Intelligencer is a blog featuring thoughtful essays on mass communication history teaching and research as well as highlighting the work of our members.

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  • 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

  • 11 Jul 2022 4:35 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    Anna E. Lindner (MA, Media Culture, and Communication, New York University) is a doctoral candidate in the Communication Department at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. A critical/cultural media historian, her dissertation focuses on how mediated discourses represent and are influenced by white supremacy, national/colonial identity, slavery, and resistance enacted by African descendants in mid-nineteenth-century Cuba. Her other research interests include formations of cultural identity, racialized linguistics and education, intersectional feminisms and queer studies, critical whiteness studies, and racial justice activism.

    Anna's paper "Race and Social Status: A Content Analysis of the Colonial Cuban Newspaper Gaceta de la Habana, 1849" is the top student paper in the History Division at this year's AEJMC conference.

    When and how did you first become involved in AJHA?

    In 2019, when I joined the Wayne State doctoral program, I started research with my advisor, Dr. Michael Fuhlhage, who has been an enthusiastic AJHA member for many years. After a year of looking at old Cuban newspapers, I presented our paper on William Walker’s filibustering campaign in Nicaragua at the 2020 AJHA convention, and I was able to meet several smart, supportive scholars who love what they do. In 2021, we presented our paper on representations of the Fugitive Slave Act in Detroit River borderlands newspapers, which won the Snorgrass minorities topic paper award and is currently under review for publication.

    How did you become interested in historical research?

    As a homeschooler, historical fiction was my favorite genre. This passion was solidified by the excellent history teachers I had in high school, especially when they encouraged civic engagement and framed history as a way to understand and pursue social justice, my other passion.

    Tell us about your award-winning paper for AEJMC History Division. What drew you to the topic? How does it fit in with your overall dissertation research?

    A history major in college who was involved in racial justice initiatives on campus, I focused on African diasporic and Latin American histories. My advisor, an Afro-Caribbeanist, encouraged me to study enslaved women in nineteenth-century Cuba—that was in 2015, and I’ve been studying African descendants in colonial diaspora ever since! I’m interested in how racial terms are deployed in colonial discourse, resulting in this project: a content analysis of 1849 issues of a Spanish colonial Cuban newspaper, Gaceta de la Habana. The paper feeds directly into my dissertation research on how the discourses of press stories, legal reports, and personal letters written by colonial authorities both construct the racialized “other” and reify institutional power and ideologies. 

    How does your historical knowledge inform your teaching of non-historical topics?

    I constantly (often unconsciously) ground phenomena, observations, examples, etc. in historical events. This impulse to contextualize, buttressed by attention to detail and the importance of making holistic arguments that try to account for as many factors as possible, makes me a better instructor and scholar.

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

    I’m still trying to determine what “life outside of work” might mean for me because I don’t have good work/life boundaries, but the main non-academic thing I do is exercise—I’m a certified personal trainer on the side and love being outside. Because I’m such an introvert, my attempts to be involved in activism have been more successful since I’ve been able to attend webinars and other events online and volunteer for tasks I can do remotely (and alone). I’m also very passionate about sleep and food, and enjoy music, gaming, and watching movies/TV shows (I only critique them as media objects about half of the time).
  • 15 Jun 2022 2:50 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    by Will Mari, Louisiana State University

    I wish I could say that I know what I’m doing when it comes to working with sources in media history. But that’s not entirely true—I’m still learning hard lessons about how to engage with challenging materials.

    Case in point: trade publications—including Editor & Publisher (recently digitized by, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Quill, and the UK-based Press Gazette—are rich and complex, sharing the values and beliefs of the journalism trade over the past century, but also its flaws and foibles. I’ve used them (among other sources, including memoirs, textbooks, correspondence, and archival material) to write two books for Routledge and one for the University of Missouri Press.

    They are problematic. Editor & Publisher, especially, represented the voices of owners (who were often publishers, as the name implies), as well as senior editors and other “newsroom bosses.” Rare is the presence of lower-level editors, women, and people of color until comparatively recently. As the comprehensive trade journal for the U.S. and arguably most of Canada, however, it is an important resource for any media historian, especially now that its contents are text-searchable from c. 1901 to 2015. What is important is thus not whether or not to use it, but how to use it. By itself, it tends to represent triumphant, majoritarian, anti-union, sometimes classist perspectives. And yet, it’s not quite that simple.

