Summer 2018


Volume 44, No. 2, Summer 2018

The summer issue contains articles by William Anderson, Melita Garza, James Kates, Jerry Prout, Jill Crane and Marcella Lesher, and Teri Finneman, as well as a welcome from new editor Greg Borchard, six book reviews, and an artifact discussion about a UPI photo. Interested in reading these articles? Get information on subscribing here.

Article Abstracts

“The Next Great Plague to Go: How the U.S. Surgeon General Used Public Relations to Fight Venereal Disease during the Great Depression,” William Anderson
During the Great Depression, U.S. Surgeon General Thomas Parran Jr. initiated a public health education campaign that told Americans venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea needed to be “The next great plague to go.” The next phase of the campaign included his request to the U.S. Congress for public funds for training medical personnel and additional facilities to service those who had contracted VD. This article discusses how Parran used public relations techniques to generate awareness of the dangers of VD, ameliorate the social stigma associated with those diseases, and receive more funding for VD control. This case study of how Parran used media relations, controlled media output, and legislative lobbying provides a means to understand how public relations was used to achieve organizational goals in the 1930s, specifically by a government agency and its leader.

“The Mediated Jorge Washington: Father of Our Countries,” Melita Garza (Research Essay)
In the early years of the Great Depression, as Laredo’s annual Washington Birthday Celebration entered its third decade, the bilingual Laredo Times crusaded for the cash-strapped city it served to keep staging yearly commemorations of the first U.S. president. This article analyzes 339 articles, photos, columns, cartoons, and advertisements that appeared in the Times between 1929 and 1934 to show how the newspaper created a cross-border public memory of George Washington for its increasingly desperate imagined community of transnational readers. Moreover, this article demonstrates the role of the Times in transforming the Washington celebration from its origins as an 1898 Americanization tactic of Anglo city fathers into a twentieth century regional, cultural, and economic vehicle that conceptualized “American” liberty as English and Spanish and Mexican and American.

“Editor, Publisher, Citizen, Socialist: Victor L. Berger and His Milwaukee Leader,” James Kates
From 1911 to 1929, Victor Berger edited the Milwaukee Leader, a Socialist Party daily newspaper. Berger advocated a peaceful transition to socialism via the ballot box. When the Leader opposed World War I, it lost its mailing privileges and Berger faced prison. This article examines the daily operations of the Leader and Berger’s belief that a free press was crucial in fostering socialism. It argues that Berger’s temperament and his business methods were unsuited to the capital-intensive world of daily newspapering in the 1920s.

“The Six and the Sixties: Newsweek Addresses the ‘Crisis of the American Spirit,’” Jerry Prout
For the July 6, 1970, cover story, Newsweek magazine asked six prominent historians to each write a 2,500-word essay on the “Crisis of the American Spirit.”  This editorial decision responded not only to the anxieties produced by a continuing wave of violence sweeping the nation, but also a fraught journalistic context. As the social and political upheaval that marked the end of the Sixties decade bled into the first months of the Seventies, both journalists and historians found their fields undergoing remarkably similar transitions. A new bottom-up social history mirrored many of the same characteristics of a so-called “new journalism.” By allowing the divergent views of six historians who spanned both generational and political differences to occupy sixteen pages of its magazine, Newsweek pushed back on the Nixon administration’s charges of liberal bias and nearby rival Time’s propensity to embrace a more traditional concept of the “American Spirit.”

“Beyond the Campus: National and International News Coverage in College Newspapers, 1920-1940,” Jill J. Crane and Marcella Lesher (Teaching Essay)
College newspapers in the United States primarily focus on the internal life of the campus community. However, campuses are also part of the larger community and coverage of off-campus news is often integral to that community. This research seeks to document and describe the coverage of national and international news events during the interwar period of 1920 to 1940 by analyzing the contents of six geographically dispersed college newspapers. Although the level of coverage of national and international events did not overshadow the typical college coverage of sports and social activities, off-campus coverage was reflective of the interwar period and of what was published in community and city newspapers. Rising conflict in Europe and in the Far East did not go unnoticed, nor did economic depression and New Deal programs that could help students remain in school.

“‘The Greatest of Its Kind Ever Witnessed in America’: The Press and the 1913 Women’s March on Washington,” Teri Finneman (Author Q&A)
More than one million women participated in women’s marches in early 2017 to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump and to promote women’s rights and civil rights. One hundred years earlier, women across the country also mobilized to protest gender inequality in the United States and an unsympathetic incoming president. This research examines press coverage previewing the 1913 women’s parade on Washington to foster a better understanding of how the press covers women’s activism and social movements in general. Using social movement theory to examine the framing strategies used by the press, this study found an emphasis on motivational and counterframing focused on episodic rather than thematic coverage. This research also builds on literature of women in political roles facing pushback from other women, thereby undermining the advancement of women for all of them.