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.
Call for Papers: Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression
November 8–10, 2018
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Deadline: August 27, 2018
The steering committee of the twenty-sixth annual Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression solicits papers dealing with US mass media of the 19th century, the Civil War in fiction and history, freedom of expression in the 19th century, presidents and the 19th century press, images of race and gender in the 19th century press, sensationalism and crime in 19th century newspapers, the press in the Gilded Age, and the antebellum press and the causes of the Civil War. Selected papers will be presented during the three-day conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, November 8–10, 2018. The top three papers and the top three student papers will be honored accordingly. Due to the generosity of the Walter and Leona Schmitt Family Foundation Research Fund, the winners of the student awards will receive $250 honoraria for delivering their papers at the conference.
The purpose of the November conference is to share current research and to develop a series of monographs. This year the steering committee will pay special attention to papers on the Civil War and the press, presidents and the 19th century press, and 19th century concepts of free expression. Papers from the first five conferences were published by Transaction Publishers in 2000 as a book of readings called The Civil War and the Press. Purdue University Press published papers from past conferences in three distinctly different books titled Memory and Myth: The Civil War in Fiction and Film from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Cold Mountain (2007), Words at War: The Civil War and American Journalism (2008), and Seeking a Voice: Images of Race and Gender in the 19th Century Press (2009). In 2013, Transaction published Sensationalism: Murder, Mayhem, Mudslinging, Scandals, and Disasters in 19th-Century Reporting, and in 2014, it published A Press Divided: Newspaper Coverage of the Civil War. In 2017, Transaction (now Routledge/Taylor & Francis) published After the War: The Press in a Changing America, 1865–1900.
The symposium is sponsored by the George R. West, Jr. Chair of Excellence in Communication and Public Affairs, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga communication department, the Walter and Leona Schmitt Family Foundation Research Fund, and the Hazel Dicken-Garcia Fund for the Symposium, and because of this sponsorship, no registration fee will be charged.
Papers should be able to be presented within 20 minutes, at least 10–15 pages long. Please send your paper (including a 200–300 word abstract) as a Word attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 27, 2018. For more information, please contact:
Dr. David Sachsman
George R. West, Jr. Chair of Excellence in Communication and Public Affairs, Dept. 3003
615 McCallie Ave.
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37403-2598
(423) 425-4219, email@example.com
Lionel Youst's short article reports that the repository features a 100-year print run (1907-2007) of the daily Coos Bay Times and its successor, the Coos Bay World. The repository also includes incomplete runs of local weekly newspapers: Coast Mail, Marshfield Sun, Empire Builder, and the weekly editions of the Southwestern Oregon News and Coos Bay Times.
Youst estimates that the collection is comprised of 30,000 newspaper issues or about 300,000 pages of newsprint.
He recounts that in 1906, local business people bought two weekly newspapers, the Coast Mail and the Marshfield Advertiser and merged them together to form the daily Coos Bay Times. The Times belonged to the Associated Press and later also United Press International.
"For more than twenty years, until December 31, 1927, the Coos Bay Times was owned, published and edited by brothers Michael and Dan Maloney. Michael had worked for prominent newspapers in the East, knew the business and transformed the newspaper. A painted sign on their office window said, 'Independent and Unafraid.' This was a message from the Catholic Maloney brothers to the Ku Klux Klan, which was quite strong in 1920s Oregon and was supported by the rival Southwestern Oregon Daily News," Youst writes.
In 1930, Sheldon Sackett bought the Coos Bay Times. He also owned part of the McMinnville (OR) Telegraph Register and the Oregon Statesman in Salem, and later owned several radio stations and weekly newspapers in Oregon, Washington state, and California.
Youst calls him "volatile, dynamic, but eccentric," and quotes a local journalist who, in 1974, wrote that Youst pursued an "extremely personal, often brilliant, journalistic adventure."
Youst also points out, "In addition to the newspaper repository, it [Marshfield Sun Printing Museum] preserves the plant and equipment of the last handset newspaper in Oregon and one of the last in the United States. It [museum] is open Memorial Day to Labor Day, Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m., and other times by appointment. For information, contact the repository curator [Youst himself], (541) 267-3762, firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Coos Bay Area Visitor's Center at (541) 269-0215."
