34th Annual AJHA Convention
Oklahoma City | Oct. 8-10, 2015
Go to: Program | Panel Abstracts | Research in Progress
Carol Ames, Cal State-Fullerton, “Two Seminal Events in Motion Pictures Public Relations History: How U.S. Court Decisions Twice Changed the Way Movies Are Publicized” ♦ This qualitative historical study finds that two seminal U.S. court decisions changed entertainment public relations by changing the motion picture industry’s business model. U.S. v. Motion Picture Patents Company (225 F. 800 D.C. Pa. 1915) ended monopoly control of the film business and transformed film public relations from a retail model to the big-business, centralized model of the studio era. U.S. v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (334 U.S. 131 1948) forced the Hollywood studios to divest their theater chains and ushered in the modern era of specialized PR agencies and independent consultants.
Bruce Berman and Mary Cronin, New Mexico State, “DOCUMERICA: The Project that Would Be, But Wasn’t, the FSA” ♦ Photography has long been used as a tool to document social, economic, political, and cultural conditions. Several extensive documentary projects in the U.S. have captured both the public’s imagination and brought change. Jacob Riis’ images of New York slum dwellers, Lewis Hines’ documentation of child laborers, and the Farm Security Administration’s photographs from the Great Depression are all well-known. But another project, DOCUMERICA, which was patterned after the FSA’s monumental work and was run by the nascent Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s to document “subjects of environmental concern,” is remembered little, if at all. This research takes a historical-critical approach to answer the following questions: Why do so few historians and photography devotees know of the project? Why do so many of the DOCUMERICA shooters and their images remain obscure? What are the conceptual differences between the two projects? What are the physical differences with the actual product (photographs) from the two projects? Why didn’t DOCUMERICA have the same appeal, force, and enduring/endearing quality as did the Farm Security Administration Project of the 1930s?
Dianne Bragg, Alabama, “1850: Compromise, Calamity, and Calhoun” ♦ In 1850, newspapers closely followed President Zachary Taylor’s new administration as it faced the challenges of working with Congress to establish a Texas and New Mexico boundary, admit California as a new state, and address slavery in all of these lands in a way that would be acceptable to the North and the South. Newspapers show that addressing these issues was an arduous and contentious process, one marked by deaths, deals, and potential duels, before the Compromise of 1850 would finally be passed. Although the Compromise may have bought the Union some time, it came at a price, as the contentious negotiations took their toll. Newspapers reported a growing sense of mistrust among legislators accompanied by a visible rancor that would plague the North and the South in the years to come and push the country ever closer to civil war.
W. Joseph Campbell, American, “Picture Power? Confronting the Myths of ‘Napalm Girl’” ♦ Few photographs of the Vietnam War era are as immediately recognizable, or possess such raw emotional power, as “Terror of War,” a black-and-white image that showed a cluster of terror-stricken Vietnamese children fleeing a misdirected napalm attack on their village in what was South Vietnam. At the center of the image is a naked girl, 9 years old, her arms outstretched, her face contorted in pain. In time, the photograph has come to be known colloquially as “Napalm Girl.” This paper discusses how “Napalm Girl” has been embroidered by media myth — false or improbable tales about and/or by the news media that masquerade as factual. The myths of the “Napalm Girl” are fourfold and include claims that the image hastened an end to the Vietnam War; that it galvanized American public opinion against the conflict; that it appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the United States; and that it depicted the consequences of an aerial bombing by American warplanes.
Erin Coyle, Louisiana State, and Nicole Smith Dahmen, Oregon, “History Denied: An Historical Analysis of Photojournalists’ Access to Photograph the President of the United States” ♦ Photojournalists help shape collective memories of presidents. In recent years, photojournalists have criticized the White House for limiting news photographers’ access to the President, preventing the public and the historical record from receiving independent portrayals of the Commander in Chief. This study places the current controversy in historical context by examining how news photographers perceive presidents and White House staff as managing images of presidents since 1977. This study examines visual journalists’ narratives about their access to presidents via visual journalists’ in-depth interview responses and writings published in books and News Photographer. The narratives suggest that presidential administrations have used managed photo opportunities and visual handouts to protect the security, privacy, and images of presidents. Those practices have limited photojournalists’ abilities to provide the public with independently captured images of presidents.
