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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The steering committee of the Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression invites papers that specifically explore spiritualism and other supernatural themes as they appeared in the 19th century press. Following the 2022 Symposium, we will begin pulling together work for a book, Telling Ghost Stories: Spiritualism and the Supernatural in the 19th Century Press. Conference papers on this theme will be considered for inclusion.
Spiritualism, an important social and religious movement that saw great popularity between the 1840s and the 1920s, began after two young sisters in New York claimed spirits were trying to communicate with them. Their story caught on and so did spiritualism. A little more than decade later the Civil War and its eventual devastation and death increased spiritualism’s popularity among those seeking to reconnect with dead loved ones, including Mary Todd Lincoln. By the late 1890s, it had some 8 million followers between the U.S. and Europe, many of whom were wealthy women of a reform bent. The movement spawned specialty newspapers like The Light published by the London Spiritualist Alliance, the Banner of Light published in Boston, the Spiritualist of London, and others. It also spawned skeptical reactions from journalists and authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and William T. Stead.
Papers may be any methodology and deal with any period within the 19th century. They must keep their focus on how newspapers, magazines or other periodicals covered the spiritualist movement, journalists who were involved in the movement, spiritualist or other religious media that dealt with the subject, or any other topic that focuses on the press and the supernatural.
This call is looking for 19th-century press research on spiritualism or any ghost stories found in the 19th century newspapers. As related topics, any press research on gothic themes where the setting is “desolate or remote” and where the macabre, mysterious, or violent” took place is welcome and encouraged.
Debbie van Tuyll
See the full call for the Symposium on the 19th Century Press below:
The steering committee of the thirtieth annual Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression solicits papers dealing with US mass media of the 19th century, the Civil War in fiction and history, freedom of expression in the 19th century, presidents and the 19th century press, images of race and gender, sensationalism and crime in 19th century newspapers, and the antebellum press and the causes of the Civil War. Selected papers will be presented during the conference Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, November 3–5, 2022. The top three papers and the top three student papers will be honored accordingly.
The Symposium will be conducted via ZOOM (for both speakers and participants). If possible, it will also be conducted in person.
The purpose of the November conference is to share current research and to develop a series of monographs. This year the steering committee will pay special attention to papers and panel presentations on the Civil War and the press, presidents and the 19th century press, news reports of 19th century epidemics, coverage of immigrants, African Americans, and Native Americans, and 19th century spiritualism and ghost stories. Since 2000, the Symposium has produced eight distinctly different books of readings: The Civil War and the Press (2000); Memory and Myth: The Civil War in Fiction and Film from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Cold Mountain (2007); Words at War: The Civil War and American Journalism (2008); Seeking a Voice: Images of Race and Gender in the 19th Century Press (2009); Sensationalism: Murder, Mayhem, Mudslinging, Scandals, and Disasters in 19th-Century Reporting (2013); A Press Divided: Newspaper Coverage of the Civil War (2014); After the War: The Press in a Changing America, 1865–1900 (2017); and The Antebellum Press: Setting the Stage for Civil War (2019). The panel presentations from the 2020 Symposium were recorded and aired on C-SPAN.
The symposium is sponsored by the George R. West, Jr. Chair of Excellence in Communication and Public Affairs, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Communication Department, the Walter and Leona Schmitt Family Foundation Research Fund, and the Hazel Dicken-Garcia Fund for the Symposium, and because of this sponsorship, no registration fee will be charged.
Papers should be able to be presented within 20 minutes, at least 10–15 pages long. Please send your paper (including a 200–300 word abstract) as a Word attachment to email@example.com by August 26, 2022.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. David Sachsman
George R. West, Jr. Chair of Excellence in Communication and Public Affairs, Dept. 3003
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
by Rob Wells, University of Maryland
There are times when a research project finds you.
That sense of inevitability has been ever present in my work on journalist Willard Kiplinger, creator of the iconic personal finance magazine and political newsletter. It began as a request to write a short entry in American National Biography. I thought a Kiplinger article would complement my existing research on the trade press, and so I contacted the journalist’s grandson and an heir to the publishing enterprise, Knight Kiplinger, to verify a few basic details. That call lasted one and one-half hours.
Had anyone written a book about Willard Kiplinger’s career, I asked? Except for some internal histories, not really, Knight Kiplinger said.
“I have a copy of my grandfather’s unpublished memoirs and an unpublished company history,” Knight Kiplinger told me. “Would you like to see them?”
This story was ready to be told, and I was now in position to do it. Over the next few years, I obtained thousands of documents from the Kiplinger family files and supplemented that with research from the Hoover Institution at Stanford, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and other assorted university archives.
