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  • 15 Sep 2022 4:00 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    Own Your Own Piece of Journalism History

    Gerry Lanosga and David Nord of Indiana University look at the rare 18th & 19th century publications that Nord is donating for the AJHA auction in Memphis.

    by Mike Conway, 1st Vice President

    What journalism or media historian would not like to have a framed front page of the Dallas Morning News from the John F. Kennedy assassination hanging on their wall? Or how about a Spiro Agnew watch? A World War II ration book? These are just three of dozens of items up for bid in the AJHA auction, which is part of our first in-person annual conference in three years, taking place in Memphis from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

    This year’s auction has both an online and in-person presence. You can look at the items and start bidding now at our Galabid site.  As of this writing, there are more than 40 items up for bid and more on the way.

    You can also see the items in person starting Thursday, Sept. 29 at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel. The bidding will end just before midnight Friday, Sept. 30. You will need to pay for your items online Saturday morning, and winning bidders will receive their media history items during the AJHA business meeting on Saturday, Oct. 1.

    “Overbid and Often.”  You will often find great deals on historic items at the AJHA auction. But keep in mind that the purpose of this auction is to raise money for our Michael S. Sweeney Graduate Student Travel Stipend. If you can afford to bid (donate) higher, please do.  In the old days of the in-person auction, the late Mike Sweeney was a master at guilting us all into spending more money than we expected to help us fund student travel to our conference. Another option is to seek out a graduate student at the conference and see if they have their eye on any auction items and then bid on it for them.

    Even though the bidding is online, you must be in Memphis to pick up your auction items. We will not be shipping any auction items. If you can’t be there but really want a specific auction object, you can talk to one of us going to Memphis to see if we’d be willing to get it to you in exchange for a healthy bid/donation.

    Of course, we would also like to encourage everyone to donate directly to the Michael S. Sweeney Graduate Student Travel Stipend. You can do that any time. A reminder that this year’s healthy $400 travel stipend was only possible because of Mike and Carolyn Sweeney’s generous decision to list this fund in his obituary earlier this year, bringing in more than $5500. We won’t have that money next year, so the stipend amount will depend on how much money we can raise from the auction and other donations to the Sweeney Stipend.

    We will also be honoring all of the graduate students involved in this year’s conference during the AJHA business meeting on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 10:10am in Memphis.

    For those of you who have donated items for the auction, don’t forget to bring those items to Memphis. We will have instructions on where you can drop off your items when you register.

    The AJHA auction is returning this year because of AJHA President Aimee Edmondson’s decision to put together a special committee to look into ways to encourage and support graduate students who get involved in our organization. Special thanks to Jason Guthrie, Gerry Lanosga, Erin Coyle, Michael Fuhlhage, and Claire Rounkles for their work on this committee over the past year.

    If you have any questions about the auction, please get in touch with me at

    Caption for mug photo: A New York Times Obama victory front page coffee cup, sold by the newspaper in 2009, is one of the items in the AJHA Auction in Memphis.

  • 15 Sep 2022 3:55 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    Former AJHA President David Vergobbi (center) recognizes outgoing committee chairs at the 2017 AJHA Conference.

    by Mike Conway, 1st Vice President

    As an all-volunteer organization, AJHA only succeeds because of the generous donation of time and expertise by its members. Right now, we have several opportunities for members to get involved in our group. If you have served on committees before and are looking for a new challenge, or if you haven’t been involved beyond membership and conferences, we’d like to hear from you.

    In the current academic climate, we know there is added pressure to concentrate your service work on your home institutions. That is why we are very appreciative of everyone who gets involved in AJHA to keep the various committee efforts and the entire organization moving forward.

    For those who are looking to guide one of our committees, we will soon (or now) have openings in Research, Membership, Graduate Students, and History in the Curriculum.

    Committees that are looking for new members include Public Relations, Oral History, Membership, Education, and Service Awards.

    If you don’t really know where to start, please let us know and we can find a position that matches your interests and time availability.

    Let us know if are attending the conference in Memphis this month so we can talk to you in person about AJHA.

    If you’d like to get involved, or have questions, you can contact me at or AJHA 2nd Vice President Tracy Lucht at You can also go to the AJHA Committee web page and contact the committee chairs directly.

    As always, thanks to all of you who keep AJHA strong.

  • 15 Sep 2022 3:47 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    Ashley Walter with her Penn State advisor Ford Risley at the 2019 AJHA conference.

    by Ashley Walter, Utah State University

    My favorite AJHA conference, which was in Dallas in 2019, also happened to be my last in-person conference before COVID-19 struck. To be honest, I can’t tell you which presentation was my favorite, or even about my own presentation. I don’t recall what anyone wore, or if I was nervous before my presentation (although it’s safe to assume I was). Rather, I remember feeling immense support from other journalism historians. I fondly recollect lunching with a group of senior scholars who decided to treat a group of younger scholars to Mexican. We laughed, talked scholarship, and chatted about our families. Since 2019, I’ve spent the last couple of years emailing and Zooming with some of these senior scholars during an isolating pandemic.

    This conference wasn’t unique. AJHA scholars are always welcoming and warm to graduate students. However, 2019 was the year I felt truly a part of the academic community. I hope you too can feel like a community member while you’re in Memphis, or at least start building the foundation. For those graduate students attending their first AJHA, I have tips and suggestions for you.

    1.      Be present: It’s a small conference, so it’s very easy to meet people. If you have work to finish, do it in the hotel lobby where you might run into other people. Don’t hide in your room. Attend the events. Volunteer. Working at the registration table is your opportunity to meet everyone, including other graduate students.

    2.      Don’t miss breakfast: There are two reasons you don’t want to miss breakfast. The first is obvious, as it’s included in the price of registration. I could stop there, but as it turns out, it’s also a great time to meet people. I don’t wait for people I know to begin eating. I just sit down and introduce myself. Conversation at 7 a.m. doesn’t come naturally to me, but I do it anyway. These conversations are casual, and you’ll get a feel for which panels you should go to throughout the day. It’s also nice to see friendly faces throughout the long day.

    3.      Go on the tour: Each year AJHA offers an afternoon away from panels to attend a historic tour. The tour very much feels like a high school field trip, except instead of bored teenagers, this trip is filled with like-minded history nerds. It’s a great time to meet people. It usually includes a bus ride to and from the location. Sit by people you don’t know. They will talk to you! I didn’t attend the tour during my first two AJHAs and I regretted it once I finally went. 

    4.      Don’t be afraid to ask: One of the best parts about AJHA is that scholars love graduate students. If you can’t afford to go to an event, senior scholars often sponsor graduate students. I was able to attend tours, lunches, and dinners because of the kindness of other scholars. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are any sponsored tour tickets or lunch tickets floating around. No one wants you to miss out on anything.

    5.      Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself: It can be intimidating to be around scholars who publish books and are veterans of our craft. But don’t be afraid to talk about your research, even if it’s just budding. I cannot tell you the amount of fantastic advice I’ve been given in the halls of AJHA hotels. You’ll want to keep your Notes app open.

    6.      Presentations: Show up early for your presentations and have your visual aid on a USB. Never go over your presentation time. Most people’s PowerPoint presentations aren’t very text heavy and usually include just a few visual aids. Also, I find that most people skip over the literature review and just dig right into their findings. Each panel ends with a question-and-answer portion. Don’t be nervous about this part. Any horror stories you’ve heard about combative Q&A's don’t happen at AJHA. Scholars are there to build knowledge and support others. If you don’t know the answer to a question, feel free to use this line: “That’s a great question! That was outside the scope of this research, but I’ll be sure to look into it.”

    7.      Clothing: AJHA dress is business casual during the presentations, but casual otherwise. Don’t be afraid to wear comfortable shoes/clothing, especially during the tour. It’s usually a busy day and includes a lot of walking.

    8.      Be nice to yourself: My first two years I felt like a graduate student lurking on the sidelines. And I was. That’s not to say people weren’t friendly in 2017 and 2018—in fact, they very much were. While confidence surely played a role, 2019 was different because, after a few years of attending, I really put myself “out there” at the annual conference. I went to all the events and eventually, I saw more faces I recognized than didn’t. So, if you leave your first AJHA feeling like a lurking graduate student, that’s totally normal. You are!

    9. One last thing: I am sure other AJHA members have even better tips. I suggest you ask them in Memphis this year.

  • 15 Sep 2022 3:31 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    Gwyneth Mellinger is a professor in the School of Media Arts & Design at James Madison University. She is serving her second term on the AJHA Board of Directors. Her research focuses on the southern press of the 1950s, the newsroom diversity movement, and journalism ethics. Mellinger is the author of Chasing Newsroom Diversity: From Jim Crow to Affirmative Action and co-editor, with John Ferré, of Journalism’s Ethical Progression: A Twentieth-Century Journey.

    When and how did you first become involved in AJHA?

    I was recruited by Carolyn Kitch. While working on my doctorate in American Studies, I presented a paper at the 2004 conference of the Middle-Atlantic American Studies Association in Lehigh, PA. This was my very first paper presentation, and I had the good fortune to draw Carolyn as the moderator and respondent. She suggested that AJHA would be an appropriate venue for the research I was doing on race and press history. In 2005 I attended my first AJHA conference in San Antonio and have missed only a few since then. Although American Studies influences my approach to scholarship, AJHA and the AEJMC History Division have been my primary academic homes.

    You'll be receiving two awards for your paper at the upcoming AJHA convention. What inspired this research? How does it fit into your overall research agenda?

    The paper examines criticism of the Pittsburg Courier’s Double V campaign that appeared in the white press during the early years of World War II. The paper is in conversation with the extensive research on the wartime Black press by Patrick Washburn and others, but my project asks why prominent whites like syndicated columnist Westbrook Pegler and newspaper editor Virginius Dabney, who wrote for magazines, used their national platforms to disparage the Black press in 1942. Given the existential threat posed by fascism, why was the Black press suddenly their priority? The historical context of the wartime civil rights movement is important, as is the oppositional relationship between the Black and white presses. Ultimately, I am concerned with how this discourse fed into the segregationist backlash during the 1950s.

