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By Dane S. Claussen, Thiel College
How newspapers tell their own histories has been a minor interest of mine for a long time. A few readers of The Intelligencer might remember my article, “Otis did not found L.A. Times, and Taylor did not found Globe,” in the Spring 2006 issue (Vol. 40, Issue 3) of Clio Among the Media, published by the AEJMC’s History Division. There, as the headline indicates, I cited numerous examples in which newspapers had recently made inaccurate claims in news or feature articles about who founded their newspaper. Also, Joseph Medill did not start the Chicago Tribune and James McClatchy did not start the Sacramento Bee (a lie that started with his sons, not a sloppy journalist 100 or 150 years later), and so on. At least The New York Times never claims it was started by Adolph Ochs, perhaps because he bought it 45 years later!
On June 4 this year, the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard published a special 150th anniversary issue, with its history spread and sprawled out among three sections that include plenty of advertising. A friend passed it along to me, as he knows my interests and he and I are both University of Oregon graduates who have some experience with the newspaper (he a lot more than me, as I lived in Eugene only three years and he has lived there the overwhelming majority of his 60-plus years).
The Register-Guard holds many distinctions for those of us from Oregon who studied and/or practiced journalism. It is the Register-Guard that has won many state overall excellence awards over the Portland Oregonian, the (Baker) family newspaper in the medium-sized city beating the Advance Publications (Newhouse) metro daily year in and year out. It is the Register-Guard that was by far the best designed Oregon newspaper, and one of the USA's best, when I first saw it in the 1970s. It was the Register-Guard that for decades (has?) had the highest newspaper salaries in Oregon (probably due to its unions) and forced the non-union, anti-union Oregonian to more or less keep up or probably lose some or most of its best employees to the small newspaper down I-5. It was the Register-Guard whose long-time managing editor, Barrie Hartman (one of the few top execs at the paper in the last 90 years who was not a Baker), was very well respected and whose wife, Mary Hartman, was a long-time University of Oregon journalism professor and executive director of the state high school press association (from whom I took a course).
The Register-Guard had (and has?) the respect of Oregon journalists, journalism professors and journalism students in ways that The Oregonian (where I was an intern in 1983 and where many of my friends have since worked at some point) never did. When, in the 1980s, the Register-Guard employed a receptionist/operator with an accent that made the paper’s name come out, “Eugene Register-God,” it was only slightly humorous.
Anyway, in June the Register-Guard went all out with the broadsheet two-section special issue (plus special front page on the main section). And it gets off to a rather shaky start. It claims that the front page has been designed to look like it did in 1930, but the effect is only partially successful, most notably with the 1930s Eugene Register-Guard flag (which is called “nameplate”) and two one-column stories at left and right with three- and four-deck, all caps headlines followed by three-deck upper-and-lower dropheads. But the page is dominated by a large circa 1910 photo of the Daily and Weekly Guard building, something you would not have seen in 1930.
The first section covers the first 80 years (1867-1947) of the Register, Guard, and Register-Guard. An introductory piece on the second page, written by Editor Mark Baker of the owning family, is romantically headlined, “A story of hope, challenge, and survival.” Well, that’s one way to put it.
The first page, covering 1867 to 1877, is headlined, “Several Eugene papers had short-lived histories,” which tells you only part of that period’s story. Yes, five Eugene newspapers did not last long: Eugene City News (an election year paper in 1856), The Pacific Journal (founded 1858), The People’s Press (founded 1859), State Republican (founded 1862) and the Union Crusader (founded 1863). The Oregon State Journal did better (1864-1909). The special section does not point out that such a history is not unusual, except perhaps so many newspapers starting in a city that did not yet have even a railroad (1871) or the university (1876). (In fact, Eugene had only 1117 residents as of the 1880 US Census.) As for The Guard, started 1867, it had five different owners (each owner an individual or partnership, making eight different publishers), in its first 11 years. Hope and challenge indeed, but not much survival.
What is one to make of this historical section characterizing “most local news stories” as being like an 1867 advertorial for Lager Beer Saloon? It is unclear whether the reader is literally supposed to think that most items that looked like news were, in fact, ads (and the typical reader needs background/context for that) and/or that the newspaper had little if any real journalism, or if the special section writer did not realize the Lager Beer Saloon piece is an advertorial and not a news story at all.
