How can nostalgia be educational? As archivists, we are often struck with nostalgic feelings as we process collections. This feeling can be stirred by particular images, materials, and technologies that we encounter in a collection. When I processed the WSJV News Collection I was often overwhelmed with nostalgia for the fashions, graphics, landscapes, and news topics that brought me back to growing up in northwest Indiana during the 1990s. The Robert Goodman Collection, 1958-2006 (bulk dates 1987-1994), also contains nostalgic gems for anyone eager to hearken back to the 1980’s and 1990’s. We can use our sentimentality for times past to learn more about the specific technologies and aesthetic tools that define this time for us.
The Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA) received this collection of papers, videotapes, films, and technologies in 2018. The collection is processed and open for research. We are thrilled to share the finding aid for the papers. This is the IULMIA’s first Encoded Archival Description (EAD)-level finding aid shared on Indiana University’s Archives Online. To celebrate this event we have created a supercut video featuring Robert Goodman production excerpts from 1988-1994. This post provides some context for the video and the collection as a whole.
Robert Goodman (born 1953) is a writer, director, producer, and educator from Pennsylvania. He has produced documentaries, commercials, marketing videos, and other non-theatrical film and video works since 1977. Since the 1980’s and the inception of his company, Goodman Associates, Inc., he has specialized in producing product commercials and infomercials, employee training guides and product manuals for companies, and educational productions for public entities and organizations. His collection at IULMIA represents this body of work through audiovisual media (in the form of tapes and films) and paper material. Processing this collection was a complex experience, as I had to both think of these materials distinctly (describing and organizing film and video is quite different from describing and organizing papers) and as two corresponding parts of a whole. The papers, which include research materials, scripts in various revision stages, proposals, correspondence, and project-related administrative records, provide details and context for the films and videos. In return, the films and videos give visual character to the paper materials.
Although Goodman produced works for many corporate entities and public organizations, the majority of his productions served the industries of health and beauty, telecommunications, and emerging information technologies. Because of the promotional nature of his productions, we can use Robert Goodman’s materials to trace how these industries described their products to the public. We can even see echoes of this in the present. For example, it might seem immediately quaint and funny to us that in 1994 the Franklin Digital Book System described its cartridge storage capacity (an amazing 200 megabytes!) in terms of “the information in 20 printed bibles.” Upon further reflection, however, we can see this as an important moment in the history of the book. In an era of early networked technologies and electronic publishing, the canonical bible could orient the viewer in a strong tradition of book history. Similarly, an actor in a 1994 Primestar digital cable guide explaining how she wants access to “the old movies, with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers…” reassures the viewer in a traditional canon of American films. We can see nostalgia working on two levels here. First, we as contemporary viewers may be nostalgically amused by these early 1990’s technologies. Second, the producers in the 1990’s were using their powers of nostalgia to ward off any feelings of discontinuity or meaninglessness the consumer could feel about new technologies.
The commodification of nostalgia is just one of many possible research avenues the Robert Goodman collection provides. A wide range of researchers can