37th Annual AJHA Convention
Salt Lake City   |   Oct. 4-6, 2018

Convention contacts

Convention Coordinator
Caryl Cooper
University of Alabama

Registration Coordinator
Ken Ward
Lamar University

Program Coordinator
Donna Lampkin Stephens
University of Central Arkansas

Convention hosts

University of Utah
Kimberley Mangun
David Vergobbi
Glen Feighery

Paper Abstracts

Go to: Program  |  Panel Abstracts  |  Research in Progress

Sara Browning, University of Maryland, “Answering the Chinese Question: Print Media’s Response to 19th-Century Immigration”
♦  On May 6, 1882, The Chinese Exclusion Act became the first and only law in U.S. history to exclude an immigrant group on the basis of ethnicity and race. Journalism scholars and historians have studied how nineteenth-century print media responded to politicians’ attempts to come up with a solution to the rising number of Chinese immigrants in the U.S., a dilemma known as “the Chinese question.” Scholars found that during congressional debate over Chinese exclusion from 1876 to 1882, the majority of newspapers used negative cultural stereotypes to emphasize the undesirable traits of Chinese laborers with the goal of legitimizing their removal from the U.S. and creating more jobs for American workers. The New York Times did not fit this mold. The paper took a bold editorial stance against Asian exclusion, drawing attention to the positive attributes of Chinese laborers as they benefited the U.S. economy and choosing to adopt Chinese stereotypes only in non-policy related editorials. Noticeably overlooked are the reasons contributing to this editorial decision. Using traditional historical methodology, I draw on the history of the paper’s founders, subscribers and advertisers to piece together an explanation. Findings suggest that ideology—not economics—shaped the paper’s editorial position.

Robert Byrd Jr., University of Memphis, “Evolving Narratives: New Orleans Media Coverage of the AIDS Epidemic from 1985 to 1988” ♦  The purpose of this paper is to examine how the mainstream and gay press of New Orleans covered the AIDS epidemic from 1985 to 1988, a time many historians see as a turning point in mainstream coverage of AIDS. By the end of 1985, AIDS had spread to 42 states and more than 11,513 gay men in the United States had contracted the disease, and a total of 14,693 people of all sexual orientations had been diagnosed with AIDS. By the end of 1985, the disease was responsible for the deaths of more than 8,000 people in the U.S. It is important, therefore, to understand to what extent mainstream and gay news outlets in New Orleans covered the epidemic and how each presented the epidemic. Coverage of AIDS by both the mainstream and gay presses played an essential role in raising awareness and helping audiences better understand how to manage and address the disease.

Bailey Dick, Ohio University, “We Females Have To Be Contented with the Tales of Adventures: Gender Conformity in Dorothy Day's Early Reporting” ♦  This paper examines the early journalistic writings of radical Catholic activist and newspaper founder Dorothy Day. Particularly, it will explore how Day both conformed to and subverted gender stereotypes in her early writing, and how she grew to embrace her own experiences of suffering and emotion in her writing that evolved into the deeply personal, yet empowering writing style for which The Catholic Worker is known. This is done using a close reading of Day’s personal papers at Marquette University, including correspondence, diaries, journals, and manuscripts, as well as Day’s own work published in The Call and The New Masses. These primary documents supplement her published letters, oral histories, and newspaper articles written about Day’s life to examine how Day’s early reporting experiences led her to found her own newspaper and corresponding activist movement.

Dolores Flamiano, James Madison University, “You Shudder at the Picture: Anti-lynching Graphics in the Richmond Planet, 1891-1917” ♦  The Richmond Planet was a leading voice among black newspapers that advocated for human rights and racial equality. With its clarion call of “lynch law must go,” it often employed visuals to articulate, enliven and drive home its message. Though the Planet’s cartoons and graphics were innovative and influential, they remain largely unexamined. This study contributes to the history of anti-lynching messages in the black press by examining a handful of the Planet’s most noteworthy visuals: (1) an 1891 broadsheet advertisement with a lynching photograph and the headline “You Shudder at the Picture”; (2) an 1897 graphic with the headline “The Reign of Lawlessness”; and (3) anti-lynching editorial cartoons published in 1895 and 1917. These graphics contributed to an oppositional iconography that exposed the truth of lynching, affirmed the humanity of victims, appealed to supporters, and inspired activists.

