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 Aimee Edmondson
During our last week of spring classes in late April, I took a grading break and scrolled across an Instagram post from my friend and colleague Julie Elman, who teaches design and the creative process at Ohio University.
In her trademark zany style, Julie drew a pointed purple face with plants growing out of her open brain and included the hashtag #100DaysOfWhatever. The image reeks of exhaustion, but there’s determination on that pinched, weary face. Summer break was upon us, and Julie reminded me that it’s the perfect time to nurture those sprouts, those little green tendrils of creativity.
Julie knows of what she draws. A professor in Ohio’s School of Visual Communication, she brings 15 years of newspaper design experience to the classroom. She designed the book “The Rise of Barack Obama” for another colleague, Pete Souza, who left Ohio University to become the chief White House Photographer during the Obama years. Her book of freehand drawings, “Fear Illustrated: Transforming What Scares Us,” was published in 2017 and will change the way you think about your own biggest anxieties.
So, taking a cue from Julie, I set out this summer to make the most of my #100daysofwhatever. To me, this was to be THE summer for regrowth, mindfulness, and nurturing creative processes. What was I going to do with this time?
Certainly, there’s the research agenda and a few open-at-last archives to visit, but work could be done at a less frenetic pace than the pre-tenure and pre-promotion years. The pandemic consumed and transformed everyone’s school year, and I had not even taken the time to think ahead to the summer break.
Then my mom died unexpectedly in May, and I have a dear friend who is battling the end stages of cancer. These #100daysofwhatever began to matter even more as I think about how we spend the time that we have.
So, for the rest of this summer: more time paddling on the lake, more time in the garden, more reading just for fun in the hammock, more in-person visits with friends and family after 15 months of isolation (everyone fully vaccinated, of course).
And yes, more time to think about the AJHA and how our organization can continue to contribute to the national conversation about journalism and journalism history during this pivotal time in our profession. As you may have read, the AJHA officers are working to provide our membership with more information about media literacy—this is one of our main goals of the year.
As journalists and media historians, we must continue our work addressing the onslaught of misinformation and revisionist history narratives that have become all too common in today’s information ecosystem. If you haven’t done so yet, please take a look at some of the resources on the AJHA web page and stay tuned to the Intelligencer as we continue to solicit more content from the nation’s top experts and educators in the area of media literacy. AJHA president Donna Lampkin Stephens, second VP Mike Conway and I want to hear from you about this topic. Please share your ideas and any resources you have relating to media literacy, and we’ll make them available to the AJHA membership.
I continue to draw inspiration from the creativity of our AJHA members, and I love keeping up with you via the Intelligencer, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
And, of course, summer is still a time for assessment reports, accreditation self-study, directing graduate students’ theses and dissertations. But there’s still time for regrowth, reflection on what really matters in our lives and nurturing our own creative processes.
Aimee Edmondson is a professor and Director for Graduate Studies at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She serves as First Vice President of AJHA.
Why did you choose to write a biography of New York Congressman Emanuel Celler?
When I wrote the 2012 biography, City Son, Andrew W. Cooper’s Impact on Modern-Day Brooklyn, Celler was among five members of Congress representing gerrymandered Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville, which was 80% Black and Puerto Rican.
After my Cooper biography was published, I discovered that Celler was known for 1965 immigration reform. I was intrigued because my parents and extended family, Caribbean natives, have immigration stories. From internet searches I found that a few sites demonized Celler, Jacob Javits and Chuck Schumer as people who allegedly destroyed American culture because of their immigration reform advocacy.
University Press of Mississippi, my publisher, green-lighted the Celler book idea. Early in the research I learned my subject was richer. Celler was also the godfather of civil rights legislation, because as longtime chairman of the House Judiciary Committee he was floor manager of landmark legislation, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act and 1968 Fair Housing Act.
Celler served nearly 50 years in Congress. What were his accomplishments?
Celler co-authored three Constitutional amendments, Voting Rights for citizens who live in the District of Columbia [23rd], Abolishing Poll Taxes [24th] and Presidential Succession [25th]. Celler did not personally support it, yet he successfully floor managed a fourth amendment, the 26th, Voting Rights for 18-year-olds.
Celler’s name is on at least 300 U.S. laws. Among them is the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, which historians are now crediting Celler with rescuing approximately 340,000 to 600,000 refugees, many of them Jewish, trapped in post-World War II Germany and Poland.