(Editor's Note: The Intelligencer asked Dr. Matthew Pressman, recipient of AJHA's Blanchard Prize for best dissertation to tell us more about how and why he chose his doctoral dissertation topic, why it's important and interesting, and what he's working on now.)
By Matthew Pressman
Generating ideas has never been my strong suit. When I worked at Vanity Fair, I always dreaded editor-in-chief Graydon Carter’s monthly call for story ideas from all staffers. Each time, I tried to pitch at least one investigative article, one column, and one spotlight (250 words accompanied by a photo). But it was a rare occurrence for me to be satisfied with my “ideas memo”—it was even rarer for one of those ideas to make it into the magazine.
As a historian, I still struggle with idea generation, but it’s a different kind of challenge. Although the pressure is less constant, the stakes are higher—especially when the idea is for a dissertation or book. A research project like that is a multi-year commitment that can have a tremendous influence on career prospects.
Mulling over ideas for my dissertation as a second-year graduate student in 2012-13, I wasn’t thinking strategically about it. All I knew was that I wanted to fill a gap in the scholarship about a big, broad topic in American journalism history. I landed upon the question of how and when the mainstream press became contemporary—that is, when it adopted the values and practices that most people associated with it at the turn of the 21st century. The eventual result was my dissertation, “Remaking the News: The Transformation of American Journalism, 1960-1980,” which I am proud to say won the AJHA’s Blanchard Prize last year.
As I worked to refine my dissertation topic, I didn’t think much about how it might relate to the issues of the day. Having spent the previous eight years in magazine and online journalism, it felt indulgent to be able to write about something that wasn’t pegged to the latest news. Besides, as a grad student in history, I wanted to avoid the sin of “presentism.” But it turns out that my topic—changing journalistic values at a time when traditional media faced unprecedented criticism, and when technological and cultural shifts threatened newspapers’ economic survival—was quite relevant in 2016 (and remains so today).
I’m glad that’s the case. For one thing, it probably helped me get a contract to adapt my dissertation into a book, which is due out this fall (tentatively titled On Press: The Liberal Values that Shaped the News, to be published by Harvard University Press). But more importantly, it forced me to think about how the history I’m writing can help inform our understanding of the present. And it will, I hope, enable me to participate in the ongoing public discourse about journalistic values and the press’s role in society.
When casting about for my second book project, therefore, I expressly sought out ideas that would fill a gap in the scholarship and have some contemporary relevance. I think I’ve found one. I am in the early stages of researching a history of the New York Daily News in the mid-20th century. Considering that it was the highest-circulation newspaper in American history (over 2 million copies daily, over 4 million on Sundays), remarkably little has been written about it—there is a yawning gap in the scholarship. Plus, the paper’s coverage in those days reflected a nationalistic, right-wing populist viewpoint that bears striking similarities to that of President Donald Trump and many of his supporters. It’s a history that can help us better understand the present.
However, it isn’t enough for a research topic to be underexposed and relevant; it also has to be feasible. And for a historian, that means primary sources must be available. Researching my dissertation spoiled me, in a way. I used the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times as my two case studies. The voluminous, meticulously catalogued records of both newspapers are held in archives (the Huntington Library and the New York Public Library, respectively), and the back issues are entirely digitized and easily available via ProQuest (via subscription). Moreover, since I was writing about relatively recent history, I was able to conduct oral history interviews with many of the journalists who worked at those two papers during the 1960s and 70s.
The Daily News will present a greater challenge for research. Archival materials from the paper’s history are scarce, and they are scattered in multiple collections throughout the U.S. The back issues are not digitized, and very few libraries have the microfilm in their holdings. But I really like this idea, and given how rarely that happens, I’m sticking with it.
P.S. If any AJHA-ers have leads/suggestions on Daily News research material, I’m all ears!
Dr. Matthew Pressman is an assistant professor of journalism at Seton Hall University. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Boston University.
