Intelligencer is a blog featuring teaching and research essays as well as news about the organization and its members.
To submit member news or suggest a blog topic, contact Intelligencer editor Melony Shemberger.
PDFs of the Intelligencer in its previous newsletter form can be found at the Intelligencer archive. Visit the News page for press releases on the organization's activities.
A Graduate Student Testimonial
By Patti Piburn
Trepidation. That’s what I felt as I boarded a plane at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport heading for Little Rock, Ark. I was going to present a paper at the American Journalism Historians Association conference. I had a mix of business casual in my carry-on and a mix of excitement, fear and anxiety in my heart. I didn’t know what to expect. How was I going to fit in with all the “real” historians attending the conference? What had I gotten myself into?
I had a similar feeling after graduation when I was driving to New Mexico to start my first job as a reporter. Everything I owned was packed in a U-Haul moving truck. I had just finished a B.A. in broadcast journalism and a B.S. in Political Science at Arizona State University. Now it was time to put all that learning to work. Time to practice journalism, in a newsroom with “real” reporters. What had I gotten myself into? In spite of my trepidation, I found a supportive, nurturing group of journalists in New Mexico and a welcoming community. It was a sort of boot camp experience, and as rookie reporters, we bonded in our struggles.
That same feeling came back to me in 2006 when I walked into a classroom of college students for the first time as a lecturer. After ten years practicing journalism in a newsroom, here I was practicing teaching journalism in a classroom. Once again, I found a supportive, nurturing group of colleagues who helped me find my footing as an instructor. And, a welcoming campus community at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Much like my first year reporting in New Mexico, and true to the university’s motto, teaching was certainly a “learn by doing” experience for me.
In 2016 I walked into an ASU classroom with that same anxious, excited, and fearful feeling. I had quit my job at the local NPR affiliate station where I lived in California, agreed to teach for Cal Poly online, packed up everything I owned, and there I was back in Arizona. I looked around the room at my fellow Ph.D. students wondering once again, what had I gotten myself into? In my cohort I found a supportive, nurturing group of friends, and a welcoming community at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
There I sat on the plane taking another step in my journey, feeling anxious, fearful and excited all at once. That familiar feeling of trepidation. I had never done any historical research until I wrote the paper I would be presenting in Little Rock. The moment I arrived at the check-in desk at the hotel, I realized AJHA is a friendly and welcoming community. I met a diverse array of supportive and nurturing scholars and Ph.D. students. There was so much experience packed into one place. That feeling of what have I gotten myself into quickly evaporated.
From the paper presentations, panel discussions and social gatherings, the fabulous dinner at the Clinton Presidential Library, to the tour of Little Rock High School, it was an invaluable week. I couldn't have found a more welcoming or supportive group of people, I mean historians. “Real” historians. What I aspire to be.
The American Journalism Historians Association invites paper entries, panel proposals, and abstracts of research in progress on any facet of media history for its 37th annual convention to be held Oct. 4-6, 2018, in Salt Lake City, Utah. More information on the 2018 AJHA convention is available at https://ajha.wildapricot.org.
The deadline for all submissions is June 1, 2018.
The AJHA views journalism history broadly, embracing print, broadcasting, advertising, public relations, and other forms of mass communication that have been inextricably intertwined with the human past. Because the AJHA requires presentation of original material, research papers and panels submitted to the convention should not have been submitted to or accepted by another convention or publication.
Authors may submit only one research paper. They also may submit one Research in Progress abstract but only on a significantly different topic. Research entries must be no longer than 25 pages of text, double-spaced, in 12-point type, not including notes. The Chicago Manual of Style is recommended but not required.
Papers must be submitted electronically as PDF or Word attachments. Please send the following:
An email with the attached paper, saved with author identification only in the file name and not in the paper.
A separate 150-word abstract as a Word attachment (no PDFs) with no author identification.