Celler was an unequivocal advocate for an independent Jewish state, achieved in 1948 with the creation of Israel from former British colony Palestine.
Also, Celler pressed the FDR administration during World War II to establish U.S. diplomatic relations with the Vatican. The United States made good on that promise in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was president, also the year Celler died.
What might surprise readers regarding Celler’s political or personal life?
Celler has been hiding in plain view. There are 600,000 documents about the man at the Library of Congress. My research however began at Brooklyn Public Library central office, which had a Celler College in its Brooklyn Room.
Celler’s family heritage was Jewish and Catholic from Germany. Celler wrote two books, “The Draft and You,” a 1940 primer, and “You Never Leave Brooklyn,” his 1953 autobiography.
Celler’s creative talents were piano, his preferred instrument, violin, which his parents made him play. He doodled and drew caricatures of his political colleagues, and made paper puppets to entertain his grandchildren. Celler kept a diary book of pithy sayings to cite when he spoke publicly.
A secretary who worked for Celler during 1965-1972, his last years in Congress, told me in June that although I cited a source who wrote that the congressman was 5-feet, 2-inches tall, Celler was probably closer to 5-feet 7-inches tall. A rare, near-fatal illness in 1941 may have curved Celler’s spine.
Celler’s opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment contributed to his 1972 upset defeat by Elizabeth Holtzman, however Celler’s views on women was much more enlightened than his male congressional colleagues. Celler was praised by a coalition of women’s organizations for ending a ban on wives working for the government if their husbands were federal employees, and he lobbied for the acceptance of women doctors in the Medical Reserve Corps.
Yet Celler, born at the end of the 1800s, was Victorian in attitude toward women.
Bryan Cranston, who played LBJ in the 2014 Broadway play “All the Way,” performed as Celler too and spoke a few lines. However, in the 2016 HBO movie version of “All the Way,” Celler was not cast, but an adversary, Rep. Howard “Judge” Smith of Virginia, was featured.
Wayne Dawkins, 2016 AJHA Educator of the Year, is a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.
Please introduce yourself and include your connections/role with AJHA.
I'm Paige Gray. I'm a liberal arts professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and I've previously taught at Fort Lewis College, the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the University of Southern Mississippi. Much of the historical research that I did for Cub Reporters was rooted in journalism history, so I relied heavily on scholarship from the AJHA and its members.
What drew you to your topic/time period?
I've been fascinated by newspapers and journalism since I was very young. I used to recruit my friends in elementary school to be on my newspaper—but no one ever did their assigned stories! I ended up writing the stories and drawing the accompanying art all by hand on blank sheets of computer paper, designing it to look like a newspaper with columns and headlines.
My undergraduate honors thesis focused on The Wizard of Oz. Instead of going into a PhD program after my BA, I decided to go into journalism. After doing my MA in Chicago, I did newspaper work in Colorado and New Mexico, which I loved. But academia still nagged at me, and I was interested in further exploring children's literature.
When I started my PhD coursework and began thinking about my dissertation, I was trying to answer questions about my own interests—Why am I so fascinated by children's literature? Why am I so fascinated by journalism?
This led me to the Golden Age of children's literature—basically the latter part of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth—which is also a golden age for the American newspaper.
How did your thinking in the development of your topic start and then lead to this publication? Did it stray? Did you make any sudden and unexpected turns?
Cub Reporters was my dissertation. The project evolved over many years. In the early days, I focused on the overlap between the figure of the child and the figure of the reporter in American culture—how in the public imagination, these were agents of curiosity. They also seemed to have a reciprocal relationship, the reporter in the child, the child in the reporter. This led my initial outline and scholarship to be rooted in the concept of curiosity. As my work began solidifying into distinct chapters, new ideas and possibilities emerged. It wasn't until after I had solid chapter drafts that I made the connection to what I eventually termed "artifice."
What surprised you most about this project?
So many things! The notion of "surprise"—the constant promise of discovery and newness—is why I love both reporting and scholarship. In particular, the ways in which American journalism and children's literature responded and reflected one another further revealed to me the constructed nature of childhood and adulthood as well as how we police ideas of curiosity and creativity.
In terms of the book's material and subjects, stumbling upon the Chicago Defender Junior was probably my biggest (and most delightful) research surprise.
What did you find to be your biggest challenge in working your way to completion of your monograph?
