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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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.
How did you become involved in AJHA?
I’ve been familiar with AJHA for several years thanks to involved mentors, but I didn’t join until this summer when I finished a paper submission after completing my master’s degree at the University of Georgia.
How did you get into media history?
My junior year at the University of Tennessee, I took a media history course with Ed Caudill. History and media had always respectively been my jam, but it hadn’t ever occurred to me that I could study the history of media. We explored the evolution of American media, and I found myself more drawn to our discussions about Hearst vs. Pulitzer and “The War of the Worlds” than I did inverted pyramid practice.
The next semester, Amber Roessner taught our course on literary journalism. She used historical, cultural, and critical lenses to underpin our class discussions about long-form journalism examples and practice. She couched substantial theory into what seemed like just a fun undergrad writing elective. It wasn’t until halfway through my second semester of graduate school (when I took a deeper dive into research) that I realized how she’d informed the course. She deserves much credit for my career as the first to recognize my interest and passion. She has championed me every step of the way and led me to other great mentors like Janice Hume and Karen Russell.
What is your most recent research about?
The paper I will present in October examines collective memory of the Civil War through newspaper coverage of Confederate symbols, extending my previous work to explore the role of Confederate flags in addition to monuments. The study derives in part from my master’s thesis. In the 1890s and later in the 1920s, Confederate flags and southern flowers served as symbols of goodwill, at least according to oft-quoted political and business power brokers. Organizers attempted to fly the “Conquered Banner” (the Stars and Bars) alongside the United States flag or used flowers in its place as a show of southern pride during unveiling events. I argue newspapers helped to craft the reconciliation narrative that resulted from a white-ruling desire to connect the sections economically, thus contributing to marginalization of minority dissent through potent southern reverence.
Your research mirrors today’s conditions in many ways. Were you inspired by current events, or was it coincidental?
My study actually started as a class research proposal in October 2019, well before the events of Summer 2020. I turned that proposal into my thesis proposal, not knowing how timely it would become. Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the Richmond, Virginia, Robert E. Lee monument the very day I analyzed initial coverage of its unveiling. The coincidence certainly sparked some reflexive moments to consider: a) history as a conversation between the past and present, and b) my positions on praxis and its future role in my career.
Finally, what hobbies or interests outside of academia do you enjoy?
Southeastern Conference sports dominate many of my weekends. It comes with the territory when you have degrees from two and work at another! Otherwise, you can find me listening to music, watching 60s/70s sitcoms or classic films, shopping, or spending time with friends. I love music and have been a musician for most of my life. I grew up playing piano and singing, and am classically trained in the latter. (Great for living in the Music City)! I also read French novels whenever I can. I double majored in journalism and French as an undergrad, so putting that other muscle to use always feels gratifying. La plus belle langue, à mon avis!
Lexie Little is a former magazine feature writer and sports columnist, now an associate content creator at Vanderbilt University. She is the 2021 recipient of the Robert Lance Memorial Award for Outstanding Student Paper and the Wally Eberhard Award for the Outstanding Paper on Media and War. She currently serves as Social Media Chair for the AEJMC Magazine Media Division and intends to later pursue her Ph.D. with interests in journalism history and critical and cultural studies.
The American Journalism Historians Association will conduct electronic voting in September to elect a second vice-president and fill three open positions on the Board of Directors. The ballots, which will be emailed to all members, also will include a proposed amendment to the Constitution and Bylaws.
Tracy Lucht and Ken Ward have been nominated for the position of second vice-president. Mark Bernhardt, Erin Coyle, Matthew Pressman, and Yong Volz have been nominated for the board of directors. The electronic ballot will include space for write-in votes.
After elections are held, current Second Vice-President Mike Conway (Indiana University) will become first vice-president for 2021-2022, and First Vice-President Aimee Edmondson (Ohio University) will become president.
Tracy Lucht is an expert on the history, experiences, and representations of women in the U.S. media. A winner of the National Award for Excellence in Teaching from the American Journalism Historians Association, Lucht teaches courses in writing and reporting for the media, news and feature editing, and journalism history. She has written, co-written or co-edited several books, including The Media in America: A History (Vision Press); Sylvia Porter: America’s Original Personal Finance Columnist (Syracuse University Press); and Mad Men and Working Women: Feminist Perspectives on Historical Power, Resistance, and Otherness (Peter Lang). Her latest research is about Amelia Bloomer and early feminist journalism. Lucht previously worked as a copy editor at USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Des Moines Register.