    What can you tell us about other research projects you're working on?

    I am on leave from JMU this semester to work on a book I hope will be published in the Journalism and Democracy series at UMass Press. The AJHA paper has already been folded into a chapter in that manuscript, which explores the ways that the white press, particularly in the South, tried to use journalism standards like objectivity to control the news narrative as civil rights gains chipped away at the legal and social structure that supported white privilege and Black subjugation. I’ve been collecting research for this book for years; earlier AJHA papers on the Associated Press and the Southern Education Reporting Service also contribute to this historical narrative. This also underscores one of the benefits of the AJHA scholarly community, where a project like this can evolve over time.

    How has your career as a professional journalist informed your historical research?

    I love doing archival research, which feels like doing journalism except all my sources are dead. My methodological technique, specifically the way I focus the scope of an inquiry and triangulate information, is something I knew how to do before graduate school. The perspective of the journalist also has allowed me to see that nothing happens in isolation, that historical events or episodes (topics for conference papers) are part of an overarching narrative. Graduate seminars that teach this are useful, of course, but being a journalist is on-the-job training for work in the archive. In addition, my years as a journalist provide insight into newswork and the function of the press. These are not theoretical concepts for me, even if I am doing research on a period that preceded my own time in the newsroom.

    How do you incorporate your historical knowledge into your teaching of non-historical subjects?

    In the spring my teaching portfolio will be courses in media ethics and media literacy. I am this year transitioning from administrative duties to full-time teaching and research. In neither of my spring courses will it be possible to draw students through the content without placing it in historical context. Our conceptions of both media ethics and media literacy have evolved over time, and the fact of this change makes history relevant to how students perceive the subjects today. Nothing about media is static and that is one of my themes in the classroom.

    What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of academia?

    I’ve been fortunate to travel a fair amount and am looking forward to doing more now that we have vaccines for covid. I also have a semester-long teaching-abroad opportunity coming up in a few years. I was fortunate to spend a semester in the UK and to take numerous side trips then. My husband and I have a list of places we want to visit before we hang up our passports.

    My relaxation is gardening. When I get writer’s block, I often head outside, where the act of pulling weeds or working the dirt gives me the space to reflect on my work. Even if I don’t return to the den with an insight, I’m in a different place mentally when I do resume my writing. This year I harvested 88 heads of garlic, along with tomatoes, squash, asparagus, peppers and melons.

  • 15 Aug 2022 3:51 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    Historian David McCullough personified curiosity, something we REALLY could use a lot more of right now

    by Aimee Edmondson, President

    Eulogies for two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough laud his storytelling skills, his sonorous narration of Ken Burn’s “The Civil War,” and note his shock of white hair. 

    As America says goodbye to McCullough (1933-2022, funeral service scheduled for August 16 in West Tisbury, Mass.), we might contemplate another, perhaps unheralded, McCullough attribute: curiosity.

    In this hyper-partisan era, where toxic divisions threaten the very survival of our democracy, I suggest that curiosity might help us figure out how to overcome the mentality of the raging online mob. Let me explain, but before I do, I’ll acknowledge that to some critics, McCullough might personify our tendency to overwrite about “great men.” Indeed, McCullough wrote about the Wright Brothers, Harry Truman and John Adams, all stories well told. But he also wrote about the Brooklyn Bridge, the Panama Canal, the Johnstown flood and more. Typically he started out knowing little about his subject. He was just curious about this person or that, this thing or that. And most importantly, perhaps, he brought his love of history to the masses. He helped millions understand the importance of history.

    His curiosity attracted him to stories that might seem widely noted, yet were under told in some way and often relating to people who overcame long odds.

    Asking questions, including tough questions, is a high calling. The life and achievements of McCullough show us that curiosity leads to actual discovery, coexists with courtesy, and it must be life-long, not just for children.

    Consider the genesis of McCullough’s late-in-life book “The Pioneers,” published in 2019.

    As McCullough prepared his 2004 commencement speech at Ohio University on its 200th anniversary, he was intrigued by the name on the oldest building on campus here in Athens, Ohio: Cutler Hall, opened in 1819. It is also the oldest building in what was then called by white settlers the Northwest Territory of the United States. With its red brick federal architecture, Cutler Hall now houses our university president’s office and other administrative offices. It is a museum in its own right.

    That curiosity — who was Cutler? — prompted McCullough to write “The Pioneers.”

    Manasseh Cutler, a Massachusetts minister, established Ohio University in 1804. Adhering to terms of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Cutler and other investors in the Ohio Company of Associates set aside land for a public university in the Appalachian foothills. Note that six native American tribes perhaps most noted in Ohio’s history were in this territory: the Shawnee, Delaware, Ottawa, Miami, Seneca-Cayuga and Wyandot, the last being forcibly removed to Oklahoma in 1843.