My monograph started as my dissertation, so when I began revision work, my professional world had changed—no longer was I graduate student with mentors surrounding me (at least in physical proximity), giving me guidance. Also, I was teaching full-time, so I had to be judicious with time. But more than that, I had to learn to really trust myself and the scholar I'd become. This was crucial since I recrafted the manuscript's organizing thesis.
What are you working on now?
I usually have several projects I'm juggling—articles and chapters in various stages of development. Ideas are never the problem. It's time! I recently finished work on a chapter for a collecting commemorating The Brownies' Book, published by W.E.B. DuBois and the NAACP in 1920. That research extends on my chapter in Cub Reporters on the Chicago Defender Junior by looking at other children's sections in Black weeklies around that period.
What topic would you like to tackle next?
I've been working on a new-book project since I moved to Atlanta and discovered the Center for Puppetry Arts. Puppetry may seem like a sharp turn from Cub Reporters, but it's really more of an extension. Cub Reporters considers how American children’s literature of the Golden Age subverts the idea of news; journalism, in the works that the book discusses, is not a reporting of fact, but a reporting of artifice. With this new project (tentatively called Play Things), I'm still thinking about artifice’s primacy to the human experience. While the cub reporters of children’s literature report the truth of artifice and relish it, the avatars of American puppetry similarly suggest the superseding condition of the human experience is that of creative invention—to be human is to create. The artifice of the puppet makes this notion inescapable. Through the creation of life via material means, puppetry promotes artifice, and promotes it through the acknowledgement of its process.
How did you become involved in AJHA?
My dissertation adviser at UNC Chapel Hill, Barbara Friedman, encouraged me to get involved and submit my paper from her journalism history seminar to the AJHA conference. This was my first paper acceptance as a doctoral student and it was so memorable that I kept the email sent me by then research chair, Janice Hume. Janice has been a wonderful role model and mentor, and is representative of the inspiring, encouraging, and supportive scholars students get a chance to know through AJHA.
How does your previous career working for major market and international news organizations relate to your research approach?
Working for more than two decades across multiple cities, beats and roles has given me a deep practitioners’ knowledge of journalism from which to draw on. I pioneered the ethnic affairs beat, and covered city politics, gentrification, immigration, business, and courts, among other things. As the only Mexican American woman general assignment reporter, I brought a different lived experience and perspective to covering the news. I was acutely aware of how unrepresentative journalism was (and still is) in relation to our demographics. While serving on the board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), I became involved in the development of UNITY, a collaboration between the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), and the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). We thought that by joining forces we might better push for change. This fault lines approach to journalism is a lens that I use in my historical research and is key to challenging limited binary approaches to understanding journalism history.
What influence does your family history and background have on your research interests?
I was raised in a bilingual, bicultural household and acutely aware of discrimination my parents, grandparents, and other relatives faced in San Antonio, Texas. For instance, one of my uncles, who had been a POW during World War II, returned home only to be denied service in a Texas restaurant. Mexican school children, when they didn’t attend segregated schools, were forced to sit in the back of the classroom. The front seats were reserved for White students. Growing up, we were exposed to both English and Spanish language media, and early on, I had a clear sense of Spanish-language media and its significance in U.S. journalism.
In your view, what needs to change in the field of journalism history and why?
It’s in some ways unfair to single out journalism history, because lack of representation is a significant concern throughout academia, the media, and our nation. Considering how reporting across the fault lines of race, gender, class, generation, and geography intersect with every beat, from healthcare, to business, to sports, to climate change, etc., it becomes increasingly clear that we need a faculty that looks more like America, and we need research that looks at journalism history through a range of lenses, theories, and methods.
It goes without saying that journalism history is more than knowing landmark events. Journalism history is at least in part about understanding the role of journalism in developing communities of readers and in many cases, inculcating ideas about who merits citizenship. In the context of journalism education, journalism history, if approached as something beyond merely toting up facts, helps ground future journalists in the power of the press, helps them understand that the press, in varied manifestations, is an institution that has helped build and shape communities, and has also been complicit in helping tear some communities apart.
What hobbies or interests do you have outside of academia?
Mark Twain has been (most likely erroneously) quoted as saying that “golf is a good walk spoiled.” I am more inclined to say that a walk is a good golf game spoiled.
Melita M. Garza studies news as an agent of democracy, specializing in English- and Spanish-language news, the immigrant press, and coverage of underrepresented groups. Garza is an associate professor at TCU’s Bob Schieffer College of Communication in Fort Worth. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012 after two decades as a reporter.
