journalism


9
Jul 21

Highlighting research

We haven’t done this in a while. Let’s look at some of the things I’ve posted on the ICR Twitter account. The point here is to highlight some of the really cool research coming out of The Media School and, specifically, the Institute for Communication Research.

These studies are all published or appearing at conferences and so on. All of the work is quite brilliant and there’s a little something here for everyone. But check all of these out.

If you play them simultaneously you’ll get an incredible symphony. Give that a try, too.


26
May 21

I promise, you will not see this coming

Yeah, this is one of those old newspaper sort of days. Because we were supposed to go for a bike ride, but that got curtailed by schedules. And so I ended up waiting for the UPS delivery of a package that required the acknowledgement of a human being and bad UPS jokes. Our guy in brown is a pleasant fellow. Easy patter, quick smile and a don’t-you-know-it-pal’o’mine attitude.

I resolved myself to not ask if they’d been keeping him busy, my usual in to regular work patter when someone is on the job. Oh sure, if I saw the guy socially it’d be different — “What do you do? What are the three things wrong with your business? And how is it beating up on the competition?” sort of stuff. But while the guy’s working, all of that seems weird. And it seems like a tired remark to get into the “How are they working ya?” stuff just now, particularly for services like that. I think we all know the answer.

I thought about pulling up the day’s stock reports just to see how Brown was treating him, but I’m glad I didn’t. They’re down just now, FedEx and DHL are both up.

Now, you’d think that idle stock chatter might be too much; the guy wants to get on the road, get this route done, and get home for the evening. You’d be right. I’m sure he did, and I’m sure he was thinking about all of that, too, when he launched into a 90-second bit on British humor, Dr. Pepper and two jokes about my last name.

I hope all the perishable goods had been delivered by then. I was standing in the shade, it was early evening, but the sun was warm and he’s using carbonation puns to see if I’m ready for a Red Dwarf joke.

More than you know, pal’o’mine. I had a friend in college who was a close and careful watcher of that show, and she kept me in the know.

Anyway, let us look back one hundred years into our past. This is the front page of my hometown paper. Not the one where I am now, because they don’t have one from 100 years ago, and none of those ancient names mean much to me anyway, but at least some of the things in this 26-page tome are familiar. And if you were going to read it, pack your lunch.

We won’t examine the stories, because most of them won’t mean much to you or me today. A lot of it is national copy. On the front page there are only two local items, one about the weather (it was hot) one of those took place in Washington D.C., a spat about future road plans. There are several mentions in the broader issue about roads. Seems what they had in 1921 was a mess. And automobiles needed better roads. Funny how some stories never change.

Elsewhere in this edition, there’s a fair amount of small-town happenings, high school class graduations and so on. And there’s a fair amount of passive writing. Conferences were held, and that sort of thing.

So let’s just skim through a few fun advertisements that catch the eye. Like this one.

Which, honestly, I had to read three times before I was convinced it wasn’t a sales pitch for hats. No, it’s for collars, because they were sold separately, remember. And the hats and ties were just implied.

And if you didn’t have shoulders or the rest of a body, like this poor guy, well, you get all that’s your own miserable problem, Bub. Sorta like where you’d go to buy the Lion collars. It’s a mystery to modern eyes.

No mystery here! Get your dry goods at Steele-Smith!

This is the 1st Avenue location, but everyone knew that by then. Their 2nd Ave store burned down a few years prior and there was a movie theater at that location by the time you saw this ad.

This is the location of that second store. The barbed wire on the roof says a lot about the recent years.

I’ve found older ads that show us Steele-Smith was around in at least 1903. And I’ve found a lot of court cases that the company was involved, most about debts owed. There are a lot of variations of the Steel-Smith name — dry goods, cloak, boots — which is curious. It seems Steele-Smith itself went bankrupt in 1924, owing banks some $2,061, or about $32,000 today.

This one was the most interesting one to me. Sounds lovely, and I had no idea about this.

So I went to the wiki, where almost every word was a revelation, which is odd, considering I worked in that spot for eight years.

Some things never change, though I suspect modern medicine has made it to a point that we could see these two lads successfully separated.

That’s the only issue here. Look, step closer to the wall and you can reach the cooling pie tin. What is this? Amateur hour?

Anyway, that flour distributed had just opened their doors the year before. Their location is a parking lot now, serving two closed businesses and the police headquarters. Not sure when Jones-McGrail Flour called it quits, or when flour distribution in general went the way of the buggy whip, but they do shop up in the next few years of phone books.

Speaking of books … this guy’s story winds up on the back pages. The section isn’t labeled “A Yankee Did A Thing,” but it may as well be. William Moulton Marston invented something legitimate. This is basically the systolic blood pressure test, which gets rolled into the modern polygraph.