I was the first outside historian to examine the inner workings of a publishing enterprise that set a standard for quality personal finance journalism and political reporting for business leaders. The Kiplinger business and personal archives, located in a 19th century farmhouse outside of Washington, D.C., is a treasure trove of primary source material. I viewed and copied original correspondence between Kiplinger and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Joseph Kennedy, Henry Morgenthau and many others.
The results of this project, The Insider: How the Kiplinger Newsletter Bridged Washington and Wall Street, will be published this fall by the University of Massachusetts Press. The book argues that Kiplinger was an influential player in journalism and politics during the New Deal, a link between the worlds of Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt. The McKerns Research Grant gave me the resources to help pull this project together, especially during the pandemic.
Initially, I had planned to use the funds for research travel, but the Covid-19 pandemic made that difficult. The funds, however, provided me with the means to acquire documents from archives in other states. I soon realized my research problem was not one of document acquisition but instead one of document synthesis.
I used the funds to hire a talented graduate assistant, Matthew Moore at the University of Arkansas, who helped organize and categorize a significant corpus of material from competing publications, such as Business Week, Fortune, and the business section of The New York Times. Moore helped categorize a fat scrapbook of Kiplinger’s public appearances in the 1920s and 1930s so I could create a data visualization demonstrating the journalist’s influence in the public sphere. The funds allowed me to hire researcher Julie Schapiro, who manages the Kiplinger archives, to conduct a series of highly specialized document searches for business leader correspondence.
This process of synthesis, and discussions with my editor Kathy Roberts Forde, led to some important insights about the role business journalism can play in democracy. I found how Kiplinger helped advance democracy and the rise of modern capitalism by arguing that corporations needed new regulatory structures to curtail their power. Kiplinger’s influential commentary came during the depths of the Great Depression, when the very notion of free markets and the future of capitalism were being questioned. Rather than pander to his business audience, Kiplinger repeatedly told these senior corporate leaders that a new order was in place. Laissez-faire economics was dead, and regulation was necessary, he argued.
I believe this book makes an important contribution to the field of journalism history, and I am very grateful to the American Journalism Historians Association for supporting this work.
Rob Wells is a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Maryland. He received a Joseph McKerns Research Grant in 2020. Applications for 2022 McKerns Grants are due June 15; see the McKerns page for details.
by Mike Conway, First Vice-President
Get ready to dig through your bookshelves and private archives because the AJHA Media History Auction is back! We are resurrecting one of the most popular parts of the AJHA experience for our Memphis conference this September. Just as before, all money raised from the auction goes directly to graduate student conference travel, a major part of the revenue needed for the new Michael S. Sweeney Graduate Student Travel Stipend.
We are looking for your historic books, newspapers, magazines, and broadsheets. We want your newspaper, radio, television, online and political ephemera--including coffee cups, glasses, calendars, t-shirts, and whatever you are willing to donate to the AJHA auction. But let’s not stop there. What else do you think someone would bid on to help our graduate students? How about gear from your university? How about products from your town that you can’t get anywhere else? At least one person is thinking about donating a bottle of whiskey from their part of the world.
The new AJHA Auction will be a bit different from the old version, at least for the first year. We are going to list the auction items on an online bidding platform before and during the conference, much like a silent auction. We plan to have the items on display in Memphis (space permitting) and then turn them over to the winning bidders before the end of the conference. So instead of having the auction confined to a couple of hours at the conference, you will be able to look at the auction items online before you get to Memphis. Once you are at the conference, you can see the actual items and keep track of the bidding, finally paying online and receiving your prize at following the AJHA business meeting on Saturday.
Even though we are using an online bidding platform, you do need to physically drop off and pick up all auction items at the AJHA Conference in Memphis. We will not be shipping any auction items.
Please note that each item will have its own listing on the auction site, so please take a separate photo of each item you plan to donate and fill out a separate form for each item. Forms must be submitted by Aug. 1.
To get you thinking about what you can donate for the AJHA auction, here are a few early entries. Jason Guthrie is offering up a 1976 New Times with Jimmy Carter and Gregg Allman on the cover. Gerry Lanosga is donating journalism media spanning four centuries, including a 1720 London Gazette (pictured), an 1858 Godey’s Lady Book, an 1877 Harper’s Weekly, a 1949 Quick News Weekly, and a 21st Century page of stamps honoring American journalists including Martha Gelhorn and Eric Sevareid.
The AJHA Memphis Conference is Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 2022. The deadline for paper and panel submissions is June 1, 2022. Looking for more reasons to join us in Memphis? Here are some of the highlights from AJHA President and former Memphis journalist Aimee Edmondson.
If you can’t make it to Memphis this year, you can always support our graduate students through a donation to the Michael S. Sweeney Graduate Student Travel Stipend, which is located on the Donate page on the AJHA website.
