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Scripps grad student research: Ed Simpson

by Michael Sweeney, Professor; Associate Director for Graduate Studies

Scripps School of Journalism PhD student Ed Simpson will present his research on school namesake E.W. Scripps and the early environmental movement to the International Communication Association conference in May in Boston.

Simpson’s panel will focus on “American Journalism in the 20th Century.” His paper, “’Predatory Interests’ and ’The Common Man’: Scripps, Pinchot, and the Nascent Environmental Movement, 1908 to 1910,” is based on historical documents in the Scripps archive maintained at Ohio University’s Alden Library.

Gifford Pinchot was the nation’s first professional forester and the chief promoter of a new plan to shepherd U.S. resources for future generations. But when his primary supporter, President Theodore Roosevelt, left office, Simpson says, Pinchot found himself embroiled in a fight with the new Taft administration, battles that included clandestine meetings on a rolling yacht off the coast of California, charges of treachery from both sides, and a vitriolic U.S. Senate investigation.

The result would decide not just Pinchot’s future but the fate of the nascent environmental movement.

E.W. Scripps, the powerful publisher of America’s first chain of newspapers, stepped into the fray to shield Pinchot, putting his massive news empire — at the time the largest in the nation with access to as many as 24 million readers — at Pinchot’s disposal, including the efforts of his most prominent reporter, Gilson Gardner.

Simpson’s study, which used microfilm versions of newspapers of the period and documents in the E.W. Scripps Archive Collection, addresses this little-examined episode in American environmental history. It argues that Scripps was an instrumental player in keeping alive the Progressive agenda after Roosevelt left office. Further, this study examines Scripps’ willingness (at times insistence) on using his empire to advance his personal agenda, years before World War I, the era most previous scholarship has addressed.

posted in: Scripps Pinchot progressivism environmentalism Simpson
February 15, 2011

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