Intelligencer is a blog featuring teaching and research essays as well as news about the organization and its members.
To submit member news or suggest a blog topic, contact Intelligencer editor Dane Claussen.
PDFs of the Intelligencer in its previous newsletter form can be found at the Intelligencer archive. Visit the News page for press releases on the organization's activities.
By Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Becoming a media historian was not part of my plan as an undergraduate. As a journalism major, I had my sights set on magazine writing, and pursued that dream with dogged determination until my senior year, when I decided somewhat on a whim to write an undergraduate honors thesis. The topic was celebrity gossip columns in the first half of the 20th century – a subject I had longed harbored an intense interest in. Given the freedom to spend my time reading about Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, I poured myself into the project. By the time I had finished, I knew that I needed to change course, and started the process of applying for graduate programs specializing in media history.
When I entered the graduate program at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, I knew what to expect. My undergraduate mentor and graduate advisor, James L. Baughman, had encouraged me to reach out to many individuals in the field for their advice, and to get a sense of what it would take to be a successful media historian. Get ready for long hours in the library and sitting in front of a microfilm reader, they said. Make friends with archivists, they advised. Read the acknowledgment sections of books you like, they noted. Be ready to be surprised and challenged by what you find when researching, they warned. Go into your projects with open eyes, and be open to have your assumptions tested. And get ready for some curve balls.
They also warned me that media history – and the study of any historical field – can be a lonely pursuit. The long hours in the library, in front of books and in front of the microfilm reader, is isolating. Finding colleagues and collaborators that shared your love of history was key to success. During our check-ins, Prof. Baughman pushed me to maintain connections with others in the field. He was quick with contacts to reach out to based on my current interests or questions I had about the historiography of a topic. I leaned on this network for input and guidance that helped shape my research questions and projects and helped me grow as a scholar.
Several pointed me toward AJHA. The organization strongly supported graduate students and would be a great venue to present my research and ideas. Importantly, they noted, I could meet other graduate students and scholars like myself – individuals passionate about journalism and history, and ready with tips on archive collections, databases, and secondary reading. And I’d be able to find a group that could empathize with the arduous process of writing historical research and of being the lone historical wolf in a journalism and mass communication department. With this advice in hand, I steadily followed my expected path in graduate school. I wrote a thesis, finished coursework, and started prepping for my preliminary examinations.
But graduate school often comes with twists and turns that can be hard to navigate, no matter how prepared you are. It threw me a curve ball the spring before I was to begin prepping for my preliminary examinations, when Prof. Baughman passed away unexpectedly. As the dust began to settle, and I realized what I had lost in terms of an advisor and mentor, I realized how important the network of support I had been building would be. Without a media historian in the department, I would need to rely even more heavily on those outside my program.
At my first AJHA conference, I initially felt intimidated. Here was a room of scholars whose books and articles I had read, who taught media history courses at universities and colleges across the country, and had won awards for their research and teaching. And there I was, a graduate student and the lone representative from the University of Wisconsin, wondering how to go up and introduce myself. But within the first few moments I immediately felt at ease. Everyone I met was friendly and eager to chat about all topics related to media, journalism, and history. And more important for me as a graduate student, they were incredibly interested in what I was working on and ready to offer feedback.
AJHA has been incredibly valuable for me because it has helped find a network of individuals passionate about what I study. It has helped me connect with other graduate students in the field, and also provided a model of what to do as a professor. And at a time where I felt lost and untethered in my own program, it provided me with a number of new history mentors whose camaraderie has provided the support to drive me toward completing my dissertation.
Cieslik-Miskimen is a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, completing her dissertation examining the impact of modernity and progress on the conception of community and identity in a small city, via its print communication channels.
(Editor's Note: The Revolution was televised, but not this part..... Thanks to Mark Feldstein, University of Maryland--College Park, for bringing this to our attention.)
By Dianne Bragg
University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa
My thoughts for this particular column were pretty straightforward.
It’s July, but it feels like August.
Soon, though, it will be October and we will be wearing jackets in Utah.
A quick reminder to check the AJHA website for convention details.
A hopeful note that some of us will be together in D.C. for AEJMC.
And, oh yes, best wishes for a happy 4th of July.
Just a usual mid-summer laundry list.
But, the usual this summer has changed.
When a man armed with a gun chose to murder five people at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., what has become usual hit really close to home for many of us.