David Dowling, Iowa, “Rule Them With Your Paper: The Dark Side of Horace Greeley’s Colorado Utopia” ♦ In 1870, Nathan Meeker, the agricultural editor of Horace Greeley’s New-York Tribune and advocate of Fourierist Associationism, founded the Union Colony (now Greeley, Colorado) in response to Greeley’s exhortation to venture west and realize the ideals of the Homestead Act. Meeker’s first order of business was to establish the Greeley Tribune. This study examines how the paper’s curious fusion of Greeley’s socialist utopianism and Whiggish belief in collective industrial agriculture responded to pressure to sustain the morale of its constituents and the meaningfulness of their enterprise in the face of the colony’s vulnerability to disease, starvation, and harsh weather conditions. When members began to question Meeker’s authority, Greeley—himself an advocate of the press as an instrument of liberating rather than subduing the masses—uncharacteristically advised his protégé to rule them with his paper. Such desperate measures threatened the core journalistic and Fourierist values upon which the enterprise was established.
David Forster, Ohio, “Horace Greeley and the Bailing of Jefferson Davis” ♦ To anyone familiar with Horace Greeley, founder and publisher of the New York Tribune, it may come as a surprise to learn that he was the first to sign the bail bond that gave Jefferson Davis his freedom. That Greeley, champion of the Union and crusading abolitionist, would help free the former Confederate leader, an unrepentant apologist for slavery, might seem a historical paradox. This paper details, perhaps for the first time, the full extent of Greeley’s involvement, both behind the scenes and through editorials in his newspaper, on Davis’s behalf. And it shows that Greeley’s actions were consistent with what he had been saying both before and after the Civil War. As Greeley himself wrote in a scathing letter to his critics, his decision to bail Davis should have come as no surprise to anyone who had been paying attention to what he had been saying.
Ellen Gerl, Ohio, “‘Out of the Back Rooms’: Physician-publicist Virginia Apgar Makes Birth Defects a Popular Cause” ♦ Physician Virginia Apgar joined the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the forerunner of today’s March of Dimes, in 1959, a pivotal time in the non-profit’s history. When the Salk polio vaccine proved to be effective in 1955, the organization created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938 to eradicate polio struggled to maintain the interest of donors and volunteers. In 1958, executives redirected the Foundation’s mission to focus on birth defects and arthritis. Apgar, already well-known in medical circles for having created an effective method to assess a newborn’s health, was hired to help manage a $6.1 million research agenda. However, the smart, charismatic physician soon became the organization’s popular spokesperson. This paper uses archival records, newspaper accounts, and primary interviews to show how a physician-turned-publicist popularized the cause of birth defects and, in so doing, helped a national organization successfully rebrand itself in the second half of the twentieth century.
Nicholas Hirshon, Ohio, “One More Miracle: The Groundbreaking Media Campaign of John ‘Mets’ Lindsay” ♦ Only two and a half weeks before the election of 1969, New York City Mayor John Lindsay was photographed celebrating with ballplayers from the “Miracle Mets” after their unlikely victory in the World Series. Lindsay called the celebration a “nonpolitical event,” but the widely circulated images of the Mets dousing him with champagne have been credited with helping the mayor win an underdog reelection bid. Indeed, this historical paper demonstrates that Lindsay developed an innovative media strategy of associating with the Mets before and after the famous World Series photographs. The article uses Lindsay’s papers, period newspaper coverage, and interviews with numerous Lindsay aides and Mets players to document how the mayor rode the Mets to national prominence. His association with the Mets reflects an understudied period when politicians such as Richard Nixon, Robert F. Kennedy, and George McGovern used athletes as surrogates to help win over middle-class voters.
Steve Holiday, Texas Tech, and Dale Cressman, Brigham Young, “The Sacred Circle: Mutualism between World War II Photojournalists and Photo Editors” ♦ During World War II, combat photographers faced the harrowing task of being at the front of every major campaign to document the events and represent the soldiers’ experiences. Photo editors were similarly given the responsibility to choose which photographers were best suited to each assignment and to select the resulting images that best captured what was happening, while navigating censors, publication expectations, and intercultural societal norms. The two needed each other to be successful and to successfully bring the war to the "armchair participants." Through an analysis of oral history interviews, diaries, letters, and other primary and secondary sources, this paper explores a series of previously uncorrelated interactions, both serendipitous and calculated, between photojournalist Robert Capa and editor Elmer Lower, which exemplify the mutualistic relationship between photojournalists and photo editors during the war, and which inspired the indelible images society still associates with World War II seventy years later.
