Friday, May 21, 2004

I have become strangely obsessed with Romenesko. In general, I'm a little obsessed with media about the media, which seems like an odd interest for someone who has never worked in journalism. It may be a residual effect of my high-school dream of being a crusading reporter, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable and all of that. I gave up this ambition reluctantly after realizing that investigative journalists spend most of their time talking to strangers, a thing which I find excruciating and at which I am completely inept. Later, I realized that American journalism has largely turned its back on the investigative tradition and that I'd probably just have been frustrated anyway. (Maybe the recent canonization of Seymour Hirsch will change that, although I'm not all that optimistic.) So now I spend all day reading newspapers from the 1920s, afflicting and comforting nobody but myself. And then I read websites about the media.

Crusading historians are few and far between. Academics like to think of themselves as political, and there certainly is a political aspect involved in deciding who and what gets studied, but we're really not crusading types. But Bruce Craig, who runs the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History is an exception. He's the historical profession's one-man voice on Capitol Hill, advocating for access to archives, transparency in funding of history-related projects, participation by actual scholars in history education, and other good stuff. His weekly NCC Washington Updates are pretty much the only way to stay on top of Federal policies that affect the American historical profession. This week's update has a report on a former National Endowment for the Humanities employee who may face prosecution for blowing the whistle on policies that made it more difficult for projects dealing with race, sexuality or gender to get funding.


According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Sheldon Bernstein, the inspector general (IG) of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)has initiated an investigation into the actions of Julia C. Bondanella, a former NEH employee, for allegedly improperly disclosing information about grant applicants and employee matters to a Chronicle reporter.

In January 2004, the Chronicle published a lengthy article by Anne Marie Borrego on the NEH practice of "flagging" -- that is, identifying applications dealing with controversial topics (i.e. ones dealing with sexuality, race, or gender) and giving them closer scrutiny in the review process. In the lengthy article Bondanella was briefly quoted about the
agency's ongoing practices.

Read the whole article in the NCC update. And score one for the Chronicle of Higher Education, for upholding the tradition of investigative journalism in its own little patch.

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