Reed W. Smith of Georgia Southern University recently has published his new book, Cecil Brown: The Murrow Boy Who Became Broadcasting’s Crusader for Truth (298 pages, $39.95 softcover, ISBN 978-1-4766-7202-1 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4766-3088-5 2017) The son of Jewish immigrants, war correspondent Cecil Brown (1907–1987) was a member of CBS’ esteemed Murrow Boys. Expelled from Italy and Singapore for reporting the facts, he witnessed the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia and the war in North Africa, and survived the sinking of the British battleship HMS Repulse by a Japanese submarine. Back in the U.S., he became an influential commentator during the years when Americans sought a dispassionate voice to make sense of complex developments. He was one of the first journalists to champion civil rights, to condemn Senator McCarthy’s tactics (and President Eisenhower’s reticence), and to support Israel’s creation. Although he won every major broadcast journalism award, his accomplishments have been largely overlooked by historians. This first biography of Brown chronicles his career in journalism and traces his contributions to the profession.
* * *
Patrick C. File, University of Nevada at Reno, on Sept. 30 was awarded the Nevada Press Association's "First Amendment Champion" Award for his work organizing and providing expertise for a student press rights bill enacted by the state legislature. He also recently has published two journal articles:
Patrick C. File, “A History of Practical Obscurity: Clarifying and Contemplating the Twentieth Century Roots of a Digital Age Concept of Privacy” Journal of Media Law & Ethics Vol. 6, no. 1/2 (2017): 4-21.
Patrick C. File, “Retract, Expand: Libel Law, The Professionalization of Journalism, and the Limits of Press Freedom at the Turn of the Twentieth Century” Communication Law & Policy Vol. 22, Issue 3 (2017): 275-308.
Fred Carroll's Race News: Black Journalists and the Fight for Racial Justice in the Twentieth Century was published by the University of Illinois Press in November 2017. Race News examines the commercial black press’s contentious working relationship with the alternative black press and its thorny interactions with a repressive federal government and hostile white media. Fred explains how shifting toleration of progressive politics reconfigured how black journalists wrote and covered the news. Carroll is a lecturer at Kennesaw State University.
Christopher B. Daly of Boston University in early December published a chapter in American Literature in Transition, 1920-1930 (Cambridge U Press). It is on the most popular columnists of the 1920s, Will Rogers.
A second edition of his journalism history book, Covering America (UMass Press), was published on Jan. 31, 2018. It has a new final chapter that brings the story up to election night, 2016.
His new book from Routledge, The Journalist's Companion, was has been scheduled to be released in February 2018. It is intended as a "sword and a shield" for working journalists and journalism students. It's a pocket-sized compendium of materials that are inspiring, humorous, and practical.
Finally, he informs us that "some time in the spring, I will be appearing in a documentary titled, 'Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People.' A new biographical interpretation, it will appear as an episode in the 'American Masters' series on PBS."
Academics, practitioners and research students are invited to submit competitive abstracts for presentation of papers or works-in-progress at the Public Relations History Conference to be held in Portland, Oregon, August 1-2, 2018. The scope of the conference covers public relations history in all its aspects, including corporate, non-profit, governmental and political communications, as well as publicity and propaganda in their various forms.
The conference is organized by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and will be held at the School’s George S. Turnbull Center in downtown Portland.
Papers for presentation at the conference will be selected, via peer review, on the basis of abstracts of approximately 1,200 words in length, including references. The abstract should express the purpose, method, findings, implications/limitations and originality of the study in a narrative style. Author and affiliation details should be printed on a separate sheet, and the author(s) should not be identified in the abstract.
Abstracts must be presented in Microsoft Word, 12-point font size, single spacing with 1-inch margins in standard, letter-size format.
Finished manuscripts of selected papers are to be submitted using APA citation style. The MS of 3,000 to 6,000 words, plus references, must be presented in MSW format, in 1.5 line spacing and 12 point font size, with 1-inch margins in standard letter-size.
Submission of abstracts: March 1, 2018
Acceptance notification (by email): The week of April 1, 2018
Registration opens: March 1, 2018
The UO School of Journalism and Communication in downtown Portland is housed at the George S. Turnbull Portland Center, providing an exciting urban environment within the media capital of the state. Located in the White Stag Block of Portland’s historic Old Town Chinatown district, the center is within convenient walking distance of the train station, local hotels and restaurants, and downtown Portland.
