In-Progress Report: Made By History Print Project Draft

As a quick refresher–I am doing an analysis of The Washington Post’s Made By History blog section.  The blog features pieces that connect current political events to their historical roots.  I separated my paper into three parts—exploring the blog’s content, analyzing recent contributor interview responses, and conclusions.

Part I: Exploring Made By History’s Content

In part I, I summarized and analyzed a recent piece in the Made By History section to showcase the kind of work and content the blog produces.  I chose a piece by Kyla Sommers called “The battle against D.C. statehood is rooted in anti-Black racism.”

Part II: Contributor Interviews

I sought out participants based on topic.  I chose three pressing political issues—DC statehood, voting rights, and immigration—and reached out to two contributors of each subject whose recent articles I found compelling. These are the participants:

Dr. Adam Arenson is a professor of history at Manhattan College in New York City.

Rebecca Brenner Graham is a PhD candidate in history at American University, an AU Public History Alum, and a history teacher at the Madeira School in McLean, VA.

Kate Masur is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University.

A.K. Sandoval-Strausz is the director of the Latina/o studies program and an associate professor of history at Pennsylvania State University.

Elliot Young is a professor of history at Lewis & Clark College.

Robinson Woodward-Burns is an assistant professor of political science at Howard University.

I asked each contributor a series of five questions.  I condensed them for the purposes of this post:

  1. What motivated you to contribute to the Made By History blog?  When do you consider writing an op-ed or blog post?
  2. How do you view your contribution to the Made By History section? 
  3. What is the significance of connecting the present to the past?  And why do you think this—showing the public the utility of history and the work historians do—is important right now?
  4. What are your tips for historians looking to write op-eds? What makes an engaging op-ed?
  5. How is the Made By History blog changing the nature of how historians engage with the public?  What does this digital resource say about the emerging possibilities for new forms of scholarship?

The responses were really interesting, and I was able to draw conclusions about the blog from participants’ professional backgrounds and from their responses. For example, most participants do not consider this kind of work “scholarly,” yet every participating contributor either holds a PhD or is a PhD candidate.

Part III: Conclusions

I am waiting to hear back from Made By History co-editor Kathryn Brownell.  She is working on some questions that I sent her regarding the blog’s goals and to what extent she thinks they have been successful.  I currently have some very broad conclusions that I will hopefully be able to clarify more when Brownell gets back to me—hopefully by the end of the week.  I also found that I had a really hard time organizing this paper so any feedback on the structure would be much appreciated!

One Reply to “In-Progress Report: Made By History Print Project Draft”

  1. Really enjoyed this paper! The overview of history blogging you give at the front of this piece is both engaging and nicely covers a lot of ground on the subject. The paper is also nicely structured and set up. It’s great that you were able to get these interviews. I also appreciate the way that you were able to return to your initial questions and offer answers and connect things back to the literature you started with. Altogether the paper fully meets the requirements for the course. So you are good to go there, below I’ve offered some suggestions for things to consider if you keep developing this paper further.

    – When you jump into part one it would be great if you had a paragraph or two that gave an overview of why you selected this example post to do more analysis on and to just give a bit more context on it. When was it posted, it is one of how many different posts on the site, is it typical of the kinds of posts that go up etc.

    – You got really great data back from the interviews and the way you set up the paper does a good job of laying out those results. If you did want to work on this further, I think it would likely make sense to pull out the overarching themes from their responses and write them into more of a narrative form. Right now the essay feels more like a direct presentation of the data and does not flow that much like an academic article. That is, instead of presenting the results of the responses to each individual question it would likely be more engaging if you reviewed the themes that emerged across the responses and then drew the structure of the paper out from those themes and supported them with parts of the interview subject’s responses.

    – I do think there is something to be further developed in your conclusions about the extent to which “Made by History” is a blog or is effectively an extension of the longstanding tradition of op-eds. It strikes me that there is something novel and significant going on here about the way that MBH is both of those things at once. While personal blogs really didn’t take off in the way that a lot of us thought they might in the 00 decade, it is interesting to see the way that blogging can work under the umbrella of a highly reputable brand like WaPo. That is, there is a limited amount of print Op-Ed space, but this can basically run as it’s own quasi-independent vertical that effectively functions as a history branded channel of op-ed like pieces. That seems really significant to me and I think there is potentially more to say about this as a kind of publishing model.

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