Author’s info (email address, telephone number, institutional affiliation, and undergraduate student, graduate student, or faculty status) in the text of the email.
Send papers to email@example.com.
Authors of accepted papers must register for the convention and attend in order to present their research.
Accepted papers are eligible for several awards, including the following:
David Sloan Award for the outstanding faculty research paper ($250 prize).
Robert Lance Award for outstanding student research paper ($100 prize).
Jean Palmegiano Award for outstanding international/transnational journalism history research paper ($150 prize)
J. William Snorgrass Award for outstanding minority-journalism research paper.
Maurine Beasley Award for outstanding women’s-history research paper.
Wally Eberhard Award for outstanding research in media and war ($50 prize).
Research Chair Erin Coyle (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Louisiana State University is coordinating paper submissions. Authors will be notified in mid-July whether their papers have been accepted.
Preference will be given to proposals that involve the audience and panelists in meaningful discussion or debate on original topics relevant to journalism history. Preference also will be given to panels that present diverse perspectives on their topics. Entries must be no longer than three pages of text, double-spaced, in 12-point type, with one-inch margins. Panel participants must register for and attend the convention.
Panel proposals must be submitted electronically as PDF or Word attachments. Please include the following:
A title and brief description of the topic.
The moderator and participants’ info (name, institutional affiliation, student or faculty status).
A brief summary of each participant’s presentation.
Send proposals to email@example.com.
No individual may be on more than one panel. Panel organizers must make sure panelists have not agreed to serve on multiple panels. Panel organizers also must secure commitment from panelists to participate before submitting the proposal. Moderators are discussion facilitators and may not serve as panelists. Failure to adhere to the guidelines will lead to rejection of the proposal.
Panelists may submit a research paper and/or research in progress abstract.
Tracy Lucht (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Iowa State University is coordinating the panel competition. Authors of panel proposals will be notified in mid-July whether their panels have been accepted.
RESEARCH IN PROGRESS
The Research in Progress category is for work that will NOT be completed before the conference. Participants will give an overview of their research purpose and progress, not a paper presentation, as the category’s purpose is to allow for discussion and feedback on work in progress. RIP authors may also submit a research paper on a significantly different topic.
For research in progress submissions, send a blind abstract of your study. Include the proposal title in the abstract. The abstract should include a clear purpose statement as well as a brief description of your primary sources. Abstracts must be no longer than two pages of text, double-spaced, in 12-point type, with 1-inch margins, excluding notes.
Primary sources should be described in detail in another double-spaced page.
Entries that do not follow these guidelines will be rejected.
The AJHA Research in Progress competition is administered electronically.
Proposals must be submitted as PDF or Word attachments, saved with author identification ONLY in the file names and NOT in the text of the proposal.
Each proposal must be submitted as an attachment, with author’s info (name, project title, telephone number, email address, institutional affiliation, and student or faculty status) in the text of the email.
Send research in progress proposals to email@example.com. Authors will be notified in mid-July whether their proposals have been accepted.
Authors whose work is accepted must register for and attend the convention.
Keith Greenwood (firstname.lastname@example.org) of University of Missouri is coordinating the Research in Progress competition.
The board of trustees at Albright College approved the promotion of Jon Bekken to full professor in January 2018; the promotion will take effect with the Fall 2018 semester.
Joel J. Campbell and Kristoffer D. Boyle, Brigham Young University School of Communications, published “Artemus Ward: The Forgotten Influence of the Genial Showman’s Mormon Lecture on Public Opinion of Mormons in the United States and Great Britain,” in The Journal of Popular Culture, October 2017 (Vol. 50, Issue 5, pp. 1107-1126).
Caryl Cooper, Alabama, and Aimee Edmondson, Ohio, met up at the University of Alabama where Cooper gave a civil rights history tour to Edmondson’s Ohio students as part of Edmondson’s Civil Rights & Media class. Edmondson took her students on a week-long civil rights tour through the South during Spring Break and Cooper gave a tour of the key civil rights history sites at Alabama. Edmondson notes that she and Cooper met through AJHA, and Ohio and Alabama came together to learn/teach some history!
David Copeland was named Elon University’s sixth Distinguished University Professor in a ceremony in November 2017. The award is given to senior university faculty upon occasion by the university’s president who solicits nominations from the faculty to honor teaching, scholarship, leadership, and service to the Elon University community. Elon was founded in 1889.
David Dowling, associate professor at the University of Iowa, is author or co-author of five recent or forthcoming articles. They are: Dowling, David. “Emerson in Media Studies and Journalism” in Approaches to Teaching Emerson’s Essays and Other Works, ed. Sean Meehan and Mark Long. Modern Language Association, (in press) 2018; Dowling, David. “Emerson’s Newspaperman: Horace Greeley and Radical Intellectual Culture, 1836-1872” Journalism & Communication Monographs 19.1 (Spring 2017); Dowling, David. “Banned in Britain: Marilynne Robinson’s Radical Environmental Journalism,” under review at Literary Journalism Studies; Subin Paul [student author] and David Dowling, “Ghandi’s Newspaperman: T.G. Narayanan and the Quest for an Independent India, 1938-1946,” (in press) Modern Asian Studies; and David Dowling and John Haman [student author], “New Horizons for TeachingJournalism History: A Multimedia Approach” American Journalism 34.3 (2017): 353-362.
Kate Dunsmore, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Fairleigh Dickinson University, is now Director of the department's MA in Communication Program.
Michael Fuhlhage was awarded the Bernard Brock Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Communication for 2017 by the Department of Communication at Wayne State University, where he is assistant professor.
Former AJHA President and Founding Member Mike Murray was voted UM Board of Curators' Distinguished Professor Emeritus by the four-campus University of Missouri governing board, meaning he will retain his office on the St. Louis campus and also continue teaching one section of "Media History.” Mike was honored by UM System President Mun Choi -- with family members at a MU vs. Florida game. He also recently published the 5th edition of Media Law & Ethics (New York: Routledge / Taylor & Francis, 2018) along with long-time co-author Roy L. Moore, plus J. Michael Farrell and Kyu Ho Youm (Oregon).
Teresa Styles, Morehouse College, was a panelist at the Georgia Bar & Media Judiciary Conference in Atlanta titled, “Georgia Judges, Journalists and Lawyers And the First Amendment.” Panelist Tony Maddox of CNN International, Kevin Riley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kevin Sack of The New York Times joined Styles on the topic of the “Cultural Challenges to the First Amendment: The Next Generation, Hate Speech and Fake News.” The moderator was Ron Thomas of Morehouse College.
Ronald R. Rodgers, Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator, Department of Journalism, University of Florida, is publishing this month his long-awaited book, The Struggle for the Soul of Journalism: The Pulpit versus the Press, 1833-1923. The publisher, the University of Missouri Press, writes, “Ronald R. Rodgers examines several narratives involving religion’s historical influence on the news ethic of journalism: its decades-long opposition to the Sunday newspaper as a vehicle of modernity that challenged the tradition of the Sabbath; the parallel attempt to create an advertising-driven Christian daily newspaper; and the ways in which religion—especially the powerful Social Gospel movement—pressured the press to become a moral agent. The digital disruption of the news media today has provoked a similar search for a news ethic that reflects a new era—for instance, in the debate about jettisoning the substrate of contemporary mainstream journalism, objectivity. But, Rodgers argues, before we begin to transform journalism’s present news ethic, we need to understand its foundation and formation in the past.”
Although the American Civil War has received extensive scholarly attention, surprisingly little scholarly work has been devoted to western newspapers and their experiences with secession, the war and the start of the Reconstruction era.
Professors Debra Reddin van Tuyll and Mary (Cronin) Lamonica are producing a two-volume edited work on the topic, and we need a few more chapter authors. One volume examines the press of the Midwestern region and the second book examines the far West. The volumes, collectively, will cover an area stretching from Ohio (considered the frontier at the time of the war) to the states and territories on the Pacific Coast.
