Journalism History Recognizes First Tom Reilly Award Winner

Journalism History is pleased to announce the creation of the Tom Reilly Award to recognize excellence in journalism history research.

The Publications Committee voted to initiate the award to honor Reilly, a former California State University, Northridge professor who served as the journal’s founding editor from 1974-1985.

“This could be considered the People’s Choice Award to recognize a journalism historian whose work struck a chord with Journalism History readers,” said Teri Finneman, chairwoman of the Publications Committee. “We wanted to recognize our founding editor in this way in the lead-up to our 50th anniversary since we would not have this venue for journalism history research without him.”

Reilly’s colleagues knew him as a private person, who likely would be uncomfortable with the idea of an award named in his honor, said Prof. Linda Bowen, Journalism Department chair. Yet, close friends say they know how important the publication was to him and he secretly would have loved how far it has come.

“Inclusion” was a key word in Reilly’s long career, as both practitioner and professor who traveled the world speaking to journalists and journalism students, said Bowen, citing his efforts to study and report on nontraditional subjects, his expertise on the Mexican-American War and his work as an adviser for the New China News Agency in Beijing.

“This inclusiveness was never more consequential than in his role as mentor to many students and professional journalists,” Bowen said. “He saw potential and encouraged their scholarly and creative work, significantly in areas like Latinos and the media when research and publication was woefully lacking.”

The first recipient of the Reilly Award is Raymond McCaffrey of the University of Arkansas. His article, “From Baseball Icon to Crusading Columnist: How Jackie Robinson Used His Column in the African-American Press to Continue His Fight for Civil Rights in Sports,” was the most-read Journalism History article in 2021.

McCaffrey’s study explores how Jackie Robinson continued his fight for civil rights in sports using his newspaper column in the New York Amsterdam News and syndicated in African-American newspapers during the 1960s. A review of those columns reveals a side of Robinson not typically seen in official histories depicting him as too conciliatory and restrained in his approach to race relations. Robinson came to take almost militant stands, challenging oppression by calling for boycotts of sporting events and event sponsors years before such strategies were adopted by a younger generation of athletes.

“It’s especially meaningful to be honored with a first-ever award in memory of someone who did so much for journalism history research,” McCaffrey said. “After learning more about Tom’s background, it seems that to simply call him the founding editor of Journalism History would be a bit of an understatement. Tom Reilly can rightly be considered a founder of an emerging field of research called journalism history.”

McCaffrey’s article can be read at tinyurl.com/ReillyAward. The Journalism History podcast features McCaffrey discussing this research in episode 58.

More about Reilly can be found at tinyurl.com/journalfounder.

Cal State Northridge Professor Emerita Dr. Susan Henry, editor from 1985-91, previously wrote, “Tom’s greatest gift was his vision of the field of journalism history and of the kind of work scholars might produce once they had a new publication outlet.”

Journalism History is the official academic journal of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s History Division. The History Division will recognize McCaffrey with the Tom Reilly Award during its Awards Gala at the 2022 AEJMC conference in August.

Journalism History is the oldest peer-reviewed journal of mass media history in the United States and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024.

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