Intelligencer

Intelligencer is a blog featuring teaching and research essays as well as news about the organization and its members.

To submit member news or suggest a blog topic, contact Intelligencer editor Dane Claussen.

PDFs of the Intelligencer in its previous newsletter form can be found at the Intelligencer archive. Visit the News page for press releases on the organization's activities.

  • 19 Mar 2017 3:14 PM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)

    American Journalism: A Journal of Media History, official scholarly journal of the American Journalism Historians Association, announces a call for proposals for a special issue to be published in April 2019 to commemorate the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution that granted the women of all states the right to vote. We seek original historical research on the role of media in and about the suffrage movement, work that illuminates lasting cultural, political, economic, ideological, and social problems. Research could center on movement, mainstream, ethnic or alternative media; strategic communication, visual culture, or closely related themes.

    Much can be gleaned from examining pro- and anti-suffrage media strategies and the public responses they elicited. For the past forty years, an important body of scholarship has emerged about the movement and media. For the occasion of this centennial anniversary, our goal is to build on this foundation with work that asks new questions and presents new theoretical and methodological approaches, insights, and arguments.

    The proposal should be five to ten pages, including a title or a two-sentence summary, a 250-word abstract, and a narrative that explains the scope of the project, its theme or argument, and its importance. It should demonstrate familiarity with the relevant literature and historical context as well as historiography, provide examples of primary sources, and address how the author plans to develop and structure the work.

    Topics may include, but are not limited to, studies of:

    • iconography and visual culture
    • constructions of womanhood and sexuality
    • the business and economics of the suffrage media
    • publicity and strategic communications
    • the politics of race and racial tensions
    • suffrage and the media within the broader women’s rights agenda
    • audiences and reception of suffrage media
    • popular culture representations and media interpretations of this history
    • intersection of suffrage with the mainstream media
    • the recalibrated movement media image in the amendment’s aftermath
    • audiences and reception of suffrage and anti-suffrage media

    Submission Schedule

    July 1, 2017: Proposals are due.

    September 1, 2017: Invitations to submit the full article will be delivered.

    April 1, 2018: First drafts of articles are due, with final decisions, edits, and requests for revisions to follow.

    Please send your title/description, 250-word abstract, and five- to ten-page proposal to: 

    https://suffrageandthemedia.submittable.com/submit

    Prospective authors should feel free to contact members of the editorial board listed below.

    The Editorial Board

    American Journalism’s Special Issue on Women’s Suffrage and the Media

    Maurine Beasley mbeasley@umd.edu

    Jinx Broussard jinxy@lsu.edu

    Kathy Roberts Forde kforde@journ.umass.edu

    Carolyn Kitch ckitch@temple.edu

    Brooke Kroeger brooke.kroeger@nyu.edu

    Linda Lumsden lumsden@email.arizona.edu

    Jane Marcellus jane.marcellus@mtsu.edu

    Jane Rhodes rhodesj@uic.edu

    Linda Steiner lsteiner@umd.edu

  • 15 Mar 2017 1:35 PM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)
    (Editor's Note: Carolin Aronis presented her paper, "Letters, Newspapers, and Communication with the Dead: Practices of (Im)materiality," at the National Communication Association convention in Philadelphia in November 2016. TheIntelligencer asked Dr. Aronis to tell us more about why she is researching this topic, what it means and why it's important.)

    By Carolin Aronis

    Colorado State University

    Opening the popular newspapers in Israel on days of national tragedy such as war, terrorist attacks, wildfires and alike, one usually finds next to the common hard news items framed texts that look like opinion pieces but are actually strange letters addressing people who died at the covered event. The letters open by the first name of a dead person. These texts tell in the second person to the deceased relatives and friends, in personal and emotional language, their deep longing to him or her, what happened at the event that caused their death and what happened after it, including the terrible void and sorrow that dead addressee have created by his or her leave. Many of these letters close with promises to the dead—some make certain requests to watch the living from above and to wait for them before uniting again. The letters end with warm and loving words, and a personal signature. These letters, strangely enough, are not brought to the newspaper from another context, as republishing a text that has been written and read in a funeral or Memorial Day, but the discussed letters are purposely written to and for the publication in the newspaper. 

    For the last two decades, these letters have become an Israeli journalistic genre for the coverage of national tragedies. While approaching the dead through electronic media technologies (telegraph, television, telephone, internet, etc.) is a historically and currently known phenomenon in Western culture—writing to the dead by using an integration of interpersonal and mass communication technologies (e.g., letter and newspaper) provide media scholars with some additional and essential thinking about the field.

