42nd Annual AJHA Convention
Columbus, Ohio | Sept. 28-30, 2023
Mark Bernhardt, Jackson State, “Siding against Labor in the Last Great American Union Town: Coverage of the 1984 Casino Workers Strike by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas Sun”
When Las Vegas casino workers went on strike in 1984, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas Sun both proved hostile toward the unions in the ways they covered the event. This study places the casino workers strike in the larger context of how the early nineteenth century business model development of generating revenue from advertising based on circulation first complicated newspaper coverage of labor unrest and the press’ eventual general abandonment of organized labor causes as part of business reporting. While Las Vegas is a unique city in that it is dominated by a single, heavily unionized industry, in a postindustrial, neo-liberal era, union power did not garner press support for labor activism. Rather, the two newspapers sided with the casino management and those whose economic interests differed from union members, focusing on how the unions hurt the local economy.
Lisa Parcell and Paul Myers, Wichita State, “Coming in the Back Door: Women’s Entry into Advertising Through the Brand Test Kitchen”
As branded food products spread in the early 1900s, advertisers began speaking directly to women shoppers. Adopting a women-advertising-to-women approach, national brands and advertising agencies hired home economics professionals and charged them with creating test kitchens to develop and test recipes, write advertising copy, correspond with consumers, and test products. They became the face and voice of brands, providing women entry into the male-dominated advertising profession. These professional women brought an understanding of the needs of the housewife, knowledge of the emerging fields of dietetics and home economics, and a scientific approach to solving “home problems.” Brand test kitchens became a symbol of trust, signifying that the product was reliable, pure, and economical. Though no longer as salient as they once were, major food brands such as Kraft, Heinz, General Mills, and Kellogg’s still maintain test kitchens to meet consumer needs, educate consumers on proper product use, and produce new branded recipes.
Yvonne Cantrell-Bickley, Georgia, “In Labor? Come Back on Wednesday: News Coverage of the Integration of Atlanta's Public Hospital”
This study considers news coverage in Atlanta of the desegregation of the city’s largest public hospital, Grady Memorial, in both white- and Black-owned newspapers from the late 1950s through 1968, a time when life expectancy for Blacks was almost seven years less than whites and when Black mothers could deliver babies at Grady only on Wednesdays. Civil rights activist, and the first Black woman to host a television show in Atlanta, Xernona Clayton, led a group of Black medical personnel to Washington, D.C., to push for hospital integration, and while she is celebrated today as an Atlanta Civil Rights icon, her efforts to fight for health care equity were ignored by all Atlanta news outlets at the time. This study provides insight into how Black and white journalists navigated Civil Rights coverage in a city governed by Jim Crow and during a time of tumultuous change.
Ernest Makata, University of Florida, “Anticipation and Celebration of Victory: The Chronicling of Nigeria's Path to Independence by The Chicago Defender”
This study traces a historical connection between one of the most prominent Black newspapers, The Chicago Defender, and one of the most influential Black nation, Nigeria. The paper argues that the Black press is known to have supported the African quest for freedom against colonialism. However, not much can be found in the literature about that connection with individual countries in Africa. Hence this essay evaluates The Chicago Defender’s reportage of Nigeria’s path to independence. Using selected publications from The Defender between 1942 – 1961, this study claims that the newspaper placed much importance on the independence of Nigeria.
Brian Carroll, Berry College, “Transgressions: An Editor's Crusade to Thwart America's First Black Shakespearean Acting Company”
A reading of newspaper coverage of the first Black Shakespearean stage productions in the United States reveals a great deal about the challenges facing Black underclasses striving for legitimacy, social mobility, even a pleasant evening of theater. Coverage in New York City’s newspapers of the 1820s demonstrates the lengths mainstream society and a partisan press were willing to go to resist the inclusive, intercultural, multiracial national imaginary as projected by the country’s first Black-run theater company. This research reveals why white editors led by the NationalAdvocate’s Mordecai Manuel Noah, as well as white theater owners and patrons, would seek to divest this pioneering Black theater company of its artistic agency. This research also seeks to better understand the many comedic enactments of race that would come after the African Grove Theatre’s brief, violent, but important run.
Daniel Haygood, Elon University, “The Final Say on the Last Japanese World War II Holdout: The Asahi Shimbun's ‘Ki no Hito’ Article Series on Hiroo Onoda”
The Asahi Shimbun’s “Ki no Hito” series of articles highlighted individuals from Wakayama, such as Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese WWII holdout in the Philippines who remained fighting for thirty years. He returned to Japan a national hero. The Japanese associated its traditional values and qualities with Onoda; however, he could be critical of the people and the country’s move toward Western modernity. As he got older, Onoda continued to be covered in the popular press, often highlighting the major events in his life. The Asahi articles represented the last coverage of Onoda before he passed away. Contrasted with the extensive media coverage of the past, Asahi’s reportage was insightful and in depth, revealing his inner thoughts and critiques of Japan. The Asahi paper was ideally suited for this role as the final publisher of Onoda because the paper itself reflected many of the contrarian instincts and values of Onoda.
