For the 50th episode of the Journalism History podcast, host Teri Finneman spoke with Andrew Stoner about his new book on the complex life of Randy Shilts, a journalist who dedicated much of his career to providing coverage of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.
Andrew Stoner is an assistant professor at California State University, Sacramento. He is the author of a dozen books, including Campaign Crossroads: Presidential Politics of Indiana from Lincoln to Obama and Betty White: The First 90 Years.
This episode is sponsored by the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Sacramento.
Teri Finneman: 00:09 Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to re-examine the stories you thought you knew and the ones you were never told. I’m your host, Teri Finneman, guiding you through our own drafts of history.
00:23 This episode is sponsored by the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Sacramento. The department provides quality instruction for more than 500 undergraduate and graduate majors in the areas of journalism, film studies, public relations and communication studies. Sacramento State is the fourth most diverse university in the western United States, serving more than 31,000 students from the capital of California.
00:53 Known as the chronicler of AIDS, Randy Shilts dedicated much of his journalism career to providing coverage of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s as a national reporter on AIDS for the San Francisco Chronicle. He played a groundbreaking role as an openly gay journalist working in mainstream media.
01:14 In 1982 he wrote a story headlined “The strange deadly diseases that strike gay men” having little idea at the time of the role he was about to play with this issue or that he would meet his own death the same way. Throughout his career, he inspired a wide range of emotions from “great admiration and affinity” to “deep disgust and loathing” for his reporting on issues of concern to the gay community. Our guest today, Andrew Stoner, delves into all of this in his new book, The Journalist of Castro Street: The Life of Randy Shilts. Andrew, welcome to the show. Why did you want to do this biography of Randy Shilts?
Andrew Stoner: 01:57 Well, as a journalist or journalist in training, he was obviously somebody I was familiar with, but also as a gay person I was very concerned about the possibility of that causing— my sexual orientation causing me to not be able to work in journalism or mass communication. So I was very tuned into Randy’s career from an early point, and he was making breakthroughs that were pretty important to me personally and also to many others.
Teri Finneman: 02:28 So talking about his career, he had quite an impactful career for the limited time that he had before his death at age 42. Let’s start out discussing his early years when he worked for The Advocate. Tell us about the history of that publication and where it was at when he arrived there.
Andrew Stoner: 02:46 Well, The Advocate at that time was probably best described as a bit of a bar rag. It still had a lot of advertising for adult services and films and massage and alcohol. And it, when it first started, actually, it was on newsprint. By the time Randy joined The Advocate, it had transitioned to heavier stock or magazine stock, but it was still pretty much a bar magazine, one that was sent out in plain brown envelopes. And he made a joke one time, actually, that he couldn’t really send his clips to anybody because on the back there might be some, you know, really unusual ad from the personals column that he wouldn’t want someone to see. So, and it had moved when he joined The Advocate from San Francisco and Los Angeles to San Mateo. And that was a deliberate move by the publisher at the time, David Goodstein, who wanted to decouple the magazine from what he perceived to be the gay liberation leadership in both San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Teri Finneman: 03:53 What kind of stories did Shilts write while there?
Andrew Stoner: 03:56 He first started out, curiously, they called him their Northwest correspondent. So he was responsible for covering LGBT issues in Oregon and Washington state. And that’s because he actually was stringing for them while he was still a student at the University of Oregon when he was hired then to join the staff full time and moved to San Francisco, which he ended up having to move there, but also work in San Mateo. He was what they called their national wire editor, but that did allow him some wonderful opportunities to travel. In fact, he covered the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York and found the gay caucus at that convention. I think it was three people. And he also traveled extensively during the period where anti-discrimination ordinances were under assault in Miami Dade and other places around the country by Anita Bryant and others. And wrote extensively about that effort in various cities across the United States.
Teri Finneman: 04:58 He also worked briefly for a TV station, for KQED in San Francisco, to cover the expanding gay community there. The unusualness of this assignment in the late 1970s received national attention. You note in your book that the news director at the time told the Associated Press that “hiring a gay reporter was such an obvious thing we should have done it two years ago. We were the first in the area, but I predict other stations will follow.” You then note that other stations, in fact, did not follow this lead. Tell us more about this time. Why did the station make this decision? And tell us more about what Shilts covered and how it went.
