Historical Coverage of Contraception in the Media

An historical look at birth control and the media is the theme of  Journalism & Communication Monographs’ last issue of 2016 (Volume 18, Number 4). The issue’s monograph by Ana C. Garner and Angela R. Michel is titled: “The Birth Control Divide”: U.S. Press Coverage of Contraception, 1873-2013, followed by two commentary pieces: Situating Contraception in a Broader Historical Formation (Carole R. McCann) and  140 Years of Birth Control Coverage in the Prestige Press (Dolores Flamiano).

Abstract  (Garner/Michel analysis)

For more than 140 years, religious, medical, legislative, and legal institutions have contested the issue of contraception. In this conversation, predominantly male voices have attached reproductive rights to tangential moral and political matters, revealing an ongoing, systematic attempt to regulate human bodies, especially those of women. This analysis of 1873-2013 press coverage of contraception in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune shows a division between institutional ideology and real-life experience; women’s reproductive rights are negotiable. Although journalists often reported that contraception was a factor in the everyday life of women and men, press accounts also showed religious, medical, legislative, and legal institutions debating whether it should be. Contraception originally was predominately viewed as a practice of prostitutes (despite evidence to the contrary) but became a part of everyday life. The battle has slowly evolved into one about the Affordable Care Act, religious freedom, morality, and employer rights. What did not significantly change over the 140-year period are larger cultural and ideological structures; these continue to be dominated by men, who retain power over women’s bodies.

Election Reading Recommendation

musserWe often forget that previous election campaigns juggled and were shaped by new media forms just like our own, albeit with different “contraptions.” Politicking and Emergent Media, US Presidential Elections of the 1890s, by Yale American Studies/Cinema Studies professor, Charles Musser, is a fascinating read about the election campaigns of the 1890s (and I mean read–in sense that as erudite as it is it’s very readable).  In those days the Democratic party was the less adventursome one in terms of media–it was comfortably ensconced in newspaper formats.  It was the Republicans who experimented more with new media that included the steriopticon (what’s that?) and later motion pictures, telephones, and phonographs.  Writes Lisa Gitelman (New York University), “Charles Musser shows how screens first entered American politics. Whether they are true politics junkies or frothing critics of America’s quadrennial horse race, readers will be tickled by the resemblances between presidential campaigns then and now. This is media history of the finest kind, rendered by one of our most accomplished scholars of early cinema.”

I like Jeffrey Alexander’s observation, writing about the book. “It turns out that technology has been newly emerging over the past three centuries, and the performance of politics has long been deeply transformed as a result.”

If you’re multitasking as you listen to the endless election and post-election punditry, consider opting for this book in your lap rather than just another screen.

Echoes of Cultural Indicators at the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and the Media

screentimeThese days George Gerbner must be smiling down in the direction of  Mount Saint Mary’s University, home of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and the Media which, since 2008, has built up a lot of research on gender prevalence in family entertainment.  To boost their mission of tracking gender and minority inequality on the screen (with financial assistance from Google.org) they are turning to cutting edge software, the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (or GD-IQ), comprised of video- and audio-recognition technology matched with algorithms “to identify gender, speaking time and additional details about characters presented in films, television shows and other media.” Automating this kind of data collection really changes the playing field from back in the day, i.e. the 1970s and 1980s when this sort of pioneering media research relied on video tape and manual coding.

Long before anyone was thinking about casting inequities, before celebrities were making speeches about such at award ceremonies, Gerbner was documenting the disconnect between populations inside and outside of the television set.  He noticed, and then systematically tracked, how the race, age, and gender of characters did not match the reality in the “real” world. To study this dynamic, he built an ongoing landmark research project called Cultural Indicators (1972-1996), amassing a cumulative database describing many thousands of characters and programs by key features, many of them demographic.

Check out a good summary of a 10-year study of TV demographics (based on the analysis of 19,642 speaking parts appearing in 1,371 major network prime time and Saturday morning children’s programs) as revealed by the Cultural Indicators Project in this 1982 piece written for American Demographics, The World According to Television” (Gerbner, Signorelli, October, 1982). 

Over 10 years later Gerbner observed, in a chapter called “Casting and Fate: Women and Minorities on Television Drama, Game Shows, and News” that appeared in Communication, Culture, Community (edited by Ed Hollander, Paul Rutten and Coen van der Linden, 1995):  subpage

“A general demographic overview finds that women comprise one-third or less of characters in all samples except daytime serials where they are 45 percent and in game shows where they are 55 percent. The smallest percentage of women is in the news (28%) and in children’s programs (23%). Even that shrinks to 18 percent as the importance of the role rises to ‘major character’.

