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David Copeland receives highest honor in field of American journalism history

David Copeland, A.J. Fletcher Professor in the School of Communications, received the Sidney Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism History from the American Journalism Historians Association during the organization's annual convention in Tucson, Ariz.

David Copeland, A.J. Fletcher Professor in the School of Communications

The Kobre Award, which is the highest honor given to members of the AJHA, recognizes individuals with an exemplary record of sustained achievement in journalism history through teaching, research and professional activities. The award was established in 1986 and since then it has been given out just 13 times, mostly to faculty members from Research I institutions.

“It’s a tremendous honor because it validates the work you’ve done,” Copeland said. “When I got this award, the guy who gave it to me said it’s exciting to give the award to someone whose work you read in class as a student. That’s humbling.”

Copeland, a past president of the AJHA, has written 10 books with two more on the way, 21 journal articles and 15 book chapters concerning the history of mass media. He has also been a series editor for 26 books, including the eight-volume “Greenwood Library of American War Reporting” and the “Mediating American History” book series. In addition, he’s the editor of Media History Monographs, an online media history journal.

“David Copeland has excelled in all areas of journalism history,” said Mike Conway, chair of the Awards Committee. “He's known as a dynamic classroom teacher who can bring history alive for his students. In terms of service, he's been an important part of AJHA since he started going to the conference as a grad student in 1991. It's almost as if the Kobre Award was created for someone like David Copeland."

Copeland said he enjoys studying how the media have impacted society. And in order to complete that kind of research, he said, it’s important to view events in the proper historical perspective. Events of the past often inform events in the present.

“I think what interests me most are the components of media that have an effect on society and culture, in general,” Copeland said. “We don’t even realize as a society how much media affect us. What I’ve been working on all these years is the role of media in directing what happens in the nation and what directs us as a culture.”

In his acceptance remarks, Copeland urged AJHA members to “think small, think large” in their research by not only continuing to work within the media history discipline but also by seeking opportunities to contribute to the scholarly discourse in other areas of history.

The Sidney Kobre Award was first given to its namesake in 1986. Kobre was an influential media historian who valued research that detailed the social and cultural influence of the media. Every year, nominations for the award are taken and a committee decides whether to honor a deserving member. Copeland secured 15 letters of recommendation and became the 13th person to receive the award that recognized his prolific publishing career.

Copeland most recently released the book “The Media’s Role in Defining the Nation: The Active Voice” in 2010, which explored how media and society intersect. Currently, he’s finishing a chapter for the “Oxford Handbook of Religion of News.” He’s also working on a book about journalism and news with a faculty member at the University of Alabama that should be released in 2011, and a book about visual theory and practice that he’s writing with Elon Communications faculty members Brooke Barnett, Harlen Makemson and Phillip Motley.

“What they’re looking at is if someone meets the qualifications for lifetime achievement in media history, “Copeland said. “It’s really nice because other people see a value in what you’ve done.”

Eric Townsend,
10/27/2010 8:49 AM