Midwestern editors and their western counterparts were not immune from the war or its impact. A number of skirmishes and some battles occurred across the frontier. Southern sympathizers abounded, and recruiters for the Union and Confederate armies ranged across the western states and territories, looking for hale and hearty men to serve. Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio had to deal with both Confederate supporters and Federal recruitment and military incursions. Mining camps throughout the Rocky Mountain frontier had similar problems, with law enforcement often having to separate Northern and Southern miners.
The volumes also will examine home front issues. Western migration continued, towns were established and mining camps were booming. But the onset of war also meant shortages of supplies in frontier communities. Because western states and territories sent units to fight in the war, newspapers had to serve audiences anxious for war news. And, most publishers had to provide that news without a dedicated corps of reporters.
Midwestern and western editors also faced problems meeting that demand due to the lack of communication infrastructure. Without railroads and telegraph lines in much of the western United States, news, whether war-related or political, was slow to reach western editors. Editors faced equal difficulty in getting their frontier concerns to politicians and military officials back east.
This two-volume series will examine the Midwestern states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri in Volume 1. Volume 2 will focus on the far western states and territories, including the Dakotas, Oregon, California, Texas, Washington (which included Idaho and some of Montana), Utah, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Kansas. (Indian Territory did not have a press during the war years, although it will be mentioned throughout the book as several battles occurred there, and Native American families were devastated physically and emotionally by the war).
The volumes focus primarily on Union-supporting states and territories, with the exception of Texas and the divided state of Missouri. Supporters and opponents of the Union and of the Confederacy lived in the Midwest and the far west, a reality that led to lively politics, confusion and fear (at times), skirmishes and battles, and lively editorial practices.
The two-volume set will be arranged thematically and will roughly parallel the work of Debra Reddin van Tuyll’s 2012 work, The Confederate Press in the Crucible of the American Civil War. Van Tuyll’s work was grounded in the notion that press function is determined by its political and social environment. Additionally, just as the press is influenced by its society, it influences its society to develop politically, socially, and economically in particular ways.
Van Tuyll’s book offered a thematic history of the Confederate press as an important social structure in the nascent Southern slave republic. In that book, then, van Tuyll looked at the social, political, economic and legal environment of the Confederate press. Additionally, she explored who was reading the newspapers that southern journalists were producing, as well as who those producers were.
The new two-volume work examines the social, economic, political, cultural, and intellectual history of the Midwestern and western press during the Civil War. The work should be grounded in primary sources, including archival material such as letters, diaries, newspaper business records (when they can be found), readership and advertising records (when they can be found) as well as the newspapers themselves. It will be important that the book examine how western editors covered both the war and home front issues and that looks at the public’s responses to the war. Therefore, the editors encourage authors to examine primary source material from citizens, politicians, business leaders and members of the press to provide as well-rounded a view of news and information from 1860 through Reconstruction as possible.
The public’s response is particularly important, because as historian Alice Fahs noted in her work, The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861-1865, the press, collectively, helped shape a cultural politics of the war.
The two-volume set will be a scholarly, yet readable work that reaches a wide audience. Authors’ work should be completed by November 2019. A panel presentation at either AJHA or the Symposium on the Nineteenth-Century Press, the Civil War and Free Expression in Chattanooga will be planned, as well. The authors anticipate finding a university press for this work—perhaps Oxford University Press, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, or even the University of California Press. A full prospectus is available from either editor. Email us at DVANTUYL@augusta.edu or email@example.com.
By Dianne Bragg
March is one of those months that is filled with surprises. Often, the weather this time of year leaves us with one foot in spring and another still in winter. Our northern friends have been hit by weekly snowstorms and here in the South tornadoes have already left their destructive signature on several communities, including the campus of Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Fortunately, despite the extensive damage to the campus and student housing, no one was seriously injured because students were away on spring break.
