Intelligencer is a blog featuring teaching and research essays as well as news about the organization and its members.
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The American Journalism Historians Association has selected Thomas J. Hrach as the winner of its 2017 Book of the Year Award for his 2016 work, “The Riot Report and the News: How the Kerner Commission Changed Media Coverage of Black America.”
Hrach will receive his award and discuss his research during a special session at the 36th annual AJHA Convention, to be held Oct. 12-14 in Little Rock, Ark.
“I am honored and grateful that my colleagues who study journalism history have chosen to recognize my work,” Hrach said. “I have enjoyed being a member of the AJHA and the support I have received from the members is appreciated.” Hrach is associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Memphis.
In researching this book, Hrach relied upon original documents from the 1968 Kerner Commission at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, documents about Otto Kerner from the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Ill., and interviews with people willing to share their memories of the commission’s work. Citing his concerns about “the future of journalism as a profession in our current economic and political climate,” Hrach said he hoped his book will show the importance of professional journalism.
“Journalism is as important as ever,” Hrach said, adding he hoped his book would show “the power of good, quality journalism to improve the lives of people in a democratic nation.”
Editor’s Note: Ohio University Prof. Ellen Gerl presented her research-in-progress, “Operation Eggnog: Collier's 1951 Narrative Issue Takes on the Cold War,” at the recent International Association of Literary Journalism Studies conference held in Canada. The Intelligencer asked Prof. Gerl to tell us more about how and why she started researching this topic, and why this research is important and interesting for herself and our field.
By Prof. Ellen Gerl
I came across Collier’s special October 27, 1951, issue, “Preview of the War We Do Not Want,” while looking for examples of nuclear doomsday narratives. I planned to expand some previous research on the St. Louis Citizens Committee for Nuclear Information, a group whose newsletter story about their city post nuclear bombing was picked up in the Saturday Review and other national media. But I dropped that research idea. The Collier’s issue was just too interesting: three hundred pages of fact-filled reportage about a hypothetical World War III; bylines of Edward R. Murrow, Red Smith, Marguerite Higgins and others; and the in-house codename Operation Eggnog. Although a secret code name was reason enough to investigate, I also noticed that the issue’s editor was Cornelius Ryan, who would go on to write the non-fiction bestseller The Longest Day and whose papers happened to be located at Ohio University, my academic home.
Unfortunately, my elation over visiting an archive that didn’t require travel funds was short-lived. The collection lacked material from Ryan’s tenure at Collier’s. But Crowell-Collier Publishing Company correspondence held at the New York Public Library’s archives showed how editorial staff shaped the issue. Over ten months, Ryan traveled to Europe and across the United States to cajole writers to participate. At their New York offices, editors debated how the fake war would start, who should write about women, and whether they might convince Winston Churchill to pen a story. In all, the magazine spent an extra $40,000 on articles, sold double a normal issue’s advertising and printed an extra half million copies.
Historian Frank Luther Mott wrote that the magazine’s “motives were patriotic,” and letters I read indicated that the U. S. State Department unofficially supported the project. It also seems some Collier’s editors disliked the U. S. policy of containment, favoring a conquer communism head-on strategy. The editors’ note in the front of the issue described their big, and not-very humble, goals: “(1) to warn the evil masters of the Russian people that their vast conspiracy to enslave humanity is the dark downhill road to WW III; (2) to sound a powerful call for reason and understanding between the peoples of the West and East--before it’s too late; (3) to demonstrate that if The War We Do Not Want is forced upon us, we will win.”
Robert E. Sherwood, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former director of the Office of War Information, wrote the issue’s introductory article. When he turned in his manuscript, he commented to editors that he thought his piece should be “coldly factual as possible,” not sensational, so that the reader would think: “God this is it! This is precisely what can happen.”
My IALJS presentation focused on the markers of literary journalism within the issue such as concrete details, cinematic scenes and emotional appeals. The issue also raised the question of what role truthiness plays in “hybrid” texts that mix facts and fiction. Scholar Annjeanette Wiese’s work was helpful here. I also discussed the mechanism of transportation in literary narratives, that is, the extent to which readers’ beliefs are affected when they become lost in a text. I found recent work on transportation and persuasion by researchers Timothy C. Brock, Melanie Green and Karen Dill fascinating on this subject.
Overall, I suspect that readers did not suspend belief as much as they wanted to believe that democracy would always prevail.
I am uncertain where to take this research next, but there’s much here to mine: Cold War propaganda, ethical issues, 1950s-style fake news. I’d be interested to hear from AJHA members who are Cold War media historians, which I am not.
The only disappointing research finding? The codename Operation Eggnog, the editors noted, was just a meaningless moniker for “easy office identification.”
Prof. Gerl is Associate Professor, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University.
Editor’s Note: University of Arizona Prof. Susan E. Swanberg, J.D., Ph.D., presented her paper, “Writing While Under the Influence: John Hersey and the Writings of Hiroshima Eyewitness John A. Siemes, S.J.,” at the recent International Association of Literary Journalism Studies conference held in Canada. The Intelligencer asked Dr. Swanberg to tell us more about how and why she started researching this topic, and why this research is important and interesting for herself and our field.
By Prof. Susan E. Swanberg
University of Arizona
"If ever there was a subject calculated to make a writer overwrought and a piece overwritten, it was the bombing of Hiroshima; yet Hersey's reporting was so meticulous, his sentences and paragraphs were so clear, calm, and restrained, that the horror of the story he had to tell came through all the more chillingly." ‘John Hersey’ (obituary) The New Yorker (1993)(1)
John Hersey’s Hiroshima is a compelling masterpiece, a tour de force no less terrifying and moving than the day it was published in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker magazine.(2)
The lore associated with the writing of Hiroshima is fascinating. New Yorker editor, William Shawn, apparently suggested that Hersey write about Hiroshima and Hersey modeled the book’s outline on the structure of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey – which Hersey read while in sick bay in the belly of a boat on its way to the vanquished city.(3)
The provenance of Hiroshima tempts a curious reader to reconstruct Hersey’s creative path from journalist, to fiction author (A Bell for Adano), to author of Hiroshima. Hersey’s New Yorker obituary described him as a novelist and a teacher but “above all a reporter.”(4)
How did Hersey move with such fluidity between fiction and nonfiction? The evolution of an author’s voice is at the crux of the creative process.
