my students' interests, I help them become masters of the history of those interests. And by the end of the semester, our roles have shifted. And that makes me so proud with how much they've grown. And when I can see that my students have become my teacher, that is how I know that I've done my job. Again, I really appreciate this honor. Thank you for your time and your attention.
Ford Risley (00:03):
Greetings everyone! I'm here in my office at Penn State doing what we've all been doing for far too long: looking at a computer screen and preparing for a virtual classroom meeting. How I wish I was instead getting ready to travel to another AJHA convention and the opportunity to see many great friends. AJHA conventions have been one of my favorite fall activities for more than 25 years. I'm disappointed that we can't meet in Memphis this year, but it was certainly wise to make this year's meeting virtual. I'm so grateful to receive the Kobre award. I want to thank the folks who supported my nomination. I owe special thanks to David Sloan, who took the lead in nominating me. I've always appreciated David's unending commitment to our organization, and the idea that he wanted to nominate me is something I will always appreciate. I also want to thank Penn State for making it possible for me to be a productive scholar and an active member of AJHA.
Ford Risley (01:02):
I've been fortunate to work for two outstanding deans, Doug Anderson and Marie Hardin, and a college with terrific faculty and staff. I wouldn't have been able to do so many things for the organization, if it wasn't for their incredible support of my work. I've been fortunate to know many members of our organization who I consider role models. I won't name them for fear of leaving someone out, but I would be remiss in not mentioning one: Wally Eberhard. I took a media history seminar with Wally at the University of Georgia, and by the time the semester was over, I knew what the path of my academic career would be. Wally was a wise counsel as I learned the ins and outs of academia, and he became a good friend. He also won the Kobre award, and it's terrific to follow in his footsteps. Finally, I owe a great debt to my family. My parents instilled in their children a love of reading and history. My mother was an elementary school teacher. We spent many Saturdays at the Willow Branch library, finding new books to take home. My wife Mary has always supported my work, starting when I decided to go to graduate school soon after we were married. I can never thank her enough.
Ford Risley (02:22):
I want to say just a few words about what AJHA means to me and encourage you all to support the organization with your time. I joined AJHA in 1993, when I was a doctoral student, and I attended my first convention in Salt Lake City. Like all graduate students, I was warmly welcomed, and I immediately felt a comradery with a group of people who shared my interest. Twenty-seven years later, AJHA remains my academic home outside of Penn State. I believe passionately in the organization's mission to promote research and education in mass communication history. There's simply no way that I would have been able to accomplish what I have if it wasn't for AJHA. I've also made many wonderful friends and have fond memories of spending time together at conventions. It's why I've been an active member as a convention host, as a board member and president, and most recently as editor of American Journalism. I never planned to do any of these things.
Ford Risley (03:21):
I just felt like when the opportunities presented themselves, I should help. I want to encourage everyone to do the same. AJHA can only be successful if members are willing to do more than pay their annual dues and attend conventions. We need folks to enthusiastically serve as reviewers, committee members and chairs, convention hosts, and officers. You'll be helping an outstanding organization, and I promise that you'll be better from the experience. Thank you again for this wonderful honor. I can assure you it's something I will always cherish. Please stay safe, and I look forward to the time when we can meet again in person. Thank you.
(Editor's note: Raymond McCaffrey is an assistant professor and director of the Center for Ethics in Journalism at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He received the McKerns Grant in 2019.)
By Raymond McCaffrey
My first encounter with Louis Stark occurred ten years ago while combing the “stacks” at the University of Maryland’s McKeldin Library as part of an assignment for a journalism history course required for doctoral students. The topic that I had picked for my research paper concerned how journalism textbooks might reveal how early educators addressed the physical and psychological risks faced by journalists. One of the texts on a library shelf was an anthology titled, “A Treasury of Great Reporting; ‘Literature under Pressure’ From the Sixteenth Century to Our Own Time,” which included a contribution by Stark, a New York Times reporter who had had covered the 1927 executions of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, the so-called “anarchists” convicted of killing two men during a robbery.