Michael Fuhlhage, Tabitha Cassidy, Erika Thrubis, Darryl Frazier, Scott Burgess, and Keena Neal, Wayne State University, “Spinning toward Secession: The Interplay of Editorial Bellicosity and Exchange News in the Press before the American Civil War ” ♦  Henry Adams observed four years after the end of the American Civil War that the far North was taken by surprise when the Confederate states followed through on threats to secede. Noting that Northerners mistook the Southern nationalist movement to preserve a slavery-based society for a negotiating tactic, he remarked that the border states knew their secessionist neighbors better. Adams’ analysis of the difference in perceptions across regions of the U.S. during the secession winter inspired this analysis of the relationship between the level of bellicosity expressed in the secession-related editorials of 16 newspapers across the North, South, and border states and the diversity of their connections to other states and regions as observed in their reprinting of secession-related news and opinion from exchange newspapers. Regardless of partisanship, bellicosity, or interconnectedness, newspapers picked exchanges that were congruent with their editorial positions.

Connor Harrison, Boston University, “Bill Simmons: The New Journalism Tradition in the Internet Age” ♦  Aided by an early obsession with the Boston Celtics and the sports narrative tradition of David Halberstam’s The Breaks of the Game, Bill Simmons has become the internet era’s Hunter S. Thompson, bringing gonzo to digital media and revitalizing the wider tradition of The New Journalism Movement laid out in Tom Wolfe’s 1972 New Journalism Manifesto. Simmons has embodied those writers’ style and celebrity since he was “The Boston Sports Guy” on AOL in 1997, even crediting Thompson with inspiring a running diary column recounting a trip to Las Vegas. A 2013 USA Today College article is the only secondary piece of literature that likens Simmons' career to that of the new journalists. With consideration given to this piece, Simmons’ books, his career at ESPN, and his own words on Thompson, I argue that the pioneer of online journalism has impacted the future of narrative writing and media ethics.

Joseph Jones and Earnest L. Perry, University of Missouri, “Smoke and Mirrors: The Chicago Defender, Big Tobacco, and the Health of the African American Community” ♦  This study analyzed the manifestations of tobacco and smoking in the stories, editorials, and advertisements of The Chicago Defender from 1947 to 1975. What did tobacco industry money pay for and what forms did it take? In what ways did the tobacco industry use the newspaper to reach and interpolate the heterogeneous African American community? Did the Defender’s need to maintain a loyal advertiser lead it to align with tobacco corporate interests in its editorials or stories? Tobacco companies were amongst the largest advertisers in the Black Press from the late 1940s to the 1970s. Through editorials, culturally specific advertisements, and stories supported by big tobacco, the Defender provided an outlet for tobacco companies to embed themselves into the African American community. This was done at a time when the Black Press increasingly relied on advertising revenue, but other national advertisers were reluctant to engage because of the press’ militant coverage of civil rights.

Tim Klein, Louisiana State University, “An Obituary for the Muckraking Movement” ♦  Historians tend to treat the muckrakers of the progressive era as if they were a unified group of investigative journalists – all pursuing common goals and reforms. This standard historical treatment downplays the differences that existed among the muckrakers and merges them into a single “muckraking movement.” This article challenges that idea, arguing there were four variations of muckraking during the progressive era - realist muckraking, yellow muckraking, prosecutorial muckraking, and utopian muckraking. Each type had a distinct style of investigative journalism and was based on a particular conception of the role of journalism in a democracy.

Amy Mattson Lauters, Minnesota State University-Mankato, “The New Frontier: How the Press Covered Gendered Usage of Emerging Media Technology, 1990-2000” ♦  This paper addresses press coverage and emerging scholarship during the rise of the World Wide Web from 1990 to 2000, paying careful attention to how gendered usage of the emerging technology was discussed. It grounds further discussion on social media and gender violence in history and highlights key elements of discussion that continue to frame such discussion. Research uncovered discourse that suggested a fast turnaround in gender attitude and perceptions among Internet users during this period, with discussion that generally framed the World Wide Web as a “frontier” space that might be unsafe for women and children, but could also be viewed, later in the decade, as a gender-positive space. The optimism evident in later coverage set the tone for future discussions of the Web and emerging social media.