    It positions meaningful issues in the intersection of written technologies, inter-mass communication, death and recipiency. My work, which I would like to introduce here, deals with the rhetoric and “operation” of these letters. 

    The first letter I found was of a mother writing to her baby who died due to a failure in a baby food company in Israel (known as the Remedia Affair, 2003). I studied this case for my master’s thesis, looking at the journalistic discourse about mothers, and of mothers, in the public construct of blame, among others—of the mothers that did not nurse their babies. However, this letter (“They Murdered You, My Baby”), which was published on the cover page of the most popular newspaper in Israel, at first reading brought tears to my eyes, and it kept “bothering” me. It initiated something special in the newspaper, and attracted me as a reader in a different way than other journalistic items. It is said that from every M.A. thesis one can produce one to two academic articles, and I was willing to open a new direction with this letter. I dealt previously with holocaust witnessing and the gaps of space and time along with the unreachable dead. I found in this letter some of these aspects. I also found some unexpected intimacy in a mass medium and I was willing to study and understand it. 

    During the last few years I kept thinking about the reasons for this genre to emerge and the functions it serves—regarding the writers, the newspaper, and its readership. These inquiries lead me to additional questions about what these letters can tell us regarding the role of newspapers in our society and in our media environment; what is the character of rhetoric the letters build with challenges of materiality and the missing addressee; and what kind of communicative acts these letters establish with the newspaper readership and with the dead addressee. All those focuses represent different aspects that lead to understand the essence of mass communication, and especially journalism—either generally or particularly—through another point of view than it is customary in studies in the field. 

    I would like to introduce a paper I presented at the latest National Communication Association convention in Philadelphia, and to shortly discuss issues of im/materiality within this case. The title of my presented paper, in the Media Ecology Division, is “Letters, Newspapers, and Communication with the Dead: Practices of materiality and immateriality.” I am thankful to John Dowd (Bowling Green State University), the NCA division chair who made me notice how relevant my work is to Media Ecology, which is all about mediums and matters themselves. A first draft of this paper was presented in a seminar of the 2015 Annual Conference of the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) as “The Practice and Materiality of the Jewish Death.” The seminar, which was thought provoking for me, was led by Sean Burrus, an archaeologist and a Jewish studies scholar, and it was my first foray into areas of matters and materiality with this case study. During the last few years, and parallel to others’ studies, I have conducted research about balconies as urban communication media in the Mediterranean city.

    Moving to Colorado few years ago, I started to be immersed in the scholarship of spatial and material rhetoric thanks to connections I made with Greg Dickinson (Colorado State University) and John Ackerman (University of Colorado Boulder). Yet, it was an exciting move for me in bringing matters and the material into the analysis of letters, journalism, and the intersection between communication, life and death. And it was not surprising that some of this move also found an anchor at the media ecology scholarship that usually look at the medium more than at its message, giving more emphasis to the material act of communication. 

    I figured out that in several aspects these letters written to the dead are material and immaterial at the same time. In their content, they are based on material and immaterial rhetoric when they relate to the actual body and environment of the writer—some letters include descriptions of the writers’ tears, their shaking body, the wet keyboard or the view that is seen from the window next to the desk. At the same time, the letters describe the absence of the dead addressee, its immateriality—the orphaned chair, the memory of the touch, the disappearing smell from the dead’s clothes, and the dead’s essential non-existence—various of things that represent void and absence. 

    In addition, as in any technology of communication, both the letters and the newspaper hold messages that have material performance—printed words, photographs, the paper itself—but represent immaterial messages: emotions, information, requests, things that one cannot necessarily feel with his or her senses. The contradiction or the relation between material and immaterial is at the very core of communication and media. Especially with written technology, and even more so with technologies of mass communication as the newspaper, there is a significant gap between the place and time of the writing act and the reading act. In this case, the writers and the addressees are just an abstract idea for each other, not tangible people. The writer does not know to where his text will arrive if at all, readers and the action of reading, as Walter Ong brightly explains, are never known to the writer. In the case of letters written to the dead and published in the newspaper, the unknown addressee is intertwined with the dead, the non-existent reader, or with substitute “eavesdropping” readers, who might read the letter, but it does not address them directly. The unknown destination of the letter/newspaper is intertwined with the unknown realm of death. 