This year, we are offering a $400 travel stipend for graduate students on the conference program for Memphis who plan to attend the duration of the conference and agree to work a set number of hours at the registration/auction table. This generous amount is possible because of the money raised from the donation suggestion in Dr. Sweeney’s obituary earlier this year. AJHA has agreed to make up whatever extra money may be needed for 2022. The amount of the travel stipend for 2023 will be dependent on how much money we raise through the auction and the Donate section of our website in Mike Sweeney’s name.
Doctoral student Claire Rounkles of the University of Missouri is our Graduate Student Committee Chairperson, and she is always looking for more graduate students to help out on her committee. You can reach Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the AJHA Auction online site, contact Jason Guthrie at JasonGuthrie@clayton.edu. Other committee members are Gerry Lanosga email@example.com, Michael Fuhlhage firstname.lastname@example.org, Erin Coyle email@example.com, and myself firstname.lastname@example.org.
AJHA Graduate Student Chair Claire Rounkles is a doctoral student studying media history at the Missouri School of Journalism, where she also earned her bachelor's degree. Rounkles received the AEJMC History Division's 2020 Hazel Dicken-Garcia Award for Outstanding Master's Thesis for her work completed at Ohio University under the direction of Aimee Edmondson and Mike Sweeney.
When and how did you first become involved with AJHA?
I became active with AJHA in 2017 at the national convention in Little Rock, Arkansas. As an undergrad at the time, it was my first academic conference. Earlier that year, I submitted my first research paper. It, unfortunately, was not accepted, but the conference was a great learning experience as a first-time scholar. At the conference, I was welcomed by the grad students and encouraged to volunteer at the conference where I met so many welcoming faculty, historians, and mentors. A couple of the grad students I met, Bailey Dick and Ken Ward, encouraged me to apply to Ohio University, which was the beginning of my academic journey.
Why do you think AJHA is a good organization for students?
As a young scholar, you often hear horror stories of entering academic spaces and not feeling welcomed. AJHA is exactly the opposite. I’ve attended many in-person and online conferences with AJHA and feel just as welcomed as I did as an undergraduate student during my first conference. Throughout my time in AJHA, I have also found many mentors and possible collaborators in research. There are also many opportunities to expand and grow with leadership opportunities.
What is the importance of studying topics such as lynching and racial bias in the media?
It is important to study hard topics such as lynching and racial bias in journalism because journalists are not objective bystanders but rather actors who are critical to the social voice regarding the coverage of these topics. Just as the profession of journalism has improved and grown, it’s crucial to address the wrongs of the past. By specifically focusing on the horrific nature of lynching coverage, I hope to restore the stories of these lynchings to our history and bring to light the faults of journalism's coverage of these murders. I also hope to shed light on the work of local Black journalists who actively worked in the anti-lynching movement.
How does your emphasis on photojournalism and visual communication intersect with your historical research?
Before I decided to have a career in academia and research, my original goal in life was to become a photojournalist. This background in photojournalism has encouraged me to expand my research to incorporate more visual components. Throughout my experience working as a photographer and photo editor, I learned about the disparities in covering minority communities and people of color. Because everything comes from a cultivated historical past, I wanted to know how these issues became so predominant in the practice of photojournalism.
What can you tell us about any projects you're working on now?
Currently, I am starting research for my dissertation. I have created a database of Black newspapers published in the American Midwest. There are around 702 Black newspapers found, and over 12,300 article hits were found concerning lynching. This database is the base of the data available for my dissertation research which will explore the timeline of the anti-lynching movement in the Midwest Black Press.
What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of academia?
Outside of academia, I still use my skills as a historian to help with community projects. In 2019 I started the groundwork for an initiative to restore two historically Black cemeteries in Chillicothe, Missouri. In the summer of 2020, this initiative took off with the Chillicothe high school and local volunteers. This passion project has led to a new project documenting Black veterans whose records have been lost. Besides working with community organizations, I enjoy gardening on my family’s farm and antiquing.
AJHA and the AEJMC History Division hosted a successful virtual Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference on Friday, May 13.
Twenty-two scholars from universities on three continents participated in four research panels on Zoom. (See the full program.) Among the presenters was Jodi McFarland Friedman, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, whose paper "'Mystery People': Tri-Racial Isolate Newspaper Coverage and Conceptions of Race from 1880-1943" received the Elliot King Award for outstanding research presented at the conference.
Additionally, Kathy Roberts Forde (pictured) and Sid Bedingfield, editors of the book Journalism and Jim Crow, joined with two of the book's contributors on a keynote panel.
Seventy people registered for the conference. According to conference co-coordinator A.J. Bauer, most sessions had at least 30 attendees at their peak.