What AJHA means to me: “I owe my professional success to this organization and the people in it, who have given me material and moral support since I joined in 2008. As the overall environment becomes more challenging for us as academics and historians, it will be more important than ever for us to continue to support each other. I am interested in exploring ways to help our group evolve and flourish – and to help our members get the mentoring they need all the way through their careers.”
Ken J. Ward, the 2019 recipient of AJHA's President's Award for Sustained and Exemplary Service, has been involved in AJHA as the Convention Registrar, Graduate Student Chair, and a member of the Board of Directors. He also is chair of AEJMC History Division's teaching committee and co-host of the Journalism History podcast. Ward's research focuses on the journalism history of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. His research has appeared in top academic journals and received accolades such as AJHA's Robert Lance Memorial Award and the AEJMC History Division's Warren Price Award. Before earning his Ph.D. from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ward was a reporter for the McPherson (Kansas) Sentinel and a sports radio producer for 1410 KGSO in Wichita. He recently joined the Pittsburg State University Department of Communication in Kansas after three years on the faculty at Lamar University (Beaumont, Texas). He teaches courses in journalism and production as well as media history and law.
What AJHA means to me: “AJHA has been my academic home since I was working on my Master's, and I treasure the relationships I've built over these years through the organization. I wouldn't be who I am today without the mentorship and inspiration I've received from AJHA's members, and I'm thankful for that. In return, I've sought to give back wherever possible, be that on the board of directors, as registrar, or through committee work, and I'd be honored to continue serving the organization as its second vice-president.”
Mark Bernhardt is a professor in the History department at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, where he has served for fourteen years. Prior to that he taught at the University of California, Riverside, for the History department and Women’s Studies department. Mark received his B.A. degree in History from the University of California, Berkeley, his M.A. in History from California State University, Sacramento, and his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Riverside. He has taught courses on late nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. History, the American West, Sexuality in the United States, U.S. Media History, and courses examining how films have engaged with a variety of historical social and political issues. His research examines how newspapers, films, and television engage in public discourse about imperialism and its legacy in the transnational North American West, U.S. involvement in wars, social and cultural issues surrounding crime, and the impact of intersectionality in people’s lives.
What AJHA means to me: “I have been a member of the American Journalism Historians Association for five years and currently serve on the History in the Curriculum Committee and editorial board of Historiography in Mass Communication. I have also published in both American Journalism and Journalism History over the years. What has drawn me into this organization is that it serves as a home for scholars in a variety of fields with different perspectives and methodologies who share the common interest of studying History. As someone who works across disciplines, I value what the AJHA does and want to be a part of helping the organization strengthen and grow. Specifically, I support the ongoing advocacy to include Media History as a requirement in the Mass Communications curriculum and building connections with History departments as one means to accomplish this. It is something I have already been working on for the organization and I will continue to do so should I be elected as a member of the board.”
Erin Coyle researches advocacy for free expression, rights to access government information and government proceedings, and conflicts between free expression and privacy rights. Coyle teaches courses in journalism history, media law and ethics, writing and reporting, and theory. She has written a book, The Press and Rights to Privacy: First Amendment Freedoms Vs. Invasion of Privacy Claims. She also has published articles in American Journalism, Journalism History, Historiography in Mass Communication, and Communication Law & Policy. Her latest research focuses on journalists’ coverage of high-profile trials and American newspaper editors’ international advocacy for press freedom during the Cold War era. She has previously served on the AJHA Board of Directors and as the AJHA Research Committee Chair.
What AJHA means to me: Erin is grateful that AJHA and the organization’s members have played important roles in her professional life since she joined the organization as a graduate student. She values the mentoring, support for research, and promotion of journalism history education the organization and its members consistently provide to students and faculty. As a member of the board, she would like to explore ways the organization could provide more formal mentoring of students and faculty as well as encourage historical scholarship on diverse topics.
Matthew Pressman is an assistant professor of journalism at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. He is the author of numerous journal and mass-media articles and of On Press: The Liberal Values That Shaped the News (Harvard University Press, 2018). He first joined AJHA as a graduate student in 2013 and currently serves as book review editor for American Journalism and as co-chair of the Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference. He received his Ph.D. in History from Boston University and worked as a journalist at Vanity Fair prior to his academic career.
