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Communicating in Canada's Past

Communicating in Canada's Past: Essays in Media History

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Communicating in Canada's Past
    Book Description:

    The first collection of its kind, this volume assembles both well-established and up-and-coming scholars to address sizable gaps in the literature on media history in Canada.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9735-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction: Media History as Concept and Practice
    (pp. 3-24)

    The idea and motivation for this essay collection grew out of a conference on Canadian media history held in Toronto in June 2006, an event which we helped organize. While historical work on Canadian media and communication systems has a long past – and a celebrated one in the work of Harold Innis – the field today remains fragmented and only partially developed.¹ Practitioners are spread across many disciplines, working (until very recently) without the aid of dedicated scholarly organizations or journals. The Canadian historical profession includes groups promoting the historical study of women, Natives, national politics, labour, business, and children (to...


    • 1 The Catholic Press: A Challenge to the ‘Journalism of Information’ Paradigm
      (pp. 27-46)

      Newspapers and specialized magazines are part of daily life for thousands of people: they inform us about current events, they satisfy our curiosity, they nourish our reflections. Very few readers of these publications have questions about how the press operates, however, which is a perfectly normal state of affairs. Journalists sometimes ask themselves about the nature of their work, but they are primarily preoccupied with ethical questions and leave the task of looking at the media in an analytical and theoretical way to communications specialists.

      Because there is no doubt about their relevance as historical sources, newspapers are now frequently...

    • 2 Old Media, New Media, and Competition: Canadian Press and the Emergence of Radio News
      (pp. 47-77)

      The introduction of radio news in the 1920s and 1930s provides a valuable opportunity to study how a new medium affects an established predecessor in the quest for audiences, revenue, and cultural legitimacy. It allows one to address some general questions about media evolution: does the example of radio suggest that new media are necessarily antagonistic to existing ones? In what ways did this new medium present challenges to, or complement, its predecessor, the newspaper industry? Did it develop entirely new functions or mainly fulfil existing functions in new ways? What specific aspects of business strategy, audience response, and changing...

    • 3 Britishness, the BBC, and the Birth of Canadian Public Broadcasting, 1928–1936
      (pp. 78-108)

      Historians have paid insufficient attention to the role of British models, British identities, and direct British intervention in the birth of Canadian public broadcasting. This essay seeks to provide a corrective. It does not claim that there existed any centrally directed plan to shackle Canadian broadcasting in imperial chains. The relationships between Britain and Canada, and between British and Canadian identities, were more subtle than this in the interwar years. Rather, the essay argues that in order to understand how British influences shaped the Canadian broadcasting debate in the late 1920s and early 1930s, we need to examine the interplay...

    • 4 ‘The Luxury of Moderate Use’: Seagram and Moderation Advertising, 1934–1955
      (pp. 109-139)

      At a 2005 press conference promoting Dan Aykroyd’s investment in an Ontario winery the actor-comedian took an impromptu bathroom break and joked upon returning: ‘Everything in moderation. I did have three glasses.’¹ In the 2006 satirical filmThank You for Smoking, weekly meetings of the M.O.D. (‘Merchants of Death’) Squad featured tobacco and firearms lobbyists alongside Polly Bailey, the head of the ‘Moderation Council,’ who fretted over the effect of fetal alcohol syndrome awareness campaigns on alcohol sales. To work, these jokes required audience knowledge of the close association between alcohol and the merits of moderation, a relationship with a...

    • 5 Evelyn Dick, Soap Star: Newspaper Coverage of the Torso Murder Case, 1946-1947
      (pp. 140-167)

      In 1946 a young woman named Evelyn Dick was accused of killing her husband and one of her children in Hamilton, Ontario. The case came to be known as the torso murder, due to the fact that the body of John Dick, Evelyn’s husband, had been dismembered, its head and limbs burned to ashes.¹ John’s torso had been dumped over the side of an escarpment; its discovery set in motion a series of murder trials that are still described as some of the most sensational in Canadian history. The grisly treatment of the two victims certainly contributed to the public’s...

    • 6 Variety Show as National Identity: CBC Television and Dominion Day Celebrations, 1958–1980
      (pp. 168-193)

      Can television be used to bind a nation together or create a national identity? Over the past fifty years, the Canadian government has experimented with different types of events on 1 July, initially known as Dominion Day and now as Canada Day, in an effort to foster a greater sense of national unity and promote certain conceptions of Canadian identity. This involvement often took the form of collaboration between the government and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to produce a television special, broadcast nationwide, that covered Ottawa-based festivities, sometimes with additional feeds from locations across the country. But what sort...

    • 7 Politics? Fear Not! The Rise of The Average Superhero in the Visual Rhetoric of Bill Davis’s 1971 Election Pamphlet
      (pp. 194-230)

      In contemporary liberal democracies, it is widely taken for granted that powerful politicians pay people to tell them what to wear. The image of the political candidate, ‘as conveyed by his or her physical appearance, speech style, and general mode of self-presentation,’ is one of the most discussed features of recent elections. Campaign strategists pursue eye-catching photographs with a singular focus, ‘even if that means taking the leader to an unwinnable riding just to get the required visuals.’ The political scene bears out Boorstin’s exclamation: ‘The language of images is everywhere. Everywhere it has displaced the language of ideals.’ At...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)

    • 8 Whence and Whither: The Historiography of Canadian Broadcasting
      (pp. 233-256)

      In what state is the history of Canadian broadcasting? Where has it come from, and where should it go in the future? My comments on this broad topic will be a combination of the empirical, the analytical, and the personal. My goal is to provide an overview and assessment of the past and contemporary literature, to point out emphases and lacunae, and to conclude with some thoughts about the directions scholarship in Canadian broadcasting history might move in the future. Although I have gathered a considerable amount of information about the past and current historiography, I make no claim to...

    • 9 Recent Trends in Research on the History of the Press in Quebec: Towards a Cultural History
      (pp. 257-270)

      A few years ago, at the beginning of this century, Jean de Bonville and I produced an overview of research on the history of the Quebec press.¹ It was our impression at the time that the field was fairly underdeveloped, even taking into account works published in the previous three or four decades. And in fact I do not believe that this state of underdevelopment was limited to Quebec. Unfortunately, little has changed since then: I would still conclude today that there has been a gap in historiography as far as research on the press is concerned, in spite of...

    • 10 Encounters with Theory
      (pp. 271-296)

      This essay is about my search for a frame. Personal narratives may now be in fashion once again because they capture actual experience. Nonetheless this essay requires a modicum of justification. It grew out of a short conference paper I presented in a plenary session devoted to considering the issue ‘What Is Media History (and what is it useful for)?’ I had once looked upon media history as the study of print and broadcasting institutions, a kind of project which ought to demonstrate the role of the media as active and significant players in the events of the past. I...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-326)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 327-328)