Bauer said that he and fellow coordinators Matthew Pressman and Rich Shumate appreciated moderators Forde, Erin Coyle, and Meg Heckman volunteering their time to help the event run smoothly.
"Although virtual, JJCHC this year gave me an opportunity to share space with folks I'd only ever communicated with via email," Bauer said. "While I can't wait to meet these colleagues in person, it was a treat to be able to share virtual space with them."
Pressman said it was terrific to see the high level of enthusiasm and high quality of work among the presenters and attendees.
"That shows me that JJCHC is still thriving, despite having been canceled in 2021 and switching to virtual at the last minute in 2020," Pressman said. "I am eager to see it return to an in-person conference in New York City in 2023."
by Mike Conway (First Vice-President), Indiana University
American Journalism Historians Association (AJHA) Research Chair Gerry Lanosga (Indiana University) said the project abstract is a good place to start to judge the clarity of your manuscript.
"If you have trouble distilling your idea into an abstract,” said Lanosga, “if your abstract is muddled, your paper is going to be muddled.”
Lanosga was one of the panelists for an online conference paper workshop AJHA offered to help graduate students and faculty who would like to submit manuscripts to the 41st annual AJHA Conference, which will be in Memphis, TN, Sept. 27 to Oct. 1. The submission deadline is June 1.
Previous Research Chair Erin Coyle (Temple University) told the workshop participants that AJHA seeks research that goes beyond what the organization's name might imply. Even though American Journalism is in the name, AJHA encourages international research.
Coyle added, “We say AJHA defines journalism ‘broadly,’” meaning that your project could involve newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, cable, satellite and online platforms. AJHA also includes advertising and public relations under its overall attention to media.
Panelist Michael Fuhlhage (Wayne State University), past AJHA research chair, said you want to think about your historical evidence and arguments. Fuhlhage said, “It’s a combination of what you’ve gathered and the ways you interpret that evidence.”
He also said he tells his students that the purpose of a research project can easily get lost. “I’m not shy about telling them ‘I want you to hit the reviewer over the head with a statement of what your topic is.’”
For students looking for examples of great historical research writing, the panelists mentioned five journalism history scholars with different, but effective, writing styles: Jinx Broussard (LSU), Elisabeth Fondren (St. John’s), Patrick Washburn (Ohio), the late Michael S. Sweeney (Ohio), and Tom Mascaro (Bowling Green State University). They were encouraged to look for those scholars’ articles in American Journalism or Journalism History to see how they crafted their projects.
The panelists told the workshop participants to pay attention to the specific rules for any conference paper competition because you don’t want to have your work rejected on a technicality. AJHA is unique among conferences because it allows up to 25 manuscript pages, not counting the endnotes.
AJHA President Aimee Edmondson (Ohio) encouraged the students--and faculty--to submit research for our conference in Memphis, where she worked for almost a decade at the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. She said the workshop is “just one example of the spirit of AJHA that attracted me to it.” Edmondson recalled her first AJHA conference: “I really found my people because they were so kind and helpful.”
Edmondson listed many historical and culinary reasons to attend the AJHA Memphis Conference in a recent Intelligencer article.
This is the first year that students will be eligible for the Michael S. Sweeney Graduate Student Travel Stipend if their work selected for the AJHA Conference. The Sweeney Stipend for 2022 is $400.
AJHA is also reviving the popular auction of media history items. We’ll have more details on that in the coming months.
If you missed the AJHA Graduate Student Workshop, AJHA recorded the session.
If you have a question about the conference paper competition, contact Gerry Lanosga (email@example.com).
If you would like to get involved in the AJHA Graduate Student Committee, contact Claire Rounkles (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dana Dabek is a doctoral student in the Department of Media & Communication at Temple University. She holds a BA in English and Women's and Gender Studies from The College of New Jersey and an MA in Liberal Arts from The University of Pennsylvania.
I attended my first conference in fall 2020, at the advice of my advisor Carolyn Kitch. Even though the conference was held virtually, I could still feel the sense of camaraderie among the attendees. AJHA members know how to use Zoom chat to pump up the presenters, which definitely took off the sting of isolation a bit. My research is not always historical in nature, but I look forward to keeping the annual conference on my calendar year after year.
What is the historical importance of studying social movements?
Ron Eyerman's work on collective memory and social movements has been very influential on my research and understanding of the interconnected space between a movement's past and its present. Movements are often linked with their past iterations by the media and the current members of the movement. I think this is sometimes to its detriment, as an implied continuity can often bring the past's blind spots with it. But a social movement often does not spring suddenly out of a singular event. It has been brewing and bubbling. Understanding how an issue was advocated for in the past gives important contextualization to what is happening now.
How does your previous professional experience in non-profit work influence your research?