Nate Floyd, Miami University of Ohio, “Role Strain and Self-Interest in the Rhetorical Style of Journalism Educators in the Interwar Period”
The American Association of Schools and Departments of Journalism (AASDJ) was founded in 1917 to bring order to the field of journalism education. The AASDJ, serving as an informal accrediting body, faced challenges in establishing its authority and reconciling the competing expectations of industry professionals and academic stakeholders. This complex dynamic resulted in diverse educational practices within the AASDJ, leading to internal inconsistencies and role strain among its membership. Drawing on sociologist Thomas Gieryn's framework of boundary work, this study explores how journalism educators used rhetoric to manage role strain and advance their interests. They defined the boundaries of their field in a flexible, albeit occasionally contradictory, manner that enabled them to garner support from industry and academic stakeholders, elevate the standards of journalism education, and retain their influential position.
W. Joseph Campbell, American University, “Interrogating a ‘Conspiracy’: About That Civil War Press ‘Boycott’ of General Meade”
In the midst of the Civil War’s bloody Overland campaign in 1864, General George Meade, commander of the federal Army of the Potomac, ordered the humiliating punishment of a war correspondent accused of writing “wicked” lies about the general. The correspondent, Edward Crapsey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, was expelled after being paraded through army lines wearing placards that said: “Libeler of the Press.” In collective retaliation, Northern newspapers supposedly imposed a news blackout of Meade. He purportedly was written out of news reports about his army. This paper interrogates the evidence about the supposed conspiracy against Meade and finds that accounts of a boycott were not contemporaneous with Crapsey’s humiliation: Those accounts emerged years later. The paper also notes that newspaper correspondents were noticeably ignoring Meade before Crapsey’s punishment. Claims of a press conspiracy to protest Meade’s treatment of Crapsey are, the paper concludes, highly suspect and likely specious.
Karlin Andersen-Tuttle, Pennsylvania State University, “‘A Friend and Lifeline’: A History of Christian Feminist Magazine Daughters of Sarah, 1974-1996”
While the history of women’s magazines is a well-established area of study, minimal scholarship exists on the development and role of Christian women’s magazines. This project chronicles the previously untold history of Daughters of Sarah (1974-1996) through a close reading of eighty-one issues published between 1981 and 1996, retrospective interviews, and news coverage. This Christian feminist magazine tackled the most debated theological and cultural debates of the late twentieth century through a non-hierarchical structure, open conversations across denominations, and research-based pieces that welcomed contradictory viewpoints. Along with a close reading of the magazine, the project explores Daughters of Sarah’s impact and relevance to Christian women’s periodicals as a singular voice for Christian feminists in a period of immense cultural change.
Patrick Walters, Washington and Lee, “#HandsUpDontShoot: Studying Coverage of Ferguson as a ‘Critical Incident’ From Journalism's Recent Past”
This historical study of the “recent past” considers how a police officer’s fatal shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., served as a “critical incident” that forced journalists to-reevaluate their practices in the face of citizen journalism on social media. The author uses textual analysis to examine local and national news coverage of the shooting and subsequent protests and investigations over the following weeks and months, drawing on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The New York Times and other outlets, as well as Twitter posts from citizens. The study, which places Ferguson in the historical context of breaking news coverage, finds the social media narrative initially impacted the shape of the coverage, especially in regard to reports of Brown having his hands raised. But the study finds the social media influence was limited over time as journalists ultimately reverted to their traditional reliance on official sources.
Erin Coyle, Elisabeth Fondren & Annette Masterson, Temple University, “‘The Throttling of the Free Press in Cuba’: Exploring Transnational Journalism and Sigma Delta Chi's Advocacy for Press Freedom in Cuba (1956-1962)”
Members of the largest United States-based journalism professional organization, Sigma Delta Chi (SDX), engaged in advocacy for transnational freedom of information and press freedom in Cuba between 1959 and 1962, between the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Analysis of archival sources—including SDX member records and correspondence and declassified government reports—and content in the official SDX magazine, reveals three themes: justifying a Latin America section with a primary focus on Cuba, the throttling of the free flow of information in and from Cuba, and documenting transnational flows of propaganda from Cuba and news from United States-based Cuban exiles to Cuba. Communist threats to reporters and democratic news organizations increased and news management from the Cuban government and U.S. government influenced information flows during this period. These findings add to the histories on free press advocacy abroad, cross-border journalism, and international press-politics in the context of U.S.-Cuban relations.
Tom Mascaro, Bowling Green State, “NBC White Paper: The Castro Connection - Too Dense for an Ephemeral Broadcast but Stunning Documentary History Informing Reagan's Central America Policy”
The documentary NBC White Paper: The Castro Connection, which aired September 3, 1980, informs the context of U.S. Central American policy prior to the 1980 presidential election, despite challenging viewers to comprehend dense content in an ephemeral broadcast. Research confirms the program thesis, that Fidel Castro unified leftist rebels in countries of the region to fight American imperialism. The program documents Castro’s connection to the leftist Nicaraguan revolution of 1979. The documentary produced a number of firsts, including for women and people of color, as well as NBC’s first contract with an independent producer for a documentary. In introducing “liberation theology,” which sought to align Western foreign policy with Christian, human, democratic values, the program reveals violent threats against missionary groups. Finally, the program foreshadowed Reagan administration acceptance of “the domino theory” to characterize communist threats from Latin America.