What AJHA means to me: “I would not be where I am in my career today were it not for AJHA. It has provided me, like so many other scholars, with funding opportunities, venues in which to publish and present my work, and access to outstanding research on journalism history and pedagogy. But just as important as those tangible benefits is the sense of belonging to a supportive community of talented scholars. In my experience, AJHA has always been welcoming and inclusive while upholding a commitment to scholarly excellence, and I would be honored to help maintain that tradition as a member of the AJHA board.”
Yong Volz (Ph.D., University of Minnesota) is an associate professor and chair of the Journalism Studies faculty at the School of Journalism, University of Missouri. Her research centers on journalists and their place in society and history. Working primarily in the tradition of historical and comparative sociology, her research explores the formation of journalists as a distinctive occupational group, especially concerning gender and social stratification, career path and professional mobility, social movements, and the construction of collective identity. She has examined empirical cases spanning three centuries from both the United States and China. Her oral history project – Herstory – brings to light the experiences of senior women journalists. Volz has received several campus and national awards, including the University of Missouri Alumnae Anniversary Faculty Award, the Outstanding Service Award from Chinese Communication Association, Adviser of the Year from Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society, the University of Missouri’s 2020 Jordan Hoyt Tribute to Women Award, and the 2021 Ann K. Covington Award for Mentoring. She is a former head of the AEJMC History Division and served on the advisory board for the Chinese Association for History of Journalism and Communication. She currently serves as Vice-President/President-Elect of the Chinese Communication Association.
What AJHA means to me: AJHA has been a special part of Volz’s academic career. She joined AJHA as a junior faculty member in the late 2000s and benefited from the many meaningful conversations she had with fellow members at the research panels, receptions, and group dinners during the annual conventions. She would like to be involved with AJHA and contribute to a forward-thinking and sustainable future of the organization. With her continuing involvement with other national or international academic and professional organizations, she hopes to help AJHA expand its partnerships and collaborations, promote and increase AJHA’s visibility and impact, and seek ways to better serve the diverse interests and backgrounds of its members.
How did you become involved with AJHA?
I first became involved with AJHA nine years ago as a graduate student presenting at the Raleigh, North Carolina conference. Since then I’ve presented several times as a graduate student and then as a faculty member at Virginia Tech. I served a term on the Board of Directors and have been a reviewer for the paper and research-in-progress submissions. I’ve always felt that AJHA is such a welcoming organization, and it provides a great atmosphere for sharing research and learning new insights into media history.
You were a practicing attorney before entering academia. How did that transition from lawyer to media historian take place?
Prior to becoming an attorney, I received a master's degree at the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, where I wrote my master's thesis about 19th century American media. After that I went to law school and practiced law, but I always was interested in history and research. As a law student I was a student editor for the Journal of Southern Legal History, which was part of the Georgia Legal History Foundation, so my interest in historical research never waned. In 2011 I decided I wanted to go back to get my Ph.D. and LL.M., a post-graduate law degree, at the University of Georgia and transition my career from lawyer to professor. I ended up writing my dissertation about U.S. public relations history, and I have been writing about PR history and corporate communication history ever since.
You are the Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Communication at Virginia Tech and also teach mainly public relations and communication law courses. How does media history impact your instruction on contemporary communication issues?
I think any time we teach a course in communication we should ground that discussion in history. The past provides context for the present day, and I think there is a great need, especially today, for communication students, whether it be journalism, public relations, or advertising, to understand historical context. It makes them stronger communicators and provides them with broader insight into society.
What hobbies or interests do you have outside academia?
I have a three-year-old daughter, Cayce Anne, so my hobbies have largely been centered around her interests and extra curriculars (swimming, dance, golf, soccer, and school). This summer, my wife, daughter, and I took a golf clinic (different classes) and have taken up the game. I serve on the board of my daughter’s preschool, and have been actively involved in Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) at the local and national levels. I also enjoy doing things around the house, especially cooking and gardening, and, when we get a chance to travel, spending time with my family in Georgia.
Cayce Myers is an associate professor of public relations and director of graduate studies at the Virginia Tech University School of Communication. He currently serves as chair of the AEJMC History Division.
by Teri Finneman, University of Kansas
Sitting at the Library of Congress, I held up the first letter and could feel my brain shifting like it was trying to remember high school calculus.
Except it wasn’t calculus. It was cursive writing. And I was trying to compute a language that I hadn’t used in years.