    The early white pioneers chronicled in McCullough’s book traveled on foot from New England to Pittsburgh (where McCullough was born), and then in the Spring of 1788 built boats to navigate the Ohio River to start a riverfront settlement they called Marietta – about 50 miles upriver from where I live today in Athens.

    Marietta College Special Collections Manager Linda Showalter helped McCullough with his research at the library there: "He is curious about everything. When David discovered a great story, his excitement was contagious. He was always cheerful and enthusiastic during his research, and at one time was inspired by a piece of sheet music to sing a little song for us."

    McCullough was an octogenarian at that point.

    In his research, McCullough learned that Manasseh Cutler was a Yale grad and schoolteacher who became a chaplain during the Revolutionary War. He later served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and took the lead in writing the Ordinance of the Northwest Territory, particularly noted for drafting prohibitions regarding slavery in the new territories that would become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

    Curiosity is a strength, McCullough reminds us. Besides that life lesson, his curiosity about early “pioneers” yielded broader points about support for education and freedom of religion and opposition to slavery.

    It was announced on August 8 that McCullough died at the age of 89. It’s also notable that President Richard Nixon announced his resignation on Aug. 8, 1974. And on Aug. 8, 2022, FBI agents raided former President Donald Trump’s Florida home in search of classified documents amid possible violations of the Espionage Act.

    In an editorial last week in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, columnist John Rash noted the date. “However coincidental, the auspicious Aug. 8 timing is the type of symmetry America's eminent historian might wisely tie together in weighing the ways the presidency reflected — or led — the polarization that's only deepened over those 48 years.” 

    Unfortunately, Rash notes, the partisan raging on the internet did nothing to illuminate the history and the context of the unprecedented raid at Mar-a-Lago. But McCullough wouldn’t have partaken in the real-time discussion anyway. He took years with his meticulous research to bring his characters vividly back to life.

    Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley pointed out that McCullough was “loved at the George W. Bush [Presidential] Library and was friends with Barack Obama. McCullough transcended party affiliation. And that was a conscious effort on his part, to unify our country by our shared history.”

    Brinkley also lamented the loss of “referees in American life” such as Walter Cronkite. “There is not one trusted source anymore due to the balkanization of media.” Of course, members of the AJHA know this story all too well.

    Cronkite, Brinkley said, advocated the teaching of media literacy. But “we're not teaching [that] in schools, so misinformation is running supreme.” And “until you can attack that cancer on the national soul and be able to have fact-based and trusted referees out there it’s a Wild-West environment out there and it doesn't do our democracy any good.”

    Late in life, though, McCullough continued to connect history and vivid storytelling to the challenges of these modern times, quoting Cutler’s son, Ephraim: “If ignorance could be banished from our land, a real millennium would commence.”

    Blessed are the curious.
  • 11 Aug 2022 4:32 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    by David Sloan, University of Alabama (emeritus)

    One of my brothers died in April, and family members, including his wife of fifty years, were uncertain about such basic details as where he served in the Army and even where he was born.

    When people die, think of all the knowledge that vanishes with them.

    So it wasn’t a grandiose vision that led me to write my memoirs. It was a simple plan. I wrote my memoirs mainly for my two children and five grandchildren. If any of them should want to know something about me after I’m gone, maybe they can find it in my memoirs. If they’re not interested, perhaps years from now a descendent unknown will be.

    Because the memoirs are primarily for my family, they tell of such things as how I spent my childhood, what I did in high school, how I decided as a college freshman that I wanted to be a professor, how I met my future wife by a singular coincidence, and what I did on my four newspaper jobs.

    But since I spent much of my life in academia and history, a large part of my memoirs covers those areas.

    Even though the largest portion of my time as a professor involved the study of history, it was not my original plan. I had intended to specialize in law in my doctoral program at the University of Texas. My decision to switch to history surprised even me.

    I got hardly any guidance as I studied history. Yet my dissertation opened my eyes to some of the biggest problems that plagued the study of JMC history.

    When I was trying to choose a dissertation topic, my committee gave me only the most meager idea about what to do. My advisor came to the rescue. He told me, “Choose something no one’s ever studied.”

    That sounds simple enough. But consider: How can one be aware of something in history that no one has ever written about? It’s not easy. I went ahead and tried to come up with something. Later, it dawned on me that the reason no one has written about some topics is that no one’s interested in them. They’re unimportant or, worse, boring.

    I suggested the party press from 1789 to 1816 as my topic. Hardly any historian had written about it in the 20th century. In fact, historians had disparaged it since long before I was born. They gave it the sobriquet “The Dark Ages of American Journalism.”

    As I read through hundreds and hundreds of primary sources, something strange kept popping up. Historians said the newspapers were terrible. But people of the time thought they were important. They even praised the papers! Can you imagine that? How could they be so misinformed? Didn’t they realize that the papers weren’t doing the proper job of newspapers?

    Then it struck me. Historians were the ones who got it wrong. They were judging the newspapers by journalistic standards that only appeared later. They were expecting editors of the party period to perform by criteria of the historians’ time.