Stark’s first-person account was dramatically different than the terse, objective news stories he wrote for the Times. Stark’s harrowing depiction revealed that journalists had insight into the psychological toll of covering traumatic events long before the topic became a focus of research near the end of the twentieth century. Stark wrote about what it was like to be in Charlestown State Prison on the day of the executions, writing that the prison was like an armed camp, with rioters outside the gates, and reporters were herded to a room next door to the execution chamber: “The windows had been nailed down by a nervous policeman ‘because somebody might throw something in.’ The shades were drawn. The room was stuffy, and in an hour the heat was unbearable. We took off our coats, rolled up our sleeves, and tried to be comfortable. The morse operators were the coolest of the fifty men and women in the room. The noise of the typewriters and telegraph instrument made an awful din. Our nerves were stretched to the breaking point. Had there not been a last minute reprieve on Aug. 10? Might there be one now?”
Stark’s account offered a unique view of stressors faced by reporters covering a traumatic event on deadline, intensified by the need to meet the increasing demands of the evolving technology of the day. But I met with an unusual sort of dead end when I searched for more of the author’s personal writing. Most of what I found by Stark was the work of a master of the objective, almost deeply impersonal news writing that was practiced by New York Times reporters. Stark went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for pioneering a completely new journalism beat that quickly became a staple in many newspapers in the United States: coverage of the increasingly powerful U.S. labor movement. In 1951, nine years after winning the Pulitzer for labor reporting, Stark moved on to writing editorials for the Times, specializing in analysis of the labor movement. Stark also appeared to have embraced the type of stoic response to personal setbacks that is common amongst journalists. When Stark died in 1954, shortly after turning 66, the Times published a tribute that celebrated “a devotion to duty” that motivated Stark to come to work until the very last day of his life, despite what was characterized as “a series of mild heart attacks.” Though too sick to come into the office, Stark wrote his final editorial at home, ultimately having to ask his wife to call the newspaper and phone in his piece. Three hours later, at 4 p.m., Stark “died unexpectedly,” and his last editorial - “Trade Union Democracy” – ran in the same edition that carried his obituary.
Stark, who had so powerfully depicted the on-the-job stress faced by the working journalists, also appeared to exemplify the kind of macho journalistic ethos that I was interested in studying. Yet the preliminary evidence that I found only supported a potentially fascinating study about Stark and his role in pioneering the labor beat. Unfortunately that wasn’t the part of his story that fascinated me. So I put Stark on my list of possible long-term story ideas with the understanding that ultimately I was going to have to make a tough practical decision. My only real chance to discover Stark’s personal story was to examine his personal papers that had been donated to the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. But in order to allocate the time and money to travel to Boston from Arkansas, where I now teach, I felt I needed to be committed to telling the story of Stark, the pioneer of the labor beat, especially if his papers failed to contain much of his personal side.
The American Journalism Historians Association ultimately helped me make that decision by awarding me a Joseph McKerns Research Grant in 2018. The grant not only eased practical concerns by helping to support my travel to Boston, but also offered some external confirmation that the overall story of such a pioneering journalist was worth telling. The two days I spent at the Nieman Foundation, located in the historic Lippmann House, were ideal for an historian with a tight schedule. The Nieman administrators gave what every researcher should hope for: a quiet room filled with stacks of assiduously inventoried file boxes. During two days of reviewing notes, correspondence, and other writings, I constantly felt as if I was in Stark’s presence, even if that involved being in the company of a journalist who was deeply private, but only to a point.
Amid the writings that spoke to the politics and key players behind the growing labor movement, I found a diary, which Stark kept sporadically, starting in 1932. His personal writing contained the type of insights he included in his recounting of the 1927 execution. In one entry, he wrote about the human suffering in one impoverished mining community where he was confronted by a child begging for food. “Somehow my attention always swings around to the children,” Stark wrote.
Stark’s papers also provided many insights into the professional practices of a legendary journalist. Stark’s reputation as a journalist who was trusted by his sources could be seen in an exchange of letters he had with the powerful labor leader George Meany in 1954. Stark’s request for insider information on an “off-the-record basis” resulted in an extraordinarily candid account that Meany documented on American Federation of Labor stationary (with a return address of the Monte Carlo Hotel, in Miami Beach, Florida).
Some of Stark’s most personal writing involved his correspondence with William M. Leiserson, a scholar and labor expert. His letters, addressed to “Billy,” included brief references to personal information as well as fascinating takes on the inner workings of official Washington. The letters were so informed yet conversational that one could imagine the Times posting much of them online today as part of ongoing blog.
My review of the papers led me to conclude that two stories about Stark that I saw having to choose among — the personal versus the professional — were actually one and the same. The journalist who wired the labor beat seems to have been the same one whose nerves had been “stretched to the breaking point” while awaiting two public executions. The careful eye he used at Charlestown State Prison was also on display when he was observing the struggling people in union country, where his attention always swung around to the children.