But the most perplexing point on this page is its assertion that the Guard, not founded until more than two years after the Civil War, “supported the rights of Southern states to own slaves and editorialized that freeing them was an unwise thing to do.” (Note that as of the Guard’s founding on June 1, 1867, the 13th Amendment already had been ratified, and 21 states had already ratified the 14th Amendment, with more about to.)
The current newspaper comes into better focus on the 1877-87 page, as we find out that the Guard’s sixth owner, Ira Campbell, bought it at 22 in 1878 and owned it for 26 years until he died of a stroke at age 48. We find out that in 1884, Silas Yoran, then 49, launched the Eugene City Register, and that both the Guard and Register became dailies in the 1890s while the Oregon State Journal remained a weekly until it folded. We also find out that the Guard was Democratic while both the Journal and Register were Republican papers.
The 1877-87 page is headlined, “UO’s first graduating class: five students,” and illustrated with a period photo of the UO’s first two buildings (the 1876 Deady Hall and 1877 Villard Hall), despite the University of Oregon playing no role in the newspapers’ histories.
The 1887-97 page switches emphases from the newspaper’s history to Eugene’s history, focusing on a big flood in 1890, Pres. Benjamin Harrison’s stop in Eugene on May 5, 1891 (when 2000 people showed up to greet him but he never publicly appeared), the UO football team’s first victory in 1894. Almost incidentally mentioned are that the Register was taken over by Yoran’s sons (“after their father left to run a shoe store and work as a bank vice president”), that the Yorans took the paper daily in 1895, then sold it to three Eugene printers, the Register went back to weekly in 1896, then daily again in 1898. Meanwhile, the reader has learned nothing about Campbell’s ownership during those 10 years and very little about his first nine years (1878-1887).
The section’s 1897-1907 page attempts to tie the Eugene Daily Guard to Yellow Journalism by extensively recounting the paper’s coverage of a murder and the primary murderer’s execution in 1899. The section is careful to say that such coverage “perhaps reflect[s] the sensational yellow journalism” and asserts that "Readers were surely riveted” by the stories but, frankly, it’s a little bit of a stretch, the story starting with a “creepy” rhyme notwithstanding.
This part of the history also notes that the Eugene papers got linotypes during 1897-1907, “allowing an entire line of hot metal type to be set at once.” Unfortunately, the section has never pointed out that previously type was set by hand one letter at a time, a fact that we cannot assume the casual reader would know. This section points out that the Guard then cost $6 per year for delivery five days a week, although what the newspaper(s) cost during most other earlier and later periods goes unsaid. But we do find out that Charles Fisher bought the Guard in 1906, and that Fisher knew what he was doing based on previous experience in Oakland (Ore.), Roseburg (Ore.) and Boise (Idaho). That supposedly was also true of Campbell, although we haven’t been given enough detail to tell. The 1897-1907 section, and also the 1907-1917 sections, tell us nothing at all about the Register, nor any more about the Oregon State Journal’s 1909 demise.
The 1907-1917 page focuses heavily again on Eugene’s development and thus the stories the Guard was covering, with only the bare bones about what was going on at the Guard itself: Fisher sold it in 1913 to E.J. Finneran and bought Salem’s Capital-Journal newspaper, but Finneran essentially went bankrupt in 1916, and the Guard was run by a receivership for three months until Fisher bought it back. But he apparently stayed in Salem until 1919, appointing the Register’s news editor (and former Guard advertising manager) Joseph Shelton to run it in the meantime.
The 1917-1927 pages start with Eugene’s history during the period, then quickly move to the question of how Fisher editorialized against the Ku Klux Klan (which in the 1920s essentially ran the government of Oregon, the state where it was illegal for black Americans to live until 1926) at the same time evidence showed he was a KKK member! The section’s author asks, “Could Fisher have joined the Klan to keep an eye on them?” Apparently no one knows.
In any case, Fisher sold the Guard in 1924 to Paul Kelty, a long-time editor at The Oregonian (and nephew of its editor, Harvey Scott) who previously had worked at the Portland Telegram and the Los Angeles Examiner. But Kelty was not a good fit for Eugene, and in 1927, he sold it to the current owners’ patriarch, Alton Baker Sr. from Cleveland (and son of the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s president). Baker paid just under $100,000, or about $1.3 million in 2017 dollars.
