March 2021


Volume 47, No. 1, March 2021

The March issue contains articles by Elisabeth Fondren, Dale Cressman, Camille Reyes, George Daniels & Gabriel Tait, and Thomas Terry, Donald Shaw, & Erin Coyle. Interested in reading these articles? Get information on subscribing here.

Article Abstracts

“‘The Mirror with a Memory’: The Great War through the Lens of Percy Brown, British Correspondent and Photojournalist (1914-1920),” Elisabeth Fondren (podcast)
This article examines the “path of crazy paving” of Percy A. Brown, a British working-class carpenter, figure skater, photo correspondent, and magazine journalist, who covered the twentieth century’s first mass media war. Brown—who is not yet a household name in terms of British war correspondents—would go on to become an international reporter, successful author, and Fleet Street personality. His personal history and biography exemplify at once the demands of war correspondents and photographers, and the professional and personal challenges that mediated these experiences. Brown’s story shows how the First World War (1914–1918) affected people’s lives, not just on the battlefields and trenches, but also those covering the conflict. By backtracking this journalist’s nontraditional career, this article focuses on Brown’s coverage of the Western Front, his time in the Ruhleben prison camp, and his work at the Paris Peace Conference. The historical analysis rests on primary sources and Percy Brown’s collection of pictures, news clippings, correspondence, and notes located at the Hoover Institution and Archives at Stanford University. Brown’s journalism and his personal writings all communicate the immediacy with which he wrote, reported, and lived.

“Agnew, ABC, and Richard Nixon’s War on Television,” Dale Cressman (podcast)
Less than a year into the presidency of Richard Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew launched a series of attacks on television journalists, accusing them of being biased and having too much power to determine what news millions of Americans watched on their televisions. Because the government licensed and regulated their stations, the networks considered Agnew’s statements, and other White House criticisms, to be threats. As the smallest, most vulnerable network, ABC found itself at a confluence of relationships with the administration: It employed both Nixon’s favorite and least favorite anchors, as well as a highly placed executive who lent sympathy and assistance to the White House. In addition, one of ABC’s senior correspondents went to work for the president. Finally, the network aired a popular television program with the assistance of the FBI. This article focuses on ABC during the Nixon administration’s war on television news.

“Neither Public, nor Private: Inventing PBS Television, 1965-1967,” Camille Reyes (podcast)
The Carnegie Commission on Educational Television published a 1967 report with recommendations that became the foundation for American Public Television policy. Commission researchers visited ninety-two existing educational television stations and seven systems of public television abroad to inform the document. The Commissioners attempted to create an entertaining and educational alternative to commercial broadcasting in the United States in a moment of legislative opportunity during President Johnson’s Great Society program. This essay explores the process of creating that system, simultaneously reliant on and distant from comparative media research. This tension may stem from a kind of American exceptionalism that has arguably haunted public television since its inception. Through textual analyses of archival material, as well as the Carnegie Commission report on educational television, the article traces lost lessons from public television systems abroad, as well as ambivalent rhetoric concerning diversity.

“The Power of Parting Words: Collective Memory in Local Television News Exit Interviews,” George Daniels and Gabriel Tait (research essay)
Media historians study the “dynamic dimension of historical memory.” Describing where one has been and influencing where one is going, historical memory serves as a snapshot to capture a moment or set of moments that can be frozen in time. This article provides an understanding of the historical and collective memory of eighteen employees who left their television news jobs after decades at a single local station. Eight of the broadcast journalists were given buyouts as part of downsizing at WXIA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Atlanta, Georgia that is part of TEGNA. But, departing employees at two other stations in Atlanta and seven other markets also left messages worthy of closer analysis of their most poignant memories. The findings reveal how collective memory is processual, unpredictable, partial, usable, both particular and universal, and material. These six categories reveal the “Power of Parting Words” in “exit interviews” and the significance historical memory has in an institutional context of journalism. Since leaving their jobs in 2016, two of the employees in this research have passed away. Their archived interviews are central elements of “memorializing discourse” scholarship and convey a component of collective memory that invokes shared norms and values.

“An Embattled Terrain: Women, African-Americans, Native Americans, and Immigrants at the Margins in U.S. Newspaper Stories, 1820-1860,” Thomas Terry, Donald Shaw, and Erin Coyle (teaching essay)
This article examines the presence of women, African Americans, immigrants, and Native Americans in a content analysis of newspapers for the 1820–1860 years from the Southern, Northern, Middle, and Western states, divided regionally and along the political and regional fault lines of the impending Civil War. There were 3,275 newspaper stories sampled and of those, 571 mentioned women, African Americans, Native Americans, or immigrants, accounting for 17% of all stories. This article concludes that far from being invisible or peripheral to events, ordinary Americans as newspaper readers were clearly aware of the activities and increasing importance of the groups studied.