The gun violence in our country has taken on surreal proportions, with no sign of it abating any time soon. It has become our usual.
The vilification of journalists has reached extraordinary heights.
The Oval Office historically has not always been pleased with the press, despite what is written in the Constitution. This is not the first time those who hold power have gone after journalists who try to hold them accountable.
At some point, though, in the 21st century, it would seem that our leadership would condemn violent rhetoric in no uncertain terms. But, they do not. This, too, has become our usual.
As a columnist I follow wrote last week, we seem to forget that words matter.
Might this murderer have picked up a gun no matter what? Maybe.
Or, did the constant barrage of words calling journalists evil, unpatriotic, criminal, and “fake,” along with encouragement for physical violence against them, possibly push him over the edge? This, too, is our usual.
What do we tell our students who are learning the journalism craft?
How do we teach them to do their jobs as they withstand such an environment?
I have a son whose first journalism job was with a Maryland newspaper and who now works for another paper in the area. We all have friends or family in the field. What do we say to them? How do we support them in this new usual?
As historians, we try to pay attention as we look to the past to help us navigate the present. And, for an example of what we hold dear, we need look no further than the Capital Gazette staff who, while in shock and grief, put out their paper.
I think no matter how bleak it may seem, our best journalists will continue to stand up, call out questions and speak the truth. That is our usual.
Because, in the end, the pen really is mightier than the sword.
The American Journalism Historians Association is seeking nominations for three board positions and the office of second vice president.
Board members serve for three years and are expected to attend board meetings at the annual convention. The 2nd VP, under normal circumstances, rises to the presidency in two years, then serves on the board for an additional two years.
A nominee to the Board of Directors or to any of the other Officer positions must have been a member of the AJHA for at least one calendar year immediately preceding the date of the election. No more than one person from an institution can serve on the board at one time.
To make nominations and to vote in an election, an individual must be a member of AJHA. Those who wish to nominate candidates may do so by sending an email with the nominee's name, contact information and affiliation to election and nominations committee chair Nick Hirshon, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please confirm the candidate's willingness to serve before sending the nomination to Nick, and if possible, you should send a brief bio of the candidate.
Deadline for nominations is 5 p.m. Aug. 15. Nominations may also be made from the floor.
Dale L. Cressman, associate professor of communication at Brigham Young University, has won the first annual Michael S. Sweeney Award for his scholarly article in Journalism History, “News in Light: The Times Square Zipper and Newspaper Signs in an Age of Technological Enthusiasm.”
The award, which honors the best article published in the quarterly journal over the past year, was created by the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) to honor the outgoing editor.
Mike Sweeney, since 2012 editor of the independent peer-reviewed journal at Ohio University, announced two years ago that he wanted to turn over Journalism History to the Division and to a new editor. The reason was two-fold, he told the division with frankness: he was being treated for a Stage IV cancer and the journal’s self-publication was no longer financially sustainable.
Sweeney, who was also the incoming head of the History Division at the time, appointed an ad hoc task force to examine having the Division take over the journal. The mission that Sweeney initiated has now cleared the way for the Division to publish the journal for its nearly 300 members and institutional subscribers. The Division has also named the next editor, Gregory A. Borchard of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
In appreciation of Sweeney’s tenure as editor and his actions to ensure the journal’s future, the Division created the Michael S. Sweeney Award. The editor, in this case Sweeney himself, nominates four or five top articles from four issues over a recent 12-month period. The winner is selected from among the nominated articles by the Division’s three officers and is honored with a plaque at the AEJMC conference in August.
The other nominees for this first award were Juanita Darling, for “Jewish Values in the Journalism of Alberto Gerchunoff”; Michael Fuhlhage, for “To Limit the Spread of Slavery: A Boston Journal Correspondent’s Multiple Roles in the Kansas Free State Movement”; and Debra Reddin Van Tuyll, for “Protecting Press Freedom and Access to Government Information in Antebellum South Carolina.”
Cressman’s winning article, “News in Light,” traces the evolution of signs posted outside newspaper buildings, notably in New York City, feeding a public appetite for major news events. Electricity and technological advances, under competitive pressure among newspapers, led in 1928 to the “moving letter” sign around the New York Times building known as “The Zipper.” Cressman uses archives from The New York Times to document fights over the patent, but also theorizes that this history prefigured TV news consumption in the way it transformed readers into a collective audience.