Even so, March offers the promise of April, Spring and better days ahead. I would propose that it is the same with the state of journalism. As our country faces new political crises almost daily, it is the journalists who remain on the front line. Sometimes that means actually being at a march or protest and recording events for today and tomorrow. For us, as journalism historians, it often means looking to the past so we can make sense of the present, or maybe just offer another perspective. Too often, the average citizen (whoever that is) does not understand how our past informs our present. And, it is likewise with many of our students.
In the midst of the turmoil at many of our schools and across our country, there have been cries for curtailing speech or limiting speakers’ access to campuses. Although the fear is understandable, it is a moment of concern, one that calls into question our understanding of the First Amendment and what it means to allow space for the speech we hate. Within that debate, there has even been some criticism of students and their role in protests at their schools. Although we have historic student speech cases like Tinker, Frazier and Hazelwood to offer some guidance, particularly on high school campuses, we are left to debate what actually constitutes “legitimate pedagogical concerns.”
A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education questioned whether those of us in education are doing all we can to ensure that students, faculty, and administrators understand their rights and responsibilities. In “The Crisis of Civic Education,” Derek Bok, president emeritus of Harvard University, asserted that there is much more we could do to prepare our students for the challenges of living in a democracy. Bok suggests that we are requiring less of students in areas of critical thinking, American government, and news literacy. I agree with him. Instead of broadening our students’ views, schools too often try to create an insular environment, often under the guise of safety and legal concerns. We are all too familiar with the phenomenon of “helicopter” parents. It would seem, though, that many of our schools are becoming “helicopter” institutions, often at the behest of parents, politicians, and even political news commentators. Taking such a stance falls far short of our duties to help our students on their way to becoming fully participatory members of a democratic society.
And, as often happens, it is journalism historians who are able to shed insight on what has come before. In the midst of the student anti-gun “March for Our Lives” protests, more than one “adult,” over numerous media platforms, has seen fit to deride the protestors as being too young, disrespectful, and ill-informed. Slogans such as “Walk Up” not “Walk Out” have made the rounds. To be frank, I am not even sure I know what that one means. But, these young people have not been deterred, even as they have been the focus of ugly innuendo.
It is not the first time this has happened and, as fate would have it, Linda Brown died recently. Brown was 76 when she died in Kansas, but she was a Topeka third grader when her father tried to enroll her in an all-white school, a move that set off the events leading to the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
Recently, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County men’s basketball team stunned the NCAA tournament when it became the first 16th seeded team to defeat a number one team. There is more to this school, though, than their basketball program. UMBD’s president, Freeman Hrabowski III, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and participated in a Civil Rights Children’s Crusade in 1963. Hrabowski, all of 12 years old, found himself face to face with the infamous Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor, who spat in Hrabowski’s face and sent the young boy, along with many other children, off to spend five nights in jail. Hrabowski has acknowledged how this event shaped him and impacted his career in education.
History is all around us and it is our job as journalism historians and educators to bring such stories to light. They are pieces of history that could easily find their way into any classroom discussion, regardless of the course subject. Our students are our future, and the sooner they learn to use their First Amendment right to speak up and, if necessary, walk out, the better we all are for it.
Today, we are again watching young people cut their teeth on their civics lessons, and I, for one, think the future will be better for it.
Call for Papers: Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression
November 8–10, 2018
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Deadline: August 27, 2018
The steering committee of the twenty-sixth 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 in the 19th century press, sensationalism and crime in 19th century newspapers, the press in the Gilded Age, and the antebellum press and the causes of the Civil War. Selected papers will be presented during the three-day conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, November 8–10, 2018. The top three papers and the top three student papers will be honored accordingly. Due to the generosity of the Walter and Leona Schmitt Family Foundation Research Fund, the winners of the student awards will receive $250 honoraria for delivering their papers at the conference.