    The problem, present-mindedness, is well-known to historians, but journalism historians in 1980 were oblivious to the error.

    Once I realized where the problem lay, I could see all of journalism history in a new light.

    My dissertation planted the seed for much of the research and writing that I did in my academic career.

    The greater portion of my efforts was aimed at trying to improve practices in our field and to elevate history’s importance in the broader field of mass communication education.

    One of the biggest efforts was the AJHA. Gary Whitby and I started it in 1982, and Gary founded its journal, American Journalism. Ten years later, I started the AJHA Southeast Symposium, and even after retiring from teaching I created the online journal Historiography in Mass Communication. My memoirs detail each of those efforts.

    They were of great importance for me, but I spent more time on writing and editing books. Several focused in some way or other on historiography.

    The first one was American Journalism History: An Annotated Bibliography. I won’t waste words explaining why I did it, but will only say that it was mainly for my own benefit. I figured that, to be a historian, one needs to be familiar with the literature in the field. I began work on it the summer after completing my dissertation, and over the next eight years read more than 2,600 books and articles. It was the best education I ever got.

    My original plan in compiling the bibliography was to identify the various schools of JMC historians and explain their interpretations of the major periods and topics in the field. That effort eventually led to the book Perspectives on Mass Communication History.

    At the same time I was working on Perspectives, Jim Startt and I began Historical Methods in Mass Communication. Jim knows more about historical methodology than any other JMC historian ever has, and his expertise shows in that book. I estimate that around 2,000 students, as well as some professors, have learned how to do historical research from it.

    Not all books were so esoteric. The first edition of The Media in America was published in 1990. With it, my goal was to provide an accurate and authoritative textbook that gave students a good historical grounding. It is now in its eleventh edition.

    I worked as a professor for thirty-eight years. I had a privileged life.

    When my two grandsons were small children, they were riding with me through downtown Tuscaloosa on a hot August day. A construction crew was hard at work on a new hotel. Matthew and Garrett knew I was a professor and had an office job.

    Matthew, five years old, watched the workers. He declared, “Some people have to work like dogs.”

    He paused and then added, “You know, Grandad, you’ve got the greatest job in the world. All you have to do is sit down all day — and do nothing.”

  • 11 Aug 2022 4:10 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    W. Joseph Campbell is a full professor at the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C. He joined the faculty there 25 years ago this month, after completing his PhD in mass communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At American, Campbell has written seven solo-authored books, including Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies (Praeger, 2001) and, most recently, Lost in a Gallup: Polling Failure in U.S. Presidential Elections (University of California, 2020). His work also has appeared in numerous print and online outlets, including the Baltimore Sun, CNN, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Washington Post. He has appeared several times on C-SPAN to share his research, doing so of late on the cable network’s “Lectures in History” series. Before entering the academy, Campbell was a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Hartford Courant and for the Associated Press in Switzerland, Poland, and West Africa.

    When and how did you first become involved in AJHA?

    I attended my first AJHA conference in October 1996, while I was working on my PhD at UNC-Chapel Hill. Peggy Blanchard was a UNC professor who encouraged her graduate students to consider submitting seminar papers for prospective presentation at AJHA. And so I did.

    I wrote a paper about yellow journalism and the press of West Africa, which was accepted for presentation at the conference that year in London, Ontario. I remember it was a well-planned gathering — a great venue with wonderful meals. The local host, the late David Spencer, did it up right. It was a memorable introduction to AJHA.

    You'll be receiving the Eberhard award for your paper on “proto-pack journalism” during the Civil War at the upcoming AJHA convention. What inspired this research? How does it fit into your overall research agenda?

    The paper is drawn from an emergent research interest that considers the immediate aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg from differing perspectives, including confused, erroneous, and even bizarre newspaper reporting. One reason this emergent topic is so intriguing is that it differs markedly from my recent book projects, which were about media-driven myths, the lasting importance of the year 1995, and polling failure in U.S. presidential elections.

    Until now, I haven’t done much research into aspects of the American Civil War, although during my childhood, I used to visit the Gettysburg battlefield fairly often, on trips to see cousins who lived nearby.

    I’m honored to be a recipient — now a two-time recipient — of the Eberhard award. Its namesake, Wally Eberhard, was an AJHA stalwart, a wonderful guy with a twinkle in his eye. He had this enviable knack for offering criticism without making it seem deeply critical or harsh. I miss Wally.

    You also are the recipient of a 2022 McKerns Grant. What can you tell us about the research you plan to do with those funds?

    I am delighted to be a recipient of a McKerns grant and expect it to help provide dimension and momentum to my aftermath-of-Gettysburg research project that’s in its early stages. I expect to use the funds principally to travel to archival holdings at Columbia University, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Library of Congress.

    I received a McKerns grant in 2007, the year it was introduced, and the funds helped me complete research on my media-mythbusting book, Getting It Wrong (University of California Press, 2010, 2017).

    How has your long career as a professional journalist informed your historical research?

