From Newspaper Publishing to Planeteery Geology,
Visiting Scholars Tread Where Few Have Gone Before

Scholarship often has no bounds, and for two visiting scholars--one from Seattle, Washington, and the other from College Park, Maryland--Indiana University provided a kind of midcontinental meeting ground and laboratory for pursuing diverse interests and synthesizing intense research activity. In the process, these two accomplished academicians became friends, sharing a working suite from January to May 1995 at the Poplars Research and Conference Center on the Bloomington campus. Their activities, centered upon journalism history and the history and philosophy of science, demonstrated the collaborative nature of knowledge and its uses, directly linking IU with at least three other universities and such entities such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Library of Congress. These connections between Indiana University and the world at large were made possible by the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).

"The time spent here was extraordinarily rich," says Gerald J. Baldasty, an associate professor of communications at the University of Washington. Baldasty spent much of his sabbatical last year researching materials in the Roy Howard Archive at IU's School of Journalism and writing a book on the E. W. Scripps media empire. Having drafted seven of the nine chapters of his proposed book in the Poplars office provided by the institute, he has good things to say about the opportunities presented at IU: "You couldn't find a better place to write."

Meanwhile, Frederick Suppe, a professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland at College Park who has enjoyed an ongoing relationship with IU's Department of History and Philosophy of Science over the years, found "lots of attractions" for visiting IU last year and for what may prove to be years to come. The eclectic academician, a leading expert on the structure of scientific theories and former professor of philosophy in the School of Nursing at Maryland's Balti more campus, spent 1993-94 as a National Science Foundation visiting fellow in geology at Princeton University. He admits to a penchant for "living on the edge," both personally and professionally. An outspokenly gay man who has enjoyed rock climbing and aerobatic flying, Suppe has also done extensive research and published and lectured widely on homosexuality.

Upon arriving at IU, Suppe was pleased to learn about the Center for Innovative Computer Applications, then housed in Poplars. Its capacity for sophisticated computer applications offered him the opportunity to continue his ventures into computer modeling. Long fascinated with data and computers and the radical way computers have changed the amount of data that can be collected and the way it is interpreted, Suppe began probing computer modeling at Maryland five years ago. "The key to how science has changed is in computer modeling and computer visualization of data," he says. To get a handle on exactly how computers change science, he found it necessary "to go native," to toil with scientists in their own world, just as anthropologists often must plunge into other cultures to comprehend them. Considering his interest in space and aeronautics and the fact that his brother John is the Blair Professor of Geology at Princeton, it made sense to spend 199394 at Princeton working with structural geologists, where as a "participant observer" he studied how the geologists studied the geology of Venus. Using data generated from explorations by the Magellan spacecraft in the early 1990s and from earlier missions and radar astronomy, these scientists created statistical replications of the planet. Only in the last few years have scholars applied such computer modeling to planetary science, and it is not yet well understood by scientists. Using the 73 gigabytes (1 gigabyte = 1,000 megabytes) of NASA data archived on 160 CD-ROMs together with a gigabyte of data from Pinceton Venus Models, Suppe's research task at IU became one of analysis and interpretation of such massive data into philosophical accounts of how the modeling works.

Baldasty and Suppe were among nine external academic visiting scholars hosted by the Institute for Advanced Study during the past academic year. Having distinguished themselves in specific fields of inquiry, these visiting scholars often have cultivated relationships with IU faculty members. Professor Marion Gray of Kansas State University, for example, who came to IU to augment his study of gender norms in German-speaking Europe in the years 1770 through 1840. Other scholars came from universities in Canada, Australia, and Germany, as well as from other American institutions including the University of Arizona and the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. While IU officials are thrilled to welcome these accomplished visitors, the only major outlay in accommodating them is office space in Poplars where the visitors can set up shop. Their appointment letters even state that "visiting fellows have no obligations whatsoever to the institute or the university except to make good use of our facilities in the furtherance of their scholarship."

"We give them a base from which to operate," IAS Director James M. Patterson says. Each scholar brings his or her own degree of collegiality and professionalism in exchange for the opportunity to do research and interact in a respected research institution. "In scholarship, we all gain," Patterson says.

Both IU and Maryland stand to gain considerable clout and research funding from future endeavors springing from Suppe's work. Reflecting his intellectual curiosity and cross-disciplinary approach as a historian and philosopher of science, the researcher has happened upon other valuable resources at IU, including one individual he considers "extremely well plugged in" to the scientific community and interactive education. Shortly after arriving in Bloomington last winter, Suppe spotted an article in the Indiana Daily Student that mentioned Jeremy Dunning, an associate professor of geological sciences who had developed a CD-ROM geology textbook. The two computer whizzes soon found they had much in common, and further collaborations with Martin Siegel, director of research and development at IU's Center for Excellence in Education, led them to translate Suppe's research into an interactive planetary geology course. Dunning, who is also an associate dean in the Office of Research and the University Graduate School and director of the Indiana University Research Park, was well aware of current initiatives within the scientific community to "reinvent science education." A hands-on course, the three reasoned, would enable undergraduate geoscience majors and other liberal arts students to "do real science with real data" from the Magellan data set and earlier missions, rather than just memorizing other people's scientific results.