While all seniors are greatly underrepresented, visibly old people, roughly 65 and above, are hardest to find on television. Their representation ranges from none on the youth-oriented Fox network and about 1% on network daytime series to less than 3 percent in the other samples. In real life, their proportion is 12% and growing. African-Americans are most visible on Fox and in game shows. On major network prime-time programs they are 11% and on daytime serials 9% of all characters. They are least visible on Saturday morning children’s programs. (Many cartoon characters cannot be reliably coded for race.)

Latino/Hispanic characters are rarely seen. Only in game shows do they rise significantly above 1 percent representation. Americans of Asian/Pacific origin and Native Americans (‘Indians’) are even more conspicuous by their absence. Less then 1 percent (in the case of Native Americans 0.3 percent) is their general representation.

Almost as invisible are members of the ‘lower class’ (judged by a three-way classification of the socio-economic status of major characters). Although the U.S. census classifies more than 14 percent of the general population, 29 percent of Latino/Hispanics, and 33 percent of African Americans as ‘poor,’ and many more as low-income wage-earners, on network television they make up only 1.3 percent of characters in prime time, 1.2 percent in daytime, half that (0.6 percent) in children’s programs, and 0.2 percent in the news.” p.126-127

Fast forward to the Geena Davis Institute and the GD-IQ, and we have, as reported in The New York Times, How Long Is an Actress Onscreen? A New Tool Finds the Answer Faster (Melena Ryzik, Sept. 14, 2016), Dr. Shri Narayanan, an engineering professor at the University of Southern California, studying the 200 top-grossing, non-animated films of 2014 and 2015 to find that “overall, in 2015, male characters were both seen and heard about twice as much as female characters. Parity on paper does not help: In films with male and female leads, the men nonetheless appear and speak more often than the women. Even in films with female leads, the men still get nearly equal screen and speaking time.”  

This new, emboldened-by-technology research is asking the very same questions Gerbner and his team of researchers here at the Annenberg School first posed so many decades ago.  There is even talk, once the software gets more fine-tuned, to look at STEM fields—how characters who play scientists and engineers are cast in screen roles,  how much speaking do they get to do, etc.  Sound familiar?  See Scientists on the TV Screen (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, Signorelli) in Society May/June 1981).

Let’s hope today’s research on screen diversity can be the change-agent in the 21st century that George Gerbner hoped his would be in the previous one.


A Bittersweet Communication Yearbook 40

The recent publication of Communication Yearbook 40, the flagship reference annual for the field since 1977, marks the final volume of this longstanding series. For four decades the cy40International Communication Association-sponsored annual has published state-of-the-discipline literature reviews and essays, as well as original research in  handsome monograph format. It has hosted fourteen different editors over the years and Elisia Cohen, editor since CY37, including the sunset Volume 40, does a nice job in CY40‘s Epilogue tracing the history of the publication via these fourteen “eras” which bear the individual stamps of their editors.  The evolution of the field in many ways mirrors that of CY as different editors over the years implemented changes in the peer review process and sought to internationalize representation of the field–including comparative perspectives and cross-cultural communication topics, as well as  reviews of research in languages other than English.

According to Cohen, the Yearbook will actually be morphing into a journal, mentioned here in the Epilogue’s summation:

“Communication Yearbook published in its book format (although it has also transitioned to full digital e-book available during my editorship) has found itself challenged to be relevant to scholars and authors in the new “digital” era. Put simply, in this era the ICA and its scholars place a premium on the ability of authors to be discoverable, internationally accessible, with its research published in a timely manner. Numerous editors examined these issues in their reports to the ICA Board, and to address this historical but growing challenge, Francois Heinderyckx (University libre de Bruxelles) led the publications committee and the ICA Board to prepare for a transition of the series to a journal.

Given the need for an electronic manuscript submission system to support the next editor, and the demand for Communication Yearbook to have a global access, reach and scope, the ICA Publication Committee’s discussions to transition Communication Yearbook to an online journal format, with an annual print compendium for libraries, will preserve its history while providing an audience for ICA as international in scope as its members. In 2015, David Ewoldsen was selected by the ICA Board to leave the development of Communication Yearbook‘s successor publication. Although when I assumed the editorship I did not do so intending to be the last editor of the Communication Yearbook series, David Ewoldsen’s vision for the re-branded “Annals” of the International Communication Association will include the best of Communication Yearbook‘s tradition while extending its reach and impact in service the ICA membership.” –p. 474 Epilogue, CY40


commyrbk1Communication Yearbook 40 (along with the rest of the set beginning with Volume 1) is available here in the Annenberg Library.  Pulling down old volumes is a good way to reminisce about the field or, for newbies, it’s a good way to bone up on how the field has emerged into its current state. As for the last volume, fifteen review pieces comprise its four thematic sections:                            commyrbk27

Part I: Media Framing, Structure, and Reception

Part II: Personal and Strategic Communication in Social Interactions

Part III: Place, Boundaries, and Exchange in Organizational Communication

Part IV: Emerging Issues in Communication Research


Cheers to Communication Yearbook and to what follows ahead of (not behind or inside of) its deep footprints!