Voices of the Atomic Age
I became fascinated with Hersey’s best-known work as I researched another important voice of the Atomic Age – William Leonard Laurence, the New York Times science journalist who was embedded for four months with the War Department, ostensibly as the Manhattan Project’s “historian.”(5)
After reading Laurence’s Pulitzer Prize-winning accounts of the development and use of the atomic bomb, I picked up Hiroshima, which I reluctantly admit I’d given only a desultory reading when in high school.
I read Hiroshima, read several of Laurence’s books, then read Hiroshima again. I realized that both Laurence and Hersey mentioned a Jesuit mission within Hiroshima proper and a Jesuit novitiate at Nagatsuka, several miles outside the Hiroshima city limits. Names of Jesuits associated with the mission and the novitiate were mentioned in the works of both authors. It didn’t take long for me to identify and locate the writings of Father John A. Siemes, S.J. – pivotal influence on both Laurence and Hersey.(6)
Father John A. Siemes was a German Jesuit priest, born in Cologne in 1907 and ordained in 1937. A professor at Tokyo’s Catholic University, now known as Sophia University, Siemes taught philosophy and published a number of scholarly works. After the bombing of Tokyo Siemes moved, along with a number of his students, to the novitiate at Nagatsuka.(7,8)
On August 6, 1945, when the bomb struck, Siemes was at the novitiate on the outskirts of Hiroshima. After the bombing, Siemes filed an eyewitness report with the Vatican. A version of Siemes’ report was reprinted, with the permission of the Vatican magazine, Jesuit Mission, in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Siemes’ report began as follows:
Up to August 6th, occasional bombs, which did no great damage, had fallen on Hiroshima. Many cities roundabout, one after the other, were destroyed, but Hiroshima itself remained protected. There were almost daily observation planes over the city but none of them dropped a bomb. The citizens wondered why they alone had remained undisturbed for so long a time. There were fantastic rumors that the enemy had something special in mind for this city, but no one dreamed that the end would come in such a fashion as on the morning of August 6th.(9)
"August 6th began in a bright, clear, summer morning. About seven o'clock, there was an air raid alarm which we had heard almost every day and a few planes appeared over the city. No one paid any attention and at about eight o'clock, the all-clear was sounded."(10)
"Suddenly-the time is approximately 8: 14-the whole valley is filled by a garish light which resembles the magnesium light used in photography, and I am conscious of a wave of heat. I jump to the window to find out the cause of this remarkable phenomenon, but I see nothing more than that brilliant yellow light. As I make for the door, it doesn't occur to me that the light might have something to do with enemy planes…. I am sprayed by fragments of glass. The entire window frame has been forced into the room. I realize now that a bomb has burst and I am under the impression that it exploded directly over our house or in the immediate vicinity."(11)
Siemes’ report continued in the same dry, clinical tone. He recounted a procession of injured people from Hiroshima up the valley to Nagatsuka, the gathering of survivors in Asano Park in Hiroshima, the recovery of frail Father Kleinsorge from the ruins of the Jesuit mission in Hiroshima and the journey of Kleinsorge and his Jesuit colleagues back to the novitiate.
Although Hersey’s account focuses on six hibakusha (bombing survivors), only one of whom, Father Kleinsorge, is a colleague of Siemes, Hersey’s account reflects the somber but chilling tone of Siemes’ report. Many whispers of Siemes’ report appear in Hiroshima, including the following items:
"A rumor was going around that the Americans were saving something 'special' for the city of Hiroshima."(12)
"The flash produced by the bomb was like a giant photographic flash."(13)
"Mr. Fukai, secretary of the diocese, fled in despair back to the burning city and was never seen again."(14)
"A group of sick, burned horses stand and wait on the Misasa Bridge with their heads hanging."(15)
"Father Kleinsorge encountered 22 victims whose eyes had melted from the blast."(16)
Stronger than a whisper is the material Hersey quoted from Siemes’ report at pages 89-90 of the first Vintage Books paperback edition of Hiroshima:
"Father Kleinsorge and the other German Jesuit priests, who, as foreigners, could be expected to take a relatively detached view, often discussed the ethics of using the bomb. One of them, Father Siemes, who was out at Nagatsuka at the time of the attack, wrote in a report to the Holy See in Rome: 'Some of us consider the bomb in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civilian population. Others were of the opinion that in total war, as carried on in japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of a war against civilians. The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good might result? When will our moralists give us a clear answer to this question?'”(17)
The Crux of the Matter
The tone and tenor of Hiroshima resemble the tone and tenor of Siemes’ report. Horrifying and noteworthy vignettes recounted by Siemes are put to stunning use in Hiroshima. Although it is true that many of the Jesuits must have observed the same events as Father Siemes, and that Hersey undoubtedly interviewed more than one of the priests, the impact of Siemes’ report on Hersey’s Hiroshima is apparent.
Soon I plan to visit Yale University’s Benecke library where I will peruse the Hersey archives and, hopefully, gain a better understanding of the process Hersey used to identify his Hiroshima interviewees. There are secrets I would like to unravel.
At this point, I can add two stories to the Hiroshima lore. First, Hersey was so impressed by Siemes’ words that the author adapted and used some of the priest’s language when he gave out autographs.(18,19) An exemplar of one of these autographs appears in Figure 1. [Figure 1 to be posted soon--DSC]
The second bit of lore is this: in trying to uncover what happened to Father Siemes in his later years, I found a newspaper article that mentioned the date of the priest’s death. I was so stunned that I had to do some fact checking, so I contacted Father Francis Britto, S.J., a younger colleague of Siemes, who verified that Father Siemes died on August 6, 1977 – Hiroshima Day.(21)
(1) “John Hersey,” Obituary. New Yorker, April 5, 1993, 111. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1993/04/05/john-hersey
(2) John Hersey, “Hiroshima,” New Yorker, August 31, 1946, 15.