The Division officers, Doug Cumming, Erika Pribanic-Smith and Teri Finneman, were impressed by the article’s insight, scholarship and readability.
Cressman, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Utah, was formerly a television news editor and producer in Salt Lake City, Green Bay, Wis., and Waco, Texas, and an editor at the Canadian Broadcasting System.
The American Journalism Historians Association Board of Directors has appointed Rich Shumate to the position of Web Editor.
Shumate will assist with the AJHA website over the summer and will take over the Web Editor position officially in October.
An award-winning journalist and media history scholar, Shumate is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Broadcasting at Western Kentucky University.
The annual Covert Award in Mass Communication History has been won by Andie Tucher, a Columbia Journalism School professor who directs its Communications Ph.D. program. Tucher won the 34th annual award for “‘I believe in faking’: The Dilemma of Photographic Realism at the Dawn of Photojournalism,” Photography & Culture, 10:2 (June 2017), 1-20.
The piece was selected from 8 articles nominated. The judges commended Tucher for her “spectacular” scholarship on an important topic, supported by “deep research and original analysis.”
The award, endowed by the late Catherine Covert, a professor of public communications at Syracuse University and former head of the AEJMC History Division, goes to the article or chapter in an edited collection that represents the year's best essay in mass communication history. It is presented by AEJMC's History Division.
The Covert Committee includes some long-time members, among them Covert’s colleagues, as well as the current and past heads of the History Division. Committee members this year were: Douglas Cumming, Washington and Lee University; Kathy Roberts Forde, University of Massachusetts; Richard Kielbowicz, University of Washington; and Nancy Roberts, Chair, State University of New York at Albany.
The History Division will present the $500 award to Tucher at its Members' Meeting at the annual AEJMC convention in August, this year in Washington, D.C.
The 2018 AEJMC History Division Book Award, honoring the best journalism and mass communication history book published in 2017, has been won by Fred Carroll for Race News: Black Journalists and the Fight for Racial Justice in the Twentieth Century (University of Illinois Press). Carroll is a lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy at Kennesaw State University, where he teaches courses in U.S. history and African-American History.
A panel of three distinguished media historians chose Race News from a field of 29 entries. Race News is an exhaustive archeological dig that reveals the ways that ideological, political, and commercial dynamics of progressive politics shaped how black journalists reported news. The judges praised Carroll’s scholarship and accessibility, saying that Race News “should appeal to anyone with an interest in black culture, dissident and mainstream journalism, and the social and political forces that shaped the American Century.”
Carroll, who will receive a plaque and a cash prize, has been invited to speak about his work during the History Division members’ meeting on Tuesday, August 7 from 6:45 to 8:15 p.m. at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication convention in Washington, D.C.
The American Journalism Historians Association has named the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Kathryn J. McGarr, formerly of Princeton University, as the winner of its annual Margaret A. Blanchard Doctoral Dissertation Prize.
AJHA has granted the Blanchard Prize to the best doctoral dissertation dealing with mass communication history annually since 1997. “I'm always amazed at the diverse possibilities that can be included under the broad umbrella of media history,” Jane Marcellus, chair of the Blanchard Prize Committee, said. “The Blanchard Dissertation Prize competition continues to bring in excellent work from students at top universities, including those whose Ph.D.s--like our top winner--are not in journalism and mass communication per se but whose work intersects with the field. The members of the committee work carefully and diligently to evaluate entries; they deserve our thanks.”
McGarr and three runners-up will present their research at AJHA’s Annual Convention Oct. 4-6 in Salt Lake City. McGarr’s dissertation, “Gentlemen of the Press: Post-World War II Foreign Policy Reporting from the Washington Community,” was chaired by Julian Zelizer at Princeton.
Joining McGarr will be Jeremiah Favara and Thomas Schmidt, both of the University of Oregon, and Willie R. Tubbs, formerly of the University of Southern Mississippi, now at the University of West Florida. Favara completed “Recruiting for Difference and Diversity in the U.S. Military” under the direction of Carol Stabile. Schmidt’s “Rediscovering Narrative: A Cultural History of Journalistic Storytelling in American Newspapers, 1969-2001” was chaired by Gretchen Soderlund, and Tubbs’ “Forward Myth: Military Public Relations and the Domestic Base Newspaper 1941-1981” was chaired by David R. Davies.
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