March CommQuote

Ethan Zuckerman’s blog, … My heart’s in Accra, features a fascinating little piece on Ben Franklin.  Zuckerman doesn’t claim to be an historian and gives full credit to Paul Starr’s The Creation of the Media for how profoundly interesting he knows this particular blog entry is!  Get this:

The Post Office Act established the right of the government to control postal routes and gave citizens rights to privacy of their mail – which was deeply undermined by the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, but hey, who’s counting. But what may be most important about the Post Office Act is that it set up a very powerful cross subsidy. Rather than charging based on weight and distance, as they had before Franklin’s reforms, the US postal system offered tiered service based on the purpose of the speech being exchanged. Exchanging private letters was very costly, while sending newspapers was shockingly cheap: it cost a small fraction of the cost of a private letter to send a newspaper. As a result, newspapers represented 95% of the weight of the mails and 15% of the revenue in 1832. This pricing disparity led to the wonderful phenomenon of cheapskates purchasing newspapers, underlining or pricking holes with a pin under selected words and sending encoded letters home. BenFranklinStamp

The low cost of mailing newspapers as well as the absence of stamp taxes or caution money, which made it incredibly prohibitively expensive to operate a press in England, allowed half of all American households to have a newspaper subscription in 1820, a rate that was orders of magnitude higher than in England or France. But the really crazy subsidy was the “exchange copy”. Newspapers could send copies to each other for free, with carriage costs paid by the post office. By 1840, The average newspaper received 4300 exchange copies a year – they were swimming in content, and thanks to extremely loose enforcement of copyright laws, a huge percentage of what appeared in the average newspaper was cut and pasted from other newspapers. This giant exchange of content was subsidized by high rates on those who used the posts for personal and commercial purposes.

This system worked really well, creating a postal service that was fiscally sustainable, and which aspired to universal service. By 1831, three quarters of US government civilian jobs were with the postal service. In an almost literal sense, the early US state was a postal service with a small representative government attached to it. But the postal system was huge because it needed to be – there were 8700 post offices by 1830, including over 400 in Massachusetts alone, which is saying something, as there are only 351 towns in Massachusetts. 

–Ethan Zuckerman (February 2016)








Seriously, this is the coolest website I’ve seen in a long time. Check out Griffonage-Dot-Com, which is the fabulous creation of Patrick Feaster (ethnomusicologist, media historian, and three-time Grammy nominee for voice and sound resurrection). In the driest terms the site is devoted to historical media. And if you just say Feaster explores historical media you’re still not doing justice to the site. Rather, he brings forth or, to use his term, “educes” media–makes it accessible to the senses, transformatively I’d say.

For starters, what’s griffonage?   Explains Feaster, “It’s generally defined as careless or illegible handwriting, and that’s one of the meanings I mean to invoke here.  The materials I’ll be examining are typically challenging to decipher, so “illegible handwriting” is either a good metaphor for them or, in some cases, literally true of them… I wanted to find some new domain name that would reflect my interest in deciphering, educing, and interpreting old media of various kinds.  Alas, every promising combination of “media” with other words seemed to be taken at the dot-com level, no matter how obscure.  So I turned to the auspicously-named thesaurus.com for ideas, seeking synonyms for “media,” “writing,” and so forth, which is where I ran across the word griffonage.  I’d never encountered it before, but its rich mix of denotative and connotative meanings seemed perfect for what I wanted to do—whether digging up nuggets of gold out of the dross or deciphering semi-legible traces scratched with a stylus.”

As for categories on the site, topics range from speech synthesis to tintypes, from face averaging tor image polar-to-rectangularmorphing, and from animation to waveforms. Last November he posted a fascinating piece on how to make sound out of a picture of a sound wave. Say what? It’s all rather technical…and arty, and  philosophical…and technical back again.

If you want more Patrick Feaster, his previous home on the internet was Phonozoic, dedicated to the history of the phonograph and related material.  But these days he’s broadened his interest to visual media as well. 