    I left the newsroom in 1995 to enter an accelerated PhD program in mass communication at Chapel Hill, which I loved. I never looked back.

    Even so, some 20 years as a newspaper and wire service reporter implanted a strong measure of skepticism, especially about politicians of whatever stripe. And that skepticism has certainly informed my historical research, especially into media-driven myths. The exaggerated content of New York’s yellow press fomented armed conflict with Spain in 1898? Walter Cronkite swung public opinion with a single, on-air pronouncement in 1968 about the war in Vietnam? Woodward and Bernstein’s newspaper reporting brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency? I mean, really? Is that how it all happened?

    Being suspicious about such well-known, media-centric narratives can be traced to having been a working journalist in the U.S. and abroad.

    What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of academia?

    I’ve worked portions of five summers out-of-doors with grounds crews in the arboretum that is the main campus of American University.

    Closer to home, I like to split firewood and stack it for seasoning. I know that seems uncommonly woodsy for someone living in a close-in suburb of Washington. But there you have it.

    The close-in suburb is a self-governing municipality in Maryland, and I sometimes take an outspoken role in local politics. My Dad was active in small-town politics in Pennsylvania when I was growing up, so I inherited that interest. I’m not going to run for local office, though.

    I used to do a lot of blogging, mostly to support my books. I don’t have the time to post very often these days. Still, my Media Myth Alert blog is almost 13 years old.

  • 11 Aug 2022 2:45 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    by Cathy Jackson, Nominations and Elections Chair

    It’s that time of the year when AJHA members learn about the candidates for open leadership slots. Two AJHA members were nominated to serve as second vice-president, and four members are vying for three seats on the board of directors. The 2nd VP, under normal circumstances, rises to the presidency in two years, then serves on the Board as ex-officio for an additional two years. Board members serve for three years and are expected to attend board meetings at the annual convention.

    Additional nominations can be made from the floor during the election that will take place at the annual member business meeting on Saturday, Oct. 1. The ballot also will include a proposed constitutional amendment.

    After elections are held, current Second Vice-President Tracy Lucht (Iowa State University) will become first vice-president for 2022-2023, and First Vice-President Mike Conway (Indiana University) will become president.

    Proxy Voting

    Dues-paying AJHA members unable to attend the conference are eligible to vote by proxy. They should send their name, email address, and the name of the person who will cast their proxy vote at the conference to AJHA Nominations and Elections Committee Chair Cathy Jackson ( no later than midnight Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. PLEASE CONFIRM IN ADVANCE that the proxy voter will be at the business meeting on Oct. 1 and is willing to cast the proxy vote.


    Second Vice-President

    Paulette Kilmer (University of Toledo) has been a member of AJHA for almost 30 years, joining as a graduate student in the mid-1980s. She received two President’s Awards: for leadership of the Donna Allen Luncheon and for filling both editor positions on the Intelligencer and American Journalism in the same year. Kilmer served on the Education and Curriculum committees and chaired the Publications Committee. Her research examines newspapers, magazines, and other forms of pop culture in the 19th century as narrative and myth. Her major research theme is the power of factually based stories to shape the way readers see themselves and the world, thus reinforcing stereotypes, hidden privilege, and misinformation.

    Debbie van Tuyll (professor emerita, Augusta University) has been a member for about 25 years. She has won the Kobre Award (2019), the Jean Palmegiano Award (2018), a couple of honorable mentions here and there, and the McKerns Award. She served on the Convention Committee when she was a new member and served as a board member twice. She has refereed papers for the convention and for American Journalism. Van Tuyll is an editor of the Southeastern Review of Journalism History, which is co-published by her university department and the Southeastern Symposium of AJHA. For more than 15 years, she helped organize and run the Symposium and supported it by bringing students to present papers. Her research interests are Civil War-era journalism, transnational journalism history, and the earliest Irish American press.

    Board of Directors

    Mark Bernhardt (professor, Jackson State University) has been a member of the AJHA for six years. He currently serves on the History in the Curriculum Committee and editorial board of Historiography in Mass Communication. In 2020, he was awarded the Joseph McKerns Research Grant and has published in both American Journalism and Journalism History. His research interests include how newspapers, films, and television engage in public discourse about social and cultural issues connected to imperialism and its legacy in the transnational North American West, U.S. involvement in wars, and intersectionality in U.S. society.

    Elisabeth Fondren (assistant professor, St. John's University) has been a member of AJHA for six years. She received the Wally Eberhard Award for Outstanding Research in Media and War (2016), the Robert Lance Memorial Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Paper (2016), the Jean Palmegiano Award for Outstanding Paper on International/Transnational Journalism (2021 and 2017), honorable mention for the Blanchard Dissertation Prize (2019), the Joseph McKerns Research Grant (2020), and the Maurine Beasley Award for Outstanding Paper on Woman's History (2021). Her AJHA involvement includes serving on the AJHA Curriculum Committee and the Coordinating Committee for the Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference (JJCHC). She continuously reviews for American Journalism and the AJHA conference. Her research interests focus on the history of international journalism, government propaganda, military-media relations, and freedom of speech during wartime. 

