American journalism is at a crossroads. Culturally, technologically, and economically, traditional print and television reporting has been systematically undermined. Alternative facts and talk of fake news abound. Now more than ever, the nature, history, and value of American journalism needs to be understood, explained, and celebrated. Though distinct, the history of America and the history of the First Amendment are forever tangled with one another.
The Briscoe Center’s news media holdings are nationally renowned—one of the most comprehensive collections of history’s “first draft” that exists. The center prides itself on how these resources are made available to students, scholars, and members of the public—not just as archival resources available in the center’s reading room, but also through the center’s exhibitions, publications, and digital projects. The Briscoe Center preserves the past in order to protect the future.
The importance of news media history
For over three centuries, news publications have documented the development of communities across America as well as provided a vital forum for the exchange of ideas. It’s a story of change and adaption; from the first printed periodicals and broadsides to the emergence of the modern newspaper and magazine industries. Radio, photojournalism, and television news represented major shifts in the delivery of the news in the twentieth century. The advent of social media signifies another seismic shift. Regardless of the form it takes, news reporting has always played a vital role in American society; a role and a freedom enshrined in the Constitution.
Researchers have always relied upon the materials produced by journalists—history’s “first responders”—to help them make sense of the past. News media resources are a gateway to the past for students, teachers, and scholars of all disciplines: from advertising to psychology, politics to photography. Archival materials—documents, photographs, recordings, correspondence, and other objects that form the raw material of history—allow us to engage more directly with the past. These resources lend texture, color, context, and sound to almost every avenue of inquiry. The Briscoe Center is home to one of the nation’s most comprehensive news media history holdings—nearly three miles of archival materials across hundreds of separate collections.
Those collections include the personal papers of historically important media industry pioneers and leaders, clipping and research morgues, oral histories, over 5,000 newspaper titles, thousands more audio and video recordings, and over 4 million photographs. Highlights include the papers of Walter Cronkite, Morley Safer, Andy Rooney, Jules Witcover, Jack Newfield, and Robert Trout, as well as one of the largest archives of American photojournalism in existence, which includes the collections of Pulitzer Prize-winners Eddie Adams, David Hume Kennerly, and Lucian Perkins. Newspaper collections include the frontier newspapers of Stephen F. Austin’s Texas colony, the Texas Gazette (1829), and the African American newspaper The Free Man’s Press (1868). The center also boasts major runs of the Houston Post (1932–1995), The Texas Observer (1952–2004), and the research archives of the New York Times (ca. 1910–ca. 1989) and Newsweek (1933–1996). Nationally renowned columnists such as Walter Winchell, Molly Ivins, and Liz Smith, Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Ben Sargent, Vanity Fair writer and television commentator Dominick Dunne, and famed writer and magazine editor Terry McDonell have all donated their papers to the center. Finally, the center is the home of the records of WRR of Dallas, the first radio station to broadcast in Texas.
The collection continues to grow. Recent acquisitions include the research archive of Wayne Barrett, a Village Voice reporter, who amassed the most comprehensive investigative reporting archive about Donald Trump from the 1980s to inauguration known to exist; the archive of Robert Moskin, senior and foreign editor for Look magazine for nearly 20 years; the photographic archive of Stephen Shames, most well known as the photographer to the Black Panther Party between 1967 and 1973; and four more producers from the acclaimed 60 Minutes newsmagazine, including Marion Goldin and Susan Zirinsky, among numerous other additions to the collection. Together, these collections enhance our understanding of events of the past, the role of the news media, and its impact on all segments of American society.
Learn more about resources held in the news media history collections.
Without sources, there is no journalism. The same is true for history. That’s why the center, under the direction of Dr. Don Carleton, a scholar in the history of news media and politics, has spent a quarter of a century collecting, preserving, and sharing news media history collections. At a time when members of the press are being called “the enemy of the people,” it is imperative to offer this evidence for a critical study of the American news media.
Researchers often rely upon the materials produced by journalists—history’s “first responders”—to help them make sense of historic events. News media resources assist students, teachers, and scholars of all disciplines—from advertising to psychology, politics to photography—in their research. Archival materials—documents, photographs, recordings, correspondence, and other objects—allow us to engage more directly with history. These resources lend texture, color, context, and sound to almost every avenue of inquiry.
With your help, the Briscoe Center seeks to solidify our leadership position in collecting, preserving, and making the history of news media available to a wide audience with an endowment to fund the collection in perpetuity.
The collection may be endowed with one gift from a single donor or be comprised of several smaller endowments established by multiple people. Several naming opportunities are available. The News Media History Collection endowment will ultimately support several key positions including a curator, archivist, and student interns. The endowment will also support travel awards for writers and research fellowships for students and scholars to work onsite in the collection as well as provide recurring funds to continue collecting, preserving, and facilitating the use of material in the collections for teaching and research.
A named curator for news media history may possibly be the first such position anywhere. The endowment name will be cited as the title of the curator in research articles, publications, curated exhibitions, and in news stories about the collections. Thus, over time, an important body of scholarly work will be credited to the donor’s support of the preservation and interpretation of news media history.
The center does great work. But more can be done.
The News Media History Collections Endowment can be funded with one single naming level gift, or with multiple named endowments of various sizes to support key objectives of the collection. Until the endowment goal is reached, the Briscoe Center will continue to seek immediate-use funding for special projects in the News Media History Collections.
Contact us for more information regarding the News Media History Collections, its current special projects, or for assistance in creating an endowment to benefit the collection.
Learn more about endowments at the Briscoe Center.
News Media History Collections special project support
The Briscoe Center seeks immediate-use funding for special projects in the News Media History Collections. To learn more about current special projects, please contact Lisa Avra.
News Media History Collections archival donations
The Briscoe Center is interested in discussing potential new archival donations to further develop the depth and scope of the News Media History Collections. To discuss donating material to the News Media History Collections, please contact: