parry-gilesSome would say Hillary Clinton makes news. But in the national mind it sometimes seems that Hillary Clinton is news, its very personification, an irresistible-to-media hybrid of politico, symbol, and celebrity sentenced to have every action scrutinized and elaborated upon to a degree virtually unheard-of for a sitting politician, let alone one who, like Clinton, currently lacks a job.

Has it always been thus? In Hillary Clinton in the News, Shawn J. Parry-Giles ventures into  the past to reveal that, oh yeah, it’s always been thus. Since Clinton first acquired a national profile in 1992, the media has cast her in roles with enough variety to challenge Meryl Streep: surrogate campaigner, legislative advocate, financial investor, international emissary, scorned wife, senator, political candidate, Secretary of State, and (at present) presumptive presidential candidate. Whatever your thoughts on what’s happening with this email business, the unbridled amount of coverage is nothing new. Nor is the fact that questions surrounding authenticity and gender unleash a certain kind of frenzy in those providing the coverage:

Members of the press could hardly stand the anticipation of getting Hillary Clinton into the political arena. The excitement ultimately produced some rather bizarre metaphors. Chris Bury from Nightline used “catnip” references to mark the buildup to a Clinton-Giuliani race: “a matchup between Mrs. Clinton and New York Mayor Giuliani is pure catnip for politicians and pundits desperate for a post-impeachment fix.” Resorting to salivation language, Chris Wallace of ABC’s Nightline noted that the New York press was “already salivating over the prospect” of a Clinton campaign. Also staying with a food motif, James Carville, appearing on NBC Nightly News, talked of how the New York press was “licking their chops” for such a dream campaign. The most hyperbolic reference came in the form of a sexualized (and masculine) metaphor used by Jack Newfield of the New York Post, when he suggested on Nightline that Clinton’s entrance into the Senate race “would be Viagra for the media.”

These linguistic references associated with an impending campaign of a political woman ranged from insatiable sensations of hunger and pharmaceutically induced sexual arousal to plant-induced stimulations in cats. These metaphors alone showed the confusion journalists faced in comprehending Clinton’s senatorial run. The reference to Viagra in particular reinforced the ongoing masculinization and sexualization of the political sphere for women.

ehrlich and saltzmanIn a century-plus of popular culture, journalists have appeared as cynical scandalmongers, noble crusaders, nicotine-soaked cynics, and the mild-mannered alter egos of super-powered Kryptonians.

The latest UIP debut Heroes and Scoundrels covers the whole waterfront of newspersons depicted in our pop entertainment. Matthew C. Ehrlich (Journalism in the Movies) and Joe Saltzman (proprietor of the web site The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture) creatively wield media artifacts to lead thought-provoking forays into fundamental issues like how pop culture mythologizes and demythologizes key events in journalism history, how portrayals of journalists influence our thinking on what they do, and how the entertainment industry’s treatment of the Fourth Estate deals with issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation on the job. It’s multidisciplinary. It’s insightful. It’s excellent inspiration for your Netflix queue:

On Mikael Blomkvist:[A]lthough Blomkvist is scrupulous in documenting his reporting, he makes no effort to be neutral, much as his creator Stieg Larsson eschewed neutrality in his own journalism aimed at exposing right-wing extremism in Sweden. “For Blomkvist, the golden rule of journalism was that there were always people who were responsible,” wrote Larsson. “The bad guys.” Investigative journalism commonly tells tales of guilty villains wronging innocent victims, and it has been criticized for focusing too much on individual malfeasance as opposed to systemic failings and for fostering corrosive cynicism. Blomkvist does not escape such criticisms entirely; his own cynicism is such that he refuses to vote and believes that every corporate executive is a “cretin.” But his dedication to justice is genuine: “A managing director who plays shell company games should do time. A slum landlord who forces young people to pay through the nose and under the table for a one-room apartment with shared toilet should be hung out to dry.”

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GradelS15Political corruption isn’t just about under-the-table dealings. A major factor that contributes to a system that many see as broken in the state of Illinois and throughout the country is a culture of patronage that, although obfuscated, is perfectly legal.

Campaign contributions pay for more than a few amenities enjoyed by politicians without breaking any laws. What do the contributors get for their investment?

