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Scripps scholars make strong showing at AJHA conference

Graduate students and faculty in the Scripps School made up a significant portion of the presentations at this year’s American Journalism Historians Association (AJHA) conference in Oklahoma City. Three scholars -- Professor Ellen Gerl and Ph.D. students David Forster and Nick Hirshon -- crafted award-winning papers, while Pamela Walck and Samantha Peko joined them to speak about their research on October 8 - 10 at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel.

The association also awarded Scripps graduate director Mike Sweeney the Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism History at the conference. You can find his speech here:

Sweeney says the success of this year’s winners from Scripps is something to be proud of. “I can’t remember a year where we’ve had five students papers get accepted to the conference.” Three of the submissions -- from Forster, Hirshon, and Peko -- all came from Sweeney’s graduate seminar course on Historical Journalism last spring.

Hirshon won the Robert Lance Memorial Award for Top Grad Student paper for his submission entitled:“One More Miracle: The Groundbreaking Media Campaign of John ’Mets’ Lindsay”. The paper explains how the former Republican New York City mayor posed for photographs with the 1969 Miracle Mets baseball team and how his campaign used the photos in order to help Lindsay win re-election.

Hirshon, who formerly wrote for the New York Daily News and other publications in the Tri-State area, says the move changed how politicians used the media to their advantage. “He was the first media mayor,” Hirshon said.

Before the Mets’ victory, Lindsay was not popular. He lost the GOP primary for mayor in New York City, and had to run as a third party.“The feeling was sour toward Lindsey...the city had crime and striking workers. When the Mets won [and he was in the picture with the team], he became a part of their positive uplifting spirit...he capitalized on the moment,” Hirshon said. Lindsay went on to win re-election and eventually ran a failed Presidential campaign as a Democrat in 1972. Hirshon teaches courses in magazine writing at the Scripps School.

Forster was the runner-up for the Lance Memorial award. His paper focused on the relationship between newspaper baron Horace Greeley and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and how Greeley bailed Davis out of prison after he was tried for treason following the Civil War. Forster says the relationship between Greeley and Davis was an incredibly interesting story to investigate. “Before the Civil War, when there was already talk of secession, Horace Greeley said [the U.S.] Declaration of Independence says if you are unhappy with your government you can form your own...but that [the South] should do so by popular vote,” Forster explained.

After Greeley disagreed with the way the South seceded from the Union, he began to back Lincoln’s efforts throughout the war. When the Confederacy surrendered, Davis was taken in by Union forces for treason, but was not tried. Forster says Greeley believed that was wrong. “He began to write editorials in the New York Tribune calling for him to either be tried or released...he believed Davis was being held without charges.” Greeley owned the Tribune as well as several other prominent papers at the time. Even though Greeley was against slavery, he decided to bail Davis out of jail, which Forster says was the only time the two men ever met. They shook hands and Davis and Greeley whispered a few words to each other, and they never saw each other again.

Forster’s paper finds that Greeley’s papers suffered due to his decision to bail Davis, who was never put on trial for serving as the Confederate President. Forster calls Greeley, a Quaker, “the consummate moralist.” In addition to his research on Greeley, Forster teaches courses in multiplatform journalism in the Scripps School.

Professor Gerl received runner-up honors for the Maurine Beasley Award for an Outstanding Paper on Women’s History. Her submission analyzed how pediatrician Virginia Apgar raised awareness about birth defects in the 1950s by becoming the public face of the work of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which later became the March of Dimes. Apgar was also known for her work in determining the health of newborns. Gerl serves as the associate director of the Scripps School and teaches courses in magazine writing.

Walck, who graduated earlier this year with her Ph.D., presented “Casting Blame: The Black Press Becomes a Target Following Riots in Detroit and Harlem.” The paper focuses on race riots in 1943, right in the middle of World War Two. Walck studied how the black press as well as mainstream newspapers in the United States and in Great Britain framed the events. She is now on the faculty at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where she is teaching courses in multiplatform journalism and media ethics.

Peko’s paper looked at stuntwoman journalist Elizabeth Bisland and her contributions to the North American Review in the 1890s. Her work in the Review come after she worked for William Randolph Hearst, who hired Bisland to compete against Nellie Bly in a race around the world. Bly was supported by Hearst’s major rival, Joseph Pulitzer.

Peko, who wants to earn a Ph.D. in journalism history, said she was interested in filling the gap in research on Bisland’s career. “The whole point of researching this project is to see what they did after their stunt women years. After [Bisland] raced around the world, what did she do?” Peko also appreciated the ability to network with fellow scholars at the conference.

In addition to the presenters, Ph.D. student Ken Ward participated in a panel of graduate students who gave advice to veteran and new journalism historians during the first day of the conference. Wards dissertation will look at the rise and fall of the Rocky Mountain News of Denver, Colo. He is also teaching the editing course this semester in the Scripps School.

In the next few weeks, we’ll post a Scripps Talk podcast featuring Forster, Gerl, and Hirshon. We’ll also speak with Professor Sweeney about winning the Kobre Award.

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Posted by Bob Stewart on 10.22.2015 @ 00:00:00