    While examining the actual rhetoric of the letters and their journalistic frame (performance) in the newspaper, I considered also the materiality that is embraced in the notion of letter and newspaper, as they both represent a geographical movement, or as can be adopted from Marshal McLuhan – a certain “paper route.” The notion of a letter evokes in our mind the material route of the paper, the envelope with its stamp, a mailbox, the transportation through spaces, and the waiting in another mailbox. The notion of the newspaper evokes the printing process and the distribution to everywhere and anywhere (paraphrasing Jeffrey Sconce’s definitions). The materiality and immateriality are also part of life and death, of existence and non-existence. 

    Following the axis of materiality–immateriality that stands in the heart of both media and death, I address these issues in my paper and explain the nature and rhetorical practices of the latter and newspaper technologies—together and separately—and how their reconstruction of this communicative act seems to bridge between the realms of life and death. 

    This case study could be viewed through several prisms of journalism research. It demonstrates the growing populism of the newspaper, especially in competing with electronic media. It demonstrates the ordinary voice in the shaping of the news, even to a point where the source speaks for itself, almost without any mediation of a journalist. It also demonstrates a change in the language and topics of the news – instead of writing about facts that happened in the past, this genre creates an illusionary situation, in present and future tenses. Additionally, the case demonstrates the newspaper as a site for mourning and remembering, and of course reminds the tight relationship between the historical emergences of the newspaper letters exchange.  

    This project will hopefully produce three published articles (the first one is in an R&R procedure) and in the future a book about letters written to the dead and mass communication.  

    * * *

    Dr. Carolin Aronis received her Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Department of Communication and Journalism. She is currently teaching at Colorado State University and previously was a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In the past, Dr. Aronis worked as a journalist. For further interest/information please write to carolin.aronis@colostate.edu or carolin.aronis@gmail.com

  • 14 Mar 2017 6:55 PM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)

    Jhistory posted on March 10, 2017:

    "Jim Leonhirth, Jhistory's longtime moderator, is stepping down.  He's done an amazing job over the years and was one of the early members of the list; we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his years of service. 

    "We are looking for another moderator (or two) to help manage the list.  You'd be moderating the list about three or four months a year (we take turns) and the workload is about an hour or two a week when you're on."

  • 10 Mar 2017 12:24 AM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)

    American Journalism, the flagship journal of the American Journalism Historians Association, seeks applications for its Rising Scholar Award. The application deadline is Thursday, June 1, 2017.

    The award provides research assistance of up to $2,000 for a junior, untenured faculty member or a media professional who has transitioned within the last four years to full-time work in the academy. The proposed research project must be related to media history, and all methodological approaches are welcomed.

    Applicants must be current AJHA members at the time the proposal is submitted. Proposals may be for sole authored or co-authored work (award amount will be shared).

    Applicants must submit the following to Jinx C. Broussard, Manship School of Mass Communications, 205 Hodges Hall, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, or via e-mail to jinxcbroussard@gmail.com:

    • Cover letter with name and contact information for applicant(s).
    • Three- to five-page prospectus of the project timeline, describing and explaining the topic, scope, objectives, primary sources, and justifying its contribution to the historiography of the mass media.
    • One-page itemized budget. Indicate if additional funding will be used, including the source and amount.
    • If appropriate, include Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from the university.
    • A list of possible publication venues for the finished project.
    • A letter of support from the applicant’s department chair or dean.
    • A curriculum vita of no more than three pages.

    Founded in 1981, the American Journalism Historians Association seeks to advance education and research in mass communication history. Members work to raise historical standards and ensure that all scholars and students recognize the vast importance of media history and apply this knowledge to the advancement of society. For more information on AJHA, visit ajhaonline.org.


  • 28 Feb 2017 2:44 PM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)

    The American Journalism Historians Association invites paper entries, panel proposals, and abstracts of research in progress on any facet of media history for its 36th annual convention to be held October 12-14, 2017, in Little Rock, Arkansas. More information on the 2017 AJHA convention is available at ajhaonline.org.

    The deadline for all submissions is June 1, 2017.

    The AJHA views journalism history broadly, embracing print, broadcasting, advertising, public relations, and other forms of mass communication that have been inextricably intertwined with the human past. Because the AJHA requires presentation of original material, research papers and panels submitted to the convention should not have been submitted to or accepted by another convention or publication.