I spent all my non-profit career at grassroots organizations and in the beginning worked with an activist mindset. Because I have a sense of organizational management and movement building from that work, I find I bring insight into how decisions were made in past movements. What motivated an action? (Nine times out of ten, it's funding.) Who seem to be the key stakeholders? What might have been behind this messaging? I have also been misquoted a decent amount in my non-profit career, so I try to keep that in mind when inferring from a quote in print media.
One of my previous jobs was as a program director for a youth leadership program. As a public history site, our mission used figures in women's history to help inspire our program participants to become leaders in positive social action. So quite literally using previous social movements to spurn future social movements.
Finally, I have always considered myself a feminist and approached my non-profit work from that perspective. Lately I personally have been grappling with what that identity really means and the influences that have shaped my sense of feminism and its legacy. My current project is rife with this grappling.
Pending approval, I start my dissertation research this summer, so that project is very top of mind. I plan on examining how cultural notions of feminism from the Second Wave movement have impacted the interpretation at historic sites that place women at the center. So much historic preservation of women's sites occurred as a result of that movement's work. Specifically, I am looking at sites dedicated to women who may have proved problematic in our current cultural lens and how that has impacted (or not) the ways these sites do public history. I want to examine how current discourses of intersectionality have created a need for re-interpretation of historical events and figures and a re-examination of our collective memory of them.
This summer I will be hitting the road to meet with founders, current directors, and curators of at least ten different historic sites that have a focus on women's history to interview them and analyze their current exhibits and interpretative plans. I am hoping this research is not only interesting but can also bridge some gaps between academia and practitioners of public history.
Call me a glutton for punishment, but I continually reinvent my mass communication history course. The latest iteration was inspired by the pandemic and the knowledge that my large, required class would shift online in Fall 2020 — and remain an asynchronous course for the foreseeable future.
And so I spent summer 2020 rethinking Canvas, the web-based learning management system that we use at the University of Utah, and ways to streamline content delivery and navigation. I also reconsidered all of my lectures and pared down content to essential topics, such as the advent of the Black press, that could be conveyed in short video recordings illustrated with primary sources and PowerPoint slides.
An equally challenging task was re-imagining the hands-on research project that had previously entailed writing a multi-source article for publication in the Utah Communication History Encyclopedia.
A new idea began taking shape when I saw a teaching presentation about Adobe Spark, now called Adobe Creative Cloud Express. That application is free to many university students and can be used to design, create, and refine projects across devices and platforms — desktop computers, laptops and Chrome books, and mobile. (See the teaching essay by Ira Chinoy for another way to use the app in your communication history class.)
Another plus: the app can be learned quickly with brief tutorials and used to create visual stories for social media or the open web. It also is a marketable skill that students can list on LinkedIn and resumés.
I developed an initial, simple assignment — a social media post — to introduce my 60-plus students to the app. They were asked to select a quotation that was meaningful to them from one of the provided lists (topics included women’s history, LGBTQ+ activism, and Black History Month). They combined the quote and attribution with a copyright-free image or one they had taken. The students had fun expressing their individuality, and the quotations — by Cher, Eleanor Roosevelt, Muhammad Ali, and others — provided opportunities to connect with individuals despite the online platform of the course.
A second project, assigned in conjunction with a pared-down unit on publisher Henry Luce, helped students further develop their Adobe skills and also engage with a primary source. They explored the digitized collection of Life magazines and selected an issue published on or near their birthday. Students analyzed that issue’s cover and content, paying particular attention to the photographic essay and themes such as gender, race, and ethnicity. Required elements were assembled into an 11x14 poster.
The students’ final Adobe project entailed creating a web page using a variety of primary and secondary sources to illustrate similarities (or differences) between coverage of a historical epidemic, pandemic, or widespread outbreak and the current pandemic. The project amplified concepts I had been discussing throughout the semester in my recorded lectures, such as identifying, analyzing, and using primary and secondary sources; connecting the past to the present; and telling a compelling story that is based on media artifacts. It also built on an article we read and discussed in an online forum early in the semester: “‘A Receipt Against the Plague’: Medical Reporting in Colonial America” by David Copeland (American Journalism 11, no. 3).
To ensure successful completion of the multifaceted research project, students were asked to first submit a succinct overview of their historical topic and a bibliography listing the required minimum number of primary (12) and secondary (1) sources. Their wide-ranging, interesting ideas included the 1957 influenza pandemic; the polio vaccine; the yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia in 1762 and 1793 and New Orleans in 1878; HIV/AIDS; and the 1918 pandemic. Students were given the green light or advised to make refinements to their sources or time frame.