    Throughout the 1950s, for example, Editor & Publisher carried out a long crusade against government secrecy during the early Cold War and contained some of the first trenchant critiques of the handling of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist obsessions. Later on, the magazine was also interested, often critically, in coverage of newsroom integration efforts and the adoption of computers and later the internet in newsrooms. It’d be lazy to dismiss it, though perhaps too easy to embrace its managerial advocacy. Instead, it’s a messy, contingent source—in other words, the kind of historical record that reflects the reality of its time.

    This is true, too, of SPJ’s Quill, which retains a slightly scrappier, more rank-and-file orientation. Throughout the Great Depression, the publication was replete with how-to stories about how to leave journalism, and generally covered the unionization movement (led by the American Newspaper Guild) more fairly than Editor & Publisher. Many of its writers were college-educated, of course, but it was less worried about making powerful people happy and more interested in advocating for regular news workers.

    While it has not been digitized (though it should be!), many public libraries, especially university libraries (such as the University of Oregon) contain complete, bound-volume runs. I would encourage my colleagues to incorporate it in their projects. An added bonus—the tables of contents are fairly comprehensive, meaning that it’s relatively easy to skim. And beginning in the mid-1990s, it is at least partially online for those with university library access.

    Similarly, the UK Press Gazette, as well as the Columbia Journalism Review and the American Journalism Review, all have at least some online archives, especially from the 1990s and early 2000s onward, and often bound volumes can be found via interlibrary loan. I’d be happy to help you track down copies—please just reach out to me at my email address (members can find it in the AJHA directory).

    No one source is perfect, again, but trade publications tend to showcase the then-current thinking or best practices in journalism at certain points in time, and they can act as important meso-level sources for analyzing particular moments in media or journalism history, checking other, more regional sources, and tracing, perhaps more broadly, big trends in the field over time.

    I know from experience that they provide incomplete, or even clouded, pictures of journalism. However, for tracking the development of, for example, the use of radio cars in news coverage (something I talk about in my 2021 book), they are invaluable, and, in addition to stories, contain cartoons, photos, and illustrations. Editor & Publisher has been especially generous with allowing for re-publication of images in either books or articles—something that’s not always a guarantee.

    So, in sum, I would encourage folks to use trade publications early and often in their research, almost regardless of topical focus—they are complicated but rewarding sources.

    A former chair of the AEJMC History Division, Will Mari is an assistant professor of media history and media law at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. His book The American Newsroom: A History, 1920-1960 (2021) was a runner-up for this year's AJHA Book of Year Award.

    He also is the author of Newsrooms and the Disruption of the Internet: A Short History of Disruptive Technologies, 1990–2010 (2022) and A Short History of Disruptive Journalism Technologies (2019), covering the social-cultural history of the American newsroom during the interwar years and early Cold War.

  • 15 Jun 2022 2:32 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    Carolyn Kitch is the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Journalism in the Department of Journalism and the Media and Communication Doctoral Program of Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication. She is this year's recipient of the Donald L. Shaw Senior Scholar Award, presented by the AEJMC History Division to honor a scholar who has a long record of excellence in media history. She has authored, co-authored, or co-edited five books as well as more than 70 journal articles, book chapters, and reviews--many of them focusing on memory studies.

    When and how did you first become involved with AJHA?

    When I began graduate school, I was in an American Studies master’s program, and I submitted a paper about Willa Cather’s journalism, not knowing if it – or I – would fit into this organization. My first conference was in London, Ontario and hosted by David Spencer, and when I met him, I knew that this was a special group. For 25 years that has remained true. The people in this organization are very supportive of each other’s research and very fun to be with. I now realize how lucky I was to find this kind of community early in my academic career, and I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made through AJHA.

    You are receiving AEJMC History's Shaw Senior Scholar award for your lengthy record of research excellence in the field. What drives you to remain active in media history research?

    We tend to think of historical research as documentary work, but it’s also a process of imagination, and that’s what keeps me invested. To me, historical media are portals to a sense of what it might have been like to live and work during a particular era. I’m also interested in longer-term questions of what media survive or disappear, and which people are remembered or forgotten. These are huge questions we can never fully answer, but they’re compelling. Fortunately, when I was starting out, my doctoral advisor, Patricia Bradley, not only allowed but encouraged me to ask broad questions about cultural history and to take interdisciplinary approaches to exploring them. Her work has been a valuable model for me. Don Shaw’s scholarship also was an inspiring example of wide-ranging curiosity.