Downtown Portland boasts an amazing array of attractions, including an outstanding collection of cast iron and terra cotta architecture, the largest new-and-used bookstore in the world, a nationally acclaimed art museum, and a vibrant culinary community.
Outstanding public art, dozens of urban parks and greenspaces, a lively downtown, and a world-class transportation system are just a few of the many reasons to visit this jewel of the Pacific Northwest.
To submit an abstract and for more information, see the conference Website at: https://prhc.uoregon.edu. You may also contact conference organizers, Professors Pat Curtin (email@example.com) and Tom Bivins (firstname.lastname@example.org).
By Elisabeth Fondren
Ph.D. Candidate in Media & Public Affairs, Louisiana State University
Who would have thought? On a late August night, I was chasing run-off chickens that were supposed to be sleeping in the front yard of my Airbnb cottage. Someone had left the gate open and the chickens had wandered off into the street. Thankfully, the Palo Alto moon was a bright one that night. I caught them all, feeling thrilled.
This year has also been thrilling in other ways. While I am working on my dissertation – an institutional history of German wartime media governance – I often reflect on the places I was able to visit for my research, and the memories I made.
Funding for travel, conference participation and research trips can be a headache, especially for mass communication graduate students. In fact, the participation in national conventions, let alone archival research, often depends on whether our departments and universities will support these trips. I know that AJHA’s support of graduate students’ work – through peer-reviewed comments, encouragement, research paper awards, and helping to pay for travel costs – has been instrumental in my professional development and research.
At LSU, Dr. Erin Coyle first told me about AJHA and the warm, collegial atmosphere that especially welcomes graduate students and young scholars. After my participation in two conferences in Little Rock and St. Petersburg, I completely agree with her. And I am already looking forward to presenting my paper on “the laws of propaganda” with my committee chair John Maxwell Hamilton at the Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference in New York City in March 2018.
This last fall, I taught an undergraduate class in American media history. Throughout the semester, we explored how a historical perspective can help to provide context for the current state of media, the pressures on free speech (from government, industry, economy, culture) and the ethical challenges of journalists. Both Dr. Coyle and Dr. Broussard guided me when it came time to write my syllabus, conceptualize assignments, and they shared their expertise with my students in class. One of my favorite days was introducing the students to working with primary sources and historical artifacts. The vast collection at LSU’s Hill Memorial Library allowed us to take a first-hand look at Louisiana’s diverse press during the American Civil War. The students analyzed personal letters, advertisements, Louisiana partisan editorials, stories written on the Union occupation of New Orleans, news printed on ornate wallpaper, and French and German immigrant papers.
For my dissertation research, I was fortunate to spend three months in Germany to work at various political and diplomatic archives in Berlin, Potsdam and Freiburg. The archival sources on government plans for propaganda and censorship in Germany between 1914 and 1918 were overwhelming. One highlight was finding an unopened letter from 1917, sent by a German correspondent in China who was writing to the German foreign office about the “success” of their propaganda strategies abroad. “These are the fun moments,” said the friendly man at the Foreign Office Archive’s reference desk. I watched him cut through the wax stamp, and he let me open the 100-year old brown letter.
I also had the opportunity to work at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution Library and Archives this summer. This archive is a terrific resource for scholars researching political history, war, propaganda, and peace in the 20th and 21st centuries. The collection features international and U.S. records from both World Wars as well as the Cold War period. During my time at the Hoover Archives, I reviewed papers by U.S. diplomats and journalists working for the government as well as materials of the Captured German Records.
January, for a final trip for my dissertation, took me to the Library of Congress and the National Archives in Washington D.C. where I worked on U.S. World War I records. I would like to encourage other graduate students to seek funding opportunities and fellowships (many organizations advertise these up to a year in advance) through their institutions, doctoral summer schools, national organizations and archives.
I have been fortunate that LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication and other institutions have provided me with these opportunities. Thank you very much to the American Journalism Historians Association and all members for your sincere support, interest, encouragement, and review of graduate students’ research and their teaching development.
Fondren won the Jean Palmegiano Award for Outstanding International/Transnational Journalism History Research at the AJHA annual convention in Little Rock in 2017. She was awarded the Wally Eberhard Award for Outstanding Research in Media and War, and the Robert Lance Memorial Award for the Outstanding Graduate Student Paper at the AJHA annual convention in St. Petersburg in 2016.
This story is the first in a series of three oral histories conducted by the Oral History Committee in 2017.
By Teri Finneman
Kathleen Endres once received one of the greatest Christmas gifts ever for a journalism historian.
Concerned about how late she was staying at the library, her parents bought her a microfilm machine to have at home.
“What a thoughtful gift,” she said.
Since then, she’s added to her home collection a microfiche machine no longer wanted by a library, thereby creating a true historian haven.
Endres, who won AJHA’s Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2017, is a distinguished professor at the University of Akron and one of three members chosen in 2017 by the Oral History Committee for in-depth interviews.
Endres has a special fondness for AJHA, of which she’s been a member for 35 years. The academic conference was her first, and she still recalls her excitement when she learned such an organization existed.
“I thought that was really cool because that [being a journalism historian] was what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she said. “I mean, truly, that’s all I wanted to be when I grew up.”
She submitted a paper on abortion advertising, received an acceptance and “the rest is history.” She’s attended almost every convention since and served in various leadership positions within the organization. This includes serving on the board and committees and organizing auctions and historic tours.
She thinks AJHA plays an important role in supporting media history.
“I think it’s a really important forum for people to discuss ideas and cooperate with each other, give each other support, bring a new generation of journalism historians in, support these new people, support journalism history in general,” Endres said.
Endres is originally from Toledo, Ohio, and attended college at the University of Toledo. She received her master’s degree from the University of Maryland and her Ph.D. from Kent State.
Her journalism career focused on business reporting for publications such as Datamation magazine and Rubber & Plastics News.
She made the transition from industry to academia due to her love of research. Throughout her career, she has written or edited six books and one monograph, as well as numerous peer-reviewed articles.
“I love history, and it’s really interesting because when I was working on my Ph.D., which is in history, I had always planned on being a journalism historian – much to the chagrin of my adviser and many of my teachers. They thought I’d be better off in history,” Endres said.
Endres started out studying the history of business journalism and trade publications, but also has conducted research related to women and to magazine history. Recently, she’s focused on the release of her documentary, “BLIMP! Sports, Broadcasting and the Goodyear Airship.”
She thinks there’s been a recent renewal of interest in history by the public and has been pleased to see the level of enthusiasm among her students. From her own days as a student until now, she’s come to appreciate the amount of concentration and time required to do history well.
For Endres, winning AJHA’s lifetime achievement award was a tremendous honor from a group of peers who have become like family.
“This is my academic home,” she said, adding a touch of humor: “I know where all the skeletons are here, or many of them.”
Stay tuned for the next interviews in this year’s series with Bernell Tripp and Jinx Broussard.
Editor's Note: Dr. Amber Roessner of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville received AJHA's annual teaching award at the AJHA convention in Little Rock in October 2017. Reprinted below are her remarks at the time:
I am truly honored to receive the American Journalism Historians Association’s National Award for Excellence in Teaching. To be mentioned in the same breath as past recipients, whom I hold in high esteem and count as my pedagogical mentors, is a mark of distinction that I will always treasure.
In many respects, I have developed my style of teaching based upon the models of the individuals, whom I encountered here at AJHA and as a student at the University of Georgia. They all share one thing in common—they all seek to passionately impart to every student that they encounter the influence of the histories of journalism, media, and mass communication on our ways of life by creating authentic communities of learning.
My mentors taught me to create authentic community by sharing their passions, and that’s one goal that I always have sought to emulate. Many of our students have missed the boat when it comes to developing a desire to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners. We must, of course, meet our students where they are, but we should greet them with enthusiasm. We all know that journalists and all mass communications professionals play instrumental roles in our culture—as watchdogs, as storytellers, as keepers of memory, as liaisons between various publics, and as media historians and educators, we perform a crucial role in sharing with our students how our pasts inform our present circumstances and our future prospects. As my mentor, Janice Hume, puts it in her undergraduate history of mass communications’ syllabus: “understanding [past] challenges will help us face our own.”