The next part of the final project entailed locating at least six primary sources about the current pandemic in the same city or region to ensure an “apples-to-apples” comparison of moments in a narrative connecting all peoples to the past, present, and future. Students were surprised to discover similar themes across time, whether reactions of hatred or scapegoating; expressions of compassion or self-sacrifice; or conversations about culture, race and ethnicity, or science. For instance, one student found evidence of fear, anxiety, and personal responsibility in coverage of New York City resident Mary Mallon — Typhoid Mary — and New York Times stories about the coronavirus. Another student identified themes of racism, patriotism, and fear in coverage of the 1918 flu and current pandemic in Philadelphia.
Although the pandemic prompted the latest iteration of my mass communication history class, I learned valuable lessons about delivering content in more accessible ways and rethinking assignments and technology to help students engage with primary sources in meaningful ways. These lessons will be incorporated into future reinventions of this required course.
Kim Mangun was one of the recipients of the inaugural award for Transformative Teaching of Media and Journalism History, given by the AEJMC History Division in 2019. She also was the first communication historian to receive the American Historical Association’s Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award. Mangun has been on the faculty at the University of Utah Department of Communication since 2006.
I recently spent a weekend attending two public events where I was immersed in history and photojournalism. The first featured the work of professional and community photographers who captured the uprising after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Documenting a Reckoning: The Murder of George Floyd is a breathtaking visual record of events that changed the world and how we talk about race and the police. The second was a play at the Minnesota History Theater, Parks: Portrait of a Young Artist, about twentieth-century documentary photographer, filmmaker, and humanitarian Gordon Parks. The performance focused on Parks’s early years in St. Paul (Minneapolis’ twin city). Both events caused me to think about the importance of journalism history in public spaces and my role as AJHA’s first “media literacy czar.”
When AJHA President Dr. Aimee Edmondson asked me if I’d be interested in working on ways to engage our members with media literacy, I was delighted. I volunteered for the additional work as an AJHA board member because I am passionate about the various roles we can play as scholars in our communities. We have past president Donna Lampkin Stephens to thank for her efforts to establish a relationship with NAMLE (the National Association for Media Literacy Education). I’m excited to do what I can to continue building on that relationship, and more.
Taking on this role for AJHA has caused me to think more purposefully about what constitutes media literacy and how we can amplify our roles as teacher-scholars to help educate the public. If you consider how the Center for Media Literacy defines media literacy as creating “an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy,” we as journalism historians are in the perfect position to lead conversations in our communities. How can we stress the importance of history in understanding news and mass media today? While few of us (if any!) are in a position to curate a photo exhibit or a theatrical performance, there are smaller things we can do as experts in journalism and mass media history to facilitate community conversations where we live. I will offer an example.
Earlier this year I was a speaker at the League of Women Voters of Duluth’s 24th annual “Citizens in Action'' meeting themed “Misinformation and Media Literacy.” The January 2022 event began with a recorded message from Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. You may know about the bi-partisan bill Klobuchar co-authored, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. She spoke passionately about journalism and democracy, and that made my role all the more exciting. I was invited to speak about disinformation, misinformation and “fake news.” I provided historical context to contextualize the current state of mass media. I offered ways to be a savvy news consumer and how to spot misinformation. I shared tips on how to speak civilly with people who spread misinformation. A local television reporter talked about her role as a local journalist and shared her experiences with misinformation. The event was attended by area state and house representatives as well as school board and city council members. The Zoom chat function was full of enthusiastic comments from community members. Many wanted to know how the conversation could continue talking about media literacy education in our community. I’m now in the process of working with League organizers to figure out how.
I imagine many of you could share similar stories about the work you do as teacher-scholars in your communities. If not, perhaps you’d like to learn how. If you have thoughts, ideas, or questions, I’d love to hear from you before we gather in Memphis this fall. I’m committed to help drive this presidential initiative toward tangible goals and actionable outcomes. You can reach me at email@example.com or find me on Twitter: @jem2998.
by Aimee Edmondson, AJHA President
My countdown to Memphis has begun.
After two years of virtual meetings, the AJHA officers and conference personnel have made the decision to hold an in-person conference this year. Our 41st annual convention will be held from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown.
The Memphis conference originally was scheduled for October 2020 but was moved online due to the pandemic, as you no doubt are aware. The AJHA did not incur a financial penalty when we agreed to move the in-person Memphis conference back two years in what we anticipated would be a post-pandemic environment. Like other scholarly associations, AJHA must plan conferences years in advance to secure enough hotel rooms and meeting spaces. The contract for the Memphis conference, of course, was signed long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. In 2022, vaccines, COVID testing, and COVID treatments are widely available, so hopefully infection numbers will remain low this fall as we fulfill this contractual obligation with the hotel.
A Memphis convention in person. What a treat. We are resuming our face-to-face interactions in a town with so much rich and relevant history. Whether you are interested in civil rights history or music history or both, conference attendees would do well to arrive in the Bluff City a day or two early or plan to stay late in order to take in the many historical attractions, and of course, barbecue, while you’re there.
