By Caryl Cooper
Once again, AJHA lived up to its reputation as the destination conference for scholars dedicated to exploring the people and events that have built the mass communication industry and influenced society. This year, more that 90 scholars converged at the historic Westin Great Southern Columbus Hotel. Most of our members realized that Columbus would be a memorable conference when they walked into the hotel lobby. To say that the hotel is beautiful is an understatement. The looks of wonder, smiles on everyone’s faces and the thanks for finding such a gem were priceless! Presenting historical knowledge in an historic hotel is truly a unique experience.
Scholars receive awards throughout the conference. On Friday, Molly Thacker received the Margaret A. Blanchard Dissertation Award. In addition to Tracy Lucht’s installation an AJHA president for 2023-2024, research and service awards were given during Saturday’s General Business Meeting.
Giving scholars the opportunity to present their research to other scholars is the mission for most academic conventions. For AJHA, panel sessions devoted to discussions that make the connection between our past and our present are equally important and memorable. Felicia Ross’ local panel, Ohio: a Haven for Presidential Beginnings, focused on Ohio’s influence on our presidents (eight were born or lived in the state) featured local historians. Also notable was AJHA President Mike Conway’s panel that addressed the future of inclusive history and the challenges some of our members are experiencing. Earnest Perry’s panel explored the evolution of political and racial consciousness in the black press and how those newspapers bridged the gap between mainstream and advocacy media.
In addition to focusing on historical research, AJHA’s convention is known for its focus on recognizing members for their research and teaching achievements.
Thursday’s Awards Luncheon featured LSU’s John Maxwell Hamilton, this year’s winner of the Sidney Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement and Temple University’s Erin Coyle, winner of the National Award for Excellence in Teaching. Coyle’s address about her commitment to students, teaching philosophy and aspirations was moving and memorable.
Making Community Connections
Each year, AJHA builds ties with the local journalist community by presenting the Local Journalist Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Public Interest to a local journalist in the host community during the Thursday evening reception. The convention’s Local Host Committee is tasked with identifying candidates that fit the description and selecting a winner. This year, the committee, comprised of Aimee Edmondson (Ohio University), Felicia Ross (Ohio State University) and LoWanda James (Conference Assistant and hometown resident), selected Jerry Revish for the honor. Revish is an award-winning journalist who reported news throughout the region for more than four decades. His reporting helped exonerate a man wrongfully convicted of rape. He received numerous awards for his commitment to truth: 13 Emmys and four regional Edward R Murrow Awards, and he was inducted into the Ohio Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2005.
In addition to identifying local journalists, AJHA uses the Donna Allen Luncheon to feature female journalists that are recognized in the community as having made a difference. This year the Local Host Committee identified two women worthy of this honor: Angela Pace, a 40-year television journalist and director of community affairs for WBNS-TV, and Edwina Blackwell Clark, executive editor of the Columbus Dispatch. For this luncheon, the Local Host Committee went back to the future and had a roundtable discussion moderated by Caryl Cooper, emerita, University of Alabama. The roundtable attracted many of the hotel staff that knew and respected Angela Pace.
Gala and more
More than 50 members gathered at Sidebar Tapas Bar and Grill, a local restaurant known for authentic South American cuisine. The Gala is a special time for conversation, networking and fun. Everyone gave the restaurant a five-star review.
Caryl Cooper is AJHA Conference Coordinator and an Emerita Professor from the University of Alabama.