And if the name William Moulton Marston means anything to you, you’re probably a comic book reader. He was the person who, 20 years after this story, created Wonder Woman. And now that Lasso of Truth is starting to make a bit more sense, isn’t it? He said his wife and his other wife were the inspirations. They were a thruple. And now that Lasso of Truth is starting to take on all kinds of other connotations. The two women also worked in his scientific areas of interest, but he tended to get more of the, retrospectively, for their work. And now those feminist themes Wonder Woman imparts really bring it on home.

Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, I’ve just read, is an allegory. And when you put that and all of the permutations of the plane together, well, that seems alright for a comic book tale.

I honestly didn’t crack open the old newspaper website thinking I would wrap this up suddenly interested in critical-cultural examinations of Wonder Woman, but I also didn’t expect to learn about Edgewood Lake, or that Raymond Rochell, a once-prominent soft drink bottler figured into that environmental project. (He’s in that issue of the paper three or four different times for different reasons.)

And if you don’t think I spent a disproportionate amount of time trying to tie Wonder Woman to either Rochell or Edgewood, you’re sorely mistaken. I mean, sure, she might have liked Orange Crush or 7-Up or even Grapico back in the day, but she’s clearly a Dr. Pepper fan, now.


27
Apr 21

The week of the last shows

This is that weird time of year. Sad and happy. Sad to see some young friends go; happy to have a regular schedule over the summer. Sad to know I won’t see them in the fall; happy to see them take their next great steps. Time marches us on.

This is the the second group of people who I’ve had for four years. Last year’s senior cohort was a bit small, and, of course, truncated by global events. This senior class, though, there’s a bunch of people that have spent all four years of their college experience working on this. What a commitment that is, to spend four years of your college life working in one place! And this is the week when we kick them all out of the nest. Time plays this cruel trick and, clearly, I should stop doing this.

There’s a lot deal of talent right there, and those three are off to great, exciting things. They’ll continue to make us proud. Tomorrow we start talking about how we follow them next year. We continue on, as time demands.

Tomorrow there are more projects aplenty. Time is relentless.


23
Apr 21

New site look

There’s a new front page on the website. It looks similar to this, and if you click this image you can see it for yourself. So click this image. We’ll be here when you get back.

Here are some television programs I didn’t share in this space this week. Let’s get caught up.

The award-winning late show:

The award-winning morning show:

The award-winning pop culture show:

The award-winning news show:

The award-winning sports highlight show:

And a sports talk show that will be winning awards very soon:

Happy weekend! Make it an award-winning weekend, why don’t you?


15
Apr 21

Let’s go back in time

I had a fine meeting with a lovely gentleman yesterday. And that meeting has somehow carried over into this afternoon. But at least the company is nice. And there a few emails and my computer froze in a way that took some doing to remedy and, finally and importantly, I had to write a letter of recommendation for a star student. And if nothing else today was good I hope that letter was.

And then I went into the television studio and watch the sports folks put together two nice little shows and then sat back and watched the seniors run things and wondered, not for the first time, why we let them graduate just as they are really coming into their own.

There are always leaders, of course. And there are always people willing to take useful information from them and they all have agency and they work together, but if you get to see people grow in those important years, you really see some visions come together. It is, I think, the confluence of knowing what they want to do next and understanding how to do it. It’s the transition from commodity to normal good, the maturation from student to professional.

And that’s when we send them out into the world. Why can’t we keep them two or three more years? The things we could accomplish if they all enrolled in grad school.

Let’s look back to this same date, 106 years ago. Clear your calendar, you’ll be here for a few minutes.

I was going to pick a different year, but this story was a big part of why I went with 1915. This child had ambition, argumentation and no problem giving dad the slip.

I enjoy the earnestness of the story, and the eloquence of the child.

“I have been wading in the dusty road and have had a dood time,” he said. And his shoes looked it.

Dood time is probably a typesetting error rather than a phrase of the day, and I’m sorry I’ve ruined that for you. Anyway, H.R. Barrow only shows up a few times in the paper beyond the performance of his professional duties. He gets bought out in 1917. A month or two earlier he rolled his horse-drawn hearse after a service. Maybe that’s why he left the business. The new guys, local boys done good, advertised motorized ambulances. And in the fall of 1915, just when Mr. Barrow’s friends were tiring of hearing about Jack’s wandering adventures, the roof of their house caught on fire.

What’s with that kid?

No word on whatever became of Jack as he experienced the roaring twenties as a teen and so on. We’re thinking he had a dood time, though. We must always think this of young, adventurous, Jack. Young, adventurous — and have we ruled out pyromaniac? — Jack.