    RESEARCH PAPERS

    Authors may submit only one research paper. They also may submit one Research in Progress abstract but only on a significantly different topic. Research entries must be no longer than 25 pages of text, double-spaced, in 12-point type, not including notes. The Chicago Manual of Style is recommended but not required.

    Papers must be submitted electronically as PDF or Word attachments. Please send the following: 
    • An email with the attached paper, saved with author identification only in the file name and not in the paper. 
    • A separate 150-word abstract as a Word attachment (no PDFs) with no author identification. 
    • Author’s info (email address, telephone number, institutional affiliation, and student or faculty status) in the text of the email.

    Send papers to ajhapapers@gmail.com.

    Authors of accepted papers must register for the convention and attend in order to present their research.

    Accepted papers are eligible for several awards, including the following: 
    *David Sloan Award for the outstanding faculty research paper ($250 prize).
    *Robert Lance Award for outstanding student research paper ($100 prize).
    *Jean Palmegiano Award for outstanding international/transnational journalism history research paper ($150 prize)
    *J. William Snorgrass Award for outstanding minority-journalism research paper.
    *Maurine Beasley Award for outstanding women’s-history research paper.
    *Wally Eberhard Award for outstanding research in media and war.

    Research Chair Michael Fuhlhage (michael.fuhlhage@wayne.edu) of Wayne State University is coordinating paper submissions. Authors will be notified in mid-July whether their papers have been accepted.

    PANELS

    Preference will be given to proposals that involve the audience and panelists in meaningful discussion or debate on original topics relevant to journalism history. Preference also will be given to panels that present diverse perspectives on their topics. Entries must be no longer than three pages of text, double-spaced, in 12-point type, with one-inch margins. Panel participants must register for and attend the convention.

    Panel proposals must be submitted electronically as PDF or Word attachments. Please include the following: 
    • A title and brief description of the topic.
    • The moderator and participants’ info (name, institutional affiliation, student or faculty status). 
    • A brief summary of each participant’s presentation.

    Send proposals to ajhapanels@gmail.com.

    No individual may be on more than one panel. Panel organizers must make sure panelists have not agreed to serve on multiple panels. Panel organizers also must secure commitment from panelists to participate before submitting the proposal. Moderators are discussion facilitators and may not serve as panelists. Failure to adhere to the guidelines will lead to rejection of the proposal.

    Panelists may submit a research paper and/or research in progress abstract.

    Tracy Lucht (tlucht@iastate.edu) of Iowa State University is coordinating the panel competition. Authors of panel proposals will be notified in mid-July whether their panels have been accepted.

    RESEARCH IN PROGRESS

    The Research in Progress category is for work that will NOT be completed before the conference. Participants will give an overview of their research purpose and progress, not a paper presentation, as the category’s purpose is to allow for discussion and feedback on work in progress. RIP authors may also submit a research paper on a significantly different topic.

    For research in progress submissions, send a blind abstract of your study. Include the proposal title in the abstract. The abstract should include a clear purpose statement as well as a brief description of your primary sources. Abstracts must be no longer than two pages of text, double-spaced, in 12-point type, with 1-inch margins, excluding notes.

    Primary sources should be described in detail in another double-spaced page.

    Entries that do not follow these guidelines will be rejected.

    The AJHA Research in Progress competition is administered electronically.
    • Proposals must be submitted as PDF or Word attachments, saved with author identification ONLY in the file names and NOT in the text of the proposal. 
    • Each proposal must be submitted as an attachment, with author’s info (name, project title, telephone number, email address, institutional affiliation, and student or faculty status) in the text of the email.

    Send research in progress proposals to ajharip@gmail.com. Authors will be notified in mid-July whether their proposals have been accepted.

    Authors whose work is accepted must register for and attend the convention.

    Melita Garza (melita.garza@tcu.edu) of Texas Christian University is coordinating the Research in Progress competition.

  • 21 Feb 2017 10:27 PM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)

    The Sidney Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism History

    The organization's highest honor 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. Award winners need not be members of the AJHA. Nominations for the award are solicited annually, but the award need not be given every year. Those making nominations for the award should present, at the minimum, a cover letter that explains the nominee's contributions to the field as well as a vita or brief biography of the nominee. Supporting letters for the nomination are also encouraged.