Andrew Stoner: 05:37 Well, he didn’t think that they were making that big of a statement by hiring Shilts because they had him on a contract where they’d pay him $75 per story that he would submit. And that he was one of three field reporters that would contribute to a program called Newsroom, which was by a grant from the Ford Foundation. And KQED had an established anchor named Belva Davis who would introduce the stories and then bring the reporters on air to discuss them afterward, which was a wonderful opportunity for him to gain a lot of notoriety. But again, it was only $75 a story. His colleagues that worked with him, one of the fellow reporters there told me that she was always amazed. He had a quiver full of story ideas from the gay community and sometimes would loan her some, because he was just very good at what she called shaking the trees and getting stories to fall into his lap. And so it made sense from a journalism perspective in terms of there were a lot of stories to be told that weren’t being told elsewhere. But it was, as you noted, something that wasn’t followed by other media in San Francisco for several more years.
Teri Finneman: 06:51 Shilts eventually ended up working at the San Francisco Chronicle. You note that editors began to understand that they could no longer ignore that, quote, “gay people were a major political, economic and social force in the community,” end quote. Before we delve more into his time there, this question and then our prior discussion about the TV station, it makes me wonder. What, we’re talking about the 1970s and 1980s here? But today, how many mainstream news outlets dedicate reporters to specifically cover the gay community? Do you know?
Andrew Stoner: 07:25 Oh, I would think few if many. I’m not aware of beyond like the publications that are, have a gay audience would specialize in that way. We of course now have major television, cable television and network television anchors and national reporters who are openly gay. And one of the things that – it’s interesting. One of the editors there, looking back on this period of, at the Chronicle, told me that he thinks they erred a bit in that they viewed the gay community as kind of this one-dimensional thing. And that Randy Shilts was the representation of that. And what they learned, I think, over time was that there were many layers and aspects to the gay community, most especially, for example, a lesbian perspective that Randy didn’t represent hardly at all. And I think that was where some of the challenges Randy would run into in the gay community came from because he was this unelected, unnominated leader in a mainstream situation.
08:29 And you know, there would be people would ask who appointed him our spokesperson? And so the editor I talked to suggested they may have erred by thinking into a limited fashion, but that also, and it also reflects – Belva Davis and others told me that, you know, they would not limit black reporters just covering black subjects by that time. So the idea of a specialized beat like that is unusual. Now, he was officially assigned to the city desk as a cityside reporter and did cover other topics, but they readily admitted that that’s how and why they recruited him.
Teri Finneman: 09:11 So returning to his time at the Chronicle, tell us more about the kinds of stories he reported there and his relationships with sources. As you were kind of just talking about, you noted in your book that gay people in San Francisco had very strong opinions about him and what he wrote. Tell us more about that.
Andrew Stoner: 09:30 Yeah, I think that what we see over the course of his time there is that he actually had more support and more fans among heterosexual or gay ally readers than among gays themselves. I think the gay community was still trying to adjust to the idea of this mainstream light or this attention from a mainstream media source being paid to their issues. For example, you know, Randy wrote a lot of important stories about gays in the kind of physical violence and crime that they might suffer in the streets of San Francisco or also, you know, he had himself locked up one time in what they called the Queens tank at the San Francisco city jail. So he did, you know, help shine light on some important issues like that. But he also was … as the AIDS issue begins to emerge, is also raising important questions about the sexual activity or the sexual nature of the gay liberation movement at that point, which in its early years was really focused just on the sexual aspects of gay life as opposed to issues like housing, employment or family or marriage rights.
10:46 You know, you’re talking about a group of people who’ve been set free that their sexuality is no longer a criminal offense that could either cause them to be jailed or destroyed socially. And so there was a lot of people who celebrated the sexual aspect of gay liberation more than any other. And Randy was one of the early folks who began to question, is that all there is?
Teri Finneman: 11:09 You frequently mentioned in the book that he wanted to avoid being an advocate in his journalism despite being close to the topics he was covering. However, there seems to be a number of examples where this line was crossed. What are your thoughts on this complicated role that he was in?
Andrew Stoner: 11:27 I think that his desire to be a journalist as opposed to an advocate is normal and, and certainly would reflect his degree in journalism and the way journalism was taught as an objective pursuit in those days. But I think he clearly did not succeed. And I would actually place him more in the line of an advocate in terms of using journalism to advance or advocate for issues that he thought were important. And he readily admits, for example, that he would time stories and, during the AIDS crisis, to run on Thursday or Friday so that they might catch the attention of gay men before they went out for a weekend of fun and partying. You know, that’s – timing your stories like that is not something everybody would have thought of. I certainly didn’t as a reporter. I turned them in as soon as they were done, but I think that he saw the power of journalism as a shining light and opening up people’s eyes to things that were going on and that he talks a lot in his diary and other places about if people just understood more,
12:33 if they just knew more, that gay rights would advance a lot quicker. I would love to have talked to him near the end of his life or even today about whether he thinks those views are actually true because I think what the reality is it just takes a very long time. The arch of liberation is slow sometimes and the rights of gay people have been, you know, two steps forward, one step back at times. And I think that his notion that journalism could move that along at a quicker pace is a bit naive on one level.