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 on the Civil War and the press, presidents and the 19th century press, and 19th century concepts of free expression. Papers from the first five conferences were published by Transaction Publishers in 2000 as a book of readings called The Civil War and the Press. Purdue University Press published papers from past conferences in three distinctly different books titled 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), and Seeking a Voice: Images of Race and Gender in the 19th Century Press (2009). In 2013, Transaction published Sensationalism: Murder, Mayhem, Mudslinging, Scandals, and Disasters in 19th-Century Reporting, and in 2014, it published A Press Divided: Newspaper Coverage of the Civil War. In 2017, Transaction (now Routledge/Taylor & Francis) published After the War: The Press in a Changing America, 1865–1900.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by August 27, 2018. For more information, please contact:
Dr. David Sachsman
George R. West, Jr. Chair of Excellence in Communication and Public Affairs, Dept. 3003
615 McCallie Ave.
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37403-2598
(423) 425-4219, email@example.com
Lionel Youst's short article reports that the repository features a 100-year print run (1907-2007) of the daily Coos Bay Times and its successor, the Coos Bay World. The repository also includes incomplete runs of local weekly newspapers: Coast Mail, Marshfield Sun, Empire Builder, and the weekly editions of the Southwestern Oregon News and Coos Bay Times.
Youst estimates that the collection is comprised of 30,000 newspaper issues or about 300,000 pages of newsprint.
He recounts that in 1906, local business people bought two weekly newspapers, the Coast Mail and the Marshfield Advertiser and merged them together to form the daily Coos Bay Times. The Times belonged to the Associated Press and later also United Press International.
"For more than twenty years, until December 31, 1927, the Coos Bay Times was owned, published and edited by brothers Michael and Dan Maloney. Michael had worked for prominent newspapers in the East, knew the business and transformed the newspaper. A painted sign on their office window said, 'Independent and Unafraid.' This was a message from the Catholic Maloney brothers to the Ku Klux Klan, which was quite strong in 1920s Oregon and was supported by the rival Southwestern Oregon Daily News," Youst writes.
In 1930, Sheldon Sackett bought the Coos Bay Times. He also owned part of the McMinnville (OR) Telegraph Register and the Oregon Statesman in Salem, and later owned several radio stations and weekly newspapers in Oregon, Washington state, and California.
Youst calls him "volatile, dynamic, but eccentric," and quotes a local journalist who, in 1974, wrote that Youst pursued an "extremely personal, often brilliant, journalistic adventure."
Youst also points out, "In addition to the newspaper repository, it [Marshfield Sun Printing Museum] preserves the plant and equipment of the last handset newspaper in Oregon and one of the last in the United States. It [museum] is open Memorial Day to Labor Day, Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m., and other times by appointment. For information, contact the repository curator [Youst himself], (541) 267-3762, firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Coos Bay Area Visitor's Center at (541) 269-0215."
(Editor's Note: The Intelligencer asked Dr. Matthew Pressman, recipient of AJHA's Blanchard Prize for best dissertation to tell us more about how and why he chose his doctoral dissertation topic, why it's important and interesting, and what he's working on now.)
By Matthew Pressman
Generating ideas has never been my strong suit. When I worked at Vanity Fair, I always dreaded editor-in-chief Graydon Carter’s monthly call for story ideas from all staffers. Each time, I tried to pitch at least one investigative article, one column, and one spotlight (250 words accompanied by a photo). But it was a rare occurrence for me to be satisfied with my “ideas memo”—it was even rarer for one of those ideas to make it into the magazine.
As a historian, I still struggle with idea generation, but it’s a different kind of challenge. Although the pressure is less constant, the stakes are higher—especially when the idea is for a dissertation or book. A research project like that is a multi-year commitment that can have a tremendous influence on career prospects.
