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Journalism 774:  Mining the National Archives

Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland

Summer I, 2011


Instructor: Ira Chinoy                         Time: Tues. & Thurs.  9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Office: Room 2100-K, Knight Hall          (See notes below for starting times.)

Phone: 301-405-8208 (office) Dates: May 31 to July 7, 2011

Office hours: By appointment  First class:  Room 1101, Knight Hall

E-mail:            Subsequent classes: See notes below for locations


Class web site:


Course description and goals:  Though the materials available for inspection at the National Archives are generally decades old, journalists have used them to research feature articles, investigative pieces, and even breaking news.  Scholars have also used the National Archives for research in journalism history, especially where that history intersects with the activities and policies of the United States government.  One of the primary facilities of the National Archives and Records Administration, an independent federal agency that oversees management of U.S. government records, is known as Archives II and is located at the edge of the College Park campus. This course will focus on ways in which journalists, students and scholars can make use of Archives II in their reporting and research. This course will also introduce students to the general principles and resources for archival research. Students will hear from experts – archivists, journalists and authors – who are experienced in archival research. Students will also read news reports, feature articles and books that relied on archival research.  Each student will do an in-depth research project at Archives II and will keep a portfolio of reflections on the class sessions.


Instruction and speakers:

Ø  Associate Professor Ira Chinoy was a journalist for 24 years before joining the faculty of the College of Journalism in 2001. His profile is posted at:

Ø  Maggie Saponaro, a university librarian, will help teach the class on June 7. She will also be available during the semester to advise you on search strategies for secondary source materials to complement your archival research.  She can be reached by e-mail at

Ø  Bob Coren, a supervisor at Archives II, is our primary contact there and has also been involved in the planning and operation of this course since its inception in 2002. He will lead a tour of Archives II at the second session.

Ø  A number of class sessions will include archivists, journalists and authors as guest speakers.


Class times and locations:

Ø  Class sessions will be held at a variety of locations – on campus in Knight Hall and off campus at the National Archives buildings in College Park (known as “Archives II”) and in Washington, D.C.  The starting time will also vary depending on the date and location. (At Archives II, this is intended to ensure you have time to park and get through security before class). Pay close attention to the schedule of class sessions (below) to know where to be, when to be there, and what to bring with you.  Here are some more things to keep in mind about the schedule:

Ø  The second class session and several other class sessions will be held in various rooms at Archives II (, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park. In some cases, you should go directly to one of the classrooms, which are on the floor below the main lobby.  In other cases, you will need to assemble in the main lobby before class starts to sign in and be escorted to the classroom.  The details appear in the list of class sessions (below). We will talk in class about what you can and can’t bring with you to the sessions in areas that have restricted access. You will need your researcher ID card (more on that below) for some sessions (to access the research rooms) and your driver’s license for other sessions (so you can get a visitor’s pass for sessions that involve visiting behind-the-scenes parts of the archives). See the notes for each session below to see which you will need to bring.

Ø  The ninth class (June 28) will be held at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.  Students will gather at the Special Events entrance on Constitution Avenue at 7th Street, NW., to meet our host and pass through security.  Since parking is problematic in that area, you should consider getting there by one of two means:  (1). Take the Metro to the Archives/Navy Memorial stop on the Yellow Line or the Green Line; it is across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Archives Building; or (2). Take the NARA staff shuttle bus that leaves Archives II at 8 a.m. The bus usually has room for researchers, and it should arrive at the Archives Building by about 8:45 a.m. [Note: If you plan to take the bus, confirm the schedule and availability of this bus before the date of this session.]



Ø  Most readings will be made available on the Internet before the class session in which they will be discussed. There is a separate page with links to required and optional readings at

Ø  Mark Feldstein’s Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington's Scandal Culture (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-374-23530-7) will be required reading for Session 8 on June 23, when he will come to discuss his work. You are required to prepare a two-page response to this book for Session 8.



Assignments and grading:

Ø  Obtaining a researcher identification card:  Following the directions here is important!  Do not go to the Archives to obtain a researcher ID card until the morning of the second class session. In the first class, we will put together a list to forward to the staff at Archives II with each student’s name, home address, phone number, driver’s license number and state, and general research interest. We will also review the Archives II researcher orientation materials. Then on the morning of June 2, the second class, the Archives staff will be ready to issue you a researcher ID card once you fill out some paperwork and have your picture taken. You must get to Archives II (8601 Adelphi Road, College Park) no later than 9 a.m. on June 2, allowing extra time before that for parking and for the security check, and plenty of time for traffic, too. And you must bring your driver’s license. The office that issues the cards is on the first floor (Room 1000, just to the right of the security check area) and opens at 8:30 a.m. Tell the staff that you are with the “Chinoy” team. Once you have your card, arrive in Lecture Room C on the lower level no later than 9:30 a.m. for the start of class. Also: bring a quarter to use a locker for your belongings during our tour (you get the quarter back at the end).

Ø  Class participation:  Active participation in class discussions and professional conduct during your work at the archives are essential for the success of this class.  This includes completing the readings that will be assigned for the sessions with guest speakers (see the course readings and assignments page at

Class participation will count for 30 percent of your grade for the course, which will come from the following elements:

1.      For each class session in which there are readings assigned or guest speakers, you must come to class prepared to participate in discussions of readings and to ask relevant questions of the speakers.

2.      For the session in which Mark Feldstein will speak (Session 8 on June 23), you will turn in a response of at least two pages, double-spaced, to Poisoning the Press.

3.      Each student will keep a “sessions portfolio” to be turned in at the final class session on July 7.  This will include the following items for each class session):

·        A typed page of reflections on each class session (double-spaced is fine), including (a). a description of at least one of the memorable concepts that came up during that session, and (b). at least one idea you took away from the session that you thought would be useful to you in pursuing your own research project.  The latter could, for example, be a question that occurred to you based on what you heard during the session, an idea for resources you might check, or something specific that the speaker mentioned as an avenue you might try.

Ø  Research project:  Each student will carry out a research project at Archives II.  You have been asked to email the instructor with a couple of ideas for research projects before the first class session.  We will brainstorm your ideas at the first class session and also as the course progresses.  You are expected to begin your research in the archives by the third session.  This project will count for 70 percent of your course grade, and you should plan on investing at least 40 hours in it outside class over the course of the semester.  The elements of this project include:

o   A 150-word statement of your research question:  This is due at the third class session, Tuesday, June 7. (Bring two copies to turn in.)

o   A 250-word status memo and oral report: This is due at the start of the sixth class session, Thursday, June 16. It should give an initial account of your search for relevant primary records and secondary sources, your efforts to contact archivists with expertise in your area of interest, the approach you are taking in your research, and the most interesting of your initial findings. Bring two copies of the written report to class. We will use your accounts of your projects as a jumping-off point to brainstorm the challenges that remain. 

o   A 500-word outline of your final project report should be sent by e-mail to your instructor during the fifth week of the course, but no later than 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29 (the day before Session 10).  You are not bound to stick with this outline to the end, but doing it will give you a chance to start thinking ahead about the organization of your final report and the holes you have left to fill.

o   An oral presentation to the class and the final written report of your research project.  You will turn in your final written report and present your findings to the class at the last session on Thursday, July 7.  Plan on talking for about ten minutes, with discussion to follow.  Consider providing handouts – for example, an outline or copies of key documents – or using other audiovisual materials.  Some students in the past have used videos, photos, websites, audio recordings, document handouts, or PowerPoint presentations.  The written report may be in the form of a detailed story memo, a work of journalism, a research paper, a website, or a script for a video, along with the video itself. This final report should be about 2,000 to 2,500 words (about eight to ten pages, double-spaced). It should focus on your most interesting findings, the evidence supporting them, and relevant context from secondary sources. If you do a story memo or research paper, you should also include a description of the additional reporting or research that would be needed to produce a publishable news story, feature, or journal article from your work. 

o   A log of your research activities, including sources consulted, discoveries, and insights: This will help you keep track of what you have done, and it will help us see how you are doing. I may ask to look at your log when I discuss your research with you individually during the semester. It may be typed or handwritten. You will be required to submit a copy of this log as part of your final written project on July 7.