Encouraged by the positive response to their endeavors, the National Science Foundation invited the threesome to submit a proposal on the selection of a focus group to make recommendations for a national curriculum in the geosciences. Initially, Suppe and Dunning explain, they would gear the project toward undergraduate courses for geoscience majors and for other liberal arts students, with the potential for it to be extended to secondary schools and then eventually to elementary schools. Consequently, the focus of Suppe's research writings as a visiting scholar shifted from a general overview of computer modeling to a more course-specific case study of the Magellan expedition and what its probings mean for science.

Suppe asserts that "it's generally been agreed that the standard science course is simply not very effective; it doesn't create a humanistic or general understanding of what science is about." Since last century, he explains, there have been attempts to incorporate science into liberal arts education. Two general efforts have emerged: approaching science education through the history and philosophy of science- "where the focus is not so much substantive scientific knowledge but an understanding of science"--and "some way or another trying hands-on laboratory involvement in 'doing science.' There have been problems with both of those," Suppe notes. But as science becomes increasingly computerized, the strengths and weaknesses of both styles can be married into a cohesive approach, like the approach Suppe, Dunning, and Siegel envision.

On a different front, Baldasty, one of the country's leading journalism historians, was drawn to IU because of the Howard Archive and the strength of the IU journalism faculty. Before coming to IU, Baldasty had done extensive research at the E. W. Scripps Archive at the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and with the Roy Howard Papers at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. His primary focus while at IU was the business strategies of the Scripps newspaper chain, the nation's first, during its formative years from 1880 to 1915. Before that period, American journalism had been primarily a politically based endeavor. With application of business principles, however, journalism shifted to "an advertising-based business," the journalism historian notes, in which division of labor, economies of scale, market segmentation, product differentiation, pricing, and vertical integration created a new business scenario. "Advertisers replaced politicians as the key patrons of the press, and a new business mentality pervaded newspapers, influencing all aspects of operations," he says.

Scripps seems to have predicted accurately, Baldasty says, that a handful of key players would control U.S. newspaper publishing, just as is the case in major manufacturing. As in other industries, Scripps, and later Howard, who at twenty-five shrewdly caught Scripps' eye, aggressively applied business principles to newspaper publishing. In doing so, they became central figures in this "transformation of American journalism," Baldasty says.

Although Scripps and Howard did not invent these business principles, their application of them radically changed the way publishers managed and operated newspapers and, to a large extent, editorial content, Baldasty states. Scripps, an autocratic, enigmatic man who championed the cause of the worker, positioned his papers for ordinary people, thus becoming one of the first advocates of consumer target marketing, the researcher notes. In pricing his papers low--a cent apiece (the reason they became known as the Penny Press)--and in emphasizing human-interest, "reader-style" stories, lots of pictures, and comics and other entertaining features, Scripps, and later Howard, contributed significantly to modern conceptions of the mass media as "vehicles for advertisers," Baldasty says.

Scripps and Howard were influential not only in the number of newspapers they controlled--establishing more than forty and buying an additional fifteen, including three in Indiana--but also in the influence exerted by United Press, the forerunner of United Press International, a news wire service, and the Newspaper Enterprise Association, a news feature syndicate, both of which they founded and managed. In the early decades of this century, these two services became extremely popular and were distributed to roughly half of U.S. newspapers.

Although Howard came onto the scene relatively late in the formation of the Scripps newspaper chain--most of the chain's major expansion had been completed by 1911--Baldasty stresses that Howard, because of his business savvy and proximity to Scripps, played a pivotal role in the evolution of the management strategies of the media empire. As a boy, Howard delivered newspapers for the Indianapolis Star and News, and during high school, he sold articles to the News, where, upon graduation, he became a reporter. Extremely ambitious, he bolted to New York, but he returned to the Midwest after being unable to locate a newspaper job there. In 1906 he became the New York correspondent for the Scripps-McRae newspapers and a year later a news manager for the United Press. By 1912 Scripps had tapped him as president of the service. After Howard had demonstrated his shrewd business sense, Scripps brought him into the fold and in 1925 made him board chair of what became the Scripps-Howard Newspapers.

Whether probing science or social science, Baldasty and Suppe say they are grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow at IU. Because their offices were side by side at the institute, they could read each other's publication proposals, though Suppe admits newspaper publishing is not exactly his cup of tea, and computer modeling is not something Baldasty normally encounters in teaching and writing about communications. In their exposure to these other disciplines, however, each experienced the powerful draw of IU as a major research university.

--Bob Baird