Discussions (and K-12 debate) about cursive writing have been going on for years. But during my trip to Washington to finally use my 2019 McKerns Grant, I found myself feeling a twinge of fear. Not scary fear, but vanishing culture fear.
After prior archive trips, I often would need to have my mom or my grandma help me read some cursive writing that I brought back. But this trip was worse than usual.
Some of it, I’m sure, is pandemic brain of trying to re-enter society in general. I used to know D.C. so well, yet I found myself making some wrong turns at times as I reacquainted myself with being outside of a Covid bubble and being back in reality.
But I’m also a Millennial. I spend 16 hours a day on a laptop or phone. My grandma died four years ago, essentially erasing all cursive writing exposure in my life now that I no longer receive her letters.
So as I sat in the manuscript room, I felt good looking at Grace Coolidge’s letters. I had to sit and think about Mary Lincoln’s (shown here) and knew that my mom was going to have to help with some of the words.
But Angelica Van Buren’s? I was so overwhelmed looking at that horrible faded brown ink cursive writing that I didn’t even take a single picture of it. Not a single word of it computed in my fuzzy brain.
I put the folder away quickly and moved on. But then I felt a massive amount of guilt for the next two days. If I, a first ladies researcher, was giving up that easily on Angelica, who would ever tell her story?
I wish I could say that I went back and tried again or at least took a picture. But I didn’t. Instead, I found myself wishing I could somehow take a class in historical cursive writing. And I find myself wondering what’s going to happen with Generation Z and the next generation of historians. Will we one day get to a point when few know how to read these materials?
The thought of that weighed heavily on me as I typed this sitting at Reagan airport. What can we do about this? Do we need to have a session at AJHA where there are a bunch of letters and a group of us Millennial and Gen Z scholars are put in a room while more senior faculty help us re-learn how to read cursive writing that we’ve barely used since fifth grade? I, for one, would gladly attend that session ASAP.
Maybe it’s just a matter of self-practice. Maybe I need to just pull up more digitized letters and get my brain used to seeing that language again. I’d be curious to know your tricks for reading historical writing and may need to get a Facebook conversation going on it.
Meanwhile, for those wondering about archive visits during a pandemic, the Library of Congress requires a special appointment to go under its Covid protocols. A limited number of people are allowed inside and are only guaranteed a half-day appointment each day. I made my appointment four weeks before going and opted for morning shifts. We could check to see if there were any afternoon openings once we got there, but there weren’t. They were full.
Once there, it felt very safe inside with all of us spread out and everyone required to wear a mask. From there, operations were fairly normal. I didn’t have any Covid safety concerns at all inside the building.
However, masking from tourists at my hotel was hit or miss despite being required. The same was true for a portion of men in the airport terminals. So that was the most pressing concern of archive travel and the predominant concern for any other historians to weigh as they determine whether to get back to the archives.
by Amy Lauters, Minnesota State University, Mankato
When I saw the coffin filled with copies of a working-class newspaper at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, England, the entire scope of the research project I’d gone to the United Kingdom to uncover changed.
The project started life as a proposed examination of how the Guardian had grown from its Manchester roots to become a national and international voice, and to what extent the Guardian played a role in building a community for its readers. The community-building function of media remains a keen interest of mine, and the McKerns grant I received from AJHA in 2018 provided me some of the funds I needed to take the trip to the U.K. to continue research in this area and lay the groundwork for future research.
However, when a friend suggested I visit the People’s History Museum on my first day in Manchester, those initial plans sharply diverged, as the newspaper in the coffin became my primary interest.
According to the plaque next to the coffin, the newspaper, called the Poor Man’s Guardian, had been illegal and regularly smuggled about the country in coffins of this kind in an attempt to keep the bearer from being jailed and fined for possessing it.
Several bits of that short story immediately piqued my interest: First, the word “illegal” applied to “newspaper” nearly guaranteed that I’d take note. Second, the lengths to which the publishers and readers of the paper apparently went to connect suggested to me a level of commitment that needed further exploration. And third, I immediately wondered if the Poor Man’s Guardian had any relationship at all to the current national Guardian.
The third question was easily answered with a trip to the museum’s front desk, where a helpful attendant directed me to the museum’s basement and its gorgeous newspaper archive. The archivist showed me the bound copies of the Poor Man’s Guardian, which was entirely separate from the original Manchester Guardian. The museum also houses an excellent selection of books about the press and labor history in Britain, which proved to be valuable in contextualizing the rest of the story I was beginning to untangle.
