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Message from Director Don Carleton

Summer 2019

Dr. Don Carleton, Executive Director of the Briscoe Center

Back in January the center opened a call for entries in regard to the newly launched Morley Safer Award for Outstanding Reporting. The award has been created in partnership with the family of the late CBS News correspondent Morley Safer to recognize stories that reflect his journalistic legacy. Safer’s archives are preserved here at the center, and the award directly supports our efforts to expand news media archives and celebrate the hard work of journalists across North America.

After a careful period of deliberation, the center is proud to announce five finalists: Madeleine Baran (for In the Dark, American Public Media), Julie Brown (for Perversion of Justice, The Miami Herald), Hannah Dreier (for Trapped in Gangland, ProPublica), James Jacoby and Anya Bourg (for The Facebook Dilemma, Frontline), and Naveena Sadasivam and Zoe Schlanger (for Shallow Waters, The Texas Observer).

I’d like to congratulate the finalists on their incredible work, which cuts through a cross section of issues that are at the heart of American society today. I’d also like to thank our jurors—CBS news correspondent Bob Schieffer, former CBS News producer Margery Riker, former Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone editor Terry McDonell, UT School of Journalism Director Kathleen McElroy, former publisher of the Los Angeles Times Tom Johnson, and former Washington Post Tokyo bureau chief Tracy Dahlby—whose difficult task it was to sift the finalists from a host of excellent submissions. And of course I would be remiss not to thank Jane and Sarah Safer for their vision for and support of the award. The winner will be announced at a lunch in Manhattan on October 18.

As this issue of the e-news makes clear, things do not slow down at the center during the summer. First, the acquisition of the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group Association records represent an important addition to the center’s military history collections. Comprised of four air squadrons, the 376th HBG served in the North African and Italian theaters during World War II.I’d like to thank the association’s members for donating their records. In particular, I want to thank the association’s historian, Ed Clendenin Jr., who is spearheading their efforts to fund an endowed internship in military history here at the center.

In addition to collection acquisitions, we’ve launched two new exhibits. Greatest Hits explores the center’s collections related to the history of music and the music industry. As a historian I believe that music is a powerful lens for understanding the past. It is both a response to and a reflection of society. Today the center has over 50,000 commercial recordings in its holdings. However, perhaps of greater value are the archives of musicians, managers, venues, and photographers preserved here. These materials furnish researchers with unique insights into musical culture and industries—vital lenses for understanding American history as a whole.

We’ve also opened Covering the Moon: NASA and the News Media, a case exhibit that explores how reporting around the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing was planned, executed, and remembered. The exhibit, which will be open through the rest of the summer, centers on the reporting of CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, who I spoke with on many occasions about his reporting on the moon landing. Several of the times I spoke with him were on the record, and excerpts of those interviews are in our book together, Conversations with Cronkite. For him, the moon landing was the 20th century’s Christopher Columbus moment. “A lot of important things happened in 1492, but can you recall any dates other than 1492?” Cronkite asked me. “The technological and scientific developments of our own century just boggle the mind. And yet, I think that the one incident, the one episode that will be remembered, is when man escaped his environment on earth and went to the moon.”

In closing, I’d like to recognize Margaret Thomas, the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the White House News Photographer’s Association. Margaret was the first female photojournalist to work at The Washington Post in 1966. She worked there for nearly three decades before earning her doctorate in photojournalism here at UT Austin in 2007. Her archives are preserved here at the center. I was pleased to join Margaret at her table in Washington at the WHNPA’s annual gala earlier this month, where she was presented with the award. From everybody at the Briscoe Center—congratulations, Margaret!

Don Carleton, Ph.D.
Executive Director
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History

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