Sheryl Kennedy, Southern Mississippi, “From the Fields into the World: How Women at Bennett College Discussed Race, Politics & Community Building in their Student-run Campus Newspaper from 1931-1939” ♦ This paper examines The Banner, the student-run newspaper published on the campus of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, from 1931 to 1939. The newspaper at this historically black college, which opened in 1873 and transitioned from co-educational to a women’s college in 1926, covered campus events, and encouraged students to remain connected to the community beyond their campus borders. The research specifically focuses on how this publication covered race, politics, and community during a decade of economic and racial turmoil. This investigation is significant because it provides insight into how black women communicated about their roles and responsibilities in society during their collegiate years, which traditionally represented a season of social, political, and personal enlightenment. The findings indicate that The Banner embraced a mission to actively engage its audience by delivering news about race, politics, and community building with maturity, passion, and candor.
Tae Ho Lee, North Carolina, “Radical Reconstructionism in North Carolina, 1869-1871: A Case in the Public Relations History of the University of North Carolina, the Forgotten Ideal of the ‘People’s University’” ♦ This study traces the efforts of one of the oldest public universities to communicate to the public the ideal of “the people’s university,” a highly controversial stance in the South during Reconstruction due to its racial implications inherent in the idea that the University should be open to all people. This study proceeds by analyzing the messages and communications of the University and the Radical Reconstructionists in North Carolina, as these messages appeared in newspapers from 1869 to 1871. This study reveals that the university’s communication efforts concerning the highly controversial issue of racial integration in public education, through the publication of a series of anonymously written newspaper articles in hostile press venues, and the mailing of these articles to alumni, provides a new dimension to the understanding of public relations history with respect to universities in the nineteenth century.
Tracy Lucht, Iowa State, “From Sob Sister to Society Editor: Dorothy Ashby Pownall’s ‘Feel for the Game’ of Journalism” ♦ This biographical study examines the professional life and journalism of Dorothy Ashby Pownall (1895–1979), a widely published writer from the Midwest whose career ran the gamut of options available to women during the first half of the twentieth century. Applying Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of field, habitus, and capital, the essay identifies four phases of Pownall’s career—sob sister, literary lady, advice columnist, and society editor—and describes how one woman successfully navigated the gendered terrain of print journalism, exercising individual agency within industry structures.
Kim Mangun, Utah, “The National Newspaper Publishers Association: Seventy-five Years of Advocacy” ♦ This qualitative study utilizes records of the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association in conjunction with other organizational records—agendas, programs, speeches, minutes, and more—as well as presidential records and copies of the Lincoln Journalism Newsletter, to document the association’s advocacy of the Black Press and equality between 1945 and 1975. The research describes meetings with key leaders, such as Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and argues that the organization (now known as the National Newspaper Publishers Association) can use its history to connect more fully with audiences and plan for the future of the Black Press. The research builds substantially on existing studies that focus on the NNPA’s founding in 1940 and role during World War II, and contributes new information to its institutional history. The study is timely, too, because the NNPA is celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2015.
Raymond McCaffrey, Arkansas, “Gender in Journalism Awards” ♦ This historical case study explores the role that journalism awards–in particular, those named after fallen journalists–have played in developing an acknowledged macho ethos in the profession. The study used qualitative methods to analyze New York Times stories and related material about U.S. journalists who died from 1854 to 2012. The analysis revealed that all of the awards named after fallen journalists honored men. Moreover, stories and the citations associated with the awards themselves were found to endorse traditionally male qualities, such as courage and risk-taking. The stories and citations also advanced a form of stoicism among journalists that discouraged traditional feminine qualities, such as emotion expression and empathy.
Alexandra Menz, Missouri, “‘The Donna Reed Show’ and the Hidden Second Wave” ♦ Through a textual analysis of the first five seasons of The Donna Reed Show, this study examines how images, dialogue, and character development represent the female gender in a 1950s prime time television show. Airing over 57 years ago, The Donna Reed Show was 22½ minutes of family sitcom fun with the hint of feminism. Breaking from the typical TV housewife role, Donna Stone ran her home with grace and dignity, never afraid to stand up and let her voice be heard. Predating second wave feminism, The Donna Reed Show fights against the negative implications of being “just a housewife.” Until the early 1960s, second wave feminism had not truly begun to flower, giving the show a three-year head start. While the show does not pack a big enough punch to set off an international women’s movement, the ideas and messages aired had the ability to reverberate with audiences.
