AEJMC History Division Announces 2023 Sweeney Award Winner

Paul Myers and Lisa Parcell of Wichita State University won the 2023 Michael S. Sweeney Award for their article, “Beauty and the Bran: Kellogg’s Campaign to ‘Correct Faulty Elimination’ and Conquer the Cereal Industry.”

Presented by the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), the Sweeney Award recognizes the outstanding article published in the previous volume of the scholarly journal Journalism History. In addition to receiving a plaque and cash prize, Myers and Parcell will be honored during the History Division’s awards gala at this year’s AEJMC conference in Washington, D.C.

“What started as an interest in a random line of text on the Kellogg’s website led to a historical journey through the bowels of one of Kellogg’s long-forgotten advertising campaigns,” Myers said. “This paper, unique in subject matter as it is, has served as an interesting conversation piece amongst colleagues and was realistically my first foray into historical research, in turn, leading to the discovery of a research area for me to call home.”

Parcell said Kellogg’s did exactly what students today are taught to do – clearly identify a target audience, understand their concerns, and create messaging that shows how the product solves their problems.

“One of my favorite things about this article is that I can use it in both my graduate historical methods class and my senior capstone Integrated Marketing Communication Campaigns class,” she said. “A sincere thank you to the Journalism History reviewers and editors who made this paper stronger and to the History Division’s Publications Committee for the recognition.”

Their article, published in Volume 48 Issue 4 of Journalism History, examines how the Kellogg’s Corn Flake Company’s investment into home economics became integral to the brand itself and helped establish Kellogg’s as a leader in addressing the growing dietary health concerns of the early twentieth century and in the breakfast food industry. The company’s success today can clearly be traced back to its original efforts to address health concerns through advertisements that taught women how to use bran cereal as both a curative and preventative food for constipation and related symptoms.

The History Division’s Publications Committee selected the article from among four finalists provided by Journalism History Editor Pam Parry.

About the winning article, the judges commented:

“Who knew that constipation was such a public health concern in the early 1900s – or that it could be such an interesting topic of study today? The authors did an excellent job examining the

advertising strategies employed by W.K. Kellogg Cereal Company to reach women consumers,

which ranged from rational appeals grounded in the emerging fields of nutrition and home economics science to fear tactics based on beauty and aging.”

“Great job connecting the past with the present and showing its relevance in everyday life.”

“Strong use of primary sources to illuminate the public health advertising campaign that helped propel the Kellogg’s Corn Flake company to the top of the growing cold cereal industry in the early twentieth century. Contributes new insights into the history of advertising.”

The other finalists for the 2023 Sweeney Award were Jason Guthrie and Amber Roessner for “Covering Copyright: Phil Walden and Jimmy Carter in the Press during the 1976 Presidential Campaign”; Lexie Little for “Cementing Their Heroes: Historical Newspaper Coverage of Confederate Monuments”; and Carolina Velloso for “ ‘A True Newspaper Woman’: The Career of Sadie Kneller Miller.”

The History Division created the Sweeney award in 2018 to honor Michael S. Sweeney, who served as editor of Journalism History from 2012 to 2018 and worked to ensure its future by initiating the transition from an independent publication to the official scholarly publication of the History Division.

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