Media Studies Journal

Volume 14, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2000





The Zenger Trial
David Copeland

A professor of mass communication examines a venerable story and finds, in light of scholarship, a challenging conclusion: “The trial of John Peter Zenger had little to do with freedom of the press in colonial America. It had much to do with political control and partisanship in New York.”

David Ruggles
Graham Russell Hodges

“David Ruggles, an African-American printer in New York City during the 1830s, was the prototype for black activist journalists of his time,” writes a historian. “His career epitomized the fusion of professionalism and activism, so characteristic of later black journalists, that would propel him to the center of racial conflict.”

Francisco P. Ramírez
Félix Gutiérrez

“Less than a decade after Los Angeles residents had seen the border between the United States and México redrawn to leave them inside the United States, Californios had become strangers in their own land,” writes a media analyst. “They looked for guidance. Some found it in the words of Francisco P. Ramírez, teen-age editor of the first Spanish-language newspaper of Los Angeles, El Clamor Público (The Public Outcry).”

Image—Bloomers and Ballots
Sarah L. Rasmusson

“Ostracized and ridiculed by mainstream journalism, suffragists created their own press,” a feminist journalist writes. “From Susan B. Anthony’s Revolution to Farmer’s Wife, published by prairie women, these papers sustained a sisterhood.”

Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Pamela Newkirk

“On May 4, 1884, more than 70 years before Rosa Parks fueled the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, 22-year-old Ida B. Wells spurned a segregated train car to sit in the ladies’ coach,” writes a professor. “After writing about her legal battle in a religious newsweekly, Wells would for another four decades use journalism as a weapon against the virulent racial bigotry sweeping the South.”

Image—Frank Hurley in the Antarctic
Robert W. Snyder

“Hurley’s photos from the Shackleton expedition were unsurpassed,” writes the editor of Media Studies Journal. “The moment made the photographer. Stranded on the ice, his ship being crushed before his eyes, Hurley faced doom and turned it into art.”

Robert Capa and the Spanish Civil War
Richard Whelan

“From 1936 to 1954, Robert Capa photographed five wars and set the standard by which photojournalists are judged,” his biographer writes. “Of all the conflicts he covered it was his first, the Spanish Civil War, that established his defining characteristics: passionate commitment, readiness to take sides, a willingness to share the hardships of the people he photographed and an ability to reconcile great ideals with sympathy and respect for individuals.”

The Journalism of the French Resistance
Pierre Albert

“The first publishers of underground sheets were journalists by chance,” writes a French press historian. “Political party militants, labor unionists, academics, members of the professions, students, writers, clergymen, lawyers and army officers switched to journalism—and were surprised to discover how easy it was to express their indignation and enthusiasm in short columns, or to comment upon events that they heard about on the radio or in the regular papers.”

This Female Crusading Scalawag
Bernard L. Stein

An editor goes to Mississippi to research the life and legacy of Hazel Brannon Smith, an editor who supported the civil rights movement: “Her nationwide fame has faded, her name is unfamiliar to a new generation of journalists, but her African-American readers in Holmes County remember her vividly to this day.”

L. Alex Wilson
Hank Klibanoff

An African-American reporter who once ran from white racists and vowed never to run again was assigned to cover the Little Rock, Arkansas, integration crisis. “The day would be as fateful for Wilson,” an author writes, “as it was for the nine Little Rock students and for the nation.”


Letizia Battaglia
Alexander Stille

“Letizia Battaglia began to photograph the Sicilian Mafia in 1974, long before it was popular, chic, convenient or particularly safe to do so,” writes an author and authority on Italian organized crime. “The powerful images she created gave faces and corporeal reality to and helped awaken public awareness of a phenomenon that was tragically ignored for decades to the detriment of Sicily and Italy as a whole.”

Picturing Breast Cancer
Betty Rollin

An author, journalist and breast cancer survivor interviews two women, Matuschka and Ned Asta, who survived breast cancer and showed their scars to the camera.

Great Courage, Small Places
Eric Newton and Mary Ann Hogan

“The social geometry here is fundamental: smaller people, by definition, face bigger obstacles,” argue two writers. “And so, in the end, a fitting epigraph to the great-courage, small-places pantheon might be: the less power you have, the more courage you need.”

Glasnost Betrayed
Emma Gray

In Russia, too many journalists have found ways to make their peace with corruption and intimidation, a journalist and activist writes. “They have been won over by the forces of fear, money and cynicism. The consequences of such behavior are dire for journalism itself and for the future of democracy in Russia.”

Image—A Focus Unshaken
Jonathan Sanders

“How does a reasonable person capture a situation totally out of control?” writes a journalist who has covered the Caucasus wars. “Cynthia Elbaum, a 28-year-old photographer, embraced the journalism of commitment.”

Jeffrey Schmalz
Richard J.Meislin

A Timesman recalls how his colleague’s struggle with AIDS changed The New York Times. “For many of his colleagues it was the first time they had workedside by side with—or even knew personally—someone fighting AIDS, and the scorecard of the battle was frequently evident in his personal appearance, or his presence or absence.”

Native American Newspapers
Mark N. Trahant

“Sometimes you have to publish stories that your bosses would prefer remain hidden away from view,” writes a veteran of Native American newspapers. “You have to regularly ask yourself what becomes the first question of native journalism: do you work for your readers or for those who are elected to govern a tribal nation?”

Breaking Ranks in Northern Ireland
Malachi O’Doherty

“One of the core ideas of working-class politics,” a journalist from Belfast writes, “promoted by both Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries, is the need for community cohesion and solidarity around the cause. The paramilitary organizations on both sides have tried to monopolize the expression of the areas they occupy. Contradict them and you are not just a traitor to a political cause, you are a defector from your own root community.”

Church and State
Leo Bogart

“The head of an individually or family-owned media business may be more willing to take risks than the chief executive of a publicly held company worried about the reaction from Wall Street,” notes a veteran media analyst. “But in today’s corporate economy, editorial independence does not always jibe with the demands of the bottom line.”

Courage Isn’t Enough
John Owen

“I realize that the willingness to go into dangerous places was not enough to guarantee my safety, the safety of anyone who worked with me or our ability to capture an important story and bring it home to our viewers,” writes a former international television producer. “We all desperately needed the kind of training for ‘hostile environments’ that is now readily available in Britain for journalists who are about to be dispatched to their first conflict.”

Freedom Neruda
W. Joseph Campbell

“The case of Freedom Neruda,” a professor and former African correspondent writes, “is in several respects emblematic of the quiet courage of journalists in French-speaking West Africa, a region where a surprisingly resilient—yet little recognized—ethos of independent journalism has emerged and taken hold since the early 1990s.”


Who Has Guts?
James Boylan

A veteran media analyst explores different kinds of journalistic bravery, including “the courage to resist legal and physical threats on one’s native ground, the courage to risk danger to tell disquieting news to the world of the comfortable, the (corporate) courage to offer audiences what they do not necessarily want to hear, and the courage to become a dissident inside an organization.”

For Further Reading

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