Teri Finneman: 13:07 You write about the significant psychological toll that writing about HIV and AIDS had on him. In 1989 alone, he wrote more than 60,000 words on this topic. How did this affect him, and why did he keep going?
Andrew Stoner: 13:23 Well, that is an extraordinary amount of newsprint we’re talking about for this. We’re talking about news stories and columns and that one year the, you know, the equivalent of a very large book, and I talked to his partner at the time who told me that that was taking a toll because he really did not have control of his alcohol use and he was a daily – liked to smoke marijuana every day, was very convinced since he was in college that marijuana was something that was very helpful to him. And his partner told me, a gentleman by the name of Steve Newman, and that really was the end of their relationship because of Randy just kind of coming home and, and getting blotto drunk every night or high and that to watch someone of such talent do that to themselves was very difficult to be around, and he wasn’t interested in that point in a career or a cure for that or addressing it. He did eventually start going to AA meetings and stop drinking and then a year later stopped smoking as well.
Teri Finneman: 14:28 What did he think of other media outlets reporting on AIDS and issues of concern to the gay community?
Andrew Stoner: 14:34 He was highly critical of all of his counterparts. At the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, he openly gloated that the Chronicle far outpaced all of those publications in their coverage of the issue. And I think to some degrees, you could argue that that’s true. He did keep up a more steady drumbeat than you see if you do a content analysis or any coding or even just a casual observation of those other major dailies. The one editor that he had at the Chronicle came to the Chronicle directly from the Chicago Tribune and he noted that prior to going to San Francisco, he took the Chronicle by mail and was looking at and said he found himself shocked at the number of front-page articles that they were running about AIDS and that even the issues of how AIDS was transmitted, you know, in terms of sexual contact between men, you know, he said they’d wrote one article at the Chicago Tribune to that point and it was back on page 15 and been turned in as a 20- or 30-inch story that got trimmed back to about 15 inches. He recalls, you know, things were very different, for example, out of the Chicago Tribune than what they were at the San Francisco Chronicle.
Teri Finneman: 15:51 So kind of expanding on that, you discuss in the book how Randy played an agenda-setting role. How do you think he helped educate other mainstream reporters on these issues?
Andrew Stoner: 16:02 I think because we agree that he served as a spokesperson he was helpful in that sense. He often did Nightline of This Week with David Brinkley. He was on the Larry King show. So he did go to a mainstream media. He even did an episode of the Morton Downey Jr. Show, which was an absolute disaster. So he was seemingly interested in interacting. But what I found though, for example, or that the emerging gay journalists association were most dissatisfied with him because he viewed their work as less than his. He viewed – he seemed to have a bit of a snobbish attitude about if your work was appearing in a gay publication, then it wasn’t the equal to, for example, a daily newspaper. And that’s an interesting perspective to take given that he came out of a gay paper. But I just don’t think he felt that a gay publication had the respectability of, say, a daily newspaper. And he did use at one point a phrase that has haunted him for many years. He referred to gay journalists as lavender fascists. And as a result, didn’t have many friends in that corner, probably had, again, more straight reporters were his friends then were gay reporters.
Teri Finneman: 17:19 You mentioned one of his appearances being a disaster. What do you mean by that? What happened?
Andrew Stoner: 17:24 It’s in the book, but the Morton Downey Jr. Show was one of the early shock TV shows that ran during the daytime. Kind of a precursor at the time of the Jerry Springer show taking off. And the audience was asking a lot of ridiculous questions about how AIDS was transmitted. And of course, a lot of discussion about quarantining all gay people as a means of arresting the spread of AIDS. Shilts talks in his diary and elsewhere about during the show’s break, he told Downey, the host of the show, that, you know, either we lift the conversation to a higher level or he was gonna leave. And it’s interesting that he agreed to that booking in the first place. He also talks about a radio interview in Los Angeles in which a caller expressed concern a waiter, a gay waiter, could cause someone to have AIDS. And he was pretty embarrassed by having blown up on the air at that caller or calling them ignorant and, you know, losing his cool with someone. And I think that’s telltale of the fact that despite his public claims to the contrary, I think he was at least partially or fully aware that he was already impacted by AIDS personally.