By Michael Fuhlhage
None of us can wait for the pandemic to be over so the archives will open to researchers again. For the time being, this is a good time to plan visits, and I’d like to share what I learned about navigating the major ones in and around Washington, D.C.
I was blessed in 2018 with the opportunity to work with materials from the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., and National Archives II in College Park, Maryland with help from AJHA’s Joseph McKerns Research Grant as I wrapped up my first book, Yankee Reporters and Southern Secrets: Journalism, Open Source Intelligence, and the Coming of the Civil War (Peter Lang, 2019). The Washington visit was guided by this question: How did Federal and Confederate military and civilian authorities act on secession-related information in newspapers?
A visit to LOC and the NARA research centers is like being a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, except that your prizes are notes and photos of artifacts. That was how I felt at the end of each day. The Library of Congress (LOC) is a good place to get your feet wet because its manuscript collection is much smaller and more manageable for a beginner to navigate than NARA. It’s also friendlier to your budget due to the time factor: At LOC, it’s easier to use online finding aids to build a list of collections to request. The Library of Congress Manuscripts Division is much more straightforward than NARA. The most commonly requested materials are catalogued online, though I still found myself combing the finding aids shelves for binders that guided me to the papers of more obscure historical figures.
The National Archives is massive, and though it’s impeccably organized there’s a learning curve before you can start accessing materials, and that takes more time. It helps to understand the organization of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government because all NARA materials are filed by department, agency, bureau and other federal unit. The downtown NARA center also has the legislative archives.
The following advice applies to both LOC and NARA:
Do your homework. All time is precious time in an archive. That’s especially true at NARA. Unless you have a solid game plan before you go, it’s easy to get lost in minutiae. If you need to consult the legislative archives at NARA, you need to know which term and session of Congress, which committee, and which dates you want to request records for. A good research library near you should have copies of the Journal of the U.S. House and the Journal of the U.S. Senate, which index debates, introductions of legislation, and how those were acted on by committees.
Make a game plan. You won’t know what, if anything, you might find until you request your materials, pull them off the cart, and dive in. The first thing you need to do is figure out which branch of the National Archives has a critical mass of materials within the scope of your studies.
Don’t just think in terms of prominent individuals; include in your search the military units and federal agencies with which your research targets served. You want to look up agencies, find documents that show orders they issued or requests for action they received, and use the names and events mentioned on those documents to trace back to evidence in other collections. Request materials associated with significant events by date, then look for correspondence by the people who are germane to your search.
Don’t count on even going to the NARA researcher rooms until you’ve spent most of your first day and perhaps more in the finding aids room. Get there as close to opening as possible. Even if you’ve worked with National Archives finding aids, identifying records to pull will take longer than you expect if you’re working with material from an agency or Cabinet-level department you haven’t worked in before.
Before you crack open a single aid, ask the curator on duty to speak with a records specialist. They’ll ask what Executive Branch department or agency you need to explore. Explain your project to them, and be ready to take notes and follow them around as they pull finding aid binders for you to review. The earlier you arrive, the longer you are likely to have their undivided attention.
Pack a lunch, USB drives, memory cards, and charging cords: You will save a lot of time since it’s a long walk to any place where you can buy replacements. The exception on brown-bagging is that you owe it to yourself to dine at least once at the cafeterias of LOC and NARA 2, which offer healthful, affordable meals with surprising local flair. Otherwise, save your per diem to splurge on dinner because you’ll be ravenous at closing time.
As for photography: It’s fair game for anything except classified materials. Take a couple of options with you. A small digital camera is great and may be more adjustable than your cellphone camera, but you see lots of researchers making pictures with an iPhone or Android phone.
To prepare for a new day in the archives, I wrote a debriefing memo every evening and used this to map the relationship between agencies and figures I found material about. I also noted what my targets were that day, what worked, what was a bust, and what my top five or so targets for the next day were.
The more affordable hotels, if you are driving, are out beyond the beltway. The tradeoff is commuting time, but you can use the time on the Metro train to write debriefing memos and stop off for dinner after your day in the archive.
Michael Fuhlhage is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
By Gerry Lanosga, AJHA Research Committee Chair
The June 15 deadline for AJHA's fall conference is fast upon us, and I was asked as chair of the Research Committee to put together some tips for submitters of papers, research in progress, and panels. Since this is my first year as chair, I decided to consult some voices of experience. I’m grateful that former research chairs Erin Coyle and Michael Fuhlhage answered the call, as well as former research in progress coordinator Keith Greenwood and current panel coordinator Rob Wells.
