The 2019 spring semester will see the Briscoe Center pioneer a new kind of program, the Morley Safer Award for Outstanding Reporting, which will directly support our efforts to expand our nationally renowned news media archives as well as celebrate the hard work of journalists across North America.
Those two goals are connected for a place like the Briscoe Center because, like journalists, historians want the conversation about American identities, origins, and values to remain rooted in evidence. Contemporary terms such as “fake news” and “lamestream media” demonstrate that we increasingly inhabit an era that undervalues the power of evidence—a concern for both historians and journalists.
So it is with great enthusiasm and anticipation that, in partnership with Jane and Sarah Safer, the Briscoe Center launches the award. Celebrating and supporting the integrity, tenacity, and vibrancy of reporters in Morley’s mold has become critical to the health of our professions, perhaps even to the health of our democracy. You can learn more about the Morley Safer Award at morleysaferaward.briscoecenter.org.
By the way, the award website was created in-house by Briscoe Center staff. I’m very pleased with its look and feel, and I’m delighted to announce that we’ll be relaunching the center’s main website later on in the year. I’m certain it will represent a great enhancement of our current site. Nevertheless, our current site continues to grow with new press releases, enhanced reference resources (which include searching all of our collections at once), and continuous additions to the digital media repository. There will be more information on those additions in the February e-news. For the moment I’ll simply say that if you search the repository for “Matthew Naythons,” “Charles Moore,” “Al Satterwhite,” “Bob McNeely,” or “Enrico Ferorelli,” you’ll be bombarded with hundreds of newly digitized images from some of America’s most accomplished news photographers, all of whom have donated their archives to the center over the last few years.
I bring this up to underline an important truth about the center’s collections. Acquiring them represents the beginning of the story, not the end. It’s the first step in our efforts to use them in digital projects (such as the repository), exhibits, books, and documentaries that the Briscoe Center pioneers in-house. It’s also the beginning of their use in others’ research. I was reminded of this yesterday when Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivinspremiered at the Sundance Festival in Utah. Directed by Janice Engel and produced by James Egan and Carlisle Vandervoort in Los Angeles, Raise Hell relies heavily on the center’s Molly Ivins Papers. I was proud to serve as the film’s historical advisor. The project’s own archives will be acquired by the center later in the year. I want to congratulate Janice and James on an excellent documentary.
In other news, we welcomed filmmaker Don Smith and White House Photographer Pete Souza (above) to the center earlier last month. We’ve been assisting Smith with his planned documentary on presidential photographers. Along with Sharon Farmer, Souza photographed President Barack Obama. Bob McNeely (President Bill Clinton), Eric Draper (President George W. Bush), and David Valdez (President George H. W. Bush) have all been interviewed by Smith at the center as well. The archives of Valdez, McNeely, and Draper are all housed at the Briscoe Center. Many thanks to Don Smith for involving us in this exciting project.
Finally, I’m pleased to announce that the center’s exhibit, The Pioneers Who Changed TV News has been extended to April, which in particular will give students on campus the ability to incorporate it into their studies during the spring semester. The exhibit documents the evolution of news media through the lens of the path-breaking show 60 Minutes. If you weren’t able to come and view it last semester, I highly recommend you do before April. The exhibit will be replaced in May with one that focuses on the center’s music collections. In addition to over 50,000 commercial and field recordings, those collections document the business activities of producers, record labels, and concert venues.
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History