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History News Service

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The History News Service (HNS) was the first American press syndicate to provide articles written exclusively by historians to North American newspapers. It was founded and led from 1996 to 2010 by two historians, Joyce Appleby and James M. Banner, Jr. [1]

HNS aimed to provide non-partisan historical contextualization and analysis of current news by distributing brief articles, traditionally called "op-eds" because of their appearance facing newspapers' editorial pages. [2] HNS invited historians to submit draft articles of no more than 800 words (then the standard op-ed length). Appleby, Banner, and a volunteer staff (including historian James Boylan, founding editor of the Columbia Journalism Review) then evaluated, edited, and distributed them to newspapers in the United States and Canada. The articles were offered without fee to more than 300 newspapers and wire services in North America. HNS articles were also used in college classes and shared with such online services as the History News Network. [3]

HNS began distributing articles in February 1997. Major newspapers in Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Providence, Sacramento, and other cities published HNS articles, which covered a broad range of domestic and foreign news topics and were written by both experienced and aspiring historians. Submissions and distributions, averaging between 50 and 60 annually in the syndicate’s heyday, reached a peak in 2001, the year of the September 11th attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Thereafter the number of articles published began a slow, uneven decline, reflecting newspapers' loss of readers to emerging electronic media outlets as well as changes in newspapers’ ownership and practices. [4]

Appleby and Banner transferred management of the syndicate to David Paul Nord, a historian on the faculty of Indiana University, at the end of 2010. In a farewell essay, they noted the valuable experience that HNS contributors had gained, as well as the contributions they had made to public affairs while also observing that newspapers had become a less welcoming market even for free articles. Nord in turn placed HNS in the hands of historians at Ohio State University who subsequently merged it with their programs, thus effectively ending its independent existence. [5] Subsequently, analogous projects, such as the Washington Post’s “Made for History,” a digital-format-only service supported by that newspaper, have developed in HNS’s wake. [6]

In 2020, while reflecting on the maturation of historians’ adoption of op-eds as a means of applying historical knowledge to public affairs, Joanne Meyerowitz, president of the Organization of American Historians, credited the History News Service, with pioneering a significant form of civic engagement by historians. [7]

The files of the History News Service may be found on the sites of the Way Back Machine and H-Net—Humanities and Sciences On-Line. [8]

 

References[edit]

 

1 “New AHA Press Committee Promotes Newspaper Articles," [American Historical Association] Perspectives on History (October 1, 1996), 25 (https://www.historians.org/research-and-publications/perspectives-on-history/october-1996/new-aha-press-committee-promotes-newspaper-articles). Joyce Appleby and James M. Banner, Jr., “The History News Service,” OAH Newsletter, v. 25 (May 1997), 11 (file:///D:/James%20Banner/Downloads/A2010_11-016_Box11_OAH_Vol25No2_May1997-1.pdf ). See also Wikipedia entries for Joyce Appleby and James M. Banner, Jr.

2 "Op-ed," a term first adopted by Herbert Bayard Swope of the New York Evening World and revived in 1970 by The New York Times. See Wikipedia entry for "op-ed."

3 Banner, "A News Service by Historians," Perspectives, May 1, 2006. Washington State University, “Historical Op-Ed Article. Honors 210B Spring 2010.” https://www.coursehero.com/file/24151968/Historical-Op-Ed-Assignment-Spring-2010doc/. “Advice for Historians Writing Opinion Pieces,” History and Policy, 2014, https://www.historyandpolicy.org/docs/advice-for-historians-on-writing-opinion-pieces-2014.pdf. Cliopatria, “History News Service,” History News Network, November 22, 2004. https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/8664.

4 Appleby and Banner, “The History News Service: Fourteen Years On." Perspectives on History, December 2010, 16.

5 David Paul Nord, "History News Service Feeds Popular Hunger for Good History and Good Journalism," Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective (October 2010) (https://origins.osu.edu/history-news/history-news-service-feeds-popular-hunger-good-history-and-good-journalism). John Fea, “History News Service Moves to Indiana University,” Current (June 13, 2011) (https://currentpub.com/2011/06/13/history-news-service-moves-to-indiana-university/). =

6 https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/04/21/welcome-made-by-history/.

7 Meyerowitz, "180 Op-Eds: Or How to Make the Present Historical," Journal of American History (September 2020), 322-235 at 325 (https://academic.oup.com/jah/article/107/2/323/5907840).

8 https://web.archive.org/web/20100920203725/http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~hns/ and https://www.h-net.org/hns/.


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