The 1927-1937 pages do not explain why a daily newspaper with a daily competitor, in a city of perhaps 16,000 people, was worth almost $100,000 in 1927, or even more so, in the 1927-37 section, why the Register was worth $244,000 (about $3.5 million now) when Baker bought in November 1930. (In this history, the Register disappears into the Guard without the reader ever finding out much at all about it, not even why its name came first in the new one.) The section does admit that the Register price was “steep” and the acquisition “risky,” and that salaries were twice cut 10% between 1931 and 1933 to keep the now Register-Guard afloat. (Perhaps this is the Baker third generation way of admitting that their grandfather grossly overpaid.) Oddly, the section does not mention the October 1929 stock market crash and coming Great Depression, or that the US newspaper industry already had been consolidating for about 15 years.
The 1937-1947 page is almost entirely about Eugene and Oregon history, not the newspaper’s, with the exception of Alton’s sons, Alton Jr. (“Bunky”) and Ted, joining the newspaper staff in 1946 and “soon” thereafter, respectively, and that Ted Baker became an important Eugene philanthropist.
Which tells you just about everything you need to know about the 1947-2017 section of this special issue of the Eugene Register-Guard: a puff piece in which it is not clear that the Baker family gives credit to anyone but themselves for the newspaper’s last 70 years, with the exceptions of long-time editor Bill Tugman, Don Bishoff, and several (ex-)staffers who eventually won Pulitzer Prizes. The section never admits or even hints that anyone in the Baker family ever made any mistake (although noting that former Oregonian publisher N. Christian Anderson III lasted only six months in 2015 as Register-Guard publisher comes close). The woman who answered the phone, “Eugene Register God,” is not mentioned, nor is Barrie Hartman, who went on to be editor and editorial page editor of the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera for 18 years (1983-2001).
Claussen is Editor of The Intelligencer and the James Pedas Professor of Media, Communication & Public Relations, Thiel College, Greenville, Pa. Regardless of what he might say or write about them, he appreciates newspapers that recognize and commemorate their own histories.
Over the years I have become interested in how media history emerges in spaces, especially but not only museums, in which it is treated as incidental and/or merely illustrative of other history. I first became interested in the phenomenon of media history being right in front of one’s face, but ignored anyway, more than 20 years ago when I seriously sought to find out how much importance rural sociologists gave to small-town weekly newspapers in their analyses of rural life.
It turned out: not much. In rural sociology books going back about 90 years from the mid-1990s, rural sociologists often wrote a chapter about churches, a chapter about schools, a chapter about town government, a chapter about the Grange Hall, etc., but nary a word about a small town’s newspaper or small town newspapers generally. Here was the kicker: in many cases, rural sociologists had used the bound volumes and sometimes other records of a small-town newspaper as a major source for their books while never mentioning in their book and articles that the small-town newspaper was of any importance to its town.
My recent visit to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museum in Fremont, Ohio, provides one example of this phenomenon. The Hayes museum proudly boasts that it was the first US presidential library, although visitors to the museum and Hayes house do not see anything that resembles one. In any case, the museum and library’s formation were led from start to finish by Hayes’ son, Webb Hayes, and one might expect that the museum would be overflowing with items that belonged to Rutherford, his wife, his parents, etc.
But from the very beginning of the exhibits, the viewer is struck by originals and copies (normally photographic) of paper, paper, and more paper: broadsides, flyers and, most notably, newspaper and magazine covers, interior pages, and especially cartoons and other illustrations. There’s the April 3, 1877, New York Graphic illustration of Hayes guiding a woman labeled “South” to shake hands with a woman named “North.” There’s the Feb. 23, 1881, Puck illustration of William Henry Vanderbilt, Cyrus Field and Jay Gould literally pulling the strings of the railroad, telegraph and banking industries. And many, many others. And yet, not only does the Hayes museum offer no context about news media’s explosion in illustrations at that time, but it doesn’t even bother to tell visitors what kind of role media played in either Hayes’ political career or the role media played in politics generally in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. This omission could lead the visitor to imagine everything from media then playing a major (even decisive) role to the media being of no importance other than a source of beautiful and/or clever illustrations.
Another museum that I recently visited is the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. This one also is curious in various ways. The Museum building itself is very large and contains entire airplanes, entire trains, an entire house, dozens of automobiles, and hundreds of other items, including plenty of farm machines and much industrial machinery that one probably must be both a historian and an engineer to fully appreciate. Naturally, I was on the hunt for newspaper industry items—a Mergenthaler linotype would be at home there, as would a set of pre-linotype type cases, a stereotyping machine, a stat camera, or any number of other items (any of which would have been more interesting than dozens of other machines at the Ford Museum). What did I find? One hand-operated printing press inside, one outside, and nothing else. I confess that I was not familiar with the item on display: “Foster’s Printing Press, about 1853. This printing press turned the commonly accepted image of a press upside down. Instead of a lever pressing the paper down on the inky type, this press pushed the inky type up to the paper. It didn’t look like a printing press should look and printers were skeptical. They didn’t buy many.”
