Winter 2022

Volume 48, No. 4, Winter 2022

The Winter issue contains articles by Paul Myers & Lisa Mullikin Parcell, Suzannah Evans Comfort & Lauren Ulrich, Lorraine Ahearn & Barbara Friedman, and Joseph Jones & Earnest Perry. Interested in reading these articles? Get information on subscribing here.

Article Abstracts

“Beauty and the Bran: Kellogg’s Campaign to ‘Correct Faulty Elimination’ and Conquer the Cereal Industry,” Paul Myers & Lisa Mullikin Parcell
Brothers John Harvey Kellogg and William Keith Kellogg understood the importance of public health concerns, particularly those relating to constipation, and of home economics and dietetics research. The Kellogg’s Corn Flake Company’s investment into home economics became integral to the brand itself and helped establish Kellogg’s as a leader in addressing the growing dietary health concerns of the early twentieth century and in the breakfast food industry. The Kellogg’s Corn Flake Company used “reason why” advertising appeals for its bran cereals to teach consumers about the connections between eating bran and health. While the campaigns changed over time, the main focus of eating bran to prevent constipation remained consistent. The company’s success today can clearly be traced back to its original efforts to address health concerns through advertisements that taught women how to use bran cereal as both a curative and preventative food for constipation and related symptoms. Perhaps more significantly, the Kellogg’s Company’s Home Economics Department influenced early dietary standards established by the government for both the American public and military.

“From Distant to Devastating: The Newsworthiness of Environmental Controversies at the New York Times, 1950s-1970s,” Suzannah Evans Comfort & Lauren Ulrich
While environmental degradation has long been a fact of American life, the environment did not become an integral part of American newsmaking until the late 1960s. Then, news organizations began assigning reporters to the environmental beat in the wake of increased public interest in environmental issues. This study examines the emergence of environmental journalism at the New York Times through analysis of the newspaper’s organizational archives, to reveal internal discussions about the newsworthiness of the environment, and a comparative analysis of coverage of two similar environmental controversies: first, a 1950s struggle over dam construction in a protected area, and second, a 1960s–70s effort to build a Disney ski resort in a national forest. It demonstrates how the newsworthiness of the environment changed as later stories were reported with more prominence, reporting depth, and narrative emphasis on ecology compared to recreation. Important figures within the Times who advocated for coverage of environmental issues, including publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger and editorial page editor John B. Oakes, were less influential in promoting environmental news than the broader societal changes that gave rise to the American environmental movement in the 1960s.

“A Commemorative Bind: How the Birmingham News Redressed Past Journalistic Failure through Contemporary Civil Rights Memory,” Lorraine Ahearn & Barbara Friedman
Ideological clashes over race in American memory reveal an existential divide in journalism, between an ethos of activism and the normative rituals of objectivity. This study examines a crisis of memory that occurred upon a newspaper’s centennial in the 1980s alongside mainstream commemorations of the US civil rights movement amid an age of apology and backlash. The Birmingham News, a White newspaper that in the 1960s used proximity to a national story to conceal rather than bear witness, a generation later sought to reposition itself in a radically changed environment. This study, building on the scholarship of journalism as a site of collective memory, analyzes how a news organization arbitrated a reckoning with the past and its own professional failure. We analyze the strategies by which the News sought forgiveness and redress, and thereby sought to reclaim authority. The case illustrates how notions of journalistic legitimacy collide with the project of truth and reconciliation, and how journalists find a way forward by refashioning collective memory to navigate the present.

“Smoke and Mirrors: The Chicago Defender, Tobacco Sponsorship, and the Health of the African American Public Sphere,” Joseph P. Jones & Earnest Perry
This article examines the relationship between the Chicago Defender and its largest national sponsor, the tobacco industry, from 1947–1975. As a member of the Black press during an age of increasing civil rights activism and intensified media competition, the Defender had difficulty attracting national commercial sponsorship. Tobacco companies were the lone exception and patronage meant more than advertising space. Analyzing editorials, articles, feature columns, advertising, letters to the editor, and internal tobacco industry documents, the authors found a purposeful commercial sponsor given a disproportionate voice. The Defender provided tobacco companies access to a constituting force of the African American1 social imaginary and an outlet to embed themselves in the African American community and Black identity. Tobacco executives intentionally targeted Black media outlets, and sponsorship extended far beyond the Defender. Placed in historical context and considering an advocacy press’s primary role of serving a community, the authors question the independence allotted by such funding. By studying the best traditions of the Black press—and how it was influenced by its most important commercial sponsor—this study reaffirms journalism’s foundational purpose as a principled and inclusive tool of democratic worldmaking.