Methods of Historical Analysis in Electronic Media

By Brinson, Susan L. | Journalism History, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Methods of Historical Analysis in Electronic Media


Brinson, Susan L., Journalism History


Godfrey, Donald G., ed. Methods of Historical Analysis in Electronic Media. Mahwah, NJ.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2005. 420 pp. $39.95.

Methods of Historical Analysis in Electronic Media is an excellent resource for guiding researchers through the complexities of conducting broadcast histories. This anthology of essays, written by some of the leading broadcast historians in the United States, addresses basic methodological issues, the challenges of carrying out historical research, and current trends in broadcasting history. The essays are well written, accessible without being simplistic, and exceptionally useful to novice historians.

The anthology is comprised of fifteen essays edited by Donald Godfrey, a noted broadcast historian and current editor of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. The essays are organized into categories that provide a broad perspective on many different aspects of broadcasting history. The inaugural section, "Traditional Historiography," contains four essays that focus on canonical issues in broadcasting history. His lead essay establishes a strong foundation for the entire collection by explaining basic, but nonetheless useful, methodological issues, such as literature reviews, discovery and analysis, and organizational structures. Louise Benjamin provides an excellent explanation of primary and secondary sources, and guidelines for evaluating historical evidence, and Michael Murray offers valuable insights on conducting personal interviews and their uses-and pitfalls-in making historical claims. Finally, Mary Beadle's essay presents effective tutelage on the usefulness of the visual components of electronic media to historical analyses.

The second major section is entiled "Eclectic Methods of History." While the essays are indeed eclectic, focusing on legal history, critical theory applied to media history, and quantitative methods in historical research, they nevertheless provide interesting insights into the research process. Kyu Ho Yuom's essay offers useful information about conducting legal research, particularly assessing the quality of online sources versus print, where to publish, and the undeniable (but often overlooked) importance of proofreading one's work. John Armstrong's relevant piece on applying critical theory to historical research is the anthology's only nod to a controversial issue within the larger historical community: the conflict between "objective" versus theory-driven historical research. The last essay in this section is Robert Avery's well-argued piece on the usefulness of quantitative methods in historical research.

Section three concentrates on "A New Look at Electronic Media" with three authors assessing new trends in broadcasting history.

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