Volume 44, No. 3, Fall 2018
The fall issue contains articles by Brian Carroll, Robert Wright, Erin Coyle, Raymond McCaffrey, and Andrew Paxman, as well as six book reviews and an artifact discussion about a radio microphone. Interested in reading these articles? Get information on subscribing here.
“The CSI Imaginary: British Newspaper Coverage of the Beginnings of Modern Criminal Forensics and Trace Evidence,” Brian Carroll (Research Essay)
Primed by the popularity of detective fiction, British newspapers of the first part of the twentieth century supported the cultural acceptance of crime scenes and their emerging conventions. Fictional crime stories and true crime coverage often appeared in the same publication, sometimes even on the same page, serving to make crime scenes and crime scene investigation (CSI) a popular cultural form in the perceptual frame of readers. The popular conceptions of CSI that today seem obvious and normative can, therefore, be traced back to what were humble beginnings. The products of experience, error, and politics, the conventions of these symbolic spaces emerged over time and, as this study reveals, in part by newspapers devoting close attention to the application of science in criminal investigations and in the trials that followed. This historical study looks at how British newspapers played an important role in establishing the social norms of the crime scene as they have been portrayed and mythologized in television, novels, and film. This article also explores the origins of what has become a shared understanding of the geography of contemporary CSI by focusing on the crime scene as a symbolic artifice and text as it has been represented in British newspapers of the first three decades of the twentieth century. In particular, this article uses the accounts and descriptions in those newspapers to locate the emergence of conventions for and about crime scenes, and in particular for the lead “detective,” broadly understood, as well as to better understand what these newspapers identified as important by looking at the common attributes or themes of their crime reporting.
“Pioneer Financial News: National Broadcast Journalist Wilma Soss, NBC Radio 1954-1980,” Robert E. Wright (Read Teaching Essay)
This article surveys the history of female journalists in America, the development of financial journalism, and the evolution of broadcast media to establish the claim that Wilma Soss was America’s first female financial broadcast journalist of significant tenure and national standing. It then shows that her weekly NBC radio show, “Pocketbook News” (later “Wilma Says”), was important because it lasted a quarter of a century, had a significant audience in terms of size, geographical breadth, and socioeconomic power, and was interpretive and innovative. Finally, the article suggests that Soss is not well known in journalism circles today because of biases against women and radio news, and because she used her show to advocate for corporate democracy and other public policies and thus blurred the line between news and editorial.
“Turning Point: Balancing Free Press and Fair Trial Rights after Sheppard v. Maxwell,” Erin K. Coyle
In 1966, the US Supreme Court overturned a conviction after pervasive coverage of a crime and court proceedings deprived a defendant’s fair trial rights. Two North Carolina judges subsequently issued a rule of court restricting the information trial participants, court workers, and law enforcement officers could publicly release between the time of an arrest and the end of a trial. Journalists indicated a virtual blackout on crime news followed as law enforcement officers cited the rule when refusing to release crime and accident reports. Editors initially presented the rule as a threat to press freedom, which undermined the press’ responsibility to scrutinize criminal justice. News editorials criticized the rule, reflecting journalists’ fears that the North Carolina experience exemplified the potential for police and judges to create broad blankets of secrecy. Members of the press and bench, however, ultimately came together to address ways to protect free press and fair trial rights. This article uses interviews of Judge E. Maurice Braswell and historical analysis of the archival paper collections of Judge Raymond B. Mallard, Samuel T. Ragan, and Elmer Oettinger, Jr. This article aims to describe the North Carolina judges’ motivation for issuing the order, judges’ reactions to the order, press reactions to the order, judges’ reactions to that press coverage, and methods that one of the judges and one of the journalists ultimately recommended to address free press and fair trial rights.
“Barry H. Gottehrer and a ‘City in Crisis’: The Path from Journalist to Peacekeeper in New York City’s Turbulent Streets in the 1960s,” Raymond McCaffrey (Author Q&A)
This study focuses on Barry H. Gottehrer, who authored “City in Crisis,” an acclaimed New York Herald Tribune series about the problems facing New York City in the 1960s. Gottehrer subsequently joined Mayor John Lindsay’s administration to help quell civil unrest in the face of events such as the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. This study considers Gottehrer’s place among journalists who abandoned journalistic neutrality to become active government players. Gottehrer’s methods reflected a novel communications strategy in which he tried to avoid press coverage of himself and his associates while working to give media access to disenfranchised people with the understanding that gaining such attention was often the underlying goal of protests and riots. He employed his strategy at a time of a shifting media landscape with the close of numerous newspapers in New York City and the rise of local TV news.
“The Rise of U.S. Spanish-Language Radio: From ‘Dead Airtime’ to Consolidated Ownership (1920s-1970s),” Andrew Paxman
In defiance of general trends in ethnic-minority broadcasting, U.S. Spanish-language radio enjoyed remarkably consistent growth from its beginnings in the 1920s to its commercial maturation in the 1960s and 1970s. To explain how this happened, this study situates broadcasting in Spanish within the context of foreign-language (or “ethnic”) radio. It then elucidates the factors behind its sustained increase in popularity and commercial viability over its first fifty years, along with the reasons why programming in other tongues diminished. Spanish-language radio’s early success owed not only to demography but also to Latin America’s proximity to the United States, circular flows of entertainers, mutual attitudes between Anglos and Hispanics, and the creative initiatives of Hispanic radio executives, brokers, and advertisers. This article expands the very thin historiography of Spanish-language radio by drawing on memoirs and, in particular, the now-defunct trade publication Sponsor from the late 1940s to its disappearance in 1968.