Response to Cormac Shine

October 8, 2018 |  Tagged | Comments Off on Response to Cormac Shine

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Dominique Mathura

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Professor:Antonova

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 History 799

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 10/03/2018

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Response to Cormac Shine

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 In a January 2018 online article, Cormac Shine argues convincingly that historians must be much more involved in the national dialog because they have a valuable perspective to offer of “change over time,” as he puts it. There is no doubt in my mind about the need for more historians to participate in the current growing crisis about the Trump administration’s legal problems and their similarities and differences to President Nixon’s Watergate problems. However, to accomplish what Shine is suggesting, historians must become celebrities. They must get an agent, a manager, and a publicist because these are the people involved in booking experts to appear in national programs.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 There is no doubt about the importance of having a professional historian provide background information on the many problems we face today. Every crisis had a precedent or an analogue in history. For example, the 2008 recession was similar to the Great Depression, but not as severe, and American society was very different in the 1930s than the early 2000s. By understanding the differences and similarities, we can form an informed perspective. Moreover, the Trump administration’s legal problems may be similar to the Nixon’s administration’s Watergate problems, but there are also important differences. By understanding what exactly happened to President Nixon, we can understand better how his story relates to President Trump’s growing problems.  However, only professional historians can draw informed parallels and provide accurate context. This is important because it affects the national debate, the daily headlines, and voters’ views. As a result, Cormac Shine is correct when he says, “Historians need to ditch their aversion to public discourse. By looking to the past, they can teach us about our future.” The only question is howwe can get professional historians to participate in the national debate.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Unfortunately, besides historians’ “aversion to public discourse,” there are other more technical problems having to do with the mechanics of becoming a television expert, such as Michio Kaku, a City College of CUNY professor of physics who appears regularly on all sorts of popular media and provides scientific background while trying to convince people to buy his new book! No such well-known professors of history exist on the national media. Instead, journalists like Bob Woodward are the people who provide historical context. For example, after writing eighteen books on eight American Presidents, last week Bob Woodward published his ninth President book,Fear: Trump in the White House. After exposing the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein in the 1970s, Bob Woodward has become one of the most well-respected personalities on the national news. He is knowledgeable, but he is a journalist, not a professional historian.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 I think that one of the main problems why professional historians are not involved in the national dialog has to do with the structure of the system of professionals who book experts to appear on television shows. Most reporters do not know professional historians. Calling them out of the blue is time-consuming in the age of caller-ID and so on. Interview programs that book guests for long interviews have a professional staff member who does the booking through professional channels. Most of the experts who do appear on interview programs are promoting their new book, and they have an agent, manager, publicist, and other professional contacts associated with the publishing industry, the booking industry, and so on. However, only a few professional historians have such professional contacts because all of them are college professors. In fact, professional historians live in another world than the world of television and radio. There is no other way to make a living as a professional historian. Jobs in think tanks are very few for historians.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 In other words, most historians are busy teaching several classes every term, grading stacks of student papers, going to academic conferences, writing academic articles for peer-reviewed journals, and so on. They live in a very different world from the mass media world, which is like a circus, compared to life in academia. I am guessing that most professional historians publish a book every several years or so. The book is published usually by an academic press, and most of its readers are other academics. Unfortunately, there are very few venues with a mass audience, for academic historians to discuss serious and complicated historical issues. YouTube has countless videos of TedTalks, academic conferences, and so on, but their audience is limited to other academics and graduate students. PBS also produces programs on history, but most are probably too slick for academic historians, I think. For example, PBS’ idea of serious historians are people like Ken Burns, who is a film maker, not a professional historian.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 As a result, I think that to do what Cormac Shine suggests, historians must start appearing regularly on shows like Meet the Press,whose host often has panel discussions that last more than a few minutes. In fact, time is another obstacle. The overwhelming majority of national venues feature several experts, but each has only a few minutes to ask specific questions that the host asks. This is true even for non-profit venues, such as National Public Radio. Its two main programs are MorningEditionand AllThingsConsidered. However, their segments with experts are very short, and the experts are exclusively journalists, not professional historians. An exception is Terry Gross’ program, Fresh Air,which lasts an hour and usually has one or two guests, so each guest has enough time to develop serious and complicated ideas. Moreover, Terry Gross is always well-prepared and asks intelligent questions. However, I am sure she has a staff member who books all guests, through professional channels. Most professional historians have no way of getting in touch with Terry Gross.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Moreover, NPR’s interview programs that do have long interviews rarely feature professional historians. Besides Bob Woodward, the only other well-respected personalities are people like Robert Caro, who is considered an expert on Robert Moses and President Lyndon Johnson. However, Robert Caro too is a journalist, not a professional historian. The situation is much worse on the main television channels, which have commercials every few minutes and do mostly headlines and very little depth or complexity.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 There is no doubt that we would all benefit if more historians entered the national dialogue on the mass media that most Americans use every day. The only question is howto do this. Shuang Wen, a journalist who went back to graduate school because she did not know enough about the area she was covering, has some very useful suggestions. First, she discourages historians from giving interviews to reporters preparing a story that is not more than two minutes long. Otherwise, historians must be ready to face the possibility they will be quoted out of context, for the sake of a snappy headline.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Shuang Wen has some excellent suggestions, but I am not sure if they are practical. The overwhelming majority of mass media venues consist mainly of headlinenews. In addition, their interviews are very short, too, and they focus on sensationalism, not depth or complexity. In fact, their motto is “If it bleeds, it leads.” That is the reality. As a result, Shuang Wen’s suggestions often sound idealistic and impractical. For example, she suggests that “it is also in the interest of journalists to nurture and build long-term relationships with historians they respect and whose authority they trust.” Long-term professional relationships between journalists and historians are an excellent idea, but how many people actually have such professional relationships? Not, many, I don’t think, or we would see more historians on MSNBC, CNN, and other media. Unfortunately, even hour-long shows like The Rachel Maddow Shownever features professional historians. Ms. Maddow is very intelligent and well-informed, but her quests are mostly journalists, lawyers, prosecutors, and other professionals, but not historians. Another problem is that Shuang Wen works for the BBC, which spends a lot more time on serious global coverage than the overwhelming majority of American mass media shows.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 In the final analysis, Cormac Shine’s call for professional historians to become more involved in the national dialogue is an excellent idea that would benefit us all, especially during the current difficult period with a President whose grasp of history is not very good. Unfortunately, our country is so divided right now that I am not sure if professional historians would change any minds among President Trump’s supporters. Most of them think that the mass media and academia are too liberal already. In other words, neither President Trump nor his supporters appreciate complexity, so I am not sure if more professional historians would do much good right now.

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22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Works Cited

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Shine, Cormac. “Our World Is Changing. It’s Time for Historians to Explain Why.”

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 January 2018.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 Wen, Shuang. “Two Sides of The Story: How Historians and Journalists Can Work Together.”

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 October 2015.

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