Linda Lumsden, University of Arizona, “Don Sotaco Finds His Voice: Visual Rhetoric and Farm Worker Identity in El Malcriado, 1964-1967” ♦  This study explores how cartoons, illustrations, and photographs in El Malcriado (“bad boy) newspaper created an empowering collective identity crucial to organizing the fledgling United Farm Workers movement. It analyzes the sixty-six issues that comprise its first volume (December 1, 1964, to August 16, 1967), when El Malcriado was a still a grassroots periodical designed to recruit, organize, and give voice to California’s oppressed and largely invisible migrant farmworkers. It argues that the newspaper’s visual rhetoric, especially artist Andy Zermeño’s ‘Don Sotaco’ cartoons, was instrumental in building a collective identity robust enough to catalyze collective action in a daunting environment. The study builds on Marshall Ganz’s work attributing the UFW’s unprecedented success to leaders’ “strategic capacity”—the timing, targeting, and tactics used to build a social movement. Evidence demonstrates how Don Sotaco’s evolution over the newspaper’s first twenty months paralleled farm workers’ expanding sense of empowerment in this dramatic period.

Harlen Makemson, Elon University, “From Gibson Girl to Gibson Goddess: The World War I Illustrations of Charles Dana Gibson in Life Magazine” ♦  Charles Dana Gibson’s leadership of the Division of Pictorial Publicity during World War I has been thoroughly studied, yet scant attention has been given to Gibson’s own art during the conflict. This paper examines Gibson’s illustrations that appeared in the humor magazine Life during World War I. The drawings reveal that the iconic Gibson Girl was used to argue for a more aggressive U.S. role in the conflict, but she had to adopt persona beyond the Beauty or Sentimental typologies that had previously defined her. The Gibson Girl often took one of two forms that had long ago become well-recognized American propaganda devices – the “Protecting Angel,” who assumed roles as nurses, aid workers, and, by extension, mothers of soldiers; and the “Amazon Warrior,” always attired in gowns, usually in large (if not colossal) scale, and most often bearing conceptual labels such as Freedom or Democracy.

Jon Marshall and Nirmal Mulaikal, Northwestern University, “Once They Were Heroes: Changing Coverage of Baseball Stars in the Steroids Era” ♦  When Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and other sluggers chased Major League Baseball’s single-season home-run record in 1998, sports writers showered them with praise. The journalists used language that reflected the heroic myths that have long been attached to baseball as America’s “national game.” Even after Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press revealed that McGwire was using androstenedione, a testosterone-producing pill, few sports writers wanted to disturb the home-run party, and the significance of Wilstein’s discovery was dismissed. Within seven years, however, the content and tone of baseball coverage had shifted. News about performance-enhancing drugs dominated articles about baseball, while McGwire, Sosa, new home-run king Barry Bonds, and other powerful hitters were no longer described as mythic heroes. This paper examines this dramatic change in baseball writing and explores the possible significance of this transformation for American culture as a whole. 

Gwyneth Mellinger, James Madison University, “The AP and the Negro Identifier: An Ideological Battle for Journalistic Standards” ♦  During the 1940s and 1950s the Associated Press found itself under siege from racially conservative members, most of them in the South, who insisted that the AP’s daily news report identify all African Americans by race, preventing them from passing as white in the pages of their newspapers. The Negro identifier, which segregationists insisted was necessary for accurate reporting and objective news judgement, allowed newspapers to filter the news culled from the wire to eliminate coverage of African American achievement and normalcy, and to highlight African American crime and deviance. This paper draws on correspondence between AP staff and AP members to document the ideological battle over the Negro identifier. Ultimately, this research demonstrates that opponents of civil rights for African Americans were successful in influencing AP policy and bending news standards to accommodate their political views.

Evangeline Robinson, University of Mississippi, “‘Turning the Attention’: The Public Relations Efforts of the Committee of Twelve for the Advancement of the Interests of the Negro Race”♦  On January 6, 1904, a group of prominent African-American men gathered in New York for a meeting at Carnegie Hall. For three days, the attendees, including rivals Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois, discussed issues important to their race and their differing approaches to furthering its progress in hopes of finding a common platform.  What resulted was the establishment of the Committee of Twelve for the Advancement of the Interests of the Negro Race, and a public relations plan designed to change the narrative about African Americans.  This study traces the committee’s efforts to shape public opinion using techniques and strategies that would become the foundation for the burgeoning field of public relations.

Ronald R. Rodgers, University of Florida, “Baseball and the News”  ♦  In 1913, the journalist and psychologist H. Addington Bruce declared that “baseball is something more than the great American game – it is an American institution having a significant place in the life of the people.” However, for several years before and after Bruce was writing baseball was also the target of an extended debate about the need to curtail coverage of the sport. And within that dispute there existed a dialogue about the interface between what is news and what is not news, to include distinctions between news and publicity; the popularization and commercialization of sports through the press; and a redefinition of news values in the newsroom struggle between the adage about “giving readers what they want” and the maturing articulation about what it means for the press to serve the public interest, which culminated in early twentieth century expressions about the concept of “constructive journalism” or “constructive news.”