(3) Ben Yagoda, About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made (New York: Scribner, 2000), 185-186.
(4) “John Hersey,” Obituary. New Yorker, April 5, 1993, 111.
(5) Susan E. Swanberg, “Half Life: Examining the Nuclear Narrative of William L. “Atomic Bill” Laurence, New York Times Science Journalist and Propagandist for the Atomic Age,” (unpublished manuscript, August 1, 2017), Microsoft Word File.
(6) Father John A. Siemes S.J., “An Eye-Witness Account of Hiroshima,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1, no.11, (1946): 2-6. There are a number of versions of Siemes’ report. While the Bulletin indicates that this version was “reprinted by permission of The Jesuit Mission,” there are slight variations between the Bulletin and Mission versions.
(7) William L. Laurence, Dawn Over Zero (New York: Knopf, 1946), 245.
(8) Francis Britto, S.J., e-mail message to author, January 21, 2017.
(9) Siemes, “Eye-Witness Account of Hiroshima,” p.1.
(13) Hersey, “Hiroshima,” p.3
(14) Ibid., 14.
(15) Ibid., 29.
(16) Ibid., 43.
(17) Ibid., 51.
(18) Ibid., 89-90.
(19) Interestingly, Father Siemes appears in an American propaganda film made after the bombing of Hiroshima. “The Atom Strikes!” features a cameo appearance of Father Siemes about 16 minutes into the film. “The Atom Strikes!” can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpZBSXuJ5yc
(20) I presented some of the information in this essay at the IALJS meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia in May of 2017. Upon discussing my presentation with a female colleague sitting next to me in one of the sessions, she happened to mention that Father Siemes’ “crux of the matter” quotation sounded like words Hersey used in his autographs. I regret to say that I do not know the name of this colleague, but would like to acknowledge the role she played in my discovery that Hersey adopted Siemes’ language and used it in his autographs. If you read this and identify yourself, kind colleague, I will acknowledge you properly. Thank you!
(21) Francis Britto, S.J., e-mail message to author, January 21, 2017.
The American Journalism Historians Association has announced Dr. Kathleen Endres, distinguished professor at the University of Akron, as the recipient of the 2017 Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism History. Endres, who joined the Akron faculty in 1987, has written or edited six books and one monograph, penned numerous peer-reviewed articles, and contributed to the advancement of journalism history through participation in seminars and workshops.
This honor is one of many Endres has received during her 35 years of association with AJHA. “As a graduate student, I gave my first scholarly paper at the AJHA convention at Southern Methodist University in 1982 …” Endres said. “And who was on the teaching panel? Sidney Kobre. I was a graduate student from Kent State's History Department then, who didn't really know a soul in the Journalism History community. “I found a home at that convention. Over the years (should I say decades?), I've met so many wonderful friends through AJHA, got so much encouragement for the work I was doing, learned so much in the paper sessions, panels and RIBs, and had an enormous amount of fun. And so this Sidney Kobre award means so much to me -- as does AJHA.”
The Sidney Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism History is the American Journalism Historians Association's highest honor. The late Dr. Sidney Kobre was a renowned media historian who served as a professor at Florida State from the 1940s through the 1970s and penned 16 books in his illustrious career. The Kobre Award recognizes individuals with an exemplary record of sustained achievement in journalism history through teaching, research, professional activities, or other contributions to the field of journalism history.
Editor’s Note: Jonathan Fitzgerald presented his paper, “Visualizing the History of American Literary Journalism,” at the recent International Association of Literary Journalism Studies conference in Canada. The Intelligencer asked Mr. Fitzgerald, a doctoral candidate in English at Northeastern University, to tell us more about his research, especially why it is important and interesting.
By Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, Northeastern University
I came to study the history of American literary journalism the way, I think, many newcomers to the field do: through the scholarship and writing of Norman Sims. Sims has written several books on the genre, including True Stories: A Century of Literary Journalism (2007). In the opening pages of the book’s second chapter, “Sketches and Innovation,” about the nineteenth century origins of literary journalism, Sims writes, “Tracing the history of literary journalism backward from the twentieth century into the 1800s, I find that it vanishes into a maze of local publications.” And, on the next page, he continues, “Looking for literary journalism in the nineteenth century seems daunting.”
Even before I had any real vested interest in the nineteenth century origins of literary journalism, this read, to me, as a challenge. The history “vanishes?” The task is “daunting?” This is basically fuel for my scholarship. But, at the time, as I was just at the very beginning of my PhD program, I felt certain that my interests lay in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, so I put Sims' challenge aside.
It wasn’t long, however, before the challenge crept back into my field of view. A perfect storm of events, including being hired as a research assistant for the Viral Texts Project, which uses computational methods to identify frequently reprinted (viral) texts in nineteenth century newspapers, and reading for a comprehensive exam on the history of literary journalism scholarship, revived the challenge. In my reading, I reencountered Sims' assertion that literary journalism’s history “vanishes into a maze of local publications,” while simultaneously gaining unprecedented access to those local publications through the Viral Texts Project. In that moment, I became a de facto nineteenth centuryist.
As I began to comb nineteenth century newspapers for the roots of literary journalism, another challenge arose: how to connect those early examples of the genre to contemporary works. Here, another pillar of literary journalism studies, Thomas Connery, proved instructive. In A Sourcebook of American Literary Journalism, Connery writes of literary journalism’s history, “the line from the nineteenth through the twentieth century is continuous.” He theorizes that while the line is continuous, there are distinct periods throughout the two centuries in which literary journalism rises and falls in popularity. There are peaks around the fin de siècle, in the late 1930s and early ’40s, again in the ’60s and ’70s, and finally in the ’80s.
