COMM 421/621, History of Mass Media
Instructor: Ross Collins
Writing your historical term paper
All of these ideas are based on primary material available in local archives. Not only is it more fun to do research using primary sources, it's more significant to add to our scanty knowledge of local and regional media history. You can be the first to tell us something new!
This is not a complete list of subjects. You may propose a topic of your own. However, the topic must be local or regional in nature so that you can rely on primary sources, and must have something to do with the mass media. After you've chosen a topic idea, contact me for advice on how to proceed.
Archives you'll likely consult: Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University library; Northwest Minnesota Historical Center, Minnesota State University Moorhead library; Clay County Historical Society, Hjemkomst Center, Moorhead, Minn. Sources for help: Michael Robinson (NDSU institute archives), Terry Shoptaugh (MSUM archives), Mark Piehl (Hjemkomst-Clay County archives), or contact me for advice. You'll also need to gather secondary source information and background from the libraries or on-line.
Other helpful online resources.
North Dakota State Archives.
Much of this material can be shipped to North Dakota State through interlibrary loan.
The Internet Archive.
An wide-ranging source for internet-based documents and images.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.
A Library of Congress project, search old newspapers. Not comprehensive, but just might have what you need.
Library of Congress Print and Photo collection.
While you probably won't be traveling to Washington to search the comprehensive Library of Congress collections, you can download many of its historical photographs.
Credit to the source collections below goes to William David Sloan, University of Alabama, one of the country's top journalism historians.
Repositories of Primary Sources. University of Idaho.
A listing of over 5000 websites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources for the research scholar. All links have been tested for correctness and appropriateness.
Has links to the following websites: American Antiquarian Society; State of Wisconsin Historical Society (Archives Division); Library of Congress Newspapers & Periodicals; American Journalism Review; Civil War Newspapers in GIF format; Documents of American History online; Index of Web Sites related to the Civil War; Internet Public Library; and Project Censored.
Note: oral history (interviews) must be accompanied by archival or library research. Don't depend on interviews alone--as you've found out, they may be inaccurate. They may also, however, add information available nowhere else.
Competition, grading and bonuses: The best of these articles, with the author's permission, will be posted to the class web site student work pages. Students whose papers are judged worthy of inclusion on the web site will receive enough extra credit points applied to their final exam grade to raise their score by one letter grade (C to B, B to A, etc.; those who already score an A on the final will receive extra credit on the midterm exam, or on daily grades. As well, of course, they will receive an A on their term paper project.
Local or regional research topic ideas.
1. University records.
B. University relations/publications/programs.
2. Local records, local media history.
Other publications no longer in existence, 19th and 20th centuries: research content and approach of interesting but now-defunct publications: such as Fargo Courier, Moorhead Daily News, Moorhead Monitor, (editor Michael Stein still lives in Moorhead), Fargo Journal (?), etc. Some of these make fascinating reading. Check periodicals list to see what's available, or ask Michael Robinson, other archivists.
Alternative journalism in F-M: John Strand, former publisher of High Plains Reader, and research in archives for publications of the past.
Local or regional magazines: Compare content, coverage over the decades. Many have been saved in archives, including Howard Binford's Guide, Farrago, Area Women. Ask archivists.
Analysis of local journalism through corporate newsletter. The Forum's In-Forumer is available at the archives.
Foreign language press in Fargo, North Dakota, Minnesota, or regionallyl. (Was once a major force in regional journalism.) Talk to archivists to get started.
Mike Notes: WDAY-radio and television's early days newsletter. This is a rare treasure of early television material, and needs to be analyzed. Research for content, topics.
Oral history: tape recordings were made of well-known news people, such as Dewey Bergquist, now dead, but they need transcribing and interpreting. Contact archives.
More oral history: local important media people, now retired, candidates for biographies, and information about early days. Possibilities:
Impact of Fargo area on photography: photographers from Fargo area who are well known nationally:
Early television: Roy Peterson papers, NDSU archives.
Publications and Politics: Non-Partisan League in North Dakota, 1910-1930, and their publications. Drawings and cartoons are particularly interesting, worth analyzing for themes.
Early advertising agencies in Fargo. Flint Communications: contact Roger Reierson (CEO) for help.
The weather: how were regional weather patterns portrayed in media, now compared to the past?
Sports broadcasting or sports reporting: What's changed over the decades?
Celebrities from the region, and the media. Lawrence Welk papers are available at the archives. Others include Peggy Lee, Jonny Lang, Eric Severeid. Ask archivists.
War and the region. Compare coverage of a particular battle during World War I, during World War II, during the Vietnam War, during the Gulf War, during the Afghan war, for similarities and contrasts. Assess editorial opinion concerning a war from the perspective of several regional newspapers. Consider North Dakota's socialist newspapers for interesting contrast in World War I coverage.
Broadcast history: it's tough, because few records exist. Some WDAY material in NDSU archives, and some things online. Ask an archivist.
Copyright 2004 by Ross F. Collins <www.ndsu.edu/communication/collins>