But considering: the equipment-heavy nature of the newspaper industry; the newspaper industry’s role in politics, economics, etc.; the newspaper industry was for many decades one of the country’s largest employers; the industry produced larger than life characters such as Horace Greeley or William Randolph Hearst; etc., one printing press at the Ford Museum and another one in Greenfield Village is not much. (Granted, the Ford Museum also underrepresents the histories of the typewriter, radio, and the postal service. But it does not underrepresent all communication technologies: one big display case shows off nearly 50 telephones, while other areas display a variety of televisions over time and early computers.)
Like the Hayes museum, however, the Ford Museum liberally uses the news media to illustrate exhibits of other industries’ technologies and products. In the museum’s political section, three color Harper’s Weekly covers from 1865 and 1866 illustrate former slaves becoming indentured workers; a full-color illustration from an 1862 Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly illustrates the Civil War; and the February 1932 Labor Defender cover shows the Scottsboro Boys.
Elsewhere in the museum, a negative (white type on black background) image of an 1855 Providence Daily Journal illustrates an exhibit on engineer George Corliss’s patent battles; a World War I vintage Popular Mechanics magazine cover shows a then-new tank; a March 3, 1927 cover of the original Life magazine shows the Roaring Twenties lifestyle; issues of Sports Illustrated, Popular Mechanics, LIFE, Rod & Custom from around 1960 illustrate that era; and the first 1984 issue of MACWORLD magazine helps with an exhibit on Apple’s founding.
The Greenfield Village adjacent to the Henry Ford Museum is a collection of period and replica buildings that have been moved there from other places, several hundred miles in many cases. Visitors can wander around it all day, riding in old Ford cars, interacting with docents in and out of costume, eating and more. Highlights for me included Henry Ford’s boyhood home, the Wright Brothers’ boyhood home, Thomas Edison’s laboratory buildings, Noah Webster’s last house and Harvey Firestone’s boyhood house. Greenfield Village is thus impressive in many ways, but surely the most famous open-air museum in the USA is Colonial Williamsburg. And both it and Greenfield Village were founded decades after Oslo’s Norsk Folkemuseum and Stockholm’s Skansen (each of which I have been lucky enough to visit).
Greenfield Village includes the Printing Office & Tin Shop, but it’s something of a botch—the building is clearly explained as having been built in 1933, but its exhibits include everything from noting Ben Franklin’s 18th-century printing business to a mid-19th century Washington hand press (not still used in 1933). Certainly Greenfield Village does not include a newspaper office the way that other open-air museums do, from Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (San Diego Union) to the Ohio Village at Columbus’s Ohio History Center.
All in all, the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village give the impression that the entire publishing and printing industry, let alone the journalism profession, has played a minor role at best in US history—whether political, economic, technological or what.
So imagine my surprise when I skimmed through a copy I bought of the 2006 book, Henry’s Attic: Some Fascinating Gifts to Henry Ford and His Museum, by Ford R. Bryan (Wayne State University Press). In addition to a full chapter on photographic equipment, the book contains a full chapter titled “Communications Equipment.” Detailed and illustrated are: Edison’s Printing Telegraph Transmitter, Cable Sheathing Machine, Edison’s Printing Telegraph Receiver, Edison’s Quadruplex Telegraph, Replica of Bell’s First Telephone, Sectional Model of a Telephone, Edison’s Carbon-Transmitter Chalk-Receiver Telephone, Telephone Switchboard, Telephone Desk Set, Wireless Telegraph Key, Wireless Spark Transmitter, Marconi Wireless Receiver, Replica of Home Wireless Set, De Forest’s “Singing Arc” Radio Transmitter, Low Frequency Radio Receiver, Atwater Kent Radio Receiver, RCA Radio Receiver, Steinmetz’s Portable Radio Receiver, “Majestic” Radio Console, High Altitude Shortwave Radio, Early Transistors, Early Television Apparatus: Jenkins’s Scanner and Baird’s Receiver, Facsimile Transmission Equipment, and Early Television Camera and Monitor. As far as I could tell, very few of these items are currently on public display at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.
(Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles about media history's role in museums and history books.)
Claussen is Editor of The Intelligencer and the James Pedas Professor of Media, Communication & Public Relations, Thiel College, Greenville, Pa. Regardless of what he might say or write about them, he enjoys visiting any and all museums in the USA and abroad.
By Erika J. Pribanic-Smith, University of Texas-Arlington
Julie Hedgepeth Williams holds the distinction of receiving the first AJHA Dissertation Award, presented at the 1997 national conference in Mobile, AL. Williams wrote her dissertation entitled “The Significance of the Printed Word in Early America: Colonists’ Thoughts on the Role of the Press” at the University of Alabama, under the direction of Wm. David Sloan.
Patrick Washburn said he proposed the dissertation award in 1996, at the first meeting he attended as a member of the AJHA board of directors. At the time, Washburn headed the graduate program in journalism at Ohio University and was chairing several historical dissertations. He hoped that the award would attract newly minted faculty to AJHA.
“It would be a way to keep adding young members to the association rather than the membership simply getting older and older,” Washburn said.
Washburn headed an ad hoc committee to investigate the award processes of other academic societies and propose a structure for AJHA’s award. Washburn said he suggested two primary things: giving the dissertation award at a convention time slot with no competing events on the program and giving a cash award to the winner.
“It would underscore the fact that AJHA considered this a major award,” he said.
Washburn credited David Abrahamson of Northwestern University with making the dissertation award session a major highlight of the annual convention. Chair of the Dissertation Award Committee for 20 years before handing the reins to Jane Marcellus (Middle Tennessee State) in 2016, Abrahamson made several decisions that defined the award.
He solidified the judging process, appointing as jurists faculty members from schools without doctoral programs to avoid bias. He decided against ranking the honorable mentions to emphasize the importance of each dissertation. He created a special printed program just for the dissertation session, and he made sure to acknowledge the faculty members who chaired the dissertations.
“I and others who chaired dissertations that were honored appreciated that acclaim,” said Washburn, who has mentored three award winners and one honorable mention.
Abrahamson said the process for submitting and judging dissertations has remained basically the same since the beginning. Two juries review portfolios consisting of an abstract, table of contents, and sample chapter to arrive at the four finalists, and then they review the full dissertations of the finalists to decide on the winner. The committee receives, on average, 12 nominees per year, though Abrahamson said it has considered as many as 23 dissertations in one competition.
“My recollection is that we received 11 entries the first year, which was really reassuring because when we set up the prize, we had no idea how it would be received,” Abrahamson said.
Williams, who had been a member of AJHA since 1992, said that Sloan told her about the award and encouraged her to enter.
“It seems David (Sloan) and AJHA go hand in hand,” Williams said. “I feel like he directed me with the idea of further AJHA papers from dissertation chapters in mind.”
Sloan said that Julie had demonstrated she was serious about history while working on her master’s thesis on the colonial South-Carolina Gazette, and he commended her excellence as an historian—both as a thorough researcher and a talented writer.
Williams presented her work at the Mobile conference along with three honorable mentions: David Domke, whose dissertation advisor was Hazel Dicken-Garcia (University of Minnesota); David Mindich, who wrote his dissertation under Carl Prince and Mitchell Stephens at New York University; and Doug Ward, whose mentor was Maurine Beasley at the University of Maryland.
Beasley has advised three dissertation award winners and six honorable mentions. She said that in addition to enhancing AJHA’s reputation as a worthwhile organization, the award helps keep journalism history a viable element in journalism and media education.
“It aids in establishing journalism history as a contemporary means of scholarly inquiry,” she said.
Sloan added that the award encourages more student interest in becoming historians, which in turn encourages more involvement in AJHA. Washburn noted that no other organization gives a journalism history dissertation award, so AJHA’s award remains important.
Those who have advised multiple award-winning dissertations said that the award did not influence how they advised their students—they always mentored their students to exhibit the qualities that are the hallmark of the award. Beasley and Sloan both said they always have placed a strong emphasis on using primary source material. Advisor of two winners and an honorable mention, Sloan also stressed the importance of selecting a significant topic.
Over the past 20 years, 56 advisors have mentored 81 students to Dissertation Award honors. Among the most prolific mentors was Margaret “Peggy” Blanchard at the University of North Carolina, who advised the 2003 winner as well as honorable mentions in four competitions. One of her advisees, Mark Feldstein, suggested that AJHA name the award after Blanchard.