    Thomas A. Mascaro (professor emeritus, Bowling Green State University) has been a member for 17 years and is the recipient of an honorable mention for the AJHA Book of the Year Award (2013), American Journalism’s Best Article Award (2018), co-winner of the Wally Eberhard Award for Best Paper on Media and War, honorable mention for the William David Sloan Award for Top Faculty Paper (2020), and co-runner-up for the Maurine Beasley Award for Outstanding Paper on Women’s History (2022). Mascaro has served as the chair the Service Awards Committee, long-time reviewer for American Journalism, judge for the AJHA Book Award competition, and as a referee for the annual convention’s paper selection. He also is an editorial board member for Historiography of Mass Communication, a non-AJHA, online journal that is closely affiliated with AJHA members (since 2019). His research interests include Network News documentary research, broadcast journalism history, Vietnam-era media history, including Southeast Asia, First Amendment history related to broadcast journalism, presidential & media history, and media and culture history.

    Ashley Walter (journalism post-doctoral fellow, Utah State University) has been a member of AJHA for six years. She was the recipient of the 2019 Robert Lance Memorial Award for Outstanding Student Paper and the 2022 Maurine Beasley Award for Outstanding Paper on Women’s History, and she has received honorable mentions for the Robert Lance Award (2022) and the Wally Eberhard Award for Outstanding Paper on Media and War (2017). She served for two years as editorial assistant for American Journalism and is a member of the Oral History Committee. Walter’s research interest is media history with a focus on women's labor and magazine research. Her work is published in Journalism History, American Journalism, and The Journal of Magazine Media.
  • 11 Aug 2022 2:23 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    The AJHA Board of Directors is proposing an amendment to the Constitution and Bylaws that will allow for annual elections to be conducted online in a regular conference year.

    President Aimee Edmondson brought the proposal to the board in July, and the board unanimously agreed to place the amendment on the upcoming AJHA election ballot. 

    Per the constitution's current language, members vote to fill officer and board seats at the member business meeting, held in person at the annual convention. For the past two years, we have conducted elections online on an emergency basis because we did not meet in person. Passage of the constitutional amendment would allow the organization to have online elections in the future even when the conference meets in person. However, because members will vote to approve the amendment at (and not before) this year's election, the 2022 election will be held in person per the constitution's current language.

    When the constitution and bylaws were created, the AJHA was a smaller organization and most everyone came to the convention. Now we have more than 300 members, but our conference attendance rarely exceeds 150--many of whom are new to the organization. To be more democratic and allow all members the reasonable opportunity to vote, we aim to follow the lead of other learned societies and conduct our elections online.

    Current language is as follows:

    Section 3.02 ELECTIONS. In advance of the annual convention, the Nominations and Elections Committee will call for nominations to fill vacant Officer and Board seats, verify the willingness of prospective candidates to serve, and prepare a ballot for presentation to the membership at the business meeting of the annual convention. Nominations may also be made from the floor.

    The proposed amendment would eliminate the highlighted language so that the constitution does not require an in-person election at the convention. Simply eliminating the business meeting specification and not prescribing a specific alternative means of conducting the election reduces the likelihood that further amendments will need to be made later as technology and the organization’s culture changes.

    Per the Constitution and Bylaws, amendments must be advertised to the membership at least one month in advance of member voting, which will occur this year at the member business meeting on Oct. 1 in Memphis. [See bios of officer and board nominees.]

    Dues-paying AJHA members unable to attend the conference are eligible to vote by proxy. They should send their name, email address, and the name of the person who will cast their proxy vote at the conference to AJHA Nominations and Elections Committee Chair Cathy Jackson (cmjackson@nsu.eduno later than midnight Friday, September 23, 2022. PLEASE CONFIRM IN ADVANCE that the proxy voter will be at the business meeting on Oct. 1 and is willing to cast the proxy vote.

  • 23 Jul 2022 2:54 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    by Julien Gorbach, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

    The years of the pandemic drove home to me how much I love sharing an actual classroom with students, but as our society plunges inexorably deeper into the virtual, there are amazing new worlds of opportunity now opening up before us. As media historians, we bring a triple threat to digital storytelling: we are already skilled and experienced in multimedia reporting; we know—or should know—digital media collections better than any other category of scholars or professionals; and media studies is our wheelhouse. Our students choose to be journalism majors because they prefer to make stories and media, not just study them, and the same can be said for many of our mass communication majors in general.

    When I signed on to teach our first iteration of a graduate-level class on digital storytelling last semester, I did so with trepidation. The course originally had been proposed and designed by a technically adept documentary filmmaker and transmedia storyteller, but he had left our faculty before actually teaching the class, so my colleagues reached out for a volunteer. I had taught historical methods for mass communication before, and I was excited by the remarkable developments with digital collections, as well as by the issues and debates around those. I envisioned a modified media historiography course that would focus on the burgeoning “digital humanities” aspects of our discipline, with online student projects as the deliverables. But I knew my prep time would be extremely limited, and I feared that I’d show up full of ideas but without the practical knowledge and plans to execute them. I was confident that our class would uncover great primary source material and grapple with important debates, but I worried that the software would prove frustrating for us all.