o   A one-page statement on what you learned about the research process that was a revelation to you and that would be useful for future students to keep in mind.  You will also be required to submit this as part of your final written project on July 7.

o   One copy of a useful record (text, photo, video, map, etc.) that you found at Archives II and the steps that someone else would need to take to find it, including a copy of the pull slip (the document used to request the records) or the information that would need to be included on a pull slip. You will also be required to submit this as part of your final written project on July 7.  (Note:  If there is a significant expense associated with reproducing this record, alert the instructor ahead of time to determine whether you need to submit a copy or just a description of the record).

o   A note about citations and bibliographies: You must include proper citations (footnotes or endnotes) for material obtained from primary or secondary sources. National Archives maintains a guide for citing its records at  Citations for other materials should be prepared according to a standard style manual, such as the Chicago Manual of Style. The full Chicago Manual is available through ResearchPort. A Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide is also online at In addition to citations, you should also include a bibliography at the end of your project. This would include both the secondary sources and a general reference to the primary sources (that is, rather than each document, folder or record series, your bibliography would simply list the various “record groups” that you consulted). Note that there are different formats for footnotes and bibliographic entries. Students who wish to use a style manual other than Chicago for citations and bibliographies must get advance permission from the instructor.


Attendance and Deadlines:  Because of the frequent appearance of guest speakers to deliver information not available to you in any other course materials, it is important that you attend every class session. It is also essential that you show up on time, which, to reiterate, will mean allowing enough time to contend with traffic, parking, and getting through the security checks at the entrance to Archives II on the days that we meet there.


Participation and demeanor:  Though you will work hard in this class, the goal is that it will be a lively and enjoyable experience. The give and take of classroom discussion is a great opportunity for all of us to learn. The guest speakers are volunteering their time and expertise to help you learn, so you will be expected to show them the respect they deserve by paying attention and participating in the discussions.


Academic Integrity:  Along with certain rights, students have the responsibility to behave honorably in an academic environment. Academic dishonesty, including cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism, will not be tolerated. Any abridgement of academic integrity standards will be referred directly to the dean and the university's Office of Judicial Affairs. Confirmation of such incidents will result in earning an “XF” grade for the course and may result in more severe consequences, such as expulsion. Students who are uncertain as to what constitutes academic dishonesty should consult the university’s Code of Academic Integrity, available online at:


All students will be required to sign an academic integrity pledge at the beginning of the semester.  It will cover all assignments in the course.  Please read it carefully.  While you will be getting help from your instructor, NARA archivists, and Maggie Saponaro as you work on your research projects, the work you turn in should be your own.


Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities that require special accommodation during the semester should make an appointment to meet with the instructor as soon as possible.


Computer Lab Availability:  In addition to the computer labs in the Journalism Building, there is a listing of computer labs elsewhere on campus at:



Class Schedule:


NOTE ABOUT READINGS: Check the archives class page with session-by-session links to required and optional readings and assignments at before each session. You will need a special username and password issued specifically for the archives class students (and not to be shared with others) for some of the readings on that page. Details of class sessions or readings may change during the semester, so check this syllabus online before each session.


Session 1 – Tues., May 31:  Introduction to the course and to the ways archives have been used by journalists; discussion of the types of projects students have done in the past. (Knight Hall, Room 1101; Class begins at 9 a.m.)


Session 2 – Thurs., June 2:  Introduction to Archives II. Bob Coren will give an overview of the National Archives and lead a tour of Archives II.  We will also meet with a senior archives administrator, Kenneth Heger. And we will walk through the process of locating, requesting and handling archival records. (IMPORTANT: This class will be held at Archives II, College Park, Lecture Room C (downstairs) – YOU MUST ARRIVE NO LATER THAN 9 a.m.(leaving time before that for traffic, parking and security) to obtain your researcher identification card before coming to class. See the instructions above under “Assignments and grading.” You must bring your driver’s license. Once you have your researcher card, go downstairs to Lecture Room C for the start of class no later than 9:30a.m.).


