Washburn discusses publication of dissertations he’s advised
By Patrick S. Washburn
Since coming to Ohio University in 1984, I have done a number of things of which I am proud. I have written two history books, co-authored a third, and have an advance contract for a fourth; I have received three awards from AEJMC, including the inaugural Tankard Book Award in 2007 for the best book published in the previous year by an AEJMC member that broke new ground; I have been an invited speaker about the history of the black press at the Smithsonian and the National D-Day Museum as well as numerous universities; I have been president of the American Journalism Historians Association and the chair of AEJMC’s History Division; I have been an historical consultant for a PBS television documentary about the history of the black press that won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, the highest honor given in broadcast journalism; and I have been editor of an academic journal, Journalism History, since 2001.
However, what I am most proud of is chairing nine dissertations (more than a third that I have chaired) which have been published as books. My grandfather taught English for more than forty years at East Tennessee State University and what I came to realize from being around him as I was growing up was that the most important thing in teaching is contributing something meaningful to other people’s lives rather than just doing something for yourself. And I consider this my most significant contribution.
Every time that I have chaired a dissertation, I have urged the student to write it as a book for a college-educated audience, not just academics, and the dissertation will occur along the way. This is what I was told to do as a doctoral student at Indiana University, and this advice clearly has increased the number of my OU students who have been published. I also have pointed out that this is probably the last time that they will get a lot of help with their research, so they should take advantage of it. I have carefully edited every chapter, which takes about an hour to do ten pages -- at that rate, based on a forty-hour week, I spent about ten weeks editing these nine dissertations.
The reason that I do this so meticulously is because I think doing a dissertation should be about more than merely doing good research. It also should be about writing well. I can recall a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist once writing, “No two words in the English language mean exactly the same thing.” Over the years, I have come to believe in that, and if you do it will make you a better writer because you will pay attention to every word in every sentence and write exactly what you mean to write. So, writing well, which is more than just writing grammatically correctly, is important to me, and I have worked hard on imparting that to my students.
In chairing these dissertations, several things have been memorable. For example, Doug Daniel had something happen to him which may be unique -- he was offered a book contract for his dissertation by Syracuse University Press before he had the defense of his dissertation, and the publisher wanted to start setting it into type immediately. I congratulated him about the contract, but told him to hold off Syracuse until the defense occurred because he might get comments at the defense that would improve the manuscript. And, in fact, he did get some suggestions that resulted in small but beneficial changes. And then there was Mike Sweeney, who wrote perhaps the longest dissertation in the history of the journalism school -- 733 pages. That was not to say that it was badly done; it wasn’t. But at his defense, one of the committee members made the expected comment: “Well, you have certainly lived up to a Ph.D. -- pile it higher and deeper.” After the laughter subsided, he had an easy defense, and there was no doubt that his dissertation would become a book.
Below you will find a list of the dissertations that I have chaired that became books, and I anticipate having a few others before I retire.
Dissertations Chaired by Patrick S. Washburn Which Have Been Published as Books (listed in the order of when the dissertations were completed)
Craig Allen. Dissertation title: “Peace, Prosperity, and Prime Time Television: Eisenhower, Stevenson, and the Television Politics of 1956.” Completed in 1989. Book: Eisenhower and the Mass Media: Peace, Prosperity, and Prime-Time TV (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993). [abstract]
Reed Smith. Dissertation title: “Samuel Medary and the Crisis: An Experiment in First Amendment Freedom.” Completed in 1993. Book: Samuel Medary & the Crisis: Testing the Limits of Press Freedom (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1995). [abstract/full text]
Jim Foust. Dissertation title: “A History of the Clear Channel Broadcasting Service, 1934-1980.” Completed in 1994. Book: Big Voices of the Air: The Battle over Clear Channel Radio (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 2000). [abstract]
Doug Daniel. Dissertation title: “‘Lou Grant’: Journalism as Television Drama.” Completed in 1995. Book: Lou Grant: The Making of TV’s Top Newspaper Drama (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1996). [abstract]
Mike Sweeney. Dissertation title: “Byron Price and the Office of Censorship’s Press and Broadcasting Divisions in World War II.” Completed in 1996. Book: Secrets of Victory: The Office of Censorship and the American Press and Radio in World War II (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001). [abstract]
Dale Zacher. Dissertation title: “Editorial Policy of the Scripps Newspapers During World War I.” Completed in 1999. Book: The Scripps Newspapers Go to War, 1914-18 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008). [abstract]
Marc Edge. Dissertation title: “Pacific Press: Vancouver’s Newspaper Monopoly, 1957-1991.” Completed in 2001. Book: Pacific Press: The Unauthorized Story of Vancouver’s Newspaper Monopoly (Vancouver, B.C.: New Star Books, 2001). [abstract]
Guy Reel. Dissertation title: “This Wicked World: The National Police Gazette, Richard K. Fox, and the Making of the Modern American Man, 1879-1906.” Completed in 2003. Book: The National Police Gazette and the Making of the Modern American Man, 1879-1906 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). [abstract]
Steve Hallock. Dissertation title: “Opinion Matters: Dwindling Newspaper Competition Depletes the U.S. Democracy’s Marketplace of Ideas.” Completed in 2005. Book: Editorial and Opinion: The Dwindling Marketplace of Ideas in Today’s News (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2007). [abstract]
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