 Arthur Krock, Hanson Weightman Baldwin, and Shepard Stone, We Saw It Happen: The News Behind the News That's Fit to Print (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1938), 366.
 Louis Stark," New York Times, May 18, 1954, 28.
 “Trade Union Democracy.” New York Times, May 18, 1954, 28.
The American Journalism Historians Association will have an electronic election in September to fill three open positions on the Board of Directors. Ballots will be emailed to all members and also will include approval of the 2019 General Member Business Meeting Minutes and three proposed amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws.
We will not have an election for second vice-president this year. Given the unprecedented global health crisis that forced AJHA to opt for a virtual conference this fall, the membership agreed to pause the presidential leadership chain for one year. Donna Lampkin Stephens will remain president. Aimee Edmondson will remain first vice-president, and Mike Conway will remain second vice-president.
Members nominated the following three scholars for the three open board seats. The electronic ballot will include a space for write-in votes.
Boston native Julien Gorbach is an assistant professor in the School of Communications at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His book The Notorious Ben Hecht: Iconoclastic Writer and Militant Zionist was published by Purdue University Press in March 2019, and it earned the National Jewish Book Award “Finalist” prize for Best Biography. His chapter “Not Your Grandpa’s Hoax: A Comparative History of Fake News” appeared in Fake News! Misinformation in the Media (LSU Press, June 2020), and his studies have been published in American Journalism, Journalism History and Literary Journalism Studies. He currently serves as the chair of AJHA’s Public Relations Committee. Gorbach earned his doctorate at the Missouri School of Journalism in 2013. Before that he worked as a newspaper reporter for ten years. His articles have appeared in the Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, Time Out New York, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and the New Orleans Gambit.
What AJHA has meant to me and why I want to serve: AJHA has been my scholarly community for more than a decade, since I presented my first study at our March 2008 joint conference. The association has provided peers who are now among my closest friends, and extraordinary mentors like Berkley Hudson, Ross Collins, Kathy Roberts Forde, Mike Sweeney, Ford Risley, and Donna Lampkin Stephens. AJHA has taught me not just methods and insights into historiography; it also instilled in me the ethos of our field and has shown me why our work is so important. The association has been a constant source of support, encouragement and collegiality, and our members all appreciate how much that means whenever we find ourselves buried deep in the archives, or in the tenth draft of a particularly thorny study. This past year was my first opportunity to contribute service as chair of our public relations committee. I would be honored to help further build and strengthen our organization by serving on our board of directors, so that we can assist our seasoned scholars in expanding upon their achievements and invite the younger scholars on board, just as the association so graciously did for us.
Jennifer E. Moore is an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She received her Ph.D. from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Her research interests include journalism history, visual communication, participatory news practices and digital news preservation. Moore’s work on the nineteenth-century illustrated press appears in issues of Journalism History and several chapters in media history collections, including Sensationalism: Murder, Mayhem, Mudslinging, Scandals, and Disasters in 19th-Century Reporting (Transaction Publishers, 2013) and After the War: The Press in a Changing America, 1865–1900 (Transaction Publishers, 2017). An essay about her participatory news scholarship appears in the forthcoming Journalism Research that Matters (Oxford University Press). From 2014 to 2016, she served as a co-coordinator for the Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference. Her research awards include funding from the National Association of Broadcasters and two National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar Awards. She teaches courses in media history, digital journalism, social media, and media ethics. Prior to academia, Moore worked as a radio reporter and as a digital content producer and manager.
What AJHA has meant to me and why I want to serve: I will never forget the first time I attended AJHA as a graduate student and was pleasantly surprised to receive a stipend to offset my travel expenses. It's that kind of commitment to developing and supporting scholars that has kept me involved. As a former co-coordinator for the Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference (JJCHC), I am excited by an opportunity to be in service to our discipline again as an AJHA board member. I want to continue the work of those before me who have helped communicate the importance of journalism history, not only among scholars but also to a general audience. Our work as journalism and media historians is more important than ever. What we do as scholar-teachers is needed to help understand our current moment as we negotiate both a global health pandemic and efforts to dismantle systemic racism in the U.S.