In an effort to test Connery’s theory, I set out to visualize the history of literary journalism using methods from the digital humanities. To do so, I assembled a corpus of bibliographic entries related to the genre from Norman Sims’ bibliographies from both True Stories and Literary Journalism in the Twentieth Century, two bibliographies published in Literary Journalism Studies, and the table of contents of Kevin Kerrane and Ben Yagoda’s anthology The Art of Fact. In all, the corpus includes around 600 bibliographic entries, split almost evenly between primary and secondary sources. Once assembled, I used regular expressions–basically advanced search queries–to derive pertinent information such as author name, date of publication, and title of each work. I assembled this data into a database and added a column indicating the author’s gender.
Using this data, I was able to create interactive data visualizations, including a timeline of the history of literary journalism and a bar graph that shows the number of publications by author’s gender. I published the data in tabular format alongside the visualizations to a website at http://ljbib.jonathandfitzgerald.com.
Indeed, the timeline confirms Connery’s notion of the “continuous line,” complete with the peaks and valleys representing the genre’s rise and fall through time. The bar graph showing publications by gender, too, is instructive. It shows a great disparity between the number of publications by men and women over the past 150 years of literary journalism’s history. The lack of women writers, particularly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, represents not an actual dearth of women writers, but indeed a major oversight by scholars of literary journalism. My research into the nineteenth century shows not only that women writers were increasingly prolific, but that they were actually instrumental in the formation of what would become literary journalism. To that end, my in-progress dissertation, titled “Setting the Record Straight: Women Literary Journalists Writing Against the Mainstream,” seeks to restore women writers from the nineteenth century to our collective memories, and to show how their legacy persists throughout the genre’s history.
I intend to update the database with the results of my research, and I provide a link on the website for other scholars who notice omissions to contact me as well.
Jean Folkerts advises:
The Director of the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University resigned mid-year, and I took over January 1 as Interim Director. We now are advertising for a permanent director.
K-State’s program is one of the oldest accredited programs in the nation. We adopted a new curriculum this year that will go into effect in Fall 2018. It combines public relations and advertising into a strategic communications focus and emphasizes a cross-platform journalism focus. I think the curriculum is progressive and will have great results both in recruiting students and in placing students in jobs. We also are instituting a new Honors Program. This fall we will be revamping the master’s degree curriculum.
This would be a great opportunity for someone who wants to be in administration and who could build a record of accomplishment here over the next few years. We have about 500 majors and 25 faculty. We also serve about 50 agricultural communications majors and 50 minors. This is a program that has undergone a major shift, with several faculty leaving/retiring. We have hired four new faculty this year, including a new director for the Journalism Education Association, a national organization of high school journalists and teachers. We’re very excited about the new hires, and there will be an opportunity for a new director to do some more hiring. We’re also spearheading a building campaign.
We could certainly use a historian on the faculty!
by Dave Vergobbi, AJHA President
With registration now open for our 2017 AJHA national conference I’m even more excited about visiting Little Rock and Arkansas. Especially when I found personal connections through historical serendipity.
My Italian great-grandparents arrived in what’s now known as the Silver Valley of North Idaho in 1889. They had seven children by 1910 when “The Great Fire” swept through the region burning about three million acres in northeast Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana. The fire killed 87 people, mostly firefighters, and is considered, geographically, to be the largest in U. S. history. As late as the 1970s the mountains of my hometown remained barren, the result of zinc and lead refinery pollution preventing re-growth from the fire.
Having lived through the Great Fire, my grandfather told me numerous stories. Many of them revolved around a Polish-heritaged forest ranger named Ed Pulaski. The Polish part of Pulaski was important to me because my father had married a first-generation American of Polish descent from Massachusetts. And now I find Pulaski the Pole connects me in spirit to Little Rock, Arkansas.
Edward Crockett “Ed” Pulaski, born in Seneca County, Ohio, was a miner, railroader, and rancher before he joined the U. S. Forest Service in 1908 and was posted to Wallace, Idaho. During the Great Fire, Pulaski was supervising a 45-man crew just south of Wallace on Placer Creek when fire exploded the drought-dried conifers surrounding them, trapping the men. But Pulaski knew the area, and he knew fires. Leading his crew into an abandoned mine tunnel he told them to hit the ground and held them under gunpoint, threatening to shoot anyone who left. Five men and two horses died of smoke inhalation that day, but Pulaski saved the other 40. The National Register of Historic Places now calls it the Pulaski Tunnel, with a commemorative hiking trail to honor Pulaski and the Forest Service firefighters.
But the deaths sat hard with Ed Pulaski and he did something about it, inventing the Pulaski tool. A Pulaski looks like a long-handled double-headed ax with one side turned 90 degrees into a hoe. It’s the standard tool for wild land firefighting because it can be used to both dig and chop, the perfect implement for creating firebreaks in any terrain. My Grandpa and Dad always carried one in their vehicles, as I do today.
Ed Pulaski also claimed to be, and apparently was, a collateral descendant of the Polish Count Casimir Pulaski. Now here’s a fascinating man. Born in Warsaw in 1745, the Count became a military commander in Poland who fought against Russian domination, lost, and was exiled. Benjamin Franklin suggested that a certain fledgling nation could use his military expertise. Pulaski emigrated and reported to George Washington on Franklin’s recommendation. Before he received his commission as an officer, Pulaski engaged the British in 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. His actions, organizing scattered Continental Army troops into a charge that ensured the army’s retreat, saved Washington’s life. As a reward, Congress commissioned Pulaski a brigadier general in the Continental Army cavalry, Pulaski’s specialty. Now known as one of the fathers of the U. S. Cavalry, Pulaski reorganized it and wrote the first regulations of its formation. His actions on both the northern and southern fronts of the Revolutionary War brought him recognition and fame. To the end a cavalryman, Pulaski died leading a daring charge during the Battle of Savannah in 1779. He was just 34 years old.
The United States has commemorated and celebrated Count Pulaski in a great variety of ways, including monuments, statues, memorials, memorial days, squares, streets and even a postage stamp. Thanks and praise was as recent as 2009 when President Barack Obama signed a joint resolution of Congress conferring honorary U. S. citizenship on the Count, only the seventh such occurrence in history. And while Casimir Pulaski never married and had no direct descendants, his collateral descendant Ed gave him another lasting monument, the Pulaski Tool.