The timing of my visit was fortuitous; many organizations in the city of Manchester had begun rolling out events to commemorate the Peterloo Massacre, a protest for universal suffrage that ended in bloodshed in 1819. The Manchester paper was founded shortly after it, and I already had established that the Manchester paper had evolved into the national Guardian. (While an office remains in Manchester, its primary offices were moved to London in the mid-20th century. I visited both while I was in the U.K.) The rise of the Unstamped newspapers has its roots in Peterloo, as one government response to that event was to re-impose the newspaper stamp, making it economically challenging to produce and to purchase newspapers as well as requiring content to be pre-approved.
While none of the newspapers in the museum’s collection were digitized, I was given permission to go through them in the archive’s reading room and to digitize the copies I wanted to take myself, for a small fee per day. I quickly found myself sucked into the 19th century, reading week after week of the Poor Man’s Guardian and learning about a working-class community that was agitating for political change. The community had an underground network of distributors of the paper, which was Unstamped and therefore illegal.
The publisher of PMG, Henry Hetherington, got arrested and imprisoned three times during the paper’s run for the crime of publishing the paper. His editor, James Bronterre O’Brien, published in Hetherington’s stead, raising funds to replace presses that had been seized, coaxing readers to send in the minutes from their union meetings, publishing letters from readers incensed over numerous issues, including Hetherington’s imprisonment, and publishing a list, at the back, of all who had subscribed or contributed to the bail fund that had been set up. O’Brien also published notices looking for men without ties to distribute the paper, promising that if they were caught, their fines would be paid from the fund.
Hetherington and O’Brien rarely used bylines in the paper itself, and it would have been foolish to do so given the illegality of the work. Neither did they specify many of the techniques they used to distribute the paper, and again, it would have been foolish to do so. Some of the tales told now no doubt have roots in oral history that will never be verified.
The Poor Man’s Guardian also provides an example of a newspaper that folded once its purpose had been fulfilled. It had been founded to agitate for an appeal to the Stamp Act, as well as to provide a forum for working-class activists who were seeking universal suffrage, unionization, and representation. According to the editors, once the Stamp Act had been repealed, it was no longer as popular, and it no longer made enough money to sustain itself. PMG folded in 1836, and Hetherington and O’Brien moved on to other projects and publications. The publication itself is cited by British Labour scholars as a cornerstone of Labour Party movement.
My experiences traveling with the McKerns Grant provided an object lesson in the value of actually visiting archives and historic sites, rather than relying exclusively on digital archives. The work I’d intended to do became derailed by a story seldom told in the United States. And yet, that story opened up several new directions for research and questions about the nature of a free press and its development in the United States as opposed to Great Britain that could prove fruitful for future study. Certainly, the image of the newspapers in the coffin will never leave me.
Visit the People’s History Museum online if you can’t make it to Manchester in person: https://phm.org.uk
All images courtesy of Amy Lauters. From the top: interior of the People's History Museum; front page of The Poor Man's Guardian; a printing press at the museum.
Lauters also did video diary posts to send home to her family during her trip. The below clip is a from a visit to John Rylands Library:
Your browser does not support the video tag.
The AJHA Board of Directors is proposing an amendment to the Constitution and Bylaws, changing the title of the organization's Administrative Secretary to Executive Director to better reflect the scope of the office’s duties.
Board member Teri Finneman proposed the change, indicating that "secretary" is a dated term that does not encompass the full level of workload involved with the position. Executive Director is the title used by people who do the same duties at other organizations, making AJHA an outlier.
In February, the board voted unanimously to place the amendment on the fall ballot for a member vote. Per the Constitution and Bylaws, amendments must be advertised to the membership at least one month in advance of member voting, which will occur this year by electronic ballot before the virtual convention scheduled for Oct. 8-9.
The amendment would change the title wording only. The title would be changed everywhere in the Constitution and Bylaws where the Administrative Secretary is mentioned. See this copy of the Constitution and Bylaws with those locations highlighted.
Voting will occur via electronic ballot in September, along with the election for Second Vice-President and Board of Directors. Members will receive a link to the ballot via email.