Teri Finneman: 18:40 One of the things that really struck me when I was reading your book is I think in biography it can be pretty easy to focus on just the positives of the person and trying to portray them in like the best light possible. And I feel like your book is just really honest about this complicated person and shining a light on both the positive and the more complicated aspects of his life. And part of the way that you do that is you conducted a number of interviews with his family and friends and co-workers and various sources for this book to paint this really detailed picture of who he was. So tell us more about this process and how you got all of these different people willing to talk to you for this book.
Andrew Stoner: 19:33 Well, I will say that this book started as my dissertation for my Ph.D. at Colorado State University. And that was limited, though, to a discussion of journalistic function and role on this idea about Walter Lippmann’s ideas about, you know, social elites helping others understand the world around them versus a more democratic approach to journalism. So the first thing the publishers did with that was to dump the literature review and all the theoretical discussions and say, “We need a much more personal treatment.” And so I set out to find as many of those folks as I could. I placed advertisements in Oregon and in San Francisco and in Illinois trying to find friends and colleagues that he had known. I was fortunate that his two living brothers, Gary and [David], who happen to be the oldest and youngest Schilts boys, one living in Illinois and one in Michigan, were both very interested in participating in this,
20:33 took it very seriously and understood Randy’s important role in the history of the LGBT community, but also in the history of journalism. And so I found their cooperation. I think they understood from me that I wasn’t gonna do just as you described, you know, just the Pollyanna approach to him. That it was – that a guy as complicated and as complex as Randy Shilts, we needed to give him the same kind of review, he deserved the same kind of review that he probably would do if he were writing it himself. And so there were many people I would tell you that, that it’s clearly a bifurcation. People who love Randy, think he’s wonderful and were more than happy to share lots of stories about him, and people who think he’s awful and still hold resentment. And it’s interesting out presenting the book in San Francisco and in San Diego, I’ve encountered audiences that way also: where part of the audience think he’s wonderful, part of the audience thinks he’s a goat. And so it’s been a very interesting exploration and, you know, we have this interrupted life that ends at age 42 so we don’t get to see what resolution might’ve occurred to some of these, for some of these issues. And so as a result, I think you have to take the story up in the manner that I attempted to do.
Teri Finneman: 21:57 What was the – tell us more about the reaction that you got from the family about your finished book.
Andrew Stoner: 22:03 I think they felt very much that it was a positive memorial. Both of his brothers joined me in Aurora, Illinois, when we launched the book last summer and brought probably 15 members of the Shilts family who are very proud of Randy and all he achieved. I had several of Randy’s classmates from the Aurora West High School just about to celebrate their 50th class reunion, and they wanted a copy of the book for the class reunion to share with members. Oh wow. That’s cool. Yeah, it was fun. And it was interesting as I spoke and talked about him, I could still sense there was still a lot of grief that his life had ended because they, you know, so much of life has transpired 25 years since he died. And you know, that’s a lot of life that doesn’t – we don’t ever get to see and they don’t ever get to experience and I think they’ve missed him. But his brothers, you know, are just – the Shilts family is an amazing group of people. They are sharp and witty and sometimes acerbic and could you know, very flinty in their comments. And so I could see why Randy was the way he was and the brothers were just very, very helpful and kind about all of this.
Teri Finneman: 23:19 Randy also had a substantial career as an author. He wrote what you refer to as the “three most seminal books on the life and experience of gay Americans in the last years of the 20th century,” They were The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk; And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic; and Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military. Let’s go over each of these books. Tell us a little bit about each one and the impact of each.
Andrew Stoner: 23:52 The biography of Harvey Milk kind of fell in his lap. He had been reporting for KQED and The Advocate about Harvey Milk’s selection to the board of supervisors and also his murder along with Mayor Moscone in November of 1978. He also was there reporting on the riots that ensued following the very light sentence given to Dan White for the two murders. And so there were some folks in New York with Christopher Street magazine and others who really liked the work Randy was doing and offered him a small advance and to write the biography of Harvey Milk. And of course, all of the work he had done at the, as a reporter was very helpful to making that come together. Although those were lean years because this is before he joined the Chronicle. And so they were, as I mentioned, the KQED job only paid $75 a story.