Lorraine Ahearn, Elon University, "‘Old-Time Negroes’: Nostalgic Ex-Slave Narratives in New York Newspapers of the Gilded Age”
In the field of social memory of slavery, a growing body of scholarship on the Jim Crow North has complicated the notion of white supremacy as a specifically Southern ideology, locating what historians view as a “missing link” in the history of race in America. This study examines a corollary gap in American journalism history—the role that white Northern newspapers played a generation after Emancipation in softening white memory of slavery and hardening discourse toward African Americans. This article applies narrative analysis to sample five large-circulation white New York City newspapers from 1889 to 1910, some employing white Southern expatriates, along with a contemporary Black city newspaper that wrote back against the trend. The study concludes that white newspapers of varied political stripes, by perpetuating racist tropes upstreamed from literature, ushered Jim Crow ideology onto media’s center stage in a new century, beyond the former Confederacy. The purpose is to help fill in the timeline of Black Americans’ struggle for media representation and gain understanding of journalism’s intertextual role in shaping social memory.
Jason Peterson, Charleston Southern, "‘I May Just Want to Take the Chance of Being Fired’: Mississippi Southern's 1960-1961 Basketball Season, the Unwritten Law, and the Press”
During the civil rights era, collegiate athletics in Mississippi was cloaked in the considerable shadow of segregation. In 1955, the purveyors of Mississippi’s belief in white supremacy created the unwritten law, a gentlemen’s agreement between college administrators and politicians that prohibited the state’s segregated college teams from participating in integrated competition. In 1961, the Mississippi Southern College basketball team had amassed a 22-3 record on the hardwood and had positioned themselves for a berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s small-college national championship tournament. However, an invitation never came, as the members of the selection committee told MSC head coach Fred Lewis that it was assume the team would decline due to the unwritten law. In opposition, Lewis angrily told the press, “I may just want to take the chance of being fired by going into the playoffs.” This paper examines Mississippi newspaper coverage of the “Golden Giants” during the 1960-1961 season. While threats to the unwritten law posed by Mississippi State University in 1959 created a furor of debate within the Fourth Estate, the same could not be said of MSC. Overall, members of Mississippi’s mainstream press, including the local Hattiesburg American, covered the exploits of the Southerners in a minimalistic fashion, relying on wire-based accounts, and offering little to no opinion-based commentary concerning MSC’s possible venture into the integrated postseason. Except for the progressive efforts of Jackson State Times sports editor Jimmie McDowell, most members of the press took a silent approach to the issue, offering a level of legitimacy to the unwritten law and protecting the state’s racist social ideology.
George Daniels, University of Alabama, “More Than RTNDA's Numbers Guy: The Diversity Leadership Legacy of Vernon Stone”
After working as a broadcast journalist in the 1950s and 60s, Vernon A. Stone, served for 22 years as the research director at what was then known as the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). While a faculty member, Stone published scores of reports and articles on women and racial minority groups in television and radio news while also tracking their salaries. In 1989, he provided expert testimony to the Federal Communications Commission. But, Stone was the first male to serve as vice chair of a committee on the status of women, reflective of his leadership in challenging sex discriminatory practices in media industry in the 70s. Based on an analysis of correspondence and writings contained in the Vernon A. Stone Papers at the University of Iowa, this study argues that Stone exercised diversity leadership decades before it became a common practice in colleges and universities.
Bailey Dick, Bowling Green State, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Women: Descriptions of Women Journalists in Historical Studies 1974-2023”
This paper examines histories of women journalists published in our field’s two leading journals, American Journalism and Journalism History to understand how these women and their work have been described by historians like us throughout the course of their publication. This paper argues that much like the women journalists they study, many historians of women journalists have infused their work with “benevolent sexism,” a term that describes seemingly positive, yet covertly diminishing language reflective of the neoliberal, individualist, merit-based feminism many female academics have adopted to fit in with a male-dominated academy. Through a sociolinguistic analysis of 95 journal articles published about historical women journalists, this paper identifies systemic problems in how we write about women, and offers practical solutions to improve our work going forward.
Nick Hirshon, William Paterson, "‘God Bless Joan Payson’: The Remarkable Coverage of the First Woman to Buy a Sports Team”
Joan Whitney Payson developed an extraordinary relationship with the press after becoming the first woman to buy a sports team in North America. As owner of the New York Mets from their inception in 1962 until her death in 1975, Payson made baseball writers feel appreciated, inviting them to help choose the team’s name, hiring a manager they loved, acquiring players they knew, and presenting them with World Series rings. One reporter who treated Payson well ended up on the Whitney payroll, hired by Joan’s brother, the publisher of the New York Herald Tribune. For half a century, Payson’s habit of downplaying her role with the team has produced an inaccurate public image of an uninvolved figurehead. This paper consults the Whitney family papers, period coverage, and original oral history interviews with players and sportswriters to reveal previously uncovered factors that prompted flattering coverage of “the mother of the Mets.”