Publication Date

October 1, 1996

A group of historians interested in promoting newspaper articles and op-ed pieces with a historical point to make have joined together to form the ad hoc AHA press committee. The group's goal is to enhance the historical intelligence of the reading public by acting as a link between prospective historian-authors and the press. Operating under the external title of the History News Service, group members will work with authors to help them develop newspaper pieces; the authors will receive any pay involved and can identify themselves as writers for the History News Service if they wish. Both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times have evinced an interest in the group’s effort; committee members have also developed contacts with some 30 regional papers. Those interested in turning their hand to an op-ed piece should send an electronic-mail message to Vernon Horn, Communications Associate, at the AHA, for the group’s guidelines.

Since speed is of the essence in writing for newspapers, the committee is working now to anticipate potential news stories focusing 011, for example, commemorations in 1997, upcoming museum exhibitions, or cases that the Supreme Court is likely to consider in the forthcoming year. "We're interested in story ideas which reveal how the historical dimension changes an issue or provides an unsuspected perspective," Joyce Appleby, the chair of the committee, emphasized. "Every day’s news brings a host of opportunities for historians to comment upon," she said. A subcommittee of the group is currently working on ideas for a National Public Radio show.

The committee, which is composed of 32 members, includes academic historians, public historians, and people with history degrees working in law or the press. Members work daily through electronic mail, generating story ideas, contacting prospective authors, and checking ideas with newspaper editorial-page editors. Because it is necessary to work rapidly when placing newspaper articles, the committee needs authors willing to act quickly on ideas. Anyone interested in writing for the group or in joining the committee should also send an electronic-mail message to appleby@history.ucla.edu. The committee has a World Wide Web site at http: www.fas.harvard.edu/-jhurley/ahamedia.html.

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