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Scholarly Symposium

Posted by xtina02234 on September 12, 2008

On Wednesday, September 10, I attended the Scholarly Symposium to get a taste of all the Centennial Events that I would be attending back to back the next day. At three, I was able to catch a discussion about the beginnings of Journalism and its role a hundred years about, when the school first came into existence. 

The first speaker, Berkley Hudson, discussed the topic of immigration journalism. He stated that in 1908, we were having the same debates and raising the same questions about who can be an American. Immigration journalism helped to secure America’s national identity as a cultural melting pot and a land of opportunity of all. The “authentic American” is a cultural mix and the state of journalism at the time reflected that. In 1920, every state had publications in at least 33 different languages. It affected the globalization of journalism because immigrant citizens of the United States were interested in what was going on in the country they left. They enjoyed, and to some extent needed to know what was going on in their homelands and this helped give rise to the international scale of journalism, a topic the next speaker, Hans Ibold elaborated on.

1908 was a pivotal year for global journalism. In order to learn more about the writings and stories of the time, he set out to study Walter Williams and his work. It emphasized the importance of globalization and the challenges it presented to future journalism. Journalism was to become “a journal of men” written for an audience, not confined by physical boundaries, but applicable to all people.

There is no denying the importance of stories that inform people about what is going on in the world in which they live. At the same time, Maurine Beasley brought up and interesting point about the entertainment value of news. She talked about the front page of the first issue of the Missourian- a story detailing the legal battles surrounding a rich widower who was proposed to by two women, both convinced they were to be his wife. She concluded by staying that we can talk all we want about ethics, morals, and standards, but as perfect as a story may be by that criteria, its no good if nobody cares to read it.

Janice Hume was next to speak in the line of expert panelists and her topic was the role of muckraking and magazine journalism.  Muckraking did not slowly creep into the vocabulary of journalists and the American public; it was a phenomenon that exploded into the industry with over two thousand articles in just a few years. It was met with waves of criticism for its overwhelming negativity, but the writers turning out this type of journalism took that to be the highest compliment. As “negative” as it was, muckraking was instrumental in casing social, industrial, and political change across the nation. It was able to have such an impact because of the wide readership made possible by the marriage of advertising and magazines. Though at some times, ads accounted for over half the magazine, the low price and important topics proved to be a winning combination for people everywhere.

Another aspect of emergent American culture, as discussed by Tracy Everbach, of the time was sports. One hundred years ago, our success in the Olympics secured the idea of American dominance on the playing field as well as the political stage. In that same year, the term “America’s Pastime” was coined and sports gained popularity both for athletes themselves and spectators. Naturally, journalists took the opportunity to pioneer a new aspect of the industry and solidify sports and a part of the American identity.

The last aspect touched upon, by Earnest Perry was African Americans in journalism. When the school began one hundred years ago, African Americans had no role and no opportunities to change that. It was not until, over thirty years later that the issue became more central and change was slowly starting to occur within the industry and throughout the country in general. Earnest had insisted upon going last, and once he was through discussing the issues and hardships of the time, it was clear to me that it was the perfect way to end the Roundtable.

Though it is always beneficial and interesting to look back at the origins of our craft, it is also important to remember that we must always be progressing and moving forward in a positive way that benefits all people.

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