Session 3 – Tues., June 7:  Maggie Saponaro will talk about secondary source materials – online databases, journal articles, news archives and public records – that may be useful in your projects. Former CNN Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who took the course in 2009, will talk about the research project he did for this course. And Paula Larich, an archivist at the National Archives who took the course when she was a graduate student at the University of Maryland’s iSchool, will talk about using NARA’s online databases. Students must turn in a 150-word statement of their research question and topic. (Knight Hall, Room 1101; class begins at 9 a.m.)


Session 4 – Thurs., June 9:  Veteran archivist Greg Bradsher will talk about revelations from records related to Holocaust-Era Assets, including documents that led to high-profile news stories and billions of dollars in reparations in recent years, as well as other research that he has done. (Archives II, College Park, Lecture Room D; class begins at 9:30 a.m.)


Session 5 – Tues., June 14: Daniel Rooney of the Motion Picture, Sound & Video Branch at Archives II will introduce the class to the National Archives’ holdings in motion pictures, sound and video recordings (Archives II, College Park, Mini-Theater; class members must meet in the Archives II lobby at 9:15 a.m. to sign in and be escorted to the theater;  be sure to bring your researcher identification card AND your driver’s license, and stow your other personal items in a locker; after meeting with Mr. Rooney, the class will gather in Lecture Room D.)


Session 6 – Thurs., June 16:  Peter Brauer, now a member of the National Archives staff who previously took this course when he was a student at the iSchool, will discuss and display examples of cartographic records and aerial photographs. Oral and 250-word written status reports on your research projects are due during this class session.  (Archives II, College Park, Cartography research room; class members must meet in the Archives II lobby at 9:30 a.m. to go together to this session; be sure to bring your researcher identification card, and stow your other personal items in a locker; after meeting with Mr. Brauer, the class will gather in Lecture Room E.)


Session 7 – Tues., June 21: Nick Natanson, an archivist specializing in visual records at the archives, will talk about the use of photographs and other non-text records as source materials for archival research.  (Archives II, College Park, Lecture Room C; class begins at 9:30; be sure to bring your researcher identification card AND your driver’s license.)


Session 8 – Thursday, June 23:  Professor Mark Feldstein, a former television investigative reporter and author of Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington's Scandal Culture, will talk about his experiences in researching and writing the book, including the role of archival materials. A two-page response to Poisoning the Press is also due at the start of the class. (Knight Hall, Room 1101, on campus; class begins at 9:30 a.m.)


Session 9 – Tuesday, June 28:  This session will be held at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Miriam Kleiman, who was instrumental in uncovering documents that led to reparations for holocaust victims, will talk about making discoveries and piecing together the past with archival records.  She will also give us a tour of the National Archives Building. In addition, we will meet with Roberta Baskin, a former television investigative reporter, who will talk her use of archival records for stories on the homicidal neglect of the children of slave laborers in Nazi Germany. Students will also meet with Jennifer Johnson, curator at the National Archives Experience – the National Archives museum in Washington. Ms. Johnson also took this course when she was a graduate student at U.Md.’s iSchool.  (Washington, D.C., session:  Students should meet promptly at 9:20 a.m. at the Special Events entrance to the National Archives Building at Constitution Avenue at 7th Street, NW., to be escorted to the class meeting room; be sure to bring your researcher identification card AND your driver’s license.)

REMINDER:  A 500-word outline of your final project report must be sent by e-mail to your instructor ( during the fifth week of the course, no later than 4 pm on Wednesday, June 29.


Session 10 – Thurs., June 30:  This class session will focus on the work needed to complete research projects and develop a narrative or research paper from the available material. We will talk about the various formats that are possible for the final project, and we will also read and talk about the uses of the past. In addition to meeting as a group, students will also meet individually with the instructor to review research materials. (Archives II, College Park, Auditorium (on the lower level); class begins at 9:30 a.m; be sure to bring your researcher identification card.)


Session 11 – Tues., July 5: There will be no formal class meeting today so that students may have time to work on their research projects.


Session 12 – Thurs., July 7: Students will make their oral presentations and turn in their final project reports and sessions portfolios. (Knight Hall, Room 1101, on campus; class will begin at 9:30 a.m.)