Also on the front page, the Dixie Highway plans:

You don’t often hear about this, by name, anymore. The road was going to stretch from the south side of Chicago to Miami. Then Michigan got added, within a week. The designers wanted to serve as many towns as possible, so there’s an eastern route and a western route. Some of these roads are still in service today. Some parallel the modern U.S. Highway 31, or run near the I-65 corridor or the old Federal Highway, U.S. Route 1. In Kentucky it’s still called the Dixie Highway. And the part of it that runs through this part of the world is something you endure to reach Indianapolis.

On the inside of the paper there is more on these new fangled things, highways:

You have to remember that Eisenhower’s famed (and brutal) coast-to-coast journey was still four years in the future. This is very cutting edge stuff, these highways.

It would be another century, December 2015, before the first interstate finally opened here, however. Take that as a statement for whatever it is worth.

This is front page news, and if you can’t see it, then you’re not ready for community journalism in any era.

Lauron and Rosa had five children, including Henry. At least three of them lived and died here. Henry passed in 1949.

Also on the front page:

A quick search doesn’t give game-by-game results from the early part of the 20th century, but the team went 2-7 that year, so it’s a safe bet they might not have one both of those games. Which is a shame, because the team might have been bad, but they looked great.

How do you lose games when you’ve got swag like that?

Now here’s a term you don’t hear anymore:

Blind tigers, or blind pigs, are carnival-style promotions. “Come in and see the blind tiger!” By which the person meant, “I’m giving away free hooch.” You assume there was a donation somewhere, or you paid handsomely for a bar stool or a bad sandwich or something.

Indiana went dry in 1918, two years ahead of the 18th Amendment kicking in. So maybe the local area was dry. Maybe it was just bootlegging for the sake of bootlegging.

Hurst, I learned from a later edition of the paper, was …

a son of Mack Hurst the man who blew up the house on the corner of Seventh and Morton streets with dynamite, killing himself and daughter. Young Hurst has made the same threat against his wife for disclosing his guilt of the blind tiger charge.

Bootlegging couldn’t have been that good to him. He couldn’t afford a lawyer! Nevertheless, he’s threatening to blow people up. Real pride of Indiana, that guy.

Meanwhile, part of an ad on page two. Countless men!

And 1.4 million tires. How is it that they have the units sold, but not the customers? Let’s do the basic math here. If everyone bought a complete set, that’s 369,970 customers. Of course it wasn’t four-apiece. Remember, the roads and the highways and byways still left something to be desired. There were a lot of flats is what I’m saying. It could be that we are talking 1.4 million customers. Which is still not … countless.

But “countless” sounds good, especially when it’s right next to a number.

Norine Dodds was, I believe, a teacher. I’m not sure what became of her.

And I want you to notice that they just bought a volleyball. The net, you imagine, they had to save up for, special. Or maybe they made their own. But, in another example of how their time was similar to ours, but not ours, the sport of volleyball had only been around for about 20 years. Basketball, just four years older, was thought by some businessmen and older YMCA members to be too vigorous. One mustn’t work up a sweat. So a man named William Morgan designed the game to be a combination of basketball, baseball, tennis, and handball. And here, when the young ladies at the local high school put their pennies together to obtain a ball, the game was still in its relative infancy. The rules weren’t uniformly formalized for another 14 years. Someone in the Philippines, while Nodds was writing this little blurb, was developing the spike.

Sorta makes you wonder how these kids went around with their new volleyball, and what they wound up doing with it.

Wanda Mottier was the daughter of David Mottier, who ran the botany program at IU for about 40 years. He’d also done his undergraduate work here and is regarded as one of the first people to advocate for preserving the woodland campus aesthetic.

If that’s true it was an excellent choice on his part. I submit as evidence these four photographs I took just outside of our building during a seven-minute break between tasks.

Mottier was on the faculty until the late 1930s.

Maybe somewhere in these woods there’s a tree he knew.

Maybe somewhere out there we could find leaves and shade we owe to him.

Also, this same paper notes that tomorrow, April 16th (albeit in 1915) was Arbor Day. The paper demanded that you plant a tree. We mark Arbor Day this year on April 30th.

Anyway, his daughter, Wanda, would later marry a doctor and they later retired from Indianapolis to Florida in the early 1960s. She passed away down there and is buried up here.

I found her Florida home on Google Maps. Nice, humble little post-war subdivision. Three beds, two baths, built in 1958, meaning they built it or moved in soon after. Plenty of room in the backyard to pass around a volleyball. There’s a giant oak tree out front today. The tree has a wonderful looking tire swing on it.

In my mind Wanda planted that tree and thought of her dad whenever she looked out the two picture windows of her home.