I lived in Memphis for almost a decade in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and so much has changed about the city and the news landscape since my own newsroom days at The Commercial Appeal. There were 100 reporters in that sprawling, glassy, five-story news building that we called “495 Union,” between downtown and midtown. I can’t wait to return to some of my old haunts and discover a few new ones with my AJHA friends and colleagues.
Soul burgers at Earnestine and Hazel’s anyone?
As you ponder submitting papers, panel proposals and research-in-progress abstracts, let me tempt you a bit more with a few recommendations on sights, sounds and eats from a (former) Memphis local.
National Civil Rights Museum (Aimee Edmondson)
The National Civil Rights Museum is not to be missed, of course, even for locals. And while the conference’s organizers are still planning the Friday afternoon historic tour, the museum attached to the iconic Lorraine Motel will most certainly be on the itinerary. You can walk through the hotel room where Martin Luther King Jr. was staying on that fateful night, and even linger on the balcony where he spent his final moments. The newest section of the museum is across the street in the boarding house where James Earl Ray fired the shot that killed King on April 4, 1968. The museum complex, though, covers civil rights history from the 17th century to present, so allow yourself plenty of time to take it all in.
Our hotel, the Sheraton, is in a fantastic location – right on the pedestrian-friendly Main Street with a trolley loop running down Main to a stop next to the trendy, revitalized South Main Arts District, which is chock full of galleries, shops and restaurants. South Main’s classic good looks were the draw for the filming of such Hollywood movies as Walk the Line, Hustle and Flow and Great Balls of Fire. But it was probably Jim Jarmusch’s 1989 Indy film Mystery Train that jumpstarted movie makers’ love affair with Memphis.
From Main Street, you can’t miss the screaming neon of historic Beale Street, which got its start in the 1840s as a vibrant Black commercial district that has since turned into a major landmark for blues aficionados. You can catch a show most any night of the week at one of the many venues with doors wide open to revelers. I once saw B.B. King and his guitar Lucille at his music club on Beale. Now that was a thrill.
Sun Studio (Shutterstock via Aimee Edmondson)
Memphis produced so many music greats, and you probably know most of them by heart: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Roy Orbison, and, of course, Rufus Thomas. If this speaks to your soul, make time for a tour of the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio on the edge of downtown. Two other fantastic music museums are the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. The latter is a Smithsonian affiliate with permanent exhibits tracing the history of blues, rock and soul music from its roots in African-American folk songs to modern day. Stax pays tribute to the legendary musicians who first laid down that Memphis sound, and even includes Isaac Hayes’ custom 1972 Cadillac Eldorado.
If you haven’t seen Elvis’ Jungle Room, now’s your chance. The opulent, colonial-style Graceland is one of the most-visited homes in the country, second only to the White House. There are whole rooms of music memorabilia, and you can even walk through the Lisa Marie, the jet that Elvis bought from Delta Airlines in 1975, refurbished and named after his daughter.
Peabody ducks (Erika Pribanic-Smith)
The downtown skyline at night is always a favorite with the swirling, swift-running gravy that is the mighty Mississippi River. It serves as the foreground for a setting sun over Arkansas to the west. Catch that view with a cocktail from the famous Peabody Hotel with its equally famous ducks, whose fancy evening digs remain situated on the roof. If you like quirky, catch the duck parade from the rooftop, down the elevator and into the ornate fountain in the luxurious lobby, where those lucky ducks get to spend all of their days. Set your clocks on it, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., and those ducks will march on a red carpet while tourists snap photos like paparazzi.
On the other side of downtown, you might take an elevator up the 32-story glass and steel Pyramid arena which opened, unbelievably, as a Bass Pro superstore, complete with an indoor, alligator-infested swamp. Hard to believe it, but the University of Memphis basketball team used to play in here when I was in school, as did the NBA team the Grizzlies before the FedEx Forum was built over by Beale Street. The Pyramid has been a distinctive part of the skyline since it was built in 1991, paying homage to the city’s namesake in Egypt, known for its ancient pyramids, of course. The sports arena was refurbished in 2015 and includes what seems like acres of sporting goods, a hotel, restaurants, an archery range and even an open-air bar and observation deck at the pyramid’s apex.
An uber ride to nearby Midtown will get you to the hip Cooper-Young area and nearby Overton Square. There are some great restaurants and shopping in this part of town (see some recommendations below). The recently revitalized Crosstown Building – which was a hulking ruin of a 1920s Sears building when I lived in Memphis – has been reopened as an arty “mixed use urban village.” Also in Midtown, big beautiful houses in Central Gardens are worth a swoon. And if you are into checking out cool residential areas, Mud Island is a great spot for a stroll along the river or through the pedestrian-friendly streets.
