Volume 49, No. 1, Spring 2023
The Spring issue contains articles by Edgar Simpson; Anna E. Lindner, Michael Fuhlhage, D.T. Frazier, & Keena Neal; Glen Feighery; and Jeanne S. Criswell, Robert H. Gobetz, & Frederick E. May. Interested in reading these articles? Get information on subscribing here.
“Manipulating the Sphere: Mississippi’s Post-Brown Offensive Against White Journalists,” Edgar Simpson
In the months after the US Supreme Court struck down the doctrine of separate but equal in its Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Mississippi legislature passed a series of laws designed to thwart desegregation. Among them was the creation of the state Sovereignty Commission. This study examines the commission’s actions within the context of the public sphere and its attempts to spy on and intimidate White state journalists. This study argues that examining how the commission functioned as a particularly nefarious manifestation of White supremacy within the context of public information is vital to understanding how debate and policy can be shaped.
“’If Ever Saints Wept and Hell Rejoiced, It Must Have Been Over the Passage of That Law’: The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act in Detroit River Borderland Newspapers, 1851-1852,” Anna E. Lindner, Michael Fuhlhage, D.T. Frazier, & Keena Neal
The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 raised the stakes for antislavery Whites and people of African descent in the United States by making resistance to slave catchers a federal crime. This study uses historical theme analysis to examine the rhetoric employed by newspapers in the Detroit River Borderland, which connected Michigan to Canada West, to promote or resist the Fugitive Slave Act from 1851 to 1852. While the Canada-based Voice of the Fugitive, edited by the formerly enslaved Henry Bibb, and the Michigan Christian Herald, a Baptist antislavery newspaper in Detroit, argued that the Fugitive Slave Act was unconstitutional and immoral, the proslavery Detroit Free Press supported the Act. These differing stances evince the divisiveness of the Fugitive Slave Act, which had been developed as a compromise measure a decade before the US was divided by civil war.
“Wear the Blue Star: Frontier Values vs. Environmentalism in News Coverage of Colorado River Dams, 1954-1956,” Glen Feighery
This study examines news coverage of a federal project that resulted in the building of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River and sparked an environmental controversy. The project pitted boosters against conservationists, and this research illustrates how western newspapers promoted growth through dams and irrigation. Acknowledging the region in which several newspapers operated, this study uses New Western History to better understand journalism history by highlighting the harsh landscape and the persistence of pioneer values in the 1950s. This research also introduces a new element of environmental journalism history by adding to understanding of such reporting in the 1950s and by approaching the dam controversy from the perspective of journalism rather than environmentalism. Whether newspapers focused on growth and prosperity or preserving natural beauty, their coverage reflected the complexity of the region and its ecosystem.
“The Arizona Republic and the Indianapolis Star: A Comparative Analysis of Content Changes After Purchase by Gannett,” Jeanne S. Criswell, Robert H. Gobetz, & Frederick E. May
Gannett’s purchase of the Arizona Republic and the Indianapolis Star in 2000 created fertile and historically uncommon conditions for considering ownership’s impact on news coverage. This study provides quantitative evidence that a local newspaper’s quality before an ownership change substantially influences whether a new ownership model will have a positive, negative, or neutral effect. The two newspapers’ similar characteristics, shared ownership history, and simultaneous purchase undergird this study’s quantitative evidence and reduce the influence of variables that could account for inconsistencies in previous content analyses, including those specifically examining the effects of a Gannett purchase. In this case, Gannett ownership had a significantly more detrimental impact on the Republic than on the Star. The study also suggests implications for the USA Today Network and the evolutionary arc of commercial journalism, particularly in view of the Gannett and GateHouse merger.