Birddogs and Tough Old Broads: Women Journalists of Mississippi and a Century of State Politics, 1880s-1980s documents the professional experiences and observations of more than a dozen journalists, all women, all covering Mississippi state politics over the course of a century—from the 1880s, right after the end of Reconstruction (when newspapers were the primary source of information) to the 1980s, a time period marked by steady declines in both news revenue and circulation, and the emergence of corporate journalism, led by media conglomerates like Gannett.
Pete Smith argues that the experiences of the women journalists reflect broader social, political, legal, and cultural struggles and changes in both the South and the nation during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The evolution of the modern-day political journalist, particularly for southern women who aspired to such a position, can be seen in their struggles and accomplishments.
Pete Smith is associate professor of communication and media studies in the Department of Communication at Mississippi State University.
Introduction: “Larger Than Life”
Chapter 1: “My Own Beloved Land”
Chapter 2: “If This is Treason, Make the Most of It”
Chapter 3: “Raising Unshirted Hell”
Chapter 4: “Wrongdoing Uncovering”
Chapter 5: “A Kick-Ass Fun Time”
Chapter 6: “All Hell Broke Loose”
Chapter 7: “Go Get the Story”
Chapter 8: “I Think You Could Do This”
Conclusion: “There Is No Educator to Compare with the Press”
About the Author
With unflinching insight, Smith traces a fascinating history of white women journalists in Mississippi, from those immersed in Lost Cause ideology to beneficiaries of twentieth-century feminism who challenged the state’s power structures. Through extensive research and engaging interviews, Smith presents a sophisticated — but highly readable — story of grit and wit in the careers of women statehouse reporters. This book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of how gender, race, and place intersect in the careers of women journalists and the issues they cover.
This deeply researched book explores how more than a dozen Mississippi journalists surmounted barriers of sexism while grappling with the political culture they were covering, a “closed society” of white supremacy. Through interviews and archival research, Smith has crafted portraits of complex individuals and has connected those stories in ways that illuminate the shared experiences of women in political journalism.
This is a masterful and lively narrative with a vivid sense of place, a must read for anyone interested in the cultural history of the South. Pete Smith’s deep knowledge of Mississippi journalism comes through in that fine literary tradition of southern storytelling.