First, make sure to carefully read and follow all of the published rules. Having been stung by my own failure to do so once or twice, I cannot emphasize that enough. As Keith puts it: “Follow the call directions! Pay attention to length and formatting for the proposal and the references. As the call says, submissions that do not follow the guidelines get rejected.”
Once you get the technicalities right, what makes for a successful submission? Erin reminds us that AJHA interprets journalism history broadly and values research that explores diverse topics and time periods using diverse methods. Good papers make clear the contribution they are making to journalism history. “Strong research papers clearly indicate the manuscript's purpose, state what primary sources are analyzed, explain literature that provides a foundation for the analysis, and explain what method each author applied,” Erin says. “Briefly stating whether a paper uses document analysis, oral history, or other methods can help readers understand more about authors' interpretations.” Further, Erin notes that a good historical paper will include sufficient details “that contribute to the paper's main observations and clearly relate to the purpose of the paper.”
Something reviewers appreciate is good writing and organization. Michael, in fact, believes the writing is as equally important as the primary sources and interpretation in a research submission. I love this advice he gives: “The best papers minimize the effort the reader must put into them through clear expression and signposting in the writing. One of the most important signposts is one I remember Mike Sweeney discussing: an explicit statement of what the paper is about. I've taken to requiring my students to begin that sentence no later than the bottom of the first page.”
Leave yourself enough time to step away from the paper for a day and then make a final edit with fresh ideas. That can help you spot not just grammar and style issues but also unclear or missing ideas. “I say this because after you've been deeply immersed in a project, you might not recognize that the things you assume everyone would know aren't actually such common knowledge after all,” Michael says. “These things need to be explained to readers who are generally well versed in history but not necessarily in your topic, place, or era.” Make certain you deliver on the promises you made to the readers.
Erin adds: Make sure you check your citations carefully, since AJHA reviewers are footnote readers. (Also, she says, our reviewers tend to appreciate footnotes that contain additional context or stories.)
Research in Progress
Many of Erin’s and Michael’s suggestions for papers also apply to research in progress submissions. For instance, Keith looks for a thorough discussion of primary sources: “Don’t just list but give some indication of scope and relevance. It’s hard to evaluate them without a description.”
Similarly, the focus and contribution of the research, as well as how it differs from previous work, are critical. “Some proposals score lower because the history connection or the connection to journalism isn’t clear,” Keith says. “Write so that someone who doesn’t study your specific area can understand the topic and significance.”
Rob says he looks for panel proposals that have a clear mission to discuss a specific episode or topic in history from a variety of perspectives.
“Each of the panelists should be making a separate contribution to advance the overall narrative. The problematic panels have a general thematic idea and sort of a grab bag of papers under that heading. The good ones drill down into a topic.” Rob also likes to see diversity on proposed panels. That can include a mix of advanced students and seasoned faculty, for instance.
Major problems Rob has seen with panel proposals include the omission of a moderator, which is required, and the inclusion of panelists who are also on other panel proposals, which is not permitted.
I greatly appreciate these wise words from Rob, Michael, and Erin, and I hope you also find them useful as you finalize your submissions. This year’s research committee, including Rob and new research in progress coordinator Jane Marcellus, look forward to seeing your proposals. Good luck!
By Gheni Platenburg
Social unrest and violence have always created a need for activism. While protests, boycotts and, more recently, social media campaigns have all become common ways to express dissent and call for change, researchers have also found ways to fight against injustice. In recent years, oral history has increasingly emerged as a form of resistance.
Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change worked to promote oral history as an advocacy tool. Groundswell was an international network of oral historians; activists; cultural workers; community organizers; and documentary artists that “use oral history to further movement building and transformative social change.” To accomplish these goals, the network provided “mutual support, training, and resources in the practice of applied, community-based oral history.”
I attended the organization’s fall 2019 introductory training workshop in hopes of learning additional approaches to expanding my oral history work beyond academic journals. Over the course of six weeks, Groundswell members led my cohort through an intense online training consisting of lectures, in-class activities, homework and assigned readings. Like the organization itself, my cohort was also composed of people from different geographic locations, professions and fields of study.
From the start, trainers sought to establish the value of oral histories beyond the general collection, preservation, and analysis of historical accounts. Instead, they encouraged we also view the methodology as “a source of power, knowledge and strength in our struggles for justice” that “provides a unique space for those most impacted by injustice to speak and be heard in their own voices.” I saw this as an opportunity to move beyond a reactive standpoint in my role as a researcher to a more proactive role.