But one more honorific caught me about the Count. The Count became a county. As our friend Wikipedia has it, “The county is named for Count Casimir Pulaski, a Polish volunteer who saved George Washington’s life during the American Revolutionary War.” Approaching 400,000 people, it’s the state’s most populous county. It also holds the largest city, county seat, and state capital, all rolled into one place called Little Rock. No wonder Ed claimed kinship.
Find your historical serendipity that connects you with Little Rock, Arkansas, and join us October 12-14 for the 36th Annual AJHA National Convention. The historic tour this year visits the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, “infamous for its place in the history of school desegregation as nine African-American teenagers attempting to attend school faced angry mobs in September 1957.” We also journey to the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, “an African-American fraternal organization founded in 1883 that interprets Arkansas’s African-American history from 1870 to the present.” And don’t forget our gala dinner will be held at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Besides serendipity, you can find all the convention information on our AJHA website, including registration. See you in Little Rock.
Editor's Note: More serendipity is that my (Dane Claussen) great-grandmother's second husband, named Jones, a miner from Ireland, is supposedly buried in Wallace, Idaho, although none of us are quite sure where.
By Dane S. Claussen, Thiel College
How newspapers tell their own histories has been a minor interest of mine for a long time. A few readers of The Intelligencer might remember my article, “Otis did not found L.A. Times, and Taylor did not found Globe,” in the Spring 2006 issue (Vol. 40, Issue 3) of Clio Among the Media, published by the AEJMC’s History Division. There, as the headline indicates, I cited numerous examples in which newspapers had recently made inaccurate claims in news or feature articles about who founded their newspaper. Also, Joseph Medill did not start the Chicago Tribune and James McClatchy did not start the Sacramento Bee (a lie that started with his sons, not a sloppy journalist 100 or 150 years later), and so on. At least The New York Times never claims it was started by Adolph Ochs, perhaps because he bought it 45 years later!
On June 4 this year, the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard published a special 150th anniversary issue, with its history spread and sprawled out among three sections that include plenty of advertising. A friend passed it along to me, as he knows my interests and he and I are both University of Oregon graduates who have some experience with the newspaper (he a lot more than me, as I lived in Eugene only three years and he has lived there the overwhelming majority of his 60-plus years).
The Register-Guard holds many distinctions for those of us from Oregon who studied and/or practiced journalism. It is the Register-Guard that has won many state overall excellence awards over the Portland Oregonian, the (Baker) family newspaper in the medium-sized city beating the Advance Publications (Newhouse) metro daily year in and year out. It is the Register-Guard that was by far the best designed Oregon newspaper, and one of the USA's best, when I first saw it in the 1970s. It was the Register-Guard that for decades (has?) had the highest newspaper salaries in Oregon (probably due to its unions) and forced the non-union, anti-union Oregonian to more or less keep up or probably lose some or most of its best employees to the small newspaper down I-5. It was the Register-Guard whose long-time managing editor, Barrie Hartman (one of the few top execs at the paper in the last 90 years who was not a Baker), was very well respected and whose wife, Mary Hartman, was a long-time University of Oregon journalism professor and executive director of the state high school press association (from whom I took a course).
The Register-Guard had (and has?) the respect of Oregon journalists, journalism professors and journalism students in ways that The Oregonian (where I was an intern in 1983 and where many of my friends have since worked at some point) never did. When, in the 1980s, the Register-Guard employed a receptionist/operator with an accent that made the paper’s name come out, “Eugene Register-God,” it was only slightly humorous.
Anyway, in June the Register-Guard went all out with the broadsheet two-section special issue (plus special front page on the main section). And it gets off to a rather shaky start. It claims that the front page has been designed to look like it did in 1930, but the effect is only partially successful, most notably with the 1930s Eugene Register-Guard flag (which is called “nameplate”) and two one-column stories at left and right with three- and four-deck, all caps headlines followed by three-deck upper-and-lower dropheads. But the page is dominated by a large circa 1910 photo of the Daily and Weekly Guard building, something you would not have seen in 1930.
The first section covers the first 80 years (1867-1947) of the Register, Guard, and Register-Guard. An introductory piece on the second page, written by Editor Mark Baker of the owning family, is romantically headlined, “A story of hope, challenge, and survival.” Well, that’s one way to put it.
The first page, covering 1867 to 1877, is headlined, “Several Eugene papers had short-lived histories,” which tells you only part of that period’s story. Yes, five Eugene newspapers did not last long: Eugene City News (an election year paper in 1856), The Pacific Journal (founded 1858), The People’s Press (founded 1859), State Republican (founded 1862) and the Union Crusader (founded 1863). The Oregon State Journal did better (1864-1909). The special section does not point out that such a history is not unusual, except perhaps so many newspapers starting in a city that did not yet have even a railroad (1871) or the university (1876). (In fact, Eugene had only 1117 residents as of the 1880 US Census.) As for The Guard, started 1867, it had five different owners (each owner an individual or partnership, making eight different publishers), in its first 11 years. Hope and challenge indeed, but not much survival.
What is one to make of this historical section characterizing “most local news stories” as being like an 1867 advertorial for Lager Beer Saloon? It is unclear whether the reader is literally supposed to think that most items that looked like news were, in fact, ads (and the typical reader needs background/context for that) and/or that the newspaper had little if any real journalism, or if the special section writer did not realize the Lager Beer Saloon piece is an advertorial and not a news story at all.
But the most perplexing point on this page is its assertion that the Guard, not founded until more than two years after the Civil War, “supported the rights of Southern states to own slaves and editorialized that freeing them was an unwise thing to do.” (Note that as of the Guard’s founding on June 1, 1867, the 13th Amendment already had been ratified, and 21 states had already ratified the 14th Amendment, with more about to.)