As Corrupt Illinois co-author Thomas Gradel told WBBM Chicago political editor Craig Dellimore, “The only thing that distinguishes campaign money from out and out bribes, is that it’s legal.”

The real distinction is that political contributors can’t openly ask for favors in return for the generous donations. Yet the unspoken message is often one of quid-pro-quo.

“It’s very obvious when you look at the track record,” Gradel says, citing reporting from the State Journal Register that is quoted in Corrupt Illinois. “40 percent of the people who contributed to the Governor’s campaign in the period they were covering got state contracts.”

Listen to the full interview here:


Digital Depression author Dan Schiller is a professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In light of the recent FCC ruling on net neutrality, Schiller weighs in on the economic re-composition that continues since the boom of information and communications technologies.

SchillerF14Late in February, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission reclassified broadband Internet service to place it within its Title II Telecommunications rules. This vital decision resonates with my discussion in Digital Depression: Information Technology and Economic Crisis.

The legal rationale for treating broadband as a public utility-type common carrier is straightforward: some industries perform such a widely essential function that a referee is needed, to ensure that they live up to their “duty to serve”—neither discriminating against nor gouging their users. Broadband Internet service unquestionably falls into this category. Not only has the Internet become an essential service throughout daily life, and for the conduct of commerce and politics. It also is used today by many more subscribers, proportionately, than was the telephone when the telephone was made subject to common carrier regulation many decades ago. Continue reading

Smith_CreolizationF13The Creolization of American Culture: William Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy by Christopher J. Smith has been awarded the Irving Lowens Book Award by the Society for American Music (SAM).

The SAM award committee had this statement upon the announcement of the honor:

[The Creolization of American Culture] comfortably disrupts our contextual understanding of minstrelsy and the points of cultural transference between black and white musicians in nineteenth-century America. Significantly, [Smith] employs the term creolization, the mixture of cultures, instead of insisting on the equal-but-separate racial paradigm, while always giving agency to African-Caribbean-American musicians. The book combines a careful critical overview of the existing literature on minstrelsy, close analysis of a wide variety of historical sources (especially of works of visual art), and a thorough knowledge of musical style and performance techniques to provide a persuasive demonstration that early minstrel culture created a vernacular style rooted in the working class, a style that integrated Anglo-Celtic and Afro-Caribbean practices into an original synthesis.

A paperback edition of The Creolization of American Culture was released in the fall.

You can read an interview about the book with author Christopher J. Smith here.


ClampittS15Food historian and travel writer Cynthia Clampitt recently answered some questions about her book Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland.

Q: What was the importance of corn to Native Americas before European contact?

Cynthia Clampitt: To a certain degree, it had an importance similar to what it has had for Europeans. It made it possible for fewer people to raise more food. Plus women and even children could do the work, particularly harvesting. In most cases, that meant the ability to support large cities and expand empires. It enabled the Maya to pursue astronomy and mathematics. A thousand years ago, Cahokia, along the Mississippi River, was one of the largest cities in the world. The great empires of the Americas all depended on corn. In the Roman Empire, it took 19 rural workers to support one resident of the city of Rome. In the Americas, corn reversed that ratio.

Q: Biologically, what makes corn suited to growing in so many different environments?

Clampitt: Nothing else hybridizes as easily as corn. I’m not speaking of the intentional hybridizing of the last century, but simply the fact that corn produces huge amounts of pollen, all of it scattered by the wind—nothing so precise as an insect or bird—so a stand of corn was always being pollinated by any other corn in the neighborhood. Corn also mutates easily. Native Americans took huge advantage of these traits, and by the time Europeans first appeared, there were more than 200 varieties of corn that had been either developed or identified, nurtured, and crossbred by Native Americans. Continue reading

Locomotive to Aeromotive coverWhen aviation pioneer Octave Chanute died in 1910, no one could have dreamed that man would not only conquer the air, but venture into outer space. Five years after Chanute’s death the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, was formed. The organization was the precursor to today’s NASA.

On March 3rd, 2015, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and the NASA History Program Office hosted a special symposium to commemorate a century of aerospace research and development.