The dissertation award has been called the Blanchard Prize since 2003. Abrahamson said that Blanchard was quite ill at the time—she died in 2004.
“As it turns out, Mark had been one of her last doctoral students and was quite passionate about the renaming and its timing,” Abrahamson said. “Given Peggy’s status among media historians, the renaming passed unanimously after a brief discussion.”
Other North Carolina faculty have continued Blanchard’s legacy. In total, nine UNC graduates have earned AJHA dissertation awards and honorable mentions—including two honorable mention recipients this year. Southern Mississippi also has produced several honorees, thanks largely to the mentorship of David Davies. Davies, who won the award for his dissertation under Sloan in 1998, has advised five honorable mention recipients.
For a full list of previous winners, including links to the dissertation award session programs for each year since 1998, visit ajha.wildapricot.org/Blanchard
By Teri Finneman, South Dakota State University
The second Media History Engagement Week attracted participants from 13 states and Sweden in the #headlinesinhistory Twitter discussion during the first week in April.
The week to recognize media history was the work of a subcommittee of members from the AEJMC History Division and AJHA who want to bring more national publicity to our work.
Throughout April 3-7, our members and their students across the country (and world) tweeted #headlinesinhistory to share historical news stories and special class projects about journalism history.
The Twitter initiative resulted in 330 posts from 110 people, reaching 40,288 Twitter followers. Watergate and World War I were the most tweeted topics. Most of the participants (64%) were women.
You can view the discussion here: https://tinyurl.com/ycvx3zal.
In April, Paula Hunt was presented with the University of Missouri Distinguished Dissertation Award, a campus-wide honor that recognizes exceptional original scholarship and research at the doctoral level. Hunt’s dissertation chair was Earnest Perry, associate dean for graduate studies at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Starting in Fall 2017, Hunt will be a postdoctoral teaching fellow at Utah State University.
Maddie Liseblad recently received a Teaching Excellence Award from Arizona State University’s Graduate and Professional Student Association. Liseblad was given the award for her efforts teaching copy editing.
Texas A&M University Press has published Jim Startt’s book, Woodrow Wilson, the Great war, and the Fourth Estate.
AJHA Intelligencer Editor Dane S. Claussen, Thiel College, has been appointed to the Research Committee of the 13th World Media Economics & Management Conference, to be held May 6-9, 2018, in Cape Town, South Africa. The Research Committee will choose, in a two-step process in August 2017 and January 2018, which papers will be presented at the conference. Claussen is a former Head of AEJMC’s Media Management, Economics & Entrepreneurship Division. The three other US scholars chosen for the 2018 Research Committee are: Sylvia Chan-Olmsted, University of Florida; Richard Gershon, Western Michigan University; and Kent Wilkinson, Texas Tech University. The Committee’s 14 other members are from various other countries, including three from South Africa and two from the United Kingdom.
By Will Mari, AJHA membership co-chair, and the membership committee
During my first AJHA convention in North Carolina, in October 2012, Jim McPherson paid for one of my dinners.
He then made sure I met a bunch of senior scholars, and then, if that wasn’t enough kindness for one weekend, fed me again when I missed my flight and had to spend an extra night in Raleigh. Jim, who will be retiring soon from Whitworth University, continued to mentor me as I finished my dissertation at the University of Washington and started my first full-time academic job at Northwest University.
But his care and concern were and are not the exception: Carole O’Reilly at Salford University in the UK, Ross Collins at North Dakota State University, Betty Winfield, professor emerita from the Missouri School of Journalism, Michael Fuhlhage at Wayne State, Stephen Banning at Bradley, Candi Carter Olsen at Utah State, Katherine Edenborg at the University of Wisconsin-Stout … I can definitely go on … these people have all mentored me in ways big and small.
Indeed, we are all at least partially the result of a vast collection of folks who have influenced, encouraged, and welcomed us in mentoring relationships within the academy.
But mentorship goes horizontally, too, from peer-to-peer.
Scholars such as Nick Hirshon at William Patterson, Teri Finneman at South Dakota State and Will Tubbs at the University of West Florida—these peers have all mentored me. Whether it’s through listening conversations, reading over drafts, comparing research notes or connecting me to archives and collections, these younger fellow mentors have already had a crucial impact on my work and sanity.