It seems that we are faced with a great many challenges in our world today, and it would be easy to ourselves become indifferent or apathetic. I urge you today to reject that impulse and to instead take advantage of the opportunities that have been afforded to you as educators, such as the one that was afford to me in 2012 when Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s great granddaughter reached out to the University of Tennessee for help in honoring the pioneer social justice crusader. That plea for help spurred myself and my students at the University of Tennessee to launch the Ida Initiative, an interdisciplinary project to foster research about the life, work, and legacy of Wells-Barnett and other like-minded social justice crusaders by scholars and students of communication and history, and served as the inspiration and foundation for a forthcoming edited volume from Lexington Books about Wells-Barnett.
I also would encourage you to achieve excellence in teaching by heeding some basic advice: Never stop learning, even from your students. This lesson became manifest to me just this summer when I learned that one of my former graduate students, who has a little girl about the age of my son Joseph, was diagnosed with stage-four brain cancer. Over the last few months, I have watched with what can only be described as a profound sense of agony and admiration as Josh has battled his illness. Agony for the pain that he and his family have continued to endure and admiration for his determination to finish his research at the University of Tennessee—to share the histories that have moved him with a new generation. So today, I leave you with perhaps the most important lesson that I’ve learned as a professor—strike that—as a human: may we all be a bit more like Josh, may we, in the words of Gandhi: “Live as if [we] were to die tomorrow. Learn [and, in turn teach] as if [we] were to live forever.” Thank you, Josh, for teaching me this lesson, and thank you, AJHA, for this award that I will always hold near and dear to my heart.
Final Note: If you would like to contribute funds toward this graduate student’s medical expenses as he battles brain cancer, consider donating through https://www.youcaring.com/joshhodge-882854
History in the Making
By Dianne Bragg
Like most of you, which is why we are members of AJHA, my mind often turns to the historical importance that might be attached to current events. By nature, historians notice places and dates and ponder their historical significance. It is virtually impossible for us not to consider the past when we are perusing the present. We are not alone, though, in our predilection for doing so. It even happens in popular culture.
Recently, when Britain’s Prince Henry of Wales, affectionately known as Harry, and his bride-to-be, Meghan Markle, announced that their marriage would occur on May 19, 2018, Twitter went into a flutter over the significance of the date. Was it just coincidence that May 19 also happened to be the date that Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, lost her head in 1536? Did anyone tell the couple about the historical significance of the day? Should they change the date? If they ever had a daughter, would they dare name her Anne? The questions flew.
We find ourselves, for whatever reason, looking to the past to offer some possible explanation or significance for the present. Events do not happen in a vacuum and historians often find themselves in the position of answering questions of how and why we have come to a particular point politically, socially, or culturally. Although those answers are not always clearly defined, we make it our life’s work to do our part in mining the fields of history and seeking context for today.
On December 20, 2017, AJHA member Jon Marshall of Northwestern University wrote a column that appeared on the Washingtonpost.com site as part of its “Made by History” project. Marshall’s piece about the Post’s Watergate investigation examines links between the Trump administration’s hostility toward the press and the Nixon administration’s similar behavior. Marshall details an error made by the Post’s Bernstein and Woodward team and highlights errors that have made recent headlines. Marshall notes the process the Post and its editors used to ensure the accuracy of their reporting and how today’s journalists should emulate that work, despite the intense time pressures that now exist in today’s news cycle.
We look to the past in order to move forward into the future. Likewise, as I begin my tenure as president of AJHA, I look to the past for my inspiration and guidance. AJHA has been fortunate to have had so many esteemed leaders who have given so much to make this organization the beacon of journalism history this it is today. I am both honored and daunted to follow in their footsteps. As we closed out 2017 and embark on 2018, I wish for you all a Happy New Year and great success in whatever historical sleuthing endeavors you might undertake in the coming months. And, as always, I am excited to see what AJHA members have to offer in helping us to explain the historical implications of the world around us.
(Editor's Note: Debra Hale-Shelton of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was one of two recipients of AJHA's Local Journalist award at the AJHA's annual convention in Little Rock in October 2017. She was gracious enough to share her prepared remarks with the Intelligencer's readers.)