Natascha Roelsgaard, Ohio University, “‘Let Our Voices Speak Loud and Clear’: Daisy Bates’s Leadership in Civil Rights and Black Press History” ♦  Daisy Bates was a newspaper editor and front-runner for desegregation of public schools in Arkansas in the 1950s. In 1941, Bates and her husband launched the Arkansas State Press, which became the largest black publication in the state. The paper broke with the journalistic style of contemporary black newspapers, as it advocated for black uplift and militantly attacked the tyrannical superiority of white supremacists. Bates persistently put herself at immense risk and faced multiple threats and attacks, yet persevered to continue her quest for racial equality. Nevertheless, Bates’s journalistic contributions have largely been omitted from black press history. This paper aims at placing Bates as a leader in the civil rights trajectory by narrating the untold story of her notorious and controversial journalistic work, to illustrate how she defied the double bind of racism and sexism at a time where women were supposed to be seen, not heard.

Rich Shumate, Western Kentucky University, “The Thanksgiving Without Cranberries: Anatomy of a Media Frenzy”  ♦  Three weeks before Thanksgiving 1959, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Arthur Flemming announced that traces of a weed killer linked to cancer in rats had been found in the nation’s cranberry supply, setting off a news media frenzy. But even as grocers swept cranberries from shelves, scientists and industry spokesmen insisted in news reports that the cancer risk was infinitesimal; consumers were left to wrestle with the decision of whether to eat cranberries at Thanksgiving, based on mixed messages about the risk. This study examines causes and factors related to news coverage of the 1959 cranberry crisis, including the role of fear in public reaction to perceived risk; how social amplification in news reports accentuated fear; and how journalistic practices amplified the public perception of risk, including reliance on official sources and the use of balance as a surrogate for facts in reporting technical scientific information. The results provide caution for today’s journalists to avoid balanced binary narratives in covering food safety scares and instead use weight-of-evidence reporting, in which competing scientific claims are assessed for relative merit rather than balanced.

Pete Smith, Mississippi State University, “‘Raising Unshirted Hell’: The Journalism of Norma Fields, State Capitol Correspondent for the Northeast (MS) Daily Journal” ♦  This paper will examine the career of journalist Norma Fields, who worked for the Northeast (MS) Daily Journal for 24 years (1964-1988), first as a part-time stringer, then as a political correspondent covering the state capitol in Jackson. The research will analyze the type of stories she covered, the content of her weekly political column, her style of reporting,  and how each may have influenced state policy. This paper also will analyze Fields’ influence, as the first woman to cover the Mississippi state capitol, on the perceptions of women journalists held by members of the state government. Accordingly, it will shed light on a brand of journalism and set of professional experiences that challenged the status quo. Fields’ story will add to the growing body of literature, specifically in the areas of women’s history and journalism history, which has omitted the experiences of women political correspondents at the state level.

Thomas Terry, Utah State University, “There Gleams the Light of Other Days: E. H. Harrington, Jr. as Witness to the Passing of Times”  Photographer E. H. Harrington, Jr. captured the life of one very small town on the Illinois prairie in the first two decades of the 20th Century during one of the most culturally and technologically disorienting periods in American history, preserving a quietly-vanishing past while he recorded it. Baseball teams and men’s choruses. Young lovers in the park and along the riverbank. Children dressed in Sunday finery. Well-bred socialites and their well-bred dogs. Veterans parades, political rallies, and band concerts in the town square. Automobiles and horses and railroads and a full-scale Wright Flyer-like glider all juxtaposed incongrously. World famous photographers captured the sweep of historical drama while Harrington embraced the inconsequential and intensely personal things that are the grist of small-town life and embody the collective nostalgia, myth, and yearning for an imagined and perfect American past.