Memphis might be the home of Fred Smith’s FedEx, Kemmons Wilson’s Holiday Inn, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, all on the world map. But, besides the history, I’m ready to talk food.
Here are some of my favorites:
Rendezvous ribs (Shelby L. Bell/CC BY 2.0)
I’m a sucker for the atmosphere and especially the dry rub at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous. This Memphis landmark opened in a downtown alley in 1948, and locals and tourists alike line up for sausage and cheese plates, slabs of those dry-rubbed ribs and ice cold beer. (I know some of you will argue with me on this – I’m looking forward to the barbecue debate!)
Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q on Third Street south of downtown is my favorite spot for a pulled pork sandwich. The menu is huge and the service is friendly.
Payne’s Bar-B-Que on Lamar has been around forever, and like Interstate, it’s in a simple cinderblock building that’s all part of the authentic charm. Order everything on the menu.
The Bar-B-Q Shop on Madison. Oh, the ribs, and that sauce!
Cozy Corner on Parkway– We used to head to this famous eatery at lunch time during my newsroom days. Get the smoked Cornish hen. This is more smoked meat than barbecue, but there’s plenty of that too. The strip mall housing this family restaurant has seen better days, but it’s authentically Memphis. There was a fire at Cozy Corner, so hopefully they’ll be back up and running by fall.
Other good eats:
The Four Way is a meat-and-three restaurant on Mississippi Boulevard in South Memphis. Built in 1946, it has served up soul food to the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Aretha Franklin and B.B. King.
Abyssinia is an Ethiopian restaurant on Poplar in Midtown. It was close to my house and one of my go-to eateries when I was too tired to make dinner after covering a marathon Memphis City School Board meeting.
Kwik Check on Madison near Overton Square. If you want an amazing sandwich, this convenience store is the place. The international menu inspired with Korean, Greek and other influences was a staple in my diet for many years. You can dine in, but Overton Park and the lovely area around the Memphis Zoo would make for a perfect picnic spot just down the street.
The Beauty Shop is my favorite spot in the Cooper Young area of Midtown. Chef Karen Carrier created this hip, funky spot in, you guessed it, and old beauty shop. The vintage hair-dryer chairs are still there, and it’s hard to beat the voodoo stew. I hope they still serve those roasted turkey legs with mole sauce. After dinner, head next door to Bar DKDC for cocktails and live music.
Sage is a chic upscale restaurant specializing in soul food fusion spot on South Main. Try the blackened catfish.
Global Café is an international food hall in the old Crosstown building that has a rotating menu from immigrant foodies who are proud to show off the cuisine of their home countries. While you are in this neighborhood, check out the Art Bar, which displays the work of different artists each month. It’s one of several galleries in this renovated and enormous space.
Earnestine & Hazel’s on Main is a dive bar with a great burger.
For breakfast, go with biscuits and gravy at Bryant’s on Summer Avenue or Sunrise Memphis on Jefferson. Another good brunch spot is The Liquor Store in the Broad Avenue Arts District in Midtown. Sounds weird, I know, but the restaurant is in what used to be a liquor store that’s now a cool retro diner with a full bar and vintage neon.
If you are looking for a beer tour, Memphis is your spot. Ghost River Brewing has a taproom on Main with a food truck scene and another bar on Beale. Wiseacre sprouted up in the Broad Avenue Arts District and was the first brewery in Tennessee to can its beer. There’s a newer taproom on downtown on B.B. Boulevard, and you can make reservations for a tour and tasting. Bosco’s Restaurant and Brewing Company was among the first brew-your-own establishments in Memphis back in my day, and there’s good pizza at this Overton Square eatery.
Other nonfood faves:
The National Ornamental Metals Museum was originally a hospital campus built to treat civil war patients that later served as a research center to work toward a yellow fever cure. The pastoral spot overlooking the river south of downtown now has working smithy and foundry (blacksmith shop) on site as well as more than 3,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection. There are artist metalsmiths on site, and the more than three-acre museum site includes a sculpture garden and lovely gazebo that has become popular for weddings.
The Center for Southern Folklore is part night club, museum, coffee shop and bar. Listen to live music and check out the photo exhibits and local folk art. The spot is just south of our hotel on Main. There’s not a regular music schedule and the bar is only open on weekends, but it’s worth checking out to see what’s going on.
Otherlands Coffee Bar on South Cooper has a cool hippie vibe, great coffee and gift shop.
After all this eating and drinking, consider heading to Shelby Farms for a walk or bike ride. There’s also a rails-to-trails project that connects Midtown to Shelby Farms park about 12 miles out to the bedroom community of Cordova.
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