While trainers did review the basics of ethics, interview techniques and recording equipment, a large amount of the training was spent teaching the foundations of developing collaborative community oral history projects. These teachings provided guidance on building community connections, locating funding and finding strategy within stories. In my opinion, one of the best parts of the course was learning about all the different types of oral history projects underway.
One such example was the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, a “data-visualization, critical cartography, and multimedia storytelling collective documenting dispossession and resistance upon gentrifying landscapes,” primarily in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. The project’s website provides everything from the oral histories of residents to helpful information about tenants’ rights to a searchable database for area evictions and a digital form to submit reports of landlords’ wrongdoings. Another example discussed during the course was the Tibetan Resettlement Stories project, a collection of stories of the first Tibetan immigrants to settle in Boston sharing their experiences of political exile and resettlement. While neither example pertains to journalism history, both offered important applicable takeaways about project design and presentation.
A third example, Voice of Witness, is a “nonprofit that advances human rights by amplifying the voices of people impacted by—and fighting against—injustice.” In addition to publishing oral histories, project administrators also provided a complementary curriculum. Furthermore, the course also offered information on additional innovative oral history audio projects including walking tours, site specific audio installations and participatory community dialogues.
The course was nothing short of transformative. At the end of the six weeks, I felt inspired, motivated, and ready to jump on projects. In academia, professors often strive for the holy grails of journal article publications as a measure of success. Admittedly, there are obvious benefits to this model of information dissemination. However, this course reminded me to also consider how I can share my work with non-academics in a way that is meaningful and creates reflection and if necessary, change. Amid the nation’s current fights for social and economic equality, Groundswell provided a group of colleagues and potential collaborators for those looking to serve as change agents.
Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change, 2014, Retrieved from: http://www.oralhistoryforsocialchange.org/about .
 A few examples of the course reading include the following: Donald A. Ritchie, Doing Oral History (New York, Oxford University Press, 2003) ; Martha Norkunas, “Teaching to Listen: Listening Exercises and Self-Reflexive Journals,” The Oral History Review 38, no. 1(2011): 63-108.
 Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change, Fall 2019 Class PowerPoint.
 Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, Retrieved from: https://antievictionmap.com/
 Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, “About Us,” Retrieved from: https://antievictionmap.com/about
 Tibetan Resettlement Stories Voices of Boston, Retrieved from: https://www.tibetanresettlementstories.org/
Voice of Witness, Retrieved from: https://voiceofwitness.org/about/
Ashley Walter is originally from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Following her undergraduate degree at Duquesne University, she worked at the Pittsburgh City Paper, an alt-weekly newspaper. In 2017, Ashley graduated from Duquesne’s journalism department with an M.S. in media arts and technology. She is now a doctoral candidate at Penn State University working under Ford Risley’s advisership.
When and how did you first become involved in AJHA?
In 2015, I made the scary decision to quit my job and start a master’s degree. It is my good fortune that I was randomly selected as Pamela Walck’s research assistant. At that point, I had never heard of “research interests,” and, to be honest, I didn’t understand academic research. Pam asked if I was interested in helping her research a lesser-known WWII-era comic strip that featured a female protagonist. Saying “yes” to her changed my life. Through that project—and Pam’s patience—I learned how to conduct and write research. I also grew to love media history. We presented at AJHA and eventually published the piece in Journalism History. Later, once I started my doctoral program, I became an editorial assistant for American Journalism under editor Ford Risley. Here again, I was fortunate to have another mentor walk me through an essential academic process.
While Pam and Ford opened the AJHA doors for me, I felt such a warm welcome at my first conference. I immediately knew I had found an academic home, and I’ve attended yearly since 2016. One of my favorite memories was at our last in-person conference in Dallas when three women scholars I admire treated three graduate students to lunch. We had such a lovely time getting to know each other. I’m certain AJHA members are the most generous academics alive.
Describe your dissertation. How did you get interested in the project?
My dissertation looks at class-action sex discrimination lawsuits that occurred at print organizations during the 1970s. These lawsuits did so much to diversify newsrooms across the U.S., but they were contentious battles that pushed some women out of journalism.