24:50 So he was patching together the advance along with some unemployment compensation and all sorts of help from his brother Gary to kind of make it in those years. And the book was a marginal success, was optioned by Warner Brothers who never made a film out of it. The film that was made and won an Oscar for screenplay in 2009 was a separate production, not based entirely on his book. And I talked to the people involved with that and they had to retrace Randy’s steps cause Warner’s has never decided to go ahead with a film version of that. But the movie Milk from 2009 is probably about as close a following of Randy’s book as you can get. Obviously the book most people know him best for is And the Band Played On from October of 1987 and there’s so much to say about that book.
25:46 It’s still worth a read. And I recommend people to go look and skip the clinical parts because they’re very outdated. But the story that Randy tells about how this epidemic begins to take over the gay community is still very compelling and a sorrowful read at times. And the book is controversial because of the Patient Zero aspects of it, but the work itself and the history that it creates for us about that time period is irreplaceable and still one of the – Time Magazine listed as one of the 100 best books of nonfiction of all time. And it’s a highly recommended reading. His last book Conduct Unbecoming, as we know, with being finished as AIDS was overtaking his own life. And so the tours in support of that book were quite limited. It came out in 1993, a year before he died. It’s really, by the way, the only representation of women
26:47 and the only chance he was able to have a feminist voice at all because women were a very strong target for the military’s efforts to drum gays out of the military, and the women that suffered through that were particularly vulnerable because they would threaten custody of their children, for example, unless they disclose their homosexuality or that of other women. And so Randy spent a lot of time listening to the stories of female service members who had really suffered a lot of the brunt of the gay ban in the U.S. military had prior to the enactment of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and then, of course, prior to the overall lift of all bans. But that book is another important piece because we know in the 1992 presidential election, Bill Clinton had made the promise that he’d lift the ban and, you know, we get, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a compromise after that. And that issue, you know, percolated all the way up through 2011 when President Obama eliminated that policy and allowed gays to serve openly.
Teri Finneman: 27:53 So you touched on the Patient Zero controversy that was part of And the Band Played On. For those who aren’t familiar with that, give us a little bit more background on that incident and what lessons journalists today should take away from this.
Andrew Stoner: 28:10 Well, depending on your perspective, it’s either a storytelling element used effectively, or it’s an amazingly painful and sad character assassination of a person who was already deceased and really couldn’t defend themselves. Patient Zero is a gentleman by the name of Gaëtan Dugas who was a flight attendant for Air Canada. He was a French-Canadian fellow that had been adopted by a family in Quebec and was a gay man in that era. Traveled widely in Europe and the United States and North America and kept a very active sex life – in those days a black book, you know, as opposed to a phone, and was one of the people who were included in a cluster study done in Los Angeles about gay men who were coming down with some pretty exotic illnesses that reflected they had a compromised immune system, things like Kaposi sarcoma cancer, skin cancer or pneumocystis pneumonia and other things.
29:18 And so he cooperated with the cluster study done and all of the participants in that study were listed as, for example, if they’re from Los Angeles, they were LA1 or LA2 in order to preserve confidentiality. He was listed as Patient O for outside Los Angeles. Shilts either knowingly or unknowingly incorrectly interpreted that to mean that he was Patient Zero, that he was at the center of a cluster. And what we know now, of course, is that any person could be at the center of any cluster. If you draw a person at the center and then connect out all the people that they’ve had sex with or sexual contact with and the cluster can put anyone really at the center. It’s a far more complicated concept than that. But Shilts tracked down Dugas’s name and used it in the book and used his struggle with his being told to not have sex anymore.
30:18 He doesn’t understand that because he has cancer at that time, KS, which is not communicable, he’s not understanding why should curtail his sex life and doesn’t. But Dugas at the same time is also highly cooperative with health investigators. He goes to CDC and gives a blood sample. And that sample, by the way, in 2016, his blood is tested and it’s proven that the strain of HIV that he was carrying was not the first strain to come to the United States. That HIV was actually probably present in 1967 when Dugas was just a little boy in Canada and could not have brought AIDS to America, which was actually the headline the New York Post decided to run, which was “The man who brought AIDS to America.” And that was the marketing effort of Shilts’s, this book to sell. It was that there was, that he had found the source or that he had centered or focused in on how it got to the start of AIDS in North America –
31:22 answer that “why” question that many people had. And it turns out it’s a very flawed bit of research. It’s a flawed story. And we also don’t get the benefit of – Shilts, you know, dies within a years of that coming out. Very short time out of that. And so we don’t, he never gets a chance to revisit the issue. So as a result, you have people who have rightly been upset that he maybe unfairly characterized Gaëtan Dugas as some sort of typhoid Mary of the gay community when his actions were probably not that much different than a lot of gay people in the 70s and 80s. Just that Randy had a lot of information based on Dugas’s cooperation to base a story that helped move the dialogue or the narrative about the AIDS crisis.