Thank you, Donna. And thank you to the American Journalism Historians Association. I am truly grateful and honored by this award.
I want to thank a few other people, too.
—Like Dorothy Stuck. She gave me my first job as a teenager at the weekly Marked Tree Tribune in northeast Arkansas. She was one of the few editors I’ve ever known who actually did stop the presses. That was on June 6, 1968, the day Robert Kennedy died from an assassin’s bullet. Mrs. Stuck quickly typed an editorial. I still remember the headline, “As a Nation Thinketh….”
—A few years later, a legendary and often combative Arkansas journalist gave me my first full-time job at The Associated Press in Little Rock. His name was John Robert Starr. And if he were here today, he might take credit for my being an aggressive reporter. I shall not forget the time he called me into his office in the '70s. I was in my 20s, naive and totally unaware of anything remotely amiss in Mr. Starr’s life. He told me I was not being aggressive enough when I questioned newsmakers. I disagreed. He said, “OK, ask me a tough question.” Out of nowhere, I said, “Have you ever had an affair?” He stared at me, was silent a few seconds and then said I could leave. He never answered my question.
My AP job later took me to Atlanta, Louisville and Chicago, where I spent most of my adult career. That’s where I interviewed a young Donald Trump when he and other USFL team owners were trying to save the dying league. The most remarkable thing about that interview is that an AP editor even saw fit to send me to cover a USFL meeting. I’m not a sports buff. I mean I get the Cubs and the Bears mixed up. The next most interesting thing is that I forgot about meeting Trump until a sports writer reminded me a few years later.
For some reason, I’ve never been easily intimidated by the rich or the powerful. In the early '80s, I was working the desk at the Little Rock AP on a Friday night. If you know anything about Arkansas, you know that newsrooms are incredibly busy during football season.
Earlier that day, I had called a young Bill Clinton who was trying to regain Arkansans’ favor and return to the governor’s mansion. I was working on a story about him and the death penalty, a topic almost as controversial in Arkansas as prep football. About 9:30 that night, Clinton called me back.
“I can’t talk to you now,” I told him. “It’s prep football night.”
“That’s OK,” he said. “You can call me later.”
“Well, it’s going to be late,” I said. Maybe 11or 12.”
About midnight, I called him back. He answered the phone and my questions.
Yes, I’ve been around long enough to remember when Clinton sported an Afro hairdo, Hillary wore UFO-style glasses and Clinton’s first PR man was the only one he could afford then — his younger brother Roger, Arkansas’ version of the late Billy Carter.
When I look back on my decades in journalism, a few events stand out. Among them were my interviews with former President Carter, an incredibly humble man; a bizarre conservation I had with the late Ann Landers when she endorsed masturbation as safe sex; and Michael Jackson’s breaking into a song as he testified during a plagiarism trial in Chicago in the 1980s.
But the story that lingers with me the most was among my first. It happened in 1972 when a young Air Force lieutenant was shot down over North Vietnam. I interviewed his family by phone. For years, Steve Musselman of Texarkana was listed as missing in action. Not long ago I began thinking about the people I’ve written about and sometimes forgotten about. So, I did a Google search of Musselman’s name. On July 7, 1981, Hanoi returned his and two other servicemen’s remains, incomplete and packed in separate, small wooden boxes.
So, to you my colleagues, I want to stress that our stories, no matter how serious, controversial or humorous, are about real people. We may forget many of the people we write about. But they will always matter. And their stories may well go on long after we are done with them.
I also want to say thank you to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and its readers. Without them, I would have no job. Without good editors, I would have not had the guidance or editing I often needed. I specifically thank Walter Hussman, Nat Lea, David Bailey, Danny Shameer, Steve Goff and former editor Heidi White. I offer a special thank you to the late Bill Simmons, who more than once put me in my place when I was starting out at the AP and who recommended me for this job.
Finally, I want to thank my wonderful parents Al and Dorothy Hale, my husband Huey and my daughter Annie for their support and understanding of the words, “I’m working late. We’ll fend for ourselves tonight.”
Copyright © 2017 AJHA ♦ All Rights Reserved
Contact AJHA via email