Mulling over ideas for my dissertation as a second-year graduate student in 2012-13, I wasn’t thinking strategically about it. All I knew was that I wanted to fill a gap in the scholarship about a big, broad topic in American journalism history. I landed upon the question of how and when the mainstream press became contemporary—that is, when it adopted the values and practices that most people associated with it at the turn of the 21st century. The eventual result was my dissertation, “Remaking the News: The Transformation of American Journalism, 1960-1980,” which I am proud to say won the AJHA’s Blanchard Prize last year.
As I worked to refine my dissertation topic, I didn’t think much about how it might relate to the issues of the day. Having spent the previous eight years in magazine and online journalism, it felt indulgent to be able to write about something that wasn’t pegged to the latest news. Besides, as a grad student in history, I wanted to avoid the sin of “presentism.” But it turns out that my topic—changing journalistic values at a time when traditional media faced unprecedented criticism, and when technological and cultural shifts threatened newspapers’ economic survival—was quite relevant in 2016 (and remains so today).
I’m glad that’s the case. For one thing, it probably helped me get a contract to adapt my dissertation into a book, which is due out this fall (tentatively titled On Press: The Liberal Values that Shaped the News, to be published by Harvard University Press). But more importantly, it forced me to think about how the history I’m writing can help inform our understanding of the present. And it will, I hope, enable me to participate in the ongoing public discourse about journalistic values and the press’s role in society.
When casting about for my second book project, therefore, I expressly sought out ideas that would fill a gap in the scholarship and have some contemporary relevance. I think I’ve found one. I am in the early stages of researching a history of the New York Daily News in the mid-20th century. Considering that it was the highest-circulation newspaper in American history (over 2 million copies daily, over 4 million on Sundays), remarkably little has been written about it—there is a yawning gap in the scholarship. Plus, the paper’s coverage in those days reflected a nationalistic, right-wing populist viewpoint that bears striking similarities to that of President Donald Trump and many of his supporters. It’s a history that can help us better understand the present.
However, it isn’t enough for a research topic to be underexposed and relevant; it also has to be feasible. And for a historian, that means primary sources must be available. Researching my dissertation spoiled me, in a way. I used the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times as my two case studies. The voluminous, meticulously catalogued records of both newspapers are held in archives (the Huntington Library and the New York Public Library, respectively), and the back issues are entirely digitized and easily available via ProQuest (via subscription). Moreover, since I was writing about relatively recent history, I was able to conduct oral history interviews with many of the journalists who worked at those two papers during the 1960s and 70s.
The Daily News will present a greater challenge for research. Archival materials from the paper’s history are scarce, and they are scattered in multiple collections throughout the U.S. The back issues are not digitized, and very few libraries have the microfilm in their holdings. But I really like this idea, and given how rarely that happens, I’m sticking with it.
P.S. If any AJHA-ers have leads/suggestions on Daily News research material, I’m all ears!
Dr. Matthew Pressman is an assistant professor of journalism at Seton Hall University. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Boston University.
Reed W. Smith of Georgia Southern University recently has published his new book, Cecil Brown: The Murrow Boy Who Became Broadcasting’s Crusader for Truth (298 pages, $39.95 softcover, ISBN 978-1-4766-7202-1 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4766-3088-5 2017) The son of Jewish immigrants, war correspondent Cecil Brown (1907–1987) was a member of CBS’ esteemed Murrow Boys. Expelled from Italy and Singapore for reporting the facts, he witnessed the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia and the war in North Africa, and survived the sinking of the British battleship HMS Repulse by a Japanese submarine. Back in the U.S., he became an influential commentator during the years when Americans sought a dispassionate voice to make sense of complex developments. He was one of the first journalists to champion civil rights, to condemn Senator McCarthy’s tactics (and President Eisenhower’s reticence), and to support Israel’s creation. Although he won every major broadcast journalism award, his accomplishments have been largely overlooked by historians. This first biography of Brown chronicles his career in journalism and traces his contributions to the profession.
