Journalism in the Growing Nation
Assignment 2 continues your exploration into original newspaper coverage of U.S. history. The period this time is the Civil War years (1861–1865). As Lesson 2 shows, new technologies (especially the telegraph) influenced how newspapers from the North and from the South covered the Civil War and its aftermath. Without a doubt, newspapers played important social roles during this tumultuous time, as illustrated in this essay from the New York Times’ long-running series chronicling the Civil War: Disunion: Scrapbooking the Civil War (Links to an external site.).
For this assignment, I want you to find, read and analyze two original newspaper articles—one from the Union states (North) and one from the Confederate states (South)—covering the Battle of Bull Run, which is generally considered the first major battle of the Civil War. Search especially for newspaper coverage published during the battle or soon after the end of the battle (within days) that shows influences of the telegraph, either in news gathering, news writing or news distribution, and that includes visual representations (e.g., headlines and sub-headings, illustrations, graphics, maps, cartoons, etc.).
Please read the following instructions carefully before you begin work and let me know if you have any questions.
Step #1: Prepare for Historical Research
- Review the relevant sections in Lesson 2, the Lesson 2 forum, and Voices of the Nation, especially the section about the battle coverage, for historical context.
- Read the referenced New York Times articles (above and in the prompt for the Lesson 2 forum).
- Browse through other secondary sources available online for details about the battle, including the exact dates, but please don’t get overwhelmed by the material. That’s easy to do because there are so many resources available online about this time in U.S. history.
- Develop your research strategies. For example, consider the time frame, the geographic location of the newspapers, the types of keywords that might generate results, and other ways to focus your research. The more systemic your approach, the easier the actual research will be. I’ll be providing more search advice in my class announcement.
Step #2: Locate original newspaper coverage
There are lots of online databases that you could use to find original newspaper coverage. I’ve suggested some below.
- Click on E-Newspapers, Media, Maps & More on the UW Libraries’ home page. Browse through the holdings and click on E-Newspapers & News. Explore the various collections including some of the databases that you have already used (e.g., Early American Newspapers Series II and Chronicling America) and the holdings for African-American newspapers. Be sure to narrow your time frame and search with specific keywords. If your initial search isn’t successful, keep trying with different search terms. Experiment with general words and specific words.
- Feel free to search the online collections about the Civil War at the Library of Congress (there’s a link in Lesson 2) or other Civil War collections, but that isn’t necessary. You should be able to find everything that you need through the UW libraries.
- Remember that historical research requires patience, creativity and persistence. If you get stuck, however, just e-mail your instructor, or Jessica Albano, communication studies librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Theresa Mudrock, history librarian at email@example.com at least 48 hours before the assignment is due. We’d be happy to help guide your research.
Step #3: Report Your Findings and Submit Your Assignment
- Create a Word document and enter your full name at the top of the file, like you did for Assignment 1.
- Record specifically how you found the original articles, including your search strategies, keywords used, and when (the date) you found them. Feel free to use bullets instead of writing in sentences.
- Copy the articles into Word/PDF files or provide readable screen shots, or save the links (URLs). I will be clicking on the links to make sure that you found original articles so please make sure they work before submitting your assignment. If you have trouble getting the links to work, then please submit readable copies. If the links don’t work and you don’t provide copies, there will be an automatic 1.0 deduction on the 4.0 scale.
- Be sure to list full bibliographic citations, as you did for Assignment 1. This information often is found above the item in the database. If bibliographic information is not available, then that’s often an indication that it is a secondary source (not a primary source) and you’ll need to search again for an original account.
- Write a brief analysis (three to four paragraphs) describing the coverage and comparing the two articles. Consider such items as the content, perspective, story placement, attribution, sources, tone and the Ask yourself such questions as:
- Do these articles reflect the characteristics of Civil War journalism as described in the textbook and Lesson 2?
- Are the newspapers’ positions about the Civil War obvious in the articles and their placement in the newspaper?
- Are the accounts similar or different in terms of the facts?
- Are they news articles or opinion pieces?
- How did the telegraph influence the coverage? How were the articles presented in terms of layout and design and were they illustrated? (Note: You’ll need to check the full-page newspaper image to see the page layout.)
- Proofread carefully.