39th Annual AJHA Convention
Virtual Conference | Oct. 2-3, 2020
Panel AbstractsAMERICAN JOURNALISM PANEL: The Press and Protests, Black Oppression and Resistance
Moderator: Vanessa Murphree, University of Southern Mississippi
Presenters on this panel, sponsored by the AJHA's academic journal American Journalism, will discuss their research on the topic of the press and protests, black oppression, and resistance.
Risley's research, "Abolitionists, Editors, and the Antislavery Movement," examines the leadership role abolitionist editors played in opposing slavery in the United States. Editors considered their antislavery work a calling and believed their publications made a profound difference in the lives of millions of enslaved blacks. At a time when most newspapers in the North and South were opposed to the antislavery movement—if not supportive of the institution itself—the antislavery press was the only editorial voice of opposition to slavery for many years.Tripp's research, "Activism and Resistance in the Press Across the Centuries," examines the changing coverage of African Americans in the U.S. during a centuries-long relationship between black- and white-owned media. When Boston Crummell welcomed some of the most prominent black men in the New York community into his home to discuss the creation of a newspaper for the race, surely he had no idea the repercussions of his actions in 1827 would continue through the next centuries. The sound of previously silenced voices would resonate into the 21st century—first as adversaries against the mainstream press for its inaccuracies and unfair coverage of African Americans and then as allies of white-owned media in the struggle to demand justice and to advocate for change.
Bedingfield and Forde's research, "Journalism & Jim Crow: The Press & the Making of White Supremacy in the New South," examines the foundational role played by White southern publishers and editors in building white supremacist political economies in the South at the turn of the twentieth century, regimes which Black journalists fought against as they were being built. This is the first extended work documenting the struggle between these two different journalisms—a white journalism dedicated to building an anti-Black, anti-democratic America and a Black journalism dedicated to building a multiracial, fully democratic “New America.” The authors focus on Black journalists in the North and South who dissented during the rise of Jim Crow.
PANEL: Black Women, Black Media and the Legacy of Women’s Suffrage
G. Carstarphen, University of Oklahoma
The purpose of this panel presentation is to consider and re-evaluate the legacy of the movement to gain suffrage for women through the particular contributions of African American women and the media platforms they used. From 19th and 20th century Black newspapers, to Black-owned radio and television stations, to Black Twitter and other digital platforms, Black women have used media to amplify their voices in the public sphere. As we observe 100 years since the 19th amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, we invite reflections about the implications and influences of these elements. This panel will highlight the little-known historic contributions of specific Black women, and explore how Black media platforms were used to highlight suffrage, voting and political involvement for Black women.
PANEL: Keeping History in Our Curriculum: Incorporating Historical Material into Non-History CoursesModerator: Meghan Menard McCune, Louisiana State University
Panelists: Melita M. Garza, Texas Christian University; Sheryl Kennedy Haydel, Louisiana State University; Erin Coyle, Temple University; David J. Vergobbi, University of Utah
Although some schools have stopped regularly offering journalism history courses, incorporating history into journalism, public relations, and other communication courses can enrich education. Panelists from across the United States will explain how they incorporate historical research, context, and materials into non-history courses. The panel will welcome audience participation and encourage AJHA members to discuss and debate ways to make sure history remains part of our curriculum.
Attacks on Journalism as a Democratic Institution Since Nixon
This panel drills beneath superficial presidential complaints about “unfair press” and delves instead into the tactics used during presidential administrations to undercut journalism as an institution of American democracy. Nixon’s assault exceeded peevish retorts about coverage; his administration deployed strategies to sully journalists and journalism, often to reclaim generational entitlement after the civil rights and peace movements. Carter revised Nixon’s playbook through “imagecraft” and pseudo-events designed to circumvent the White House Press Corps, which schooled future presidents on the tactic. In addition to expressions of racism and white privilege underpinning attacks on the press, economic policies during the Reagan era upset the balance between journalism and global business and industry. After 9/11, the jingoism of the “War on Terror” energized media critics throughout the Bush II, Obama, and Trump eras, raising the profile of right-wing media outlets. Following individual presentations on each era, we offer a forum to assess journalism as an institution in the twenty-first century.
