March 2020


Volume 46, No. 1, March 2020

The March issue contains articles by Vanessa Murphree, Beth Garfrerick, Melissa Greene-Blye, and Arthur Scherr. Interested in reading these articles? Get information on subscribing here.

Article Abstracts

“Universal Localism: WWOZ Community Radio, 1980-2006,” Vanessa Murphree (Podcast)
As one of the nation’s best-known community radio stations, New Orleans-based WWOZ-FM is a prime example of how the cultural characteristics of a locale can achieve universal relevance, redefining traditional notions of community while working to establish financial solvency. This examination focuses on the station’s history relative to technological changes (especially the introduction of online streaming), explaining the capability of highly localized nonprofit radio stations to redefine traditional perceptions of “sense of place” and showing how online streaming can support the evolution of geographic locations into psychographically and emotionally bound communities. Moreover, this study of WWOZ explains the ways local content and technology combine to create a worldwide local community that can maintain, preserve, and promote localized culturally relevant music and cultural ideas.

“Syndicates Attempt to Sway Public Opinion as a ‘Silent Partner’ of the Country Press, 1900 to 1950,” Beth Garfrerick (Podcast)
This article is an examination of the partnership between community weekly newspapers in the United States and national newspaper syndication services during the first half of the twentieth century. The syndication services provided editorial content for the community weekly, such as feature and news articles, commentary, illustrations, and advertisements, from a centralized, non-local source. Community weekly subscribers relied on syndication services for national and world reports. However, the question of whether or not readers enjoyed the national and world reports was not always as much of a concern to the publisher as was filling pages. Without syndicate materials, more staff would have to be hired, more supplies ordered, or new press equipment purchased. Thus, newspaper syndicates became the “silent partner” of the country press, writing and influencing the opinion of thousands of rural newspaper readers who were unaware of the source of much of their news.

“Great Men, Savages, and the End of the Indian Problem,” Melissa Greene-Blye (Teaching Essay)
Issues of American Indian identity and recognition are complex, and, too often, journalists fail to find effective ways of representing Native individuals and issues in the news; however, these issues are not new. This article shows the ways news media have misrepresented Native people through historical example. A comprehensive review of nineteenth-century press coverage of the Miami Nation using the lens of critical media discourse offers insight into problematic coverage of Indian issues and individuals, countering tendencies to treat all Native experience as a common, generic narrative. This tendency overlooks the unique historical experiences of different tribal nations as well as the problematic legacy that previous coverage helped to build. Perhaps most importantly, this article offers suggestions of what journalism historians can do to counter that legacy, which has limited the ability of Native individuals to speak in their own voice and exercise self-determination in the way they are represented in the press as well as in the historical record.

“Alexander Hamilton and the Sedition Act: A Founder’s Ambivalence on Freedom of the Press,” Arthur Scherr
More than two centuries since his death, Alexander Hamilton has become the most popular and misunderstood Founding Father. At least partly because of Ron Chernow’s biography and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster play, scholars burnish his idealized persona, transforming him from an anti-populist conservative into a political democrat demanding unlimited freedom of speech. Despite the availability of accurate historical accounts since the 1950s, a literature review reveals that historians, biographers, and modern-day journalists continue to misread Hamilton’s concept of press freedom. This article depicts Hamilton more accurately, closely examining his opinions on the Sedition Act of 1798 and his general attitude toward dissent. Hamilton favored the Sedition Act, which, although its provisions were more liberal than the common law, nevertheless violated the First Amendment. Moreover, employing the state courts and the common law, Hamilton sought to jail and bankrupt newspaper editors who opposed him. He demanded freedom of the press only when the expositor’s views mimicked his own.