* * *
Patrick C. File, University of Nevada at Reno, on Sept. 30 was awarded the Nevada Press Association's "First Amendment Champion" Award for his work organizing and providing expertise for a student press rights bill enacted by the state legislature. He also recently has published two journal articles:
Patrick C. File, “A History of Practical Obscurity: Clarifying and Contemplating the Twentieth Century Roots of a Digital Age Concept of Privacy” Journal of Media Law & Ethics Vol. 6, no. 1/2 (2017): 4-21.
Patrick C. File, “Retract, Expand: Libel Law, The Professionalization of Journalism, and the Limits of Press Freedom at the Turn of the Twentieth Century” Communication Law & Policy Vol. 22, Issue 3 (2017): 275-308.
Fred Carroll's Race News: Black Journalists and the Fight for Racial Justice in the Twentieth Century was published by the University of Illinois Press in November 2017. Race News examines the commercial black press’s contentious working relationship with the alternative black press and its thorny interactions with a repressive federal government and hostile white media. Fred explains how shifting toleration of progressive politics reconfigured how black journalists wrote and covered the news. Carroll is a lecturer at Kennesaw State University.
Christopher B. Daly of Boston University in early December published a chapter in American Literature in Transition, 1920-1930 (Cambridge U Press). It is on the most popular columnists of the 1920s, Will Rogers.
A second edition of his journalism history book, Covering America (UMass Press), was published on Jan. 31, 2018. It has a new final chapter that brings the story up to election night, 2016.
His new book from Routledge, The Journalist's Companion, was has been scheduled to be released in February 2018. It is intended as a "sword and a shield" for working journalists and journalism students. It's a pocket-sized compendium of materials that are inspiring, humorous, and practical.
Finally, he informs us that "some time in the spring, I will be appearing in a documentary titled, 'Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People.' A new biographical interpretation, it will appear as an episode in the 'American Masters' series on PBS."
Academics, practitioners and research students are invited to submit competitive abstracts for presentation of papers or works-in-progress at the Public Relations History Conference to be held in Portland, Oregon, August 1-2, 2018. The scope of the conference covers public relations history in all its aspects, including corporate, non-profit, governmental and political communications, as well as publicity and propaganda in their various forms.
The conference is organized by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and will be held at the School’s George S. Turnbull Center in downtown Portland.
Papers for presentation at the conference will be selected, via peer review, on the basis of abstracts of approximately 1,200 words in length, including references. The abstract should express the purpose, method, findings, implications/limitations and originality of the study in a narrative style. Author and affiliation details should be printed on a separate sheet, and the author(s) should not be identified in the abstract.
Abstracts must be presented in Microsoft Word, 12-point font size, single spacing with 1-inch margins in standard, letter-size format.
Finished manuscripts of selected papers are to be submitted using APA citation style. The MS of 3,000 to 6,000 words, plus references, must be presented in MSW format, in 1.5 line spacing and 12 point font size, with 1-inch margins in standard letter-size.
Submission of abstracts: March 1, 2018
Acceptance notification (by email): The week of April 1, 2018
Registration opens: March 1, 2018
The UO School of Journalism and Communication in downtown Portland is housed at the George S. Turnbull Portland Center, providing an exciting urban environment within the media capital of the state. Located in the White Stag Block of Portland’s historic Old Town Chinatown district, the center is within convenient walking distance of the train station, local hotels and restaurants, and downtown Portland.
Downtown Portland boasts an amazing array of attractions, including an outstanding collection of cast iron and terra cotta architecture, the largest new-and-used bookstore in the world, a nationally acclaimed art museum, and a vibrant culinary community.
Outstanding public art, dozens of urban parks and greenspaces, a lively downtown, and a world-class transportation system are just a few of the many reasons to visit this jewel of the Pacific Northwest.
To submit an abstract and for more information, see the conference Website at: https://prhc.uoregon.edu. You may also contact conference organizers, Professors Pat Curtin (email@example.com) and Tom Bivins (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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