PANEL: Solving the Fake News Problem!
Moderator: Teri Finneman, University of Kansas
This panel will bring together members of the academy, the news industry, and nonprofit advocates to discuss the rise of the “fake news” moniker and serve as a call to action for members of the AJHA. We will center our discussion on the relationship between the press and politicians and the ever increasing tendency of the latter to dismiss legitimate news as “fake” in an attempt to discredit stories that are critical of them. We see this as a threat to an informed citizenry and therefore a threat to our democracy. We will merge what we know about such attempts to discredit the press from an historical perspective with ways members of the AJHA can work together and with other communications organizations to combat misinformation. From putting together content bursts and mini lessons to promoting Media Literacy Week and media literacy education, the membership of the AJHA should play a role in this national discussion.
PANEL: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Workshop on Media History Grant Proposals
Moderator: Robby Byrd, University of Memphis
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Division of Preservation and Access funds various projects that intersect with the scholarship of the American Journalism Historians Association, and the agency welcomes grant applications related to the work we do. This workshop offers a unique opportunity to hear from, and engage with, an NEH program officer on the grant-writing process. This session will focus on the intersection of missions between members of the AJHA and Division of Preservation and Access, whose mission is to preserve and make available humanities collections held in libraries, archives, museums, and other heritage organizations. The Division has had a long-standing interest in preserving our journalistic heritage in print and audiovisual formats, including historic newspapers as well as news film and public broadcasting collections dating from the silent era through the twenty-first century. Preservation and Access grant programming supports the foundational work necessary to preserve and make accessible such collections, from basic planning and preservation assessments, through advanced digitization projects. Mike Conway, Indiana University,will present a proposal for “The Indiana Broadcast History Archive,” a statewide preservation initiative as a representative case.
PANEL: Talking Theory: New Scholarship in Journalism’s Legal History
Moderator: Patrick File, University of Nevada, Reno
Scholars have recently produced exciting studies on a range of legal issues that faced the press in the 19th and 20th centuries: from libel to hot news, privilege to access. That means now is a good moment to reflect on the variety of theoretical approaches used to illuminate and understand the role the law has played in the historical development of journalism. This panel will bring together authors of work on the legal history of the press to discuss the development of these studies, their theoretical perspectives, and how they can help us think about the connections between the law and history of the press.
PANEL: “Did That Really Happen?”: Historical Fiction as 'Gateway Drug' to Historical Research
Moderator: Nancy Roberts, State University of New York, Albany
This panel explores the possibility that reading and viewing of popular historical fiction in books and film can serve as an entry point to the deeper scholarly study of history. It brings together four panelists to talk about different approaches to and authors of historical fiction in film and literature that could be viewed as inspirational starting points for deeper research. Lauters will discuss the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louis L’Amour, and Zane Grey. Pribanic-Smith will discuss time travel fiction, a genre that marries weighty scientific concepts with the representations of true people and places throughout history. Edenborg grew up in a community that was known for its connections to Caddie Woodlawn, a “fictional” girl who grew up in the Midwest, and will take a closer look at one of her favorite childhood books. Walter will focus on fictional representations of women journalists in period films.
PANEL: Infusing Historical Consciousness in Journalism
Moderator: Michael Fuhlhage, Wayne State University
History does not repeat, but it does echo, at least for those willing to pause and listen. News organizations provide citizens the information they need to self-govern and make daily decisions; this is gospel to every news reporter and editor. Government officials, as well, rely on the news and opinion they find in newspapers, news websites, and newscasts to inform their decisions about public affairs. Yet critics lament the lack of depth in coverage about matters of grave public concern. That coverage could be deepened if journalists paid more attention to the historical antecedents of major topics of concern, including labor-capital relations, the revitalization of urban areas and gentrification’s displacement of the poor, the environment, immigration, energy policy, and international politics. The news industry would even benefit from examining the ways leaders of the past dealt with changes in the business models of journalism. This panel will discuss ways to help current journalists to deepen their coverage by infusing their practices with historical methods and thinking. Our aim is to start the conversation on ways that academics can work together with working journalists to help audiences learn the lessons of the past concerning problems in their communities and in American society.