    What do you believe is the importance of public memory as an area of historical inquiry?

    Public memory is a process through which people use ideas about the past in order to make sense of the present. Because this occurs in the present, it also affects the narratives we create to explain the present itself, including judgments about what is “newsworthy” now and should be retained for the future. And this process has occurred in every era, not just our own. So, over time, there is a layered relationship between memory construction and what survives as being seen as historically significant. That is a central concern of memory studies, but also deserves theoretical and methodological consideration in media history scholarship.

    How does your professional magazine background influence your research?

    I worked on staff at two magazines, McCall’s and Good Housekeeping, that were more than a century old. Among the office artwork were covers created by these magazines’ two most famous cover artists, Neysa McMein and Jessie Willcox Smith, both from the early-twentieth century. I liked those pictures because I liked history, and whenever there was some special feature or anniversary issue “looking back” on earlier eras, I was the one who happily headed down the hall to the room where all the bound volumes were. Those experiences ultimately led me to the subjects of my first two books, one about early-twentieth-century magazine illustration and the other about how current magazines construct historical memory. More generally, of course, my magazine experience inclined me to study magazines, a medium still under-represented in journalism history scholarship. 

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

    There are no non-historical subjects. Everything has a history, and we are in history. Whatever the subject, I try to ask “how” and “what if” and “why” questions to encourage students to think about how we ended up with the kinds of media we have, why certain people may have had more of a chance to shape those media, and what other options there might have been … and still could be. Usually those kinds of questions move the subject beyond media and into other aspects of life. With regard to recent events, we can’t help asking, “How could this have happened?” That question, seemingly about the pressing events of the present, opens the door for conversations about the past.

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

    Although this is no longer the case, for more than two decades I sang in choruses wherever I was living, and that experience shaped me in many ways. I also love theater, art, and travel, and after the past two years, I will never again take any of them for granted.
  • 15 Jun 2022 2:22 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

    by Aimee Edmondson, President

    Noted media historian Hazel Dicken-Garcia mentored students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis for 30 years.

    Now her name is attached to a new prize that the AJHA plans to award in perpetuity.

    This long-time AJHA member and friend bequeathed $22,664 to the organization upon her death in 2018, and the AJHA has been working to raise additional funds to get the total amount to at least $25,000 for the Hazel Dicken-Garcia Student Grant Award to be endowed and yield a fiduciary benefit of up to $1,000 annually. Donations toward the fund may be made here.

    With this plan, Dicken-Garcia's generous spirit will live on for generations of media historians. This financial goal is just a start. The AJHA leadership is now researching options for housing and growing the endowment. As more funds are raised, the annual prize money – and number of recipients – would increase along with it. 

    The Long-term Planning Committee developed a recommendation for the use of her gift, and the board approved that plan earlier this year. I then appointed an ad hoc Dicken-Garcia Award Committee to create specific language for the award criteria. This committee includes Amy Mattson Lauters, Minnesota State University, Mankato; Jennifer E. Moore, University of Minnesota, Duluth; Kate Roberts Edenborg, University of Wisconsin-Stout; and Yong Volz, University of Missouri.

    Lauters knew Dicken-Garcia well as a long-time mentor and friend.

    “Hazel Dicken-Garcia mentored many graduate students in her career, and I think she would be happy to know the legacy she left to AJHA will assist young scholars with their research,” Lauters said. “She valued research that added to our understanding of media history, particularly as it relates to the wide variety of diverse cultures and people whose contributions to that history have been understudied. I’m thrilled that this grant will help support future research in her honor.” 

    The Dicken-Garcia Award Committee has generated a call that the AJHA leadership plans to release in 2023. Specifically, this research grant is intended to provide financial assistance to students whose work embodies Dicken-Garcia’s scholarly interests in media history. Preference will be given to scholars researching in the following areas: 19th and 20th century journalism standards, equity issues and the media, gender, identity and the media, media and journalism ethics, international communication, Civil War journalism, free expression/First Amendment.

    To be eligible for the grant, awardees must be a current AJHA member upon submitting their applications, and they must continue their membership through the grant period. The funds may be used any time during the subsequent 12 months for travel or other research-related expenses, but not for salary.

    Many thanks to the Long-Term Planning Committee and the Dicken-Garcia Award Committee for their work on this project. 

    Stay tuned to the Intelligencer for updates on this issue. Meanwhile please feel free to reach out to me at with any feedback regarding the use of the Dicken-Garcia gift.

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