KU News Service

New book details social justice, activism in American journalism history

Mon, 04/24/2023

LAWRENCE — A new book from a University of Kansas professor shares unique stories of social justice, activism and diversity in American journalism history and incorporates multimedia to bring history to life for younger generations.

“Social Justice, Activism and Diversity in U.S. Media History,” edited by Teri Finneman, associate professor of journalism at KU, and Erika Pribanic-Smith, associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Arlington, assembles a diverse group of prominent journalism historians to examine topics that have often been overlooked or dismissed in history.

“All too often, journalism and history tell the same dominant stories over and over again, usually of ‘great man history,’” Finneman wrote in the introduction. “While we cannot share every story, this book introduces readers to a broader scope of journalism history – to rip out the pages of your history books to reexamine the stories you thought you knew and the ones you were never told.”

Finneman, who is also chair of the Journalism History journal and producer of the associated podcast Journalism History, and Pribanic-Smith assembled the book ahead of the journal’s 50th anniversary next year.

The book includes 22 chapters in six focused parts: Generations, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, disability/mental health, religion and class. The book is also focused on being engaging to Generation Z, today’s journalism students and the next generation of media. Each chapter includes links to podcasts, YouTube videos and suggestions for further reading on the topics covered.

“I’m always looking to get people interested in journalism history, especially Generation Z. We thought it would be a good idea to put a book together focusing on the diversity of journalism history,” Finneman said. “There’s no reason history can’t also be interesting. And you can’t understand the present unless you also understand the past.”

While the book will appeal to young people, Finneman said it also will be of interest to anyone who enjoys reading about American history and the media. And though not a typical textbook, “Social Justice, Activism and Diversity in U.S. Media History” can also be of value in the classroom for use in journalism, public relations, advertising, general history courses and more.

Chapters include stories of a civil rights comic book, the 1913 women’s march on Washington, news coverage of the disability rights movement and public relations in the gay rights movement before 1969.

“Social Justice, Activism and Diversity in U.S. Media History,” edited by Teri FinnemanThe book features chapters from a diverse team of scholars and historians from across the country, including Melissa Greene-Blye, assistant professor of journalism at KU, who contributed the chapter “Red Power in Print and Action.” An enrolled citizen of the Miami tribe of Oklahoma, Greene-Blye examines the social justice movement that used civil disobedience to demand change in federal Indian policy and to advocate for the sovereign rights of Native Americans to control their own land and resources.

Recent KU alumni Cami Koons and Bella Koscal served as contributing editors and are credited on the book’s cover. Koons read all the book’s chapters to help ensure they are understandable and relatable to Generation Z, while Koscal managed the book’s multimedia.

“The fact that so much effort, hardship and discrimination in American media history is obscured, repressed or forgotten is tragic and embarrassing. I’d be surprised if any Gen Z-er who reads this book doesn’t find a new historical figure to respect or identify with. I certainly did,” said Sam Kricsfeld, Kansas City Jewish Chronicle editor and another recent KU alumnus.

Published by Routledge, the book releases May 12 but is available for pre-order now.

In addition to chronicling journalism history through the book, journal and podcast, Finneman has overseen dozens of oral histories of newspapers in Middle America, including small newspapers’ experiences in the pandemic. She also is publisher of The Eudora Times, a newspaper produced for the community of Eudora with KU journalism students.

Image: A photograph from the women's march on Washington in 1913. Book editor Teri Finneman contributed a chapter on media coverage of the event. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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