Sarah Mooradian, Minnesota, “Mass Incarceration and the Penal Press” ♦ The omniscient monitoring and denial of personal freedoms present in prisons across the United States is a harsh environment in which free speech struggles to flourish. Yet within these concrete walls and barbed wire fences lies an unparalleled example of journalism. For nearly two centuries inmates challenged the typically passive roles of prisoners and published their own truths through inmate-produced newspapers. After the introduction of mass incarceration in the 1980s and '90s, however, the penal press became all but extinct. The San Quentin News, the resident newspaper at California’s San Quentin State Prison, acts as the consummate guide through the penal press’s rise and fall. It is through an in-depth examination of 151 issues of the San Quentin News published between 1971 and 2015 that the challenges prison newspapers face and the role they play in an era of American mass incarceration can be understood.
Joseph Moore, Missouri, “Toeing the Company Line: Detroit News and Free Press Coverage of the 1995 Detroit Newspaper Strike” ♦ The 1995 Detroit newspaper strike was among the most bitter and long lasting labor disputes of the late 20th century. The defeat of the newspaper unions at the hands of two of the largest newspaper chains in the U.S. signaled the weakening of labor’s influence in the newspaper industry and reflected the general decline of unions in the U.S. post-1980. Scholars have placed some of the blame for labor’s retreat at the feet of the commercial media for their infrequent and negative coverage of organized labor. This paper employed an historical textual analysis to uncover dominant themes in Detroit News and Free Press coverage of the 1995 newspaper strike. The results reveal that the newspapers’ coverage combined traditional anti-labor themes with class-inflected language about journalists as professionals and rugged individuals. News and Free Press publishers used their newspapers as ideological bludgeons with which to attack their own striking workers.
Cayce Myers, Virginia Tech, “Publicists in U.S. Public Relations History: An Analysis of the Representations of Publicists in American Press, 1815-1918” ♦ This paper examines representations of publicists in the United States popular press from 1815 to 1918. This study reveals that publicists were extremely active and influential in shaping public opinion both in the United States and abroad. Publicists frequently came from scholarly, philosophical, and professional backgrounds and used the press to craft influential messages on current events. Publicists are currently not included in public relations history. This study argues that including publicists in public relations history presents a counter-argument to current PR histories and theories that argue early public relations was an unethical, unprofessional, and deceptive practice. Implications for PR historiography are discussed.
Candi Carter Olson, Utah State, “‘A Cosmic Shoulder for the Public to Lean Upon’: Pittsburgh’s First Sob Sister Gertrude Gordon” ♦ From 1900 through the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and the 1920s, women journalists were making great strides in newsrooms and the public sphere. Gertrude Gordon, who was born Gertrude Kelley, was one of the newswomen whose work changed public perceptions of women’s roles and abilities. As Pittsburgh’s first sob sister and the first woman to earn a byline at a Pittsburgh paper, Gordon’s reportage made her a figure that others revered and honored as courageous. This paper uses Gordon’s published writings, letters to the editor and other ephemera reacting to Gordon’s articles, and archival evidence to show how Gordon framed women’s lives and work. In addition, this paper shows how her stories moved audiences to engage with issues important to early twentieth century women and to imagine new roles for women.
Samantha Peko, Ohio, “Elizabeth Bisland and the North American Review” ♦ In 1889, Elizabeth Bisland and Nellie Bly embarked on a journey around the world in less than eighty days. The race was largely dramatized by newspapers across the nation, and Bisland’s name became synonymously attached to Bly and the race. Soon, newspapers referred to Bisland as a great prospective writer. Despite their promise, little is known about Bisland after the race. This paper began to fill that gap by a search for Bisland’s writings and mention of her in newspapers. In particular, after sketching Bisland’s early life, this study looked at her contributions to The North American Review, in which she wrote about women’s issues. Bisland’s writings were discovered to have encouraged discussion on women’s place in society during the suffragette movement mainly because she defended marital institutions. Her role in the debate established her as a writer with a reputation that went beyond being a Bly’s competitor.