Willie Tubbs, University of West Florida, “Impassioned Speeches and Golden Fleeces: William Proxmire and the Press, 1957-1989” ♦  William Proxmire, who represented Wisconsin as a Senator from 1957-1989, has largely dissolved into the annals of history. However, he is deserving of far more attention both as a figure who exhibited a mastery of working with the media to achieve political goals and as a statesman who displayed an ethical consistency that trumped party or the desire for popularity. Using the former while clinging to the latter, Proxmire etched a place in the public’s conscience, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. Always an avid writer, from 1975-1987 Proxmire transitioned from a traditional, buttoned-down writing style to a more satirical tone in his “Golden Fleece” awards for government waste. His early Fleeces were a jolt to both the media and the government, and one landed the senator in a lawsuit that reached the Supreme Court. The senator, who was Joe McCarthy’s replacement in the Senate, forged a cooperative, if not always harmonious, relationship with the press as he sought to use the media a tool to push his policies. This paper traces Proxmire’s evolution as a writer, public and media response to his publicity efforts, and the senator’s success rate in turning his media moments into real-world change

Rachael Vacanti, Ohio University, “Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Expands Modern Descriptive Video Service” ♦  Dr. Margret R. Pfanstiehl was a pioneer in descriptive video service (DVS), despite not having been given any credit. This paper aims to (1) trace the history of descriptive services for the blind and visually impaired, and (2) restore Pfanstiehl to history as the midwife to the broad range of such services available today. It does so by thoroughly examining a broad array of primary documents, including interviews with Pfanstiehl and government studies.

Debra van Tuyll, Augusta University, ”The Transnational Paradigm as a Method of Analyzing  Early Colonial American Journalism”  Historians have never delved deeply into the earliest American newspapers, primarily because that field does not appear on first glance to off any opportunity for fertile scholarship. However, the transnational journalism history paradigm may offer a means of examining the pre-1750s press by looking at American journals as a component of the press of the English empire. The transnational paradigm looks at journalism without regard to boundaries, which appears to be sound means of analyzing the early American publications. This paper explores the parameters of this paradigm and illustrates how the newspapers produced prior the 1750 can be fruitfully examined using the transnational journalism history approach.

Ken Ward, Lamar University, “The Yellowing of Denver: Reconceptualizing the Climax of New Journalism” ♦  Historians widely recognize Denver, and especially its Denver Post, as a laboratory in which yellow journalism developed and flourished at the turn into the twentieth century. Despite such recognition, the techniques and practices that made the Post “yellow” have largely gone undocumented. This historical analysis combines large, randomly generated constructed-week samples of the Post and its intermarket rival, the Rocky Mountain News, with oral histories and other archival documents to identify and contextualize the editorial, managerial, and business practices employed at the turn-of-the-century Post. The analysis then turns to explore the mutation and eventual abandonment in the middle of the twentieth century of those Post practices identified with yellow journalism. Finally, those findings are placed in conversation with the existing literature to cast the development of yellow journalism as a geographically dispersed climax of the New Journalism of the late nineteenth century.

Patrick S. Washburn and Michael S. Sweeney, Ohio University, “Francis Biddle and the Jennings Case in 1934-35: A Freedom of the Press Complaint That Sucked in Franklin D. Roosevelt, William Randolph Hearst, and Heywood Broun” ♦  One small action—the coerced resignation of journalist Dean Jennings at William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Call-Bulletin in 1934—led to an upheaval that Hearst’s lawyer predicted would be “the beginning of the end of the freedom of the press.” Jennings contended he had been forced out because of his work for the newly formed Newspaper Guild. His case drew the attention of Guild President Heywood Broun as well as National Labor Relations Board chair Francis Biddle and, eventually, Franklin Roosevelt. At stake was the right of reporters to unionize without fear of retaliation. This paper is the first to fully investigate the Jennings case. It concludes that Biddle admirably found in Jennings’s favor, but the decision unleashed such enormous pressures that Roosevelt overruled Biddle. It concludes by examining Biddle’s growth as an administrator from his debut through his years as Roosevelt’s attorney general during World War II.

Marama Whyte, University of Sydney, ‘No real view of the larger picture: The New York Times Women's Caucus' Fight Against Sex Discrimination, 1972-1874” ♦  In 1974, women at the New York Times made national headlines when they filed a class-action sex discrimination suit against their employer. In both the contemporary media coverage and the historiography, the drama of this potential court case eclipsed the earlier formation of the Times Women’s Caucus, and the daily labour its members undertook in the years before and after filing suit. By focusing on the behind-the-scenes negotiation of internal office politics, this paper examines the years-long process of consciousness-raising and organising required to undertake a lawsuit in this novel legal area. In doing so, it extricates this organic narrative from the dominant histories of second wave feminist media protests, emphasises the ways in which Caucus members defined themselves through their relationship to external activist groups who used the Times as a site of protest, and connects the development of women’s caucuses in the 1970s to the broader labour movement.

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