Special Issues of Quarterly Journal of Speech and Communication Monographs

RQ2Two NCA journals have noteworthy current issues. The Quarterly Journal of Speech (Volume 101, Issue 1, 2015) celebrates its centennial with two unique approaches for the issue. First, former journal editors and book review editors were asked to contribute essays reflecting on “where our scholarship has been, where it is, where it is headed, and where it should or might go in the future.” Then two other scholars in the field were invited to respond to their essays. Essay topics include how sensation and language interact, democratic dissent, televised presidential debates (our own Kathleen Hall Jamieson sets the table), the research trajectory of rhetorical studies, four abandoned paths of rhetoric scholarship that should be resurrected, rhetorical history as deployed by Barack Obama, and the origins of Communication Studies as reflected in the first five years of QJS. Follows is the book review section as per usual for any issue except in this one “each of the contributors…was asked to select a book of his or her choosing and examine how it illustrates a form of scholarship that should, or likely will, appear in future book review sections of this journal. Contributors were encouraged to consider any work (including extra-disciplinary or even historical publications) that somehow exemplifies new possibilities for emergent research in our field.” You may want to check out  (literally, as in pull from the stacks!) some of the titles selected, new and old. Only A Defence of History… and Talk Like TED… are not available from Penn Libraries:

Einbahnstrasse/Walter Benjamin
History and Class Consciousness/Georg Lukacs
A Defence of History and Class Consciousness: Tailism and the Dialectic/Georg Lukacs
The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège De France 1981–1982/Michel Foucault
The Ruptures of American Capital: Women of Color Feminism and the Culture of Immigrant Labor/Grace Kyungwon Hong
Ambient Commons: Attention in the Age of Embodied Information/Malcolm McCullough
Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being/Thomas Rickert
Lexicon of the Mouth: Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary/Brandon LaBelle
Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings/Juan Maria Rodriguez
Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents/Lisa Gitelman
Diana and Beyond: White Femininity, National Identity, and Contemporary Media Culture/Raka Shome
The Fourteenth Amendment and the Privileges and Immunities of American Citizenship/Kurt T. Lash
Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds/Carmine Gallo
Preludes to Pragmatism: Toward a Reconstruction of Philosophy/Philip Kitcher
Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things/Jane Bennett
American Lobotomy: A Rhetorical History/Jenell Johnson
Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity/Nelson Maldonado-Torres

cmThen there is the special issue of Communication Monographs (Volume 82, Issue 1, March 2015) titled: Biological and Physiological Approaches to Communication, guest edited by Tamara D, Afifi. The issue features “a wide array of research areas (media, interpersonal relationships, language and social interaction) across the field of communication, including a piece by Annenberg’s Emily Falk (along with Matthew Brook O’Donnell and Matthew D. Lieberman), Social in, Social Out: How the Brain Responds to Social Language With More Social Language.

Incidentally Communication Monographs it is the third major communication journal this year to devote a special issue to the influence of physiological processes on the field with Communication Methods & Measures‘ first issue of 2015 titled: Biology and Brains—Methodological Innovations in Communication Science (edited by Rene Weber) and  Journal of Media Psychology‘s call for papers last year for an issue titled: Brain, Mind and Media: Neuroscience Meets Media Psychology (also being edited by Dr.Weber). Keep an eye out for this one soon.

A Century of Communication Studies

9780415820363 In 1914, seventeen speech teachers in Chicago founded a professional group called the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking. That organization, with some name changes along the way, grew into the one we know today, the National Communication Association (NCA), made up of thousands of scholars, teachers, and practitioners of the communication arts and sciences.  A Century of Communication Studies: The Unfinished Conversation commemorates the organization’s 100-year milestone. Published in partnership (Routledge/Taylor and Francis and the NCA), and edited by Pat J. Gehrke and William M. Keith, this volume chronicles the evolution of the field in 13 chapters, and includes some glances into the future as well.