    I was therefore surprised and delighted to discover that as dark as our current times may be in many respects, we are living through a period of extraordinary innovation for media history storytelling. Over the past ten years, a broad range of sophisticated and powerful digital tools for creating interactive maps, timelines, and storylines have become available that are not only easy to learn and powerful in themselves, but also become exponentially more powerful when combined. Some AJHA members may already be aware of all of these platforms, but it's worth taking stock to consider what opportunities they present for our courses and programs.

    I’m not sure how it has eluded me for so long, but finding Northwestern University’s KnightLab suite of six Storytelling tools was a revelation. I also discovered that our university has the online version of Esri’s ArcGIS, which is far easier to learn and more powerful than the desktop version and could quickly be made available to students for free. This is not just mapping software; it’s also an elegant web builder, with a variety of storytelling capabilities and ways of integrating those tools together. And finally, I found Twine, a tool for interactive non-linear storytelling, the kind of thing many of us are familiar with from the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, or from the interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which appeared on Netflix in 2018. Again, I’d recommend the online version.

    Once I found these tools and discovered how easy they are to learn, the rest of the course design was easy. The goal was for each student team to create a public-facing digital storytelling project by the end of term. We approached the course as a collaborative exercise from the start. We organized the groups by shared interests and by the multimedia skills and experience that each team member brought to the table. Originally, the date for the first project pitch was to be in early March, but within days of starting the semester, I shifted that deadline to early February, in order to provide more time for troubleshooting. That turned out to be a wise decision, for which I must credit the advice of fellow AJHA member Jennifer Moore of the University of Minnesota.

    We devoted our first three weeks to the broader debates about media historiography and digitization. In addition to seminal readings by James Carey, David Paul Nord, and Michael Schudson, and chapters of Richard Evans’ indispensable book about historiography, In Defense of History, we covered discussions, for example, of what defines an “archive” and how that’s different from a “digital collection”; how skipping a visit to the physical locale of an archive often strips out crucial context; and how poor Optical Character Recognition, lack of images in a news story collection, or low-quality reproduction can affect what we think we know. Students also read chapters about copyright from Archival Storytelling by Sheila Curran Bernard and Kenn Rabin and took an online multiple-choice quiz that I created for it. But because everything we did was protected by the Fair Use doctrine, and because much of what they used was in the public domain anyway, I was not strict about policing their use of digital content.

    We focused on “multimedia” for weeks four through seven—print (and historical newspaper collections); photo and video; and sound, with separate weeks on podcasting and oral history. (These last categories are two great examples of the fresh opportunities of digital storytelling: You combine sound with maps on a website or in a mobile app, and you’ve created a new kind of history.) We carried on scholarly readings and discussion, but also did readings, class presentations, and workshops on the respective skills sets. Weeks eight through twelve covered “digital tools”: timelines, interactive storytelling, mapping, data-oriented storytelling, and VR, AR, and XR. We also did a “field trip” to our university library archives and hosted guest speakers:  Puakea Nogelmeier, a founder of the Hawaiian Language Newspaper Project, and Robert Hernandez, a professor of emerging media at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

    I took away three lessons from the experience, two of which are technical, but important. The first is that with digital tools you have to be careful, at the outset, with integration: Many of the KnightLab tools did not embed well, or at all, in websites built with Wix, Canva, or other site-building platforms, and ArcGIS is itself a website platform. The second lesson is that while the tools may be easy to learn, finding the right assets—photo, text, video, etc.—and then getting those assets to work within the tools can be considerably time-consuming, even setting aside the time required for the basic historical research. Often links work, but students will also likely need to use software like 4K Video Downloader to capture video, or QuickTime to strip out the audio, and must keep in mind that some websites won’t allow them to grab the content. It is important to warn students about these challenges at the outset.

    And finally, I discovered that digital storytelling may be a godsend for drawing students and expanding and enriching our programs. For projects in my undergraduate media history class this fall, I plan to partner with Gale and Readex, two major providers of online historic newspaper collections. Gale has a Digital Scholar Lab that will enable us to experiment with some of the most cutting-edge research tools, while Readex has some fascinating collections of Black and nineteenth century papers. Some mass communication students, I’ve found, love both reporting and archival storytelling, but others, who are fascinated by media past and present, much prefer the storytelling and design to shoeleather reporting.

    For years, media history has been marginalized by faculty and administrators who have decided the past doesn’t matter much. Digital storytelling offers us an opportunity to not only keep history relevant, but also to present it as vital to the current and future growth of our departments.

    The digital storytelling projects of COM 645:


    By Avión Plummer, David Massey-Torres, Dwayne Campos


    By Cindy Knapman and Ali Muhammad Ijaz


    By Reanna Salvador 


    By Justine Kuna Sison, Haider Hussain, Liza Marie Corotan and Payton Osborne

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