The current newspaper comes into better focus on the 1877-87 page, as we find out that the Guard’s sixth owner, Ira Campbell, bought it at 22 in 1878 and owned it for 26 years until he died of a stroke at age 48. We find out that in 1884, Silas Yoran, then 49, launched the Eugene City Register, and that both the Guard and Register became dailies in the 1890s while the Oregon State Journal remained a weekly until it folded. We also find out that the Guard was Democratic while both the Journal and Register were Republican papers.
The 1877-87 page is headlined, “UO’s first graduating class: five students,” and illustrated with a period photo of the UO’s first two buildings (the 1876 Deady Hall and 1877 Villard Hall), despite the University of Oregon playing no role in the newspapers’ histories.
The 1887-97 page switches emphases from the newspaper’s history to Eugene’s history, focusing on a big flood in 1890, Pres. Benjamin Harrison’s stop in Eugene on May 5, 1891 (when 2000 people showed up to greet him but he never publicly appeared), the UO football team’s first victory in 1894. Almost incidentally mentioned are that the Register was taken over by Yoran’s sons (“after their father left to run a shoe store and work as a bank vice president”), that the Yorans took the paper daily in 1895, then sold it to three Eugene printers, the Register went back to weekly in 1896, then daily again in 1898. Meanwhile, the reader has learned nothing about Campbell’s ownership during those 10 years and very little about his first nine years (1878-1887).
The section’s 1897-1907 page attempts to tie the Eugene Daily Guard to Yellow Journalism by extensively recounting the paper’s coverage of a murder and the primary murderer’s execution in 1899. The section is careful to say that such coverage “perhaps reflect[s] the sensational yellow journalism” and asserts that "Readers were surely riveted” by the stories but, frankly, it’s a little bit of a stretch, the story starting with a “creepy” rhyme notwithstanding.
This part of the history also notes that the Eugene papers got linotypes during 1897-1907, “allowing an entire line of hot metal type to be set at once.” Unfortunately, the section has never pointed out that previously type was set by hand one letter at a time, a fact that we cannot assume the casual reader would know. This section points out that the Guard then cost $6 per year for delivery five days a week, although what the newspaper(s) cost during most other earlier and later periods goes unsaid. But we do find out that Charles Fisher bought the Guard in 1906, and that Fisher knew what he was doing based on previous experience in Oakland (Ore.), Roseburg (Ore.) and Boise (Idaho). That supposedly was also true of Campbell, although we haven’t been given enough detail to tell. The 1897-1907 section, and also the 1907-1917 sections, tell us nothing at all about the Register, nor any more about the Oregon State Journal’s 1909 demise.
The 1907-1917 page focuses heavily again on Eugene’s development and thus the stories the Guard was covering, with only the bare bones about what was going on at the Guard itself: Fisher sold it in 1913 to E.J. Finneran and bought Salem’s Capital-Journal newspaper, but Finneran essentially went bankrupt in 1916, and the Guard was run by a receivership for three months until Fisher bought it back. But he apparently stayed in Salem until 1919, appointing the Register’s news editor (and former Guard advertising manager) Joseph Shelton to run it in the meantime.
The 1917-1927 pages start with Eugene’s history during the period, then quickly move to the question of how Fisher editorialized against the Ku Klux Klan (which in the 1920s essentially ran the government of Oregon, the state where it was illegal for black Americans to live until 1926) at the same time evidence showed he was a KKK member! The section’s author asks, “Could Fisher have joined the Klan to keep an eye on them?” Apparently no one knows.
In any case, Fisher sold the Guard in 1924 to Paul Kelty, a long-time editor at The Oregonian (and nephew of its editor, Harvey Scott) who previously had worked at the Portland Telegram and the Los Angeles Examiner. But Kelty was not a good fit for Eugene, and in 1927, he sold it to the current owners’ patriarch, Alton Baker Sr. from Cleveland (and son of the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s president). Baker paid just under $100,000, or about $1.3 million in 2017 dollars.
The 1927-1937 pages do not explain why a daily newspaper with a daily competitor, in a city of perhaps 16,000 people, was worth almost $100,000 in 1927, or even more so, in the 1927-37 section, why the Register was worth $244,000 (about $3.5 million now) when Baker bought in November 1930. (In this history, the Register disappears into the Guard without the reader ever finding out much at all about it, not even why its name came first in the new one.) The section does admit that the Register price was “steep” and the acquisition “risky,” and that salaries were twice cut 10% between 1931 and 1933 to keep the now Register-Guard afloat. (Perhaps this is the Baker third generation way of admitting that their grandfather grossly overpaid.) Oddly, the section does not mention the October 1929 stock market crash and coming Great Depression, or that the US newspaper industry already had been consolidating for about 15 years.
The 1937-1947 page is almost entirely about Eugene and Oregon history, not the newspaper’s, with the exception of Alton’s sons, Alton Jr. (“Bunky”) and Ted, joining the newspaper staff in 1946 and “soon” thereafter, respectively, and that Ted Baker became an important Eugene philanthropist.
Which tells you just about everything you need to know about the 1947-2017 section of this special issue of the Eugene Register-Guard: a puff piece in which it is not clear that the Baker family gives credit to anyone but themselves for the newspaper’s last 70 years, with the exceptions of long-time editor Bill Tugman, Don Bishoff, and several (ex-)staffers who eventually won Pulitzer Prizes. The section never admits or even hints that anyone in the Baker family ever made any mistake (although noting that former Oregonian publisher N. Christian Anderson III lasted only six months in 2015 as Register-Guard publisher comes close). The woman who answered the phone, “Eugene Register God,” is not mentioned, nor is Barrie Hartman, who went on to be editor and editorial page editor of the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera for 18 years (1983-2001).
Claussen is Editor of The Intelligencer and the James Pedas Professor of Media, Communication & Public Relations, Thiel College, Greenville, Pa. Regardless of what he might say or write about them, he appreciates newspapers that recognize and commemorate their own histories.
Over the years I have become interested in how media history emerges in spaces, especially but not only museums, in which it is treated as incidental and/or merely illustrative of other history. I first became interested in the phenomenon of media history being right in front of one’s face, but ignored anyway, more than 20 years ago when I seriously sought to find out how much importance rural sociologists gave to small-town weekly newspapers in their analyses of rural life.