Introduction. A Brief History Discovering Communication: Five Turns toward Discipline and Association Michael Sproule

Paying Lip Service to “Speech” in Disciplinary Naming, 1914-1954 Gerry Philipsen

The Silencing of Speech in the Late 20th Century Joshua Gunn & Frank E.X. Dance

Epistemological Movements in the Field of Communication: An Analysis of Empirical and Rhetorical/Critical Scholarship James A. Anderson & Michael K. Middleton

The Scholarly Communication of Communication Scholars: Centennial Trends in a Surging Conversation Timothy D. Stephen

Sexing Communication: Hearing, Feeling, Remembering Sex/Gender and Sexuality  in NCA Charles E. Morris III & Catherine Helen Palczewski

Liberalism and its Discontents: Black Rhetoric and the Cultural Transformation of Rhetorical Studies in the 20th Century. Reynoldo Anderson, Marnel Niles Goins, & Sheena Howard

Communicative Meeting: From Pangloss to Tenacious Hope Ronald C. Arnett

A Critical History of the “Live” Body in Performance within the National Communication Association Tracy Stephenson Shaffer, John M. Allison Jr., & Ronald J. Pelias

Listening Research in the Communication Discipline David Beard & Graham Bodie

Conceptualizing Meaning in Communication Studies Brian L. Ott & Mary Domenico


Look for the book to be available in Annenberg Library Reference in a couple days!

New Propaganda and Activism Collections from Archives Unbound

Students and researchers working in the areas of media activism and propaganda studies may want to check out these recent additions to the Penn Libraries website. They all conveniently live on the Archives Unbound platform, a growing digital repository of topically-focused primary source material gathered to support the research needs of scholars and students.

New activism archives:

Politics, Social Activism and Community Support: Selected Gay and Lesbian Periodicals and Newsletters archives unbound
This collection of periodicals focuses on newsletters issued by gay and lesbian political and social activist organizations throughout the country and on periodicals devoted to gay and lesbian political and social activist agendas.

Black Liberation Army and the Program of Armed Struggle
Sourced from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Library, this collection consists of a wide range of materials, including FBI surveillance and informant reports and correspondence from a variety of offices including, New York City, Baltimore, New Haven, San Francisco, Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Newark, Kansas City, and Cleveland; intercepted correspondence; Justice Department memoranda, correspondence and analyses; news clippings and articles; and more.

Ralph J. Bunche Oral Histories Collection on the Civil Rights Movement
This collection from the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center contains transcriptions of close to 700 interviews with those who made history in the struggles for voting rights, against discrimination in housing, for the desegregation of the schools, to expose racism in hiring, in defiance of police brutality, and to address poverty in the African American communities

Rastafari Ephemeral Publications From The Written Rastafari Archives Project
The Written Rastafari Archives Project (WRAP) involves an exclusive collection of the most well-known Rastafari ephemerals – newsletters, magazines, newspapers, booklets, statements, letters, articles and assorted literature—written and published by a number of Rastafari Mansions, organizations, groups and individuals over the past four decades.

 New Propaganda archives:

Psychological Warfare and Propaganda in World War II: Air Dropped and Shelled Leaflets and Periodicals
Rare leaflets, pamphlets and periodicals created and disseminated by the Allied Forces during World War II.

German Anti-Semitic Propaganda, 1909-1941
This collection comprises approximately 200 books and pamphlets; many directly connected with Nazi groups from the 1920s and 1930s.

While I was preparing this post on new acquisitions I noticed some other files in this resources that would also contribute to good communication history projects:

“Through the Camera Lens:” The Moving Picture World and the Silent Cinema Era, 1907-1927

Electing the President: Proceedings of the Democratic National Conventions, 1832-1988

Electing the President: Proceedings of the Republican National Conventions, 1856-1988

Hollywood, Moral Censorship, and the Motion Picture Production Code, 1927-1968

Japanese-American Relocation Camp Newspapers: Perspectives on Day-to-Day Life

The Archives Unbound search engine allows one to query across collections which, of course, becomes of greater value as we subscribe to more files.

Media History Digital Library Launches Lantern

Thanks to the folks at the Media History Digital Library (MHDL), media historians have fulltext online access to classic media periodicals and books in the public domain. Lantern is their newly launched search platform for this impressive collection containing digital scans of over 800,000 pages (and growing), from 1904 to 1963. The project is made possible by owners of the materials who loan them for scanning and donations to support the cost of scanning.

Materials in the MDHL, available for free viewing and free download, include:

▽  Business Screen (1938-1973)
▽  The Film Daily (1918-1948)
▽  International Photographer (1929-1941)
▽  Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (1916-1949)
▽  Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (1950-1954)
▽  The Educational Screen (1922-1962)
▽  Motion Picture [Magazine] (1914-1941)
▽  Moving Picture World (1907-1919)
▽  Photoplay (1914-1940)
▽  Radio Age: Research, Manufacturing, Communications, Broadcasting, Television (1942-1957)
▽  Radio Broadcast (1922-1930)
▽  Sponsor (1946-1964)
▽  Talking Machine World (1906-1928)
▽  Variety (1905-1926)

You can keep up with DHDL by signing up to receive Blog posts alerts from the site.