Erika Pribanic-Smith, Texas-Arlington, “Political Papers and Presidential Campaigns in the Republic of Texas, 1836-1844” ♦ The question driving this research was whether editors who immigrated to the Republic of Texas brought American press partisanship with them. This paper traced the waxing and waning of partisan hostility over the republic’s four presidential elections. The lone newspaper publishing in 1836 approached that election with neutral patriotism. An increase in newspapers brought competition, but the 1838 canvass generated relatively little controversy when compared to the explosive debate and active electioneering of 1841. However, the 1844 campaign was nearly as tame as 1838. Republic of Texas newspapers were political, and they had intense editorial rivalries. Nonetheless, with their editorializing focused on individuals rather than party principles, Texas newspapers failed to galvanize into a true party press. Their independence from party influence and elevation of public welfare over loyalty to any faction further demonstrated that Texas editors did not bring an American style of press partisanship to their new republic.
Bernell Tripp, Florida, “Maggie L. Walker and the Independent Order of St. Luke: Racial Identity and Uplift in the St. Luke Herald” ♦ Maggie L. Walker was the leader of a national fraternal organization, the Independent Order of St. Luke, and editor of one of the period’s most influential newspapers run by a fraternal society, the St. Luke Herald. Established in 1902 as the official organ of the Order, the Herald quickly grew to become a voice for African Americans in Reconstruction. Walker used the Herald’s pages to urge blacks not to tolerate Jim Crow injustices, while also promoting ideals of self-help, racial unity and reciprocity, and racial uplift. The primary focus of this study is to plot the evolution of the Herald from a members-only news bulletin to a prominent black newspaper whose words were frequently reprinted in other newspapers as a critical representation of black thought on major racial issues of the period.
David Vergobbi, Utah, “Point of Transition: Quantifying Journalism’s Evolution from Frontier to Commercial Emphases” ♦ A content analysis of the Wallace, ID, Press (1890-1892) reveals an evolving transitional journalism that mixes elements of both the frontier era and the emerging commercial era newspapers. Striving for balanced reporting, accepting all advertisers, and seeking a broader circulation through soft news, for instance, it still expounded partisan politics. Yet no evidence indicates that financial backers dictated the Press’s partisan role, the common frontier situation. The most distinctive break from the frontier era is that the Press emphasized local news. It laid a foundation for financial independence by providing news the readers wanted.
Pamela Walck, Duquesne, “Casting Blame: The Black Press Becomes a Target Following Riots in Detroit and Harlem” ♦ The summer of 1943 proved to be a volatile summer plagued with race riots as America helped fight in World War II. This study examines how mainstream press—both in the U.S. and U.K.—as well as the black press covered and framed these racial events. This study found several trends emerged. Some of the findings lend themselves to a better understanding of the bigger picture of wartime censorship and media routines, such as looking to place blame when major events tore at the fabric of society. Other findings show how story frames—whether originated by the media or sources—influenced how events were portrayed.
Hannah Watkins, Wichita State, “‘Dear Ann, Dear Abby’: Tracing Social and Relational Traditions Through Time” ♦ With well over 100 million combined readers, the columns “Dear Ann Landers” and “Dear Abby” have long been a cultural phenomenon since the late 1950s. Newspaper columns have not received an abundance of research attention, likely due to its categorization in academia as “girl talk.” Additionally, most prior research focuses on quantitative work, magazine columns, or newspaper columns from different countries—showing a definite lack in literature focused on American newspaper advice columns. Newspaper columns have proven to be a barometer for social change and progress, and with the immense popularity and readership of both “Dear Ann” and “Dear Abby,” these two columns in particular prove to be an important piece of journalistic history. Approximately 200 written-in questions were analyzed. One hundred questions represented 1960-1962, and 100 questions represented 1980-1982. Questions were analyzed using historical and narrative analysis to determine thematic changes representing the social climate of both time periods. Overall, both time periods had concern about both social customs and relationships; however, more specific themes greatly differed from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Danianese Woods, Southern Mississippi, “Culture or Con Game? New Films and Blaxploitation” ♦ The examination of black media is important to the discussion of Blaxploitation films and how the films and the black press impacted a generation of African Americans. This paper analyzed the relationship between Ebony magazine and Blaxploitation films in the 1970s and how the magazine depicted positive aspects of the films. The use of the word “Blaxploitation” or “Black exploitation” was analyzed by its use in an article or story and how the terms were attributed to the films. This paper demonstrates that Ebony magazine refrained from labeling the films and its actors with neither terms “Blaxploitation” nor “black exploitation.” This analysis determined that the words were mostly used when an actor or reader is quoted, when discussing the economic issues of the film industry, when discussing the influential violent content of the films and minor references to other arts that modeled after the films.