Teri Finneman: 32:16 So Randy died of AIDS himself in 1994 at age 42 and was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as the pioneer in coverage of AIDS. Overall, how would you summarize his legacy?
Andrew Stoner: 32:30 I think the AIDS summary is accurate, but I would also could think that he is an important figure of gay people and as the gay rights movement moved on from the ‘60s, 70s, and ‘80s, I think his work about the life and effort of Harvey Milk and about the gay community’s response to AIDS and also this whole issue of gays in the military was really just a gays in the workplace issue. It just happened to be military. The whole notion of how are the rest of us — or how is the rest of the society going to interact and deal with gay people? Are they going to be allowed to be in the workplace? And this leads of course to broader issues such as housing and marriage rights and parental rights and things like that. So he really was instrumental in covering how the gay liberation movement moved on beyond sexual freedom to broader issues.
33:29 I would point out, it was interesting, my research found from his family and others that he was looking into issues of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and other organizations as a next book idea. And of course he died before he could pursue that. But if we think about the issues that have transpired since 1994 on that, he really was on the cutting edge of that issue as well. So I think, I say all that to make the point that I think he’s an outstanding journalist who just simply understood those important things that were coming next and really had his finger on the pulse of what readers and the society needed and wanted to know about. So I think as a journalist we should also hold him in high regard.
Teri Finneman: 34:17 In 1990, the Association of LGBTQ Journalists formed in San Francisco. What impact do you think this group has had in terms of being a voice for LGBTQ journalists and for broader gay rights issues now that Randy is no longer here?
Andrew Stoner: 34:33 I think they play a very important, well first and foremost, their role was always one of support because there aren’t still a large number of gay people in newsrooms across the United States. There are some, but it’s still a bit of an isolating position. And I think that the issues and stories that they can help bring and the perspectives are the equal to what women bring or what other minority groups bring. We see, of course we’ve had a large experience with African American participation in journalism since the 70s, but we certainly are still struggling, for example, to get more Latinx voices into the newsroom. So I think their ability to ask the interesting questions, to bring new perspectives are extremely valuable. I think that Randy would have hopefully evolved away from his ideas that they were somehow that their role was purely advocacy as opposed to journalism and objective reporting. And I think that the whole – I think maybe would have been able to walk back phrases like lavender fascists and gained hopefully, I hope, I would think a new respect for the role and the contribution gay journalists are making now.
Teri Finneman: 35:54 And our last question of every show is why does journalism history matter?
Andrew Stoner: 35:59 Well, first of all, a lot of fun. Journalism, of course, they used to say is the first draft of history. But I just I have to tell you, I’m one of these guys who just digs looking at how stories were reported, how writing styles have changed, how processes have changed, the interaction between journalists and official sources, and just the fact that we’ve moved beyond just official sources and bring in all sorts of, sometimes less powerful or less known voices. It’s kind of, as an old newspaper guy, I started as a newspaper reporter, I’m distressed as everyone else to see newspapers going through the transition that they’re going through, but I’m excited for the opportunities that still exist. I do battle with concepts of false or fake news as a professor with my students because I think it undermines the legitimacy of the media and the importance of it.
36:59 And if ever we lived in a time where journalists are playing an important role in history, we’re doing it right now because we see other branches or functions of society just are not operating correctly or not even willing to take up their constitutional or statutory authority. So we see journalists filling an important role and they always have really. And it doesn’t mean they were well-liked. I can remember phones being hung up on me when I was a reporter and I can, I tell students, you know, don’t become a reporter to become popular. But you might just be a part of history and certainly beyond being a witness, a recordkeeper for the history that transpires.
Teri Finneman: 37:43 All right. Well, thanks so much for joining us today.
Andrew Stoner: 37:46 Thank you. Appreciate it.
Teri Finneman: 37:48 Thanks for tuning in and additional thanks to our sponsor, the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Sacramento and to Taylor and Francis, the publisher of our academic journal, Journalism History and until next time I’m your host, Teri Finneman, signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow. Good night and good luck.