    Distinguished Service to Journalism History Award

    The Distinguished Service to Journalism History Award recognizes contributions by an individual outside our discipline who has made an extraordinary effort to further significantly our understanding of, or our ability to explore, media history.  Nominations are solicited annually, but the award is given only in exceptional situations.  Thus, it is not given every year. Those making nominations for the award should present, at the minimum, a cover letter that explains the nominee's contributions to the field as well as a vita or brief biography of the nominee. Supporting letters for the nomination are also encouraged.

    The deadline for both awards is Saturday, May 13, 2017. Please send all material via email to:

    Mike Conway

    Indiana University Media School

    mtconway@indiana.edu


  • 02 Feb 2017 5:36 PM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)

    On Thursday, the executive leadership of the American Journalism Historians Association released an official statement regarding the organization’s stance on the policies, positions and statements of the administration of President Donald J. Trump in relation to journalism, democracy and history.

    The statement reads:

    The American Journalism Historians Association, as the nation’s largest organization dedicated to the study of journalism history, is particularly well suited to consider the centuries-old American struggle for free press, truth, and transparency, both in its principles of democracy and of journalism.

    In the past, efforts to limit that freedom have moved the United States away from its ideals of liberty and equality. AJHA believes that assaults on journalists and free speech from the highest levels of U.S. government constitute a dangerous attack on this country’s fundamental democratic principles and traditions, while simultaneously undermining the very basis of historical truth.

    AJHA affirms its position that facts, truth, integrity, and respect for the importance of journalists have been a hallmark of American law and custom for more than two centuries, and must continue to be a bedrock principle of American democracy.

    David Vergobbi, AJHA President, University of Utah
    Dianne Bragg, AJHA 1st Vice-President, University of Alabama
    Ross Collins, AJHA 2nd Vice-President, North Dakota State University

    Founded in 1981, the American Journalism Historians Association seeks to advance education and research in mass communication history. Members work to raise historical standards and ensure that all scholars and students recognize the vast importance of media history and apply this knowledge to the advancement of society. For more information on AJHA, visit http://www.ajhaonline.org. 


  • 30 Jan 2017 6:26 PM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)

    (Editor's Note: Kate McQueen presented her paper, “Zeppelin in the Arctic: How Mass Publishing Influenced Early Twentieth Century Scientific Exploration” during a Research-in-Progress session at the 2016 AJHA Convention. The Intelligencer asked McQueen to tell us more about why she is researching this topic, what it means and why it's important.)

       

    By Kate McQueen

    University of Illinois—Urbana/Champaign

    As a scholar of literary journalism, I'm fascinated by borders. Those heavily policed edges of disciplines, which, though controversial, regularly inspire innovative and meaningful bodies of work. 

    Literature and journalism share a famously contended border. So do journalism and science. The place where these three disciplines meet, however, is an under-charted territory.(1) I'm particularly interested in how the literary has been harnessed for science writing historically, and in what sort of journalistic platforms such innovation can thrive.

    This topic provides a rather nebulous context for the research-in-progress paper I presented at the 2016 AJHA Conference, titled “Zeppelin in the Arctic: How Mass Publishing Influenced Early Twentieth-Century Scientific Exploration.”

    As far as narratives go, few plots have been more valuable to publishers—of novels or newspapers— than the “exploratory voyage.” This was particularly true in the 19th century, when the mass press sponsored all kinds of exploration, from Henry Morton Stanley's search for David Livingstone in Africa to Frederick Cook and Robert Peary's race to the North Pole. 

    These trips were more sport than science. But in the early 20th century, the emphasis shifted, away from easily sensationalized exploration-for-exploration’s-sake and towards scientific inquiry. The basic question driving my paper is: Did mass newspaper publishers continue to play a supporting role in scientific exploration, and if so, in what ways?

    I chose as a case study the airship Graf Zeppelin's only Arctic flight of 1931, which was conceived and funded in large part by two mass publishers, William Randolph Hearst and the German Ullstein Verlag.(2) 

    The Graf Zeppelin made the seven-day round trip from Friedrichshafen, Germany, to the North Pole, carrying a group of scientists and explorers from Germany, the Soviet Union, Sweden, and the USA. The goals of the trip were threefold: to map the poorly charted Arctic areas, to take meteorological measurements, and to monitor the earth’s magnetic field in the Arctic region. 