As a member of AJHA, you have the opportunity to mentor junior scholars, but also peers. Research and teaching in media history can be a sometimes lonely mission—but mentoring up, down, and across draws us into a bigger community of scholars from varying fields, departments, universities and countries. It enhances our work, and makes us better colleagues at our home institutions.
It’s more important than ever to mentor someone, or graciously let yourself be mentored, in this age of global change and connections.
Recently, I met a media historian from France, François Robinet, who encouraged me to spread the word about the Société pour l'Histoire des Médias. Robinet, the chair of the history department at the University of Versailles, believes that there should be stronger ties between French, British and American media-history scholars. I agree.
We should be ready to extend our mentoring and our reception of mentoring across national borders. Ultimately, we’ll all benefit from a more mentored academic world.
If you have questions or suggestions for the membership committee, or are interested in getting connected to a mentee or mentor, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow AJHA’s Twitter account at @AJHAsocial to get connected to fellow scholars there.
The American Journalism Historians Association announced Dr. Matthew Pressman as the winner of the annual Margaret A. Blanchard Doctoral Dissertation Prize.
Pressman, an assistant professor of journalism at Seton Hall University, completed his dissertation at Boston University under the direction of Dr. Bruce J. Schulman.
Pressman’s dissertation, “Remaking the News: The Transformation of American Journalism, 1960-1980,” focused on the evolution of the journalistic concepts of newsworthiness, objectivity, and the role of media in relation to the empowered.
“I’m greatly honored that the scholars on the Blanchard Prize committee selected my dissertation as the winner,” Pressman said. “As a relative newcomer to academia, it’s extremely gratifying to have senior scholars in the journalism-history field recognize my work. I’m currently adapting my dissertation into a book (to be published in 2018 by Harvard University Press), and winning this award gives me further inspiration to make that book as good as it can possibly be.”
Pressman and three honorable mention recipients will present their research at the AJHA’s 2017 National Convention in Little Rock, Arkansas, this October.
Those earning honorable mention were:
The Margaret A. Blanchard Doctoral Dissertation Prize, given for the first time in 1997, is awarded annually for the best doctoral dissertation dealing with mass communication history. An honorarium of $500 accompanies the prize, and a $200 honorarium is awarded to each honorable mention.
By Maddie Liseblad, Arizona State University
I knew by age six I wanted to be a journalist. By that time, I was publishing my own newspaper, complete with pretty awful drawings to accompany my stories. And my stories, yeah, not so sure there were really what you would call articles. But, I had a fantastic mentor – my neighbor Jan. Every day Jan would walk by my house with his dog, and as often as I could, I would join them. During these walks I interrogated poor Jan about being a journalist and about life in general. Jan told my mom I was going to be a journalist for sure because I certainly knew how to ask questions. Little did he know back then that, fast forward some twenty years or so, Jan was going to be training me to take over his newspaper editor role.
I’ve had many mentors throughout my life, fantastic people who have encouraged and supported me, but also not been afraid to provide constructive criticism. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their guidance. There’s my Swedish teacher in high school, Gertrud, who encouraged me to explore my creative writing voice. There’s Lee, my first television news manager who showed me what kind of a boss to strive to be. There’s Ingmar, who showed me that public relations really isn’t the dark side. And then there’s Dean, my undergrad journalism professor. Dean is the reason I am where I am today, pursuing my Ph.D. at Arizona State’s Cronkite School.
I think it’s important for all of us to have mentors to help guide us, to steer us in a good direction. For me, switching gear and entering academia late in life has been kind of daunting. I have found I have a passion for historical research. I probably enjoy it so much because in a way, I still get to be a journalist and tell a story. I enjoy the hunt for that obscure piece of evidence, that primary source that has been forgotten. There’s great satisfaction in bringing history to life again. And I have found many kindred spirits in AJHA members and a support system I think is pretty unique.
As a graduate student, my experience with AJHA is that it is an incredibly welcoming organization. I was told before I attended my first AJHA convention that I was going to enjoy the experience, much more so than any other convention I had been to. And that certainly turned out to be true. The setting is more intimate and we all share a deep passion for history. There’s a connection from the get-go that is very inclusive and special.
While it was certainly intimidating to walk up to senior scholars whose work I greatly admire and whose footsteps I’d like to follow, the setting and atmosphere at the convention made it fairly easy. And you know what? Those senior scholars all turned out to be fantastic. They were very willing and eager to share their experiences and knowledge. I was treated as a valued colleague, rather than “merely” a graduate student.