By Kimberly Voss
With the fall semester starting, it’s time to look at which people and which media are included in our journalism history classes. Are we relying too much on textbooks that highlight the mainstream, and in the process, are we overlooking marginalized communities in our classes? NYU has a Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecard that is helpful in examining a syllabus and curriculum for diversity and inclusion, which is available online through the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. If you decide you can do more, then providing students access to these materials is not difficult as there are numerous archives with scanned materials for students to explore.
One of my favorite digital archives is the U.S. Caribbean and Ethnic Florida Digital Newspaper Project. It is a collaborative project between the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida, the library system at the University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras, and the University of the Virgin Islands. Thanks to a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the project offers digitized versions of ethnic and Caribbean newspapers, which are available through the National Digital Newspaper Program.
The collection also has articles based on topics, including the Bubonic Plague, the Armenian Genocide during World War I, and the presidential election of 1920. There are also sections regarding feminism in the early 20th century Puerto Rican press.
Another great resource within the project is the digitized version of Diario las Américas. The newspaper focused on coverage of local events, as well as news from across the state. It included a recurring news section “La Voz de Tampa” (The Voice of Tampa), which featured news directly from the paper’s Tampa office. There are about 15,000 pages covering November 1953 through December 1960 that are text-searchable in Chronicling America.
Also found in the project is the Southern Jewish Weekly, which began publication in 1939 when editor Isadore Moscovitz merged the Florida Jewish News and the Jewish Citizen to create a new newspaper that would be “an independent weekly serving American citizens of Jewish faith.” The newspaper was published in Jacksonville, Florida, once a week, with issues typically being eight pages. While Isadore was away serving in World War II, his wife, Mrs. Ethel “Teddy” Moscovitz, managed the paper and served as its editor in the interim. The paper continued as a monthly until January 1947 when Isadore returned to the United States.
An excellent collection of newspaper’s women’s pages are also contained in the project. As the collection notes, an examination of the women’s section in the Pensacola Journal reveals a portrait of the social calendar in the city. (The project has digitized versions of the Journal spanning from January 1905 to December 1914.) There were the traditional reports of weddings, births, and deaths, but also columns reporting illnesses, birthday parties, and club meetings. The social events found on the “People and Events” page typically contained a paragraph or more. For example, a 1909 “Society” column included four paragraphs about Miss Victorine Kroenberger, “a beautiful young Pensacola girl” who left home to “enter the Convent of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame” in order to become a nun.
One of the newspapers in the digital collection is the Ocala Evening Star, published from 1895-1943 before joining with the Ocala Banner to form the Ocala Star-Banner. From Jan. 28, 1902 to Feb. 24, 1908, the paper regularly dedicated space for local African American news, even though it was published by a white owner. Known as the “Colored Folks Column” from 1902 to 1903 and the “Colored People’s Department” from 1904 until it ended, it provided insight into African American life in the community and contained notices about illness and recovery, wedding news, deaths, and the availability of lodging and property.
The most important news to any community, just like politics, is local. Don’t be afraid to bring community and regional voices into your history curriculum. Direct access to primary source material, made possible through these digital archives, is instrumental to creating an inclusive environment.
Kimberly Voss is a professor at the University of Central Florida
By Dr. Kaylene Armstrong
When I first started reading one student’s media history research paper, I was surprised. Her writing had improved remarkably from all the previous work she had turned in. Naturally, my plagiarism antenna went up, and within a few keystrokes I found her paper word-for-word — on Wikipedia, no less. I expected the usual litany of excuses for plagiarizing — no time, started too late, illness/personal problems/work interfered with getting it done, etc. Instead, the response she gave was one I hadn’t really expected: “I’ve never written a research paper in my life, and you didn’t teach us how to do it.”
She was right. That’s the sort of thing my own children learned in their high school senior English class, not in a college class, right?
This piece is meant to spark discussion among colleagues so that more voices can add perspective and ideas for successfully tackling the student research paper.
Through the last few years of teaching a media history class, I have encountered several challenges with students when it comes to research papers: the assignment itself, the writing, the sources and the citations.
Making the research paper assignment interesting and at least a little challenging has always been my plan. I have each student write a history of his or her hometown newspaper. It wouldn’t be thorough by any means because it only had to be 1,000 words, but I hoped it would inspire them to work on finding some interesting things about what should be an institution in their hometowns.
The perimeters for the assignment include using at least four sources, one of which has to be an interview with a live person at the newspaper, preferably the publisher or editor, about its continuing role in the community. I suggest they ask the existing editor if an old, retired staffer was still around who also might have historical knowledge to share about the newspaper, knowledge such as when the old linotype machines were replaced with “cold type” or what quirks the old presses had or stories they have to tell about experiences in the newsroom.