    What makes this particular trip interesting is that scientific inquiry was such an intentional goal. It didn’t have to be. This was not the case for any other Zeppelin voyage, or for any other contemporaneous attempts to cross the Arctic by airplane, airship, or by boat. The flight alone would have attracted intense interest, for the Arctic was one of the few remaining unexplored corners of the earth. In fact, Hearst’s original vision for the voyage was a highly fantastic, less science-centered plan that involved the rendezvous of the Zeppelin with a submarine carrying Jules Verne’s grandson. 

    When the polar retrofit of his decommissioned navy submarine proved impossible, Hearst abandoned the Arctic voyage altogether, leaving Ullstein Verlag to fill the gap. The Ullsteins bought the exclusive coverage rights, and placed on board the writer Arthur Koestler, then the science editor for the their flagship newspaper, the Vossische Zeitung

    In many ways Ullstein’s role was no different than Hearst’s; they supplied financial backing, and they promoted the event across a wide spectrum of papers. With their choice of Koestler as the sole onboard reporter, however, they also guaranteed an usually explicit coverage of the actual science underway. Koestler’s importance to the scientific impact of this trip cannot be overstated. He was a 26-year-old, university-trained engineer who had acquired one of the most prestigious journalism positions in Germany, due to his ability to combine lucid scientific explanation with imaginative narrative prose. Koestler’s talent was also his mission. He actively cultivated a poetic vision of science, and ran his news section with the near spiritual desire to
    “shift the emphasis in popular education from stale humanities to a lively comprehension of the mysteries of the universe and life.”(3)

    Based on my survey of the relevant clips from The New York Times and the Vossische Zeitung, Koestler delivered on his literary skills here too.(4) In addition to a great sense of drama and an eye for detail, Koestler put the science fully on display. He humanized the on-board professors and shared details of their experiments. Little was known about the weather conditions of the North Pole, whether magnetic or gyro compasses would work in the area, or how accurate existing maps actually were. Koestler provided context that allowed a lay reader to understand what was at stake in—for example— the otherwise unstimulating collection of data from atmospheric balloons. Koestler’s narrative also captured the utopian vision that drove the exploration— the sense that through human innovation all things are knowable.

    The initial reception of the voyage was powerful. Massive crowds greeted the Zeppelin at its layovers in Leningrad and Berlin. Across the Atlantic, the New York Times praised the voyage, for its science in particular. Their editorial team wrote, “the world learns little after reading the old tale of mists that obscure the ocean and make its crossing something like a miracle.” But “the German scientific mission... in a few hours discovered more than could be expected from years of painful footwork.”(5)

    The lingering impact of this coverage, at least in Europe, was equally substantial. The expedition’s physician, Dr. Ludwig Kohl-Larsen, wrote a popular narrative account of the trip, in 1931, called Die Arktisfahrt des Graf Zeppelin (The Arctic Voyage of the Graf Zeppelin), which explained the science of the trip in much greater detail. And Koestler became an overnight celebrity. For months he gave speaking tours about the trip all over Europe, and upon his return was promoted to assistant editor-in-chief for the Ullstein’s largest paper, B.Z. am Mittag. Koestler’s own account of the Zeppelin tour, called Von weißen Nächten und roten Tagen (Of White Nights and Red Days), was published in 1933. 

    My tentative conclusion about the role of the mass press in promoting scientific exploration, like the Zeppelin Arctic voyage, is this: such voyages would not have been possible without the commercial support of mass publishers. But the most important factor for success was the ability to sell the story of the science. Here specifically, the work was done by a writer who was uniquely able to synthesize the literary with the science. This pairing made atmospheric science —for one— accessible as it had never been before. It also placed upon the science the heavy burden of symbolic meaning. Citizens of many countries cheered the triumph of the Zeppelin's scientific exploration, but Germans identified deeply with this German-funded, German-operated, and German-narrated mission. The technological achievement of the airship in particular was taken as a representation "of the measure of the German soul.”(6) 

    I don't think it would be wrong to see in the Zeppelin the lingering shadow of the geopolitical ambition that drove the exploration of the Imperial era. Which leads me to the question whether scientifically motivated exploration is much different from the exploration of earlier centuries.

    As wildly successful as the Zeppelin’s scientific voyage had been, it remained a solitary enterprise. Economic crisis was in full swing by the early 1930s, closing newspapers and stripping funding for scientific research. The rise of the Nazi Party caused further disruption to the media and the scientific establishment. The Zeppelin was coopted as a political machine, and after the explosion of the Hindenburg in 1937, fell out of fashion completely, its full potential as a tool for scientific inquiry never to be fully realized. 