I first learned about the lawsuits while watching Amazon’s short-lived TV show, Good Girls Revolt. Based on Lynn Povich’s memoir, the story details how 46 women working at Newsweek filed a sex discrimination complaint against the magazine in 1970. A few weeks after binge-watching the show, I was stuck at the airport after an AJHA conference. I was lucky to pass the time with Paulette Kilmer, who I told about the TV show. She then told me about the sex discrimination she experienced as a young woman reporter. I began to wonder how many more of these lawsuits occurred. Now I am conducting oral histories with women involved in the suits and piecing together this history.
What drew you to oral history?
Like many journalism historians who worked in media, I naturally gravitated to a method where I could interview people. It is my favorite part of my dissertation work, and I love immersing myself in stories.
Conducting oral histories during COVID-19 isn’t ideal, but in some ways, our Zoom-run world has given me access to people I couldn’t have visited in pre-pandemic times. The women I am interviewing are in their 80s and 90s. There is urgency in collecting their stories, and in some ways, the pandemic has helped me interview faster. Also, it has eliminated technological challenges that might have existed before. Everyone is Zooming now!
Why is oral history important?
Capturing voices and untold stories is always important, but as a feminist researcher, oral history’s value is in sharing marginalized stories. For so long, women were absent from history books and archives. When researchers amplify marginalized voices, we provide fuller and richer histories. There is a 1977 quote from Sherna Gluck that inspires my current work:
“With our foremothers we are creating a new kind of women’s history, a new kind of women’s literature. To this task we should bring the sensitivity, respect, tremendous joy and excitement that come from the awareness that we are not only creating new materials, but that we are also validating the lives of the women who preceded us and are forging links with our own past.”
Isn’t it great? We still have so many stories to capture.
What are your future goals?
I am on track to complete my dissertation in spring 2022, and I will enter the job market this summer. (Hey, hiring committees!) I hope to have a tenure-track job where I can focus on both teaching and research. I’m excited to pay forward the kindness I’ve received from mentors, and would love a position where I can mentor students. I’d love to become a graduate director someday.
What are some of your hobbies or interest outside of academia?
Since moving to Central Pennsylvania for graduate school, I started hiking several times a week. I also love folk music and enjoy singing and playing guitar. Before COVID-19, I frequently attended concerts and outdoor music festivals. I also love reading historical fiction and magazines. An ideal day would be spent lounging in my hammock with a New Yorker in my hand and a cat on my lap.
By Nathaniel Frederick II
As a member of AJHA and the National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), I support the officer’s goals to emphasize media literacy. The timing is perfect to broaden our scope and introduce our work to a new audience.
I attended the NAMLE conference for the first time in 2013, with the intention of learning new pedagogical techniques for a restructured of course I was scheduled to teach. There, I met educators, academics, activists, and students with a passion for understanding media messages and the role of media in our culture. The most surprising aspect of my experience was observing the international scope of media literacy efforts. In 2015, NAMLE and the UNESCO Media and Information Literacy Alliance held concurrent meetings. Attendees were able to meet with educators focused on raising the profile of media and information literacy in countries across the globe.
The goal of NAMLE is for people to be critical thinkers and media producers, using all forms of communication. Similarly, media history involves critical analysis and comparisons that help evaluate contemporary media systems.
In a course titled, “African Americans in Media and Culture,” I incorporated critical media literacy (Kellner & Share, 2006) which focuses on ideological critique and analyzes the politics of representation of gender, race, and class, and sexuality, while incorporating alternative media production. This perspective suggests that media can be tools for empowerment when marginalized or misrepresented people in the mainstream media receive the opportunity and tools to tell their stories and express their concerns.
By incorporating the work of media literacy scholars and exploring new pedagogies, we can facilitate active media citizenship by providing historical context to public health crises, social movements, and misinformation in journalism. Before the pandemic, Winthrop University collaborated with a number of stakeholders to organize a media literacy series titled, “News Literacy and the Future of Journalism.” The series included eleven events over eight months that sought to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections among democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry. Topics included the history of fake news; editorial cartoons; investigative journalism; and the future of journalism. By collaborating with other departments to recreating a similar media literacy events, a virtual program and would be inexpensive and a worthwhile endeavor.
I look forward to the research and pedagogical insights that come from alliances between AJHA and NAMLE. This interdisciplinary exploration will make media history engaging to students and highlight the relevancy of different subjects.
Nathaniel Frederick II is an Associate Professor at Winthrop University. He studies African American magazine history, representations of masculinity in television and film, the American Civil Rights Movement, and African American sacred music.