Rich Shumate is an assistant professor in the School of Media at Western Kentucky University and holds a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Florida. His research centers on historical political communication, specifically news media coverage of U.S. political conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s. He was the winner of AJHA’s Margaret Blanchard Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Journalism History in 2019, and he is currently proceeding to publication with a book based on that work, The Liberal Bias Rebellion: How Coverage of Goldwater Made Conservatives Hate Media, which will be published by Lexington Books in 2021. Prior to moving into academia, Shumate worked for more than 25 years as a professional journalist on newspapers in North Carolina and Georgia and spent 10 years as a news editor and web writer at CNN’s world headquarters in Atlanta. He is also the founder and editor of ChickenFriedPolitics.com, a blog covering politics across 14 Southern states.
The AJHA Board of Directors is proposing three amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws related to the committees that decide the organization's annual awards. The first renames the Awards Committee to the Service Awards Committee and clarifies its duties. The second formalizes the sub-committee charged with deciding the annual Book Award as its own committee. The third creates an addendum outlining what committee is responsible for each award, dividing them into Service, Teaching, and Research awards. [To review the current Constitution and Bylaws, see the Members Only page (login required).]
The Awards Committee has been responsible for deciding the Sidney Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism History and the Distinguished Service to Journalism History Award. A sub-committee of the Awards Committee has been responsible for the Book Award. Based on a proposal from Awards Committee Chair Tom Mascaro, the board voted to separate the two committees and specify their duties in two amendments to Section 4.06 of the constitution, which lists all AJHA committees and their charges.
First, the board proposes the change the language of 4.06(f), which currently reads:
(f) Awards. This committee will propose to the Board nominees for prizes, plaques, and certificates including the Kobre Award for distinguished service to the profession of journalism history.
This wording is inaccurate because other AJHA committees propose nominees for a majority of the organization's awards (as outlined in proposed Addendum B, below). Furthermore, the Kobre Award and Distinguished Service Award are two separate awards.
The proposed new language is as follows:
(f) Service Awards. This committee will recognize outstanding service to the field of journalism history by selecting recipients for the Sidney Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Distinguished Service Award.
Second, the board proposes creating a new entry formalizing the Book Award Committee as a separate committee. The formatting of this new entry would be consistent with other committees listed in section 4.06, as follows:
(o) Book Award. This committee will seek to celebrate scholarship in the field of mass communication history by advertising and conducting the annual competition for the best book on a topic in mass communication history.
Finally, the board proposes adding the following sentence to Constitution Section 1.02 (b): See Addendum B for a full list of awards and the committees responsible for selecting them.
The following then would be added to the end of the Constitution and Bylaws as Addendum B:
AJHA Awards for Service, Teaching, and Research
The following listing outlines the awards given by the American Journalism Historians Association. In addition to being separated according to whether the award primarily recognizes service, teaching, or research, the awards are organized according to the entities within AJHA that select the award recipients.
I. Service Awards
A. Service Awards Committee
B. Local Host Committee
C. AJHA President - President's Award for Sustained and Meritorious Service: The President of the American Journalism Historians Association may select up to two members each year who have gone above and beyond in their service to the organization to receive the President's Award.
II. Teaching Awards
A. Education Committee - National Award for Excellence in Teaching: The annual AJHA Award for Excellence in Teaching honors a college or university teacher who excels at teaching in the areas of journalism and mass communication history, makes a positive impact on student learning, and offers an outstanding example for other educators.
NOTE: The Kobre Award (detailed in I.A.1. above) also recognizes recipients' record of teaching.
III. Research Awards
B. Blanchard Prize Committee - AJHA Margaret A. Blanchard Doctoral Dissertation Prize: The Blanchard Prize is awarded annually for the best doctoral dissertation dealing with mass communication history. Up to three honorable mentions also may be selected.
C. Book Award Committee - AJHA Book of the Year Award: The Book Award recognizes the best book in journalism history or mass media history published during the previous calendar year. Up to two honorable mentions also may be selected.
D. Research Committee
a. Wm. David Sloan Award for outstanding faculty research paper.
b. Robert Lance Award for outstanding student research paper.
c. Jean Palmegiano Award for outstanding international/transnational journalism history research paper.
d. J. William Snorgrass Award for outstanding minority-journalism research paper.
e. Maurine Beasley Award for outstanding women’s history research paper.
f. Wally Eberhard Award for outstanding research in media and war.
a. Wm. David Sloan Award for outstanding faculty research paper.
b. Robert Lance Award for outstanding student research paper.
c. Jean Palmegiano Award for outstanding international/transnational journalism history research paper.
d. J. William Snorgrass Award for outstanding minority-journalism research paper.
e. Maurine Beasley Award for outstanding women’s history research paper.
f. Wally Eberhard Award for outstanding research in media and war.