It turned out: not much. In rural sociology books going back about 90 years from the mid-1990s, rural sociologists often wrote a chapter about churches, a chapter about schools, a chapter about town government, a chapter about the Grange Hall, etc., but nary a word about a small town’s newspaper or small town newspapers generally. Here was the kicker: in many cases, rural sociologists had used the bound volumes and sometimes other records of a small-town newspaper as a major source for their books while never mentioning in their book and articles that the small-town newspaper was of any importance to its town.
My recent visit to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museum in Fremont, Ohio, provides one example of this phenomenon. The Hayes museum proudly boasts that it was the first US presidential library, although visitors to the museum and Hayes house do not see anything that resembles one. In any case, the museum and library’s formation were led from start to finish by Hayes’ son, Webb Hayes, and one might expect that the museum would be overflowing with items that belonged to Rutherford, his wife, his parents, etc.
But from the very beginning of the exhibits, the viewer is struck by originals and copies (normally photographic) of paper, paper, and more paper: broadsides, flyers and, most notably, newspaper and magazine covers, interior pages, and especially cartoons and other illustrations. There’s the April 3, 1877, New York Graphic illustration of Hayes guiding a woman labeled “South” to shake hands with a woman named “North.” There’s the Feb. 23, 1881, Puck illustration of William Henry Vanderbilt, Cyrus Field and Jay Gould literally pulling the strings of the railroad, telegraph and banking industries. And many, many others. And yet, not only does the Hayes museum offer no context about news media’s explosion in illustrations at that time, but it doesn’t even bother to tell visitors what kind of role media played in either Hayes’ political career or the role media played in politics generally in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. This omission could lead the visitor to imagine everything from media then playing a major (even decisive) role to the media being of no importance other than a source of beautiful and/or clever illustrations.
Another museum that I recently visited is the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. This one also is curious in various ways. The Museum building itself is very large and contains entire airplanes, entire trains, an entire house, dozens of automobiles, and hundreds of other items, including plenty of farm machines and much industrial machinery that one probably must be both a historian and an engineer to fully appreciate. Naturally, I was on the hunt for newspaper industry items—a Mergenthaler linotype would be at home there, as would a set of pre-linotype type cases, a stereotyping machine, a stat camera, or any number of other items (any of which would have been more interesting than dozens of other machines at the Ford Museum). What did I find? One hand-operated printing press inside, one outside, and nothing else. I confess that I was not familiar with the item on display: “Foster’s Printing Press, about 1853. This printing press turned the commonly accepted image of a press upside down. Instead of a lever pressing the paper down on the inky type, this press pushed the inky type up to the paper. It didn’t look like a printing press should look and printers were skeptical. They didn’t buy many.”
But considering: the equipment-heavy nature of the newspaper industry; the newspaper industry’s role in politics, economics, etc.; the newspaper industry was for many decades one of the country’s largest employers; the industry produced larger than life characters such as Horace Greeley or William Randolph Hearst; etc., one printing press at the Ford Museum and another one in Greenfield Village is not much. (Granted, the Ford Museum also underrepresents the histories of the typewriter, radio, and the postal service. But it does not underrepresent all communication technologies: one big display case shows off nearly 50 telephones, while other areas display a variety of televisions over time and early computers.)
Like the Hayes museum, however, the Ford Museum liberally uses the news media to illustrate exhibits of other industries’ technologies and products. In the museum’s political section, three color Harper’s Weekly covers from 1865 and 1866 illustrate former slaves becoming indentured workers; a full-color illustration from an 1862 Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly illustrates the Civil War; and the February 1932 Labor Defender cover shows the Scottsboro Boys.
Elsewhere in the museum, a negative (white type on black background) image of an 1855 Providence Daily Journal illustrates an exhibit on engineer George Corliss’s patent battles; a World War I vintage Popular Mechanics magazine cover shows a then-new tank; a March 3, 1927 cover of the original Life magazine shows the Roaring Twenties lifestyle; issues of Sports Illustrated, Popular Mechanics, LIFE, Rod & Custom from around 1960 illustrate that era; and the first 1984 issue of MACWORLD magazine helps with an exhibit on Apple’s founding.
The Greenfield Village adjacent to the Henry Ford Museum is a collection of period and replica buildings that have been moved there from other places, several hundred miles in many cases. Visitors can wander around it all day, riding in old Ford cars, interacting with docents in and out of costume, eating and more. Highlights for me included Henry Ford’s boyhood home, the Wright Brothers’ boyhood home, Thomas Edison’s laboratory buildings, Noah Webster’s last house and Harvey Firestone’s boyhood house. Greenfield Village is thus impressive in many ways, but surely the most famous open-air museum in the USA is Colonial Williamsburg. And both it and Greenfield Village were founded decades after Oslo’s Norsk Folkemuseum and Stockholm’s Skansen (each of which I have been lucky enough to visit).
Greenfield Village includes the Printing Office & Tin Shop, but it’s something of a botch—the building is clearly explained as having been built in 1933, but its exhibits include everything from noting Ben Franklin’s 18th-century printing business to a mid-19th century Washington hand press (not still used in 1933). Certainly Greenfield Village does not include a newspaper office the way that other open-air museums do, from Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (San Diego Union) to the Ohio Village at Columbus’s Ohio History Center.
All in all, the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village give the impression that the entire publishing and printing industry, let alone the journalism profession, has played a minor role at best in US history—whether political, economic, technological or what.