By Teri Finneman
I still vividly remember grabbing the newspaper off the kitchen table and hurriedly slamming through the pages.
Somewhere, in the middle of the paper, there it was: my very first byline. I was 17 years old and now a real journalist for the newspaper of my hometown of 2,500 people.
I often say I owe everything I have today to my work with weekly newspapers between the ages of 17 and 22. After that, I dared cross that red line over to the world of dailies, one I swore I would never cross.
In 2014, I returned to the world of weeklies when I partnered with the North Dakota Newspaper Association to capture oral histories of older/retired North Dakota journalists. I’ve been doing that work ever since. I frequently guest speak at state newspaper conventions throughout the Heartland, where I mingle with community journalists and return home to the world of weeklies.
Therefore, when I finally got the opportunity to teach journalism history, it was important to me to highlight community journalism history. After all, as Reader (2018) notes, there is little prior research focused on U.S. weekly newspapers despite the fact that “community newspapers, the vast majority of them weeklies, accounted for 85 percent of all newspapers in the United States and for three-fifths of overall print circulation” in 2015.
I wanted to go beyond journalism history in New York and Washington, D.C. I wanted journalism students to be told that a career in community journalism was just as important as one in the big cities.
Early in the fall semester, I invited the Kansas and South Dakota newspaper associations to talk to my history students about why community journalism matters. They impressed upon Generation Z that community journalism can align with their values of entrepreneurship, putting their multimedia skills to use while advocating for a community.
From there, I divided my class of 34 students into seven groups. I had already worked with the Kansas Press Association to identity seven notable journalists in the state to work with us so students could capture their oral histories. By the end of the semester, the class presented nearly 570 pages of new Kansas journalism history to the state historical society.
I began the assignment process by giving the students an overview of how oral history differs from journalism. I learned from my prior experience doing a similar project in South Dakota that it was best for me to be the one to go over the legal paperwork with the subjects. I also provided the students a base list of 100 questions that I ask of all of my oral history subjects. From there, it was on their group to complete the rest.
I am a big proponent of group contracts for group projects where every single task is written down and a student’s name is placed in front of it. Then, it is crystal clear who is in charge of (and accountable for) what. Students divided up research on the journalist, additional question development, the interviewing process, audio editing, transcript proofing and corrections, social media posts, and biography write-ups.
The pandemic created some issues in that I usually block off a whole day for collecting oral histories in person. Instead, we needed to use Zencastr and train our subjects how to log into that system so that students could remotely capture their audio through their laptops from home.
The students ended up having long phone calls with their journalists instead of video taping with them in person. They took turns interviewing their assigned journalists and hearing their life stories.
It was disappointing the students couldn’t meet these journalists in person. But even with the altered and distanced assignment, the impact on Generation Z was clear:
Doing the oral history project was one of the most fascinating things I have done. Talking to someone who made a profound impact in journalism history was like jumping into a book and seeing everything firsthand. Buzz Merritt is a very multi-dimensional man with a lot of great stories to tell. It was very different from just reading a history book because I learned about how his family dynamic, his favorite parts of the job and things he wants us to know. Participating in this project not only taught me more about journalism history, but also introduced me to an entirely different generation and how it made journalism what it is today.
Kansas journalist Buzz Merritt is pictured at his desk with two generations of newspaper technologies. Credit: Buzz Merritt.
Throughout this oral history project, I have learned just how important it is to document journalism history. This was one of the most rewarding projects I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. When interviewing Craig McNeal, I was so impressed and fascinated with everything that he has accomplished in his life and I found his career to be very inspiring.
When I first heard of what we were going to do for the oral history project, I had no idea the significance of what we were embarking on. I never quite understood how history was made or how people conducted informational interviews with a certain subject… I never thought that I would be making history in one of my classes, but I can honestly say it was a lot of fun, and I feel grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the new outlook I have gained.
These kinds of experiential learning projects require a lot of coordination for the professor among students, between clients, and between students and clients. If/when I embark on this endeavor again, I will decrease the number of oral history subjects to four or five to make it more manageable in a 16-week semester.
I benefited from a grant that helped fund this project. But whether or not you have the time or funding for a large project, the bottom line is this: How are you incorporating active learning of your state’s community journalism into your journalism history class?
Teri Finneman is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas and past chair of the AEJMC History Division. For more on this project, visit http://journalism.ku.edu/cherry-picked-ku-class-produces-oral-history-kansas-journalism.
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