I can’t say enough good things about the people I have encountered through AJHA. They have helped me in several different ways, everything from pulling reading material for my comprehensive exams to telling me which archive to find what in. I have never once been turned down, even when I have had complex questions or requests.
Within AJHA, I have found not only one, but a whole network of journalism history mentors. And furthermore, I have found colleagues and friends. I don’t regret for one moment that I joined and got involved with AJHA as a graduate student. What I do regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
Maddie Liseblad is the chair of the Graduate Student Committee. If you are a graduate student and have questions about AJHA, please contact her at MaddieL@asu.edu.
Oral History Committee member Melita M. Garza of Texas Christian University is featured this month in the spotlight on members’ oral history projects. Garza describes her project below:
"With the help of a $1,500 Dean’s Research Grant from the Bob Schieffer College of Communication, my goal is to develop an oral history project and undergraduate research course that would examine the role journalists have played in chronicling movements for social change beyond matters of black-and-white. My project seeks to illuminate the role of journalists in civil rights reporting across fault lines of race, gender, geography, generation, and class.
"In this way, the project would contribute to the idea of the U.S. civil rights movement as “long and wide” rather than constrained to a racial binary, the geography of the South, and the time period of the 1950s and ‘60s. The traditional binary view, which historian Charles Payne called “the Montgomery to Memphis Framework,” is increasingly being challenged by scholars such as Mark Brilliant, who propose a Long and Wide Civil Rights Movement model to more accurately and comprehensively capture the conflicts and accomplishments of movements for equal rights.
"Historians have long followed the trail of journalist coverage of the Civil Rights Movement, looking among other thing, at their role as “sympathetic referees” in the black freedom struggle. As this project looks more expansively at the journalistic role in the nation’s freedom struggles, I seek answers to questions such as: How did the reporters’ background, training, and personal and journalistic outlook play into their news coverage of various struggles for civil rights not typically included in the broader accepted narrative? How did journalists report across ethnic, racial, economic, and other differences? How were their efforts accepted in the newsroom and community at large?
"This project attempts to answer these and other questions through oral history interviews with journalists across the fault lines and fissures that the late journalist Robert C. Maynard so eloquently spoke to. I’m kick-starting the project by attending Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez’s Voces Oral History Summer Research Institute this summer at the University of Texas at Austin."
Deadline: 30 June 2017, via http://bit.ly/BlocksPlatesStones-Submit
Keynote Roundtable: Dr Richard S. Field (Yale), Prof. James Mosley (Institute of English Studies), Dr. Ad Stijnman (Leiden), and Prof. Michael Twyman (Reading)
Call For Paper Abstracts & Poster Abstracts:
The material turn in fields that rely on historical printed matter has led to interest in how those texts and images were—and are—produced. Those objects, including cut woodblocks, etched and engraved metal plates, and lithographic stones, could be fundamental to research. Tens of thousands survive from the last 500 years, but the vast majority are inaccessible because they do not fit into the cataloguing structures and controlled vocabularies used by the libraries, archives and museums that hold them. Those that are accessible tend to be under-used, as few researchers are equipped to understand them or communicate about them across disciplinary boundaries. Even the most basic term is debated: in book research, a matrix is the mould for casting pieces of type; in art research, each resulting type is a matrix (and the sheets printed from them are the multiples). As new possibilities to catalogue and digitize these artifacts are revealing their research potential, it is essential to establish how they can best be made available and how they can be used in research.
This deeply interdisciplinary conference will survey the state of research into cut woodblocks, intaglio plates, lithographic stones, and other matrices/printing surfaces. It will bring together researchers, curators, librarians, printers, printmakers, cataloguers, conservators, digital humanities practitioners, and others who care for or seek to understand these objects. The discussion will encompass all media and techniques, from the fifteenth century through the present. Please submit abstracts for papers (20 minutes) and posters (A1 portrait/vertical) by 30 June 2017 at http://bit.ly/BlocksPlatesStones-Submit.
Location: (Senate House, London; reception at British Academy)
Funder: This event is part of a 12-month British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award, ‘The Matrix Reloaded: Establishing Cataloguing and Research Guidelines for Artefacts of Printing Images’, http://bit.ly/BARSEAMatrixReloaded. The discussions will support the creation of a research network to distill a single, interdisciplinary best practice from existing standards across disciplines and heritage collections and produce a program to train researchers to engage with matrices/printing surfaces.
Contact Info: Dr Elizabeth Savage (Institute of English Studies)
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