So imagine my surprise when I skimmed through a copy I bought of the 2006 book, Henry’s Attic: Some Fascinating Gifts to Henry Ford and His Museum, by Ford R. Bryan (Wayne State University Press). In addition to a full chapter on photographic equipment, the book contains a full chapter titled “Communications Equipment.” Detailed and illustrated are: Edison’s Printing Telegraph Transmitter, Cable Sheathing Machine, Edison’s Printing Telegraph Receiver, Edison’s Quadruplex Telegraph, Replica of Bell’s First Telephone, Sectional Model of a Telephone, Edison’s Carbon-Transmitter Chalk-Receiver Telephone, Telephone Switchboard, Telephone Desk Set, Wireless Telegraph Key, Wireless Spark Transmitter, Marconi Wireless Receiver, Replica of Home Wireless Set, De Forest’s “Singing Arc” Radio Transmitter, Low Frequency Radio Receiver, Atwater Kent Radio Receiver, RCA Radio Receiver, Steinmetz’s Portable Radio Receiver, “Majestic” Radio Console, High Altitude Shortwave Radio, Early Transistors, Early Television Apparatus: Jenkins’s Scanner and Baird’s Receiver, Facsimile Transmission Equipment, and Early Television Camera and Monitor. As far as I could tell, very few of these items are currently on public display at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.
(Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles about media history's role in museums and history books.)
Claussen is Editor of The Intelligencer and the James Pedas Professor of Media, Communication & Public Relations, Thiel College, Greenville, Pa. Regardless of what he might say or write about them, he enjoys visiting any and all museums in the USA and abroad.
By Erika J. Pribanic-Smith, University of Texas-Arlington
Julie Hedgepeth Williams holds the distinction of receiving the first AJHA Dissertation Award, presented at the 1997 national conference in Mobile, AL. Williams wrote her dissertation entitled “The Significance of the Printed Word in Early America: Colonists’ Thoughts on the Role of the Press” at the University of Alabama, under the direction of Wm. David Sloan.
Patrick Washburn said he proposed the dissertation award in 1996, at the first meeting he attended as a member of the AJHA board of directors. At the time, Washburn headed the graduate program in journalism at Ohio University and was chairing several historical dissertations. He hoped that the award would attract newly minted faculty to AJHA.
“It would be a way to keep adding young members to the association rather than the membership simply getting older and older,” Washburn said.
Washburn headed an ad hoc committee to investigate the award processes of other academic societies and propose a structure for AJHA’s award. Washburn said he suggested two primary things: giving the dissertation award at a convention time slot with no competing events on the program and giving a cash award to the winner.
“It would underscore the fact that AJHA considered this a major award,” he said.
Washburn credited David Abrahamson of Northwestern University with making the dissertation award session a major highlight of the annual convention. Chair of the Dissertation Award Committee for 20 years before handing the reins to Jane Marcellus (Middle Tennessee State) in 2016, Abrahamson made several decisions that defined the award.
He solidified the judging process, appointing as jurists faculty members from schools without doctoral programs to avoid bias. He decided against ranking the honorable mentions to emphasize the importance of each dissertation. He created a special printed program just for the dissertation session, and he made sure to acknowledge the faculty members who chaired the dissertations.
“I and others who chaired dissertations that were honored appreciated that acclaim,” said Washburn, who has mentored three award winners and one honorable mention.
Abrahamson said the process for submitting and judging dissertations has remained basically the same since the beginning. Two juries review portfolios consisting of an abstract, table of contents, and sample chapter to arrive at the four finalists, and then they review the full dissertations of the finalists to decide on the winner. The committee receives, on average, 12 nominees per year, though Abrahamson said it has considered as many as 23 dissertations in one competition.
“My recollection is that we received 11 entries the first year, which was really reassuring because when we set up the prize, we had no idea how it would be received,” Abrahamson said.
Williams, who had been a member of AJHA since 1992, said that Sloan told her about the award and encouraged her to enter.
“It seems David (Sloan) and AJHA go hand in hand,” Williams said. “I feel like he directed me with the idea of further AJHA papers from dissertation chapters in mind.”
Sloan said that Julie had demonstrated she was serious about history while working on her master’s thesis on the colonial South-Carolina Gazette, and he commended her excellence as an historian—both as a thorough researcher and a talented writer.
Williams presented her work at the Mobile conference along with three honorable mentions: David Domke, whose dissertation advisor was Hazel Dicken-Garcia (University of Minnesota); David Mindich, who wrote his dissertation under Carl Prince and Mitchell Stephens at New York University; and Doug Ward, whose mentor was Maurine Beasley at the University of Maryland.
Beasley has advised three dissertation award winners and six honorable mentions. She said that in addition to enhancing AJHA’s reputation as a worthwhile organization, the award helps keep journalism history a viable element in journalism and media education.
“It aids in establishing journalism history as a contemporary means of scholarly inquiry,” she said.
Sloan added that the award encourages more student interest in becoming historians, which in turn encourages more involvement in AJHA. Washburn noted that no other organization gives a journalism history dissertation award, so AJHA’s award remains important.
Those who have advised multiple award-winning dissertations said that the award did not influence how they advised their students—they always mentored their students to exhibit the qualities that are the hallmark of the award. Beasley and Sloan both said they always have placed a strong emphasis on using primary source material. Advisor of two winners and an honorable mention, Sloan also stressed the importance of selecting a significant topic.
Over the past 20 years, 56 advisors have mentored 81 students to Dissertation Award honors. Among the most prolific mentors was Margaret “Peggy” Blanchard at the University of North Carolina, who advised the 2003 winner as well as honorable mentions in four competitions. One of her advisees, Mark Feldstein, suggested that AJHA name the award after Blanchard.
The dissertation award has been called the Blanchard Prize since 2003. Abrahamson said that Blanchard was quite ill at the time—she died in 2004.
“As it turns out, Mark had been one of her last doctoral students and was quite passionate about the renaming and its timing,” Abrahamson said. “Given Peggy’s status among media historians, the renaming passed unanimously after a brief discussion.”
Other North Carolina faculty have continued Blanchard’s legacy. In total, nine UNC graduates have earned AJHA dissertation awards and honorable mentions—including two honorable mention recipients this year. Southern Mississippi also has produced several honorees, thanks largely to the mentorship of David Davies. Davies, who won the award for his dissertation under Sloan in 1998, has advised five honorable mention recipients.
For a full list of previous winners, including links to the dissertation award session programs for each year since 1998, visit ajha.wildapricot.org/Blanchard
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