    The partnership between the Ullstein Verlag and Koestler followed a similar course. The mass publisher took a risk by promoting a form of science writing that departed radically from the conventions of the day, with the best possible outcome. It seems that Koestler’s lyricism and poetic vision played an important role popularizing scientific discovery in Germany in the early 1930s. 

    This poetic approach did, however, pose a challenge to the accepted dichotomies of science/art, secularism/mysticism, even specialist/layperson, and ultimately prevented Koestler from gaining acceptance within the established journalistic and scientific communities. Koestler wrote in his memoir, in spite of the fact “that I was competent in my work... In spite of my outward success, nobody took me really seriously... My colleagues felt there was something false and basically unsound about me…”(7)

    Koestler quit his position at Ullstein Verlag in 1932 to work for the Communist Party, an experience he creatively mined in his bestselling political novel, Darkness at Noon, published in 1940. He never returned to science journalism, although his postwar work takes up similar strategies and themes. His book-length studies, such as The Sleep Walkers (1955), are genre-bending works of speculative science that were simultaneously praised and denounced by scientific professionals.

    Going forward with this project, I hope to discern whether the pushback Koestler received was in response to his personal style, or if it signaled a discomfort with poetic science writing generally. One possible approach to addressing this issue was suggested by the research of another participant on my AJHA panel. Prof. Susan E. Swanberg of University of Arizona presented on The New York Times’ William L. ‘Atomic Bill’ Laurence, another popular and controversial mid-century science reporter who wrote outside the traditional boundaries of objective science writing. While Laurence and Koestler seem to have very different styles, a comparison of the reception of these writers’ works could provide insight into not only the strengths but also the limitations of the literary approach for science journalism. One of the most promising outcomes of the conference, for me, was the opportunity to meet Prof. Swanberg and discuss possible collaboration in the future. 

    References

    (1) See Andreas W. Daum, “Varieties of Popular Science and the Transformations of Public Knowledge. Some Historical Reflections,” Isis 2009 v. 100: 319-332.

    (2) My account of the voyage has been pieced together from first-hand accounts, Arthur Koestler, Von weißen Nächten und roten Tagen (Vienna: Promedia Verlag, 2013), and Ludwig Kohl-Larsen, Die Arktisfahrt des “Graf Zeppelin” (Berlin: Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1931) and from secondary sources, Michael Scammell, Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Critic (New York: Random House, 2009) and Guillaume De Syon, Zeppelin! Germany and the Airship, 1900-1939 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2002).

    (3) Arthur Koestler, Arrow in the Blue (London: Hutchinson, 1969), 284.

    (4) The New York Times ran 13 articles and Vossische Zeitung ran 16 articles during 24-31 July 1931. All Vossische Zeitung articles were written by Koestler. The New York Times coverage was a mix of Koestler’s reports in translation and in-house commentary.

    (5) “An Aerial Contrast,” The New York Times, 31 July 1931, 16.

    (6) De Syon, Zeppelin!, 168.

    (7) Koestler, Arrow in the Blue, 284.

    Kate McQueen is a master’s degree student in journalism at Illinois, where she is studying literary journalism, and an instructor in Illinois’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She holds a Ph.D. in German Studies from Stanford University, where she specialized in Central European literary and press history.


  • 30 Jan 2017 3:46 PM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-journalists-covered-rise-mussolini-hitler-180961407/

  • 28 Jan 2017 11:50 PM | Dane Claussen (Administrator)

    From James O'Donnell's posting at Jhistory:

    The Irish Bibliography of Press History (IBPH) is a searchable, open access resource. It can be accessed at http://newspapersperiodicals.org/bibliography/.

    The scope of the IBPH is to provide a bibliography of secondary literature on the history of print media in Ireland, or by scholars based in, or closely associated with, Ireland on the history of print media generally. Updated three times a year (January, May, September) it is primarily focussed on published scholarly, academic work. Having just passed its first brthday the IBPH now contains over 1,000 individual entries and continues to grow as new works are added. Suggestions for forthcoming publications that should be included or previously published works that have been accidentally omitted are most gratefully received, contact details are available on the IBPH page.

    Thought is being given to how the IBPH can be improved and developed. To assist this process it would be greatly apprecaited if anyone with an interest in, or who has previously used, the IBPH could provide some brief feedback (only five short questions) via this survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BBLMB3N. 

    The IBPH is an initiative of the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland (NPHFI). 

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