NOTE: The Kobre Award (detailed in I.A.1. above) also recognizes recipients' record of research.
By Kimberly Voss, Ph.D.
Professor, University of Central Florida
Journalism Halls of Fame often mirror the histories of journalism where the stories of white male trailblazers are widely lauded and institutionalized. Left in the margins or footnotes are women and people of color. When the portraits and busts that populate these shrines are primarily male, the echo chamber grows and these groups are forgotten or ignored by history.
Nominating important but overlooked journalists to these halls of fame is a way of engaging in public history.
Public history is largely defined as using historical methods outside of the academic world. Typically, it is the audience that differentiates the public historian’s work from more traditional historical fields. (This, of course, does not mean that researchers won’t use the information. One of the fashion editors I study, Madeleine Corey, has only been referenced in the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame.)
Two examples of women I’ve successfully nominated to state journalism halls of fame are Marjorie Paxson and Roberta Applegate, though the process is not easy. Both took repeated nominations before gaining entrance.
Paxson was a groundbreaking journalist who covered hard news for a wire service during World War II (an unheard of opportunity prior to the war) before being forced back into the women’s pages during peacetime – where she helped change the definition of women’s news. By the time she retired from journalism more than 50 years later, she had been one of the first female U.S. newspaper publishers and established the National Women and Media Collection (NWMC). She also was editor of Xilonen, the eight-page daily newspaper published for the United Nations World Conference for International Women’s Year held in Mexico City in 1975, played a significant part of the 1976 governmental report To Form a More Perfect Union and in 1963 was elected president of Theta Sigma Phi (now known as the Association for Women in Communications).
She was the fourth female publisher in Gannett — first at the Public Opinion in Pennsylvania (1978-1980) and then the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma (1980-1986). In Muskogee, she used her power to change her newspaper’s editorial stance that had been previously opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment and changed newsroom policy to allow women to wear pants — something that had been prohibited. She made a difference for female employees and women in her community.
Despite all the accomplishments throughout her journalism career, she was not a member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, which I sought to correct. It took five years to get her inducted. (She would have been officially inducted posthumously in a March event but the virus postponed it. She will be officially honored in the fall.)
Several years ago, I nominated women’s page editor (and later Kansas State University journalism professor) Roberta Applegate into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame. Her father, Albert A. Applegate, was a longtime journalism professor at Michigan State University, and had been inducted into the Hall of Fame years earlier. It took two nomination attempts to get Roberta inducted, but when she was, it marked the first father-daughter combination in the hall. Along with her brother, I had the honor to speak at her induction ceremony.
After earning a master’s degree in journalism, Applegate covered the Michigan statehouse during World War II and went on to become one of the first women to be a press secretary to a governor. She then wrote for the top women’s pages in the country – at the Miami Herald. Ultimately, she became a journalism professor at Kansas State University where she subscribed to the leading women’s pages to help her students improve the sections.
Her inclusion in the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame means that Roberta Applegate is an official part of journalism history. She needed two nominations before earning her recognition. Part of the process was to submit numerous letters of recommendation – which is no easy feat considering that she died when I was in middle school. Luckily, she saved everything and the NWMC included her reference letters from the World War II era.
Fingers are crossed that legendary Miami Herald women’s page editor Marie Anderson gets inducted into the Florida Journalism Hall of Fame. Anderson’s section won so many Penney-Missouri Awards — the top recognition for the sections — that she was retired from the competition. She was a groundbreaking editor and became a regular speaker for newspapers across the country who wanted to improve women’s page news.
I recently turned in the nomination paperwork for Anderson. Several more nominees will be sent in soon. It’s a way of making marginalized women visible. If you know of a woman or person of color who is a part of local journalism lore but has been left out of the historical record, consider engaging in an act of public history and nominate him or her to their state or regional journalism hall of fame. But be prepared to do it more than once — but it will be worth it for its contribution to public history.
In light of COVID-19, the 2020 AJHA national conference, scheduled for October in Memphis, will be a condensed virtual conference Oct. 2-3 with no registration fee.
Deadlines for research submissions are extended until July 1, 2020: https://ajha.wildapricot.org/2020papercall/.
AJHA will resume the full, in-person conference Oct. 7-9, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio, and will return to Memphis from Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2022.
Because AJHA confirmed the revised Memphis dates recently, AJHA did not incur a financial penalty from the hotel.
More details will surface as they become available.
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