The students are specifically warned NOT to use Wikipedia or any other unreliable sources. I suggest the students check for books or journal articles instead. In many areas of the country, enterprising researchers (perhaps as a dissertation) have written books or lengthy journal pieces about the history of a particular newspaper. As most of my students are from Oklahoma, I suggest they use a book found in our library: “The story of Oklahoma newspapers, 1844 to 1984” by L. Edward Carter.
The newspaper itself can serve as a source, especially articles from the earliest editions that might include information from early editors and reporters who address the purpose or goals of the newspaper. I encourage them to find the first edition (many are available online) and then determine who were the various editors.
When I first designed the project, I got excited just thinking of it. I tried to convey that excitement when we talked about it the first day of class. I expressed my hope that some of the small newspapers they wrote about would be interested in running an edited version of the student’s paper (with the citations modified), and I offered extra credit if they did.
I wish I could report that I got wonderful papers, with stellar writing and excellent researching, but alas I did not. No one earned an A. Most of them found the exercise daunting and not as exciting as I had hoped. Actually interviewing another person intimidated almost everyone in the class, even when I provided lengthy lists of possible questions to ask. Only a few included the newspaper itself as a source, but did a poor job of incorporating it smoothly into the paper. In fact, the biggest challenge for students seemed to be figuring out how to transition between the various pieces of information they found. Almost all had major writing problems: sentences that didn’t make sense (fragments and incorrect word usage), and grammar/spelling/punctuation errors. Few had taken the time to copyedit their work.
Now I spend at least a couple of days, sometimes three, on how to research and write a research paper. I hand out and review an example research paper that I created. I emphasize copy editing, reading work aloud, getting someone else to read the work. I remind them that I grade harshly for carelessness. I require all sources to be approved beforehand—so many want easy Britannica-like sources online rather than using the databases that the library provides to find academic sources and books. I require all papers to be submitted electronically so they can be run through Turnitin to find plagiarism issues. As usual, I encourage (beg?) all students to come see me for help.
A friend suggested I drop the research paper and save myself the headaches. I won’t do that. I will continue to try to teach these students how to do good research, and maybe I can spark the same love of media history that I have.
Dr. Kaylene Armstrong is an associate professor of mass communication, Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
I was encouraged by several of my graduate student colleagues to submit a paper for presentation at the AJHA convention. It was accepted and during that weekend I met some fabulous people who encouraged me, challenge me and in many ways helped shape my future. I would not be who I am today as a scholar, teacher, person without AJHA.
Why are inclusion, diversity, and equity important in education?
If journalists are going to tell other people’s stories, then they need as students to begin to understand that you are engaging with people who come from different cultures and backgrounds and that those backgrounds are connected in economic ways, in racialized ways, in different cultures. One of the most important ways to be able to have a better understanding is to be a part of educational environments that are diverse. I think that’s important. I think it’s always been important.
How can programs better include these ideas?
I think the most important thing is to introduce students to the ideas of inclusion, diversity and equity early as freshman. They’re in educational environments. We need to do a better job of educating them to better understand other spaces and cultures and embrace the fact that this is a never-ending educational process. And that process should start day one when you walk in.
What drew you to early 20th century Black press history?
I’ve always liked history, even when I was an undergrad, in particular, civil rights history. What draws me to the early twentieth century is looking at where the press and in particular the Black press, was and the role that it played in helping African Americans navigate Jim Crow. How do you navigate this space that you are in? How do you navigate being asked to be an American when you are denied the rights of Americans? They could pick up a white newspaper but the only times they’d see themselves in it was if something bad happened. The only place they could see themselves in education or church or all of these spaces that they lived their lives was in the Black press.
What hobbies or interests do you have outside of academia?
When I’m not working I like to play golf, cook (mainly BBQ) and watch sports (St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs). I don’t get to do enough of those things. Life as an administrator is pretty tough these days, but the joy comes from watching my students achieve their goals. That makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Earnest Perry is is the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at the Missouri School of Journalism. Dr. Perry currently serves as chair of the Publications Committee for the Association on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is a former president of American Journalism Historians Association, a former chair of the Standing Committee on Research and a member of the Standing Committee on Teaching for AEJMC.
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.
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