NASA Chief Historian William P. Barry moderated a discussion on the history of aviation with UIP author Simine Short alongside Tom D. Crouch of the National Air and Space Museum and Laurence Burke of Carnegie Mellon University.

Aviation historian Simine Short’s book Locomotive to Aeromotive details the life and his immeasurable contributions of Chanute to engineering and transportation.

“Back then farming was people,” says Alan Guebert.

Guebert has written about agribusiness issues in “The Farm and Food File” since 1993. But the syndicated columnist notes that he would always get the greatest reader response from the times he’d write about his youth on a southern Illinois dairy farm.

Those experiences of “living the good life at 50 cents an hour” are chronicled in The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey. In the book Guebert, remembers the people that made the farm what it was, like Jackie the farmhand and his gentle and kind, yet destructive, Uncle Honey.

Alan Guebert talks about Uncle Honey and the roots of his book in this video:

Gary B. Reid’s introduction to the Stanley Brothers was a used record he picked up for 33 cents in 1973. That modest investment launched Reid on an odyssey that would culminate in “what just might be the definitive history of the legendary bluegrass musicians.”

Reid’s The Music of the Stanley Brothers corrects some myths and sets record straight for the recorded career of Ralph and Carter Stanley.

The author was profiled on Roanoke, Virginia’s WDBJ 7.

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For the month of March 2015, to coincide with Women’s History Month, we have lowered the e-book list price of four titles in the University of Illinois Press catalog to $2.99.

Cover for Franzen: Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage. Click for larger imageAnna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage by Trisha Franzen
Acknowledged by her contemporaries as the most outstanding woman suffrage orator of her time, Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919) has nonetheless received minimal attention from historians. Trisha Franzen rectifies that oversight with this first scholarly biography of Shaw, a study that illuminates Shaw’s oft-ignored early years and challenges existing scholarship on her time in the suffrage movement. Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage presents a clear and compelling portrait of a woman whose significance has too long been misinterpreted and misunderstood. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for PARRY-GILES: Hillary Clinton in the News: Gender and Authenticity in American Politics. Click for larger imageHillary Clinton in the News: Gender and Authenticity in American Politics by Shawn J. Parry-Giles
The charge of inauthenticity has trailed Hillary Clinton from the moment she entered the national spotlight and stood in front of television cameras. Hillary Clinton in the News shows how the U.S. media created their own news frames of Clinton’s political authenticity and image-making, from her participation in Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign through her own 2008 presidential bid.  Using theories of nationalism, feminism, and authenticity, Parry-Giles tracks the evolving ways the major networks and cable news programs framed Clinton’s image as she assumed roles ranging from surrogate campaigner, legislative advocate, and financial investor to international emissary, scorned wife, and political candidate. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for Schultz: Qualifying Times: Points of Change in U.S. Women's Sport. Click for larger imageQualifying Times: Points of Change in U.S. Women’s Sport by Jaime Schultz
Beginning with the seemingly innocent ponytail, the subject of the Introduction, Jaime Schultz challenges the reader to look at the historical and sociological significance of now-common items such as sports bras and tampons and ideas such as sex testing and competitive cheerleading. Tennis wear, tampons, and sports bras all facilitated women’s participation in physical culture, while physical educators, the aesthetic fitness movement, and Title IX encouraged women to challenge (or confront) policy, financial, and cultural obstacles. “An engaging and readable book detailing the points of change that she hopes will call into question the traditional ‘eras’ of sports history. Should be considered by all sports fans.”–Library Journal  Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for Whitmire: Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian. Click for larger imageRegina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian
by Ethelene Whitmire
The first African American to head a branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL), Regina Andrews led an extraordinary life. Allied with W. E. B. Du Bois, Andrews fought for promotion and equal pay against entrenched sexism and racism and battled institutional restrictions confining African American librarians to only a few neighborhoods within New York City.  Andrews also played a key role in the Harlem Renaissance, supporting writers and intellectuals with dedicated workspace at her 135th Street Branch Library. After hours she cohosted a legendary salon that drew the likes of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Her work as an actress and playwright helped establish the Harlem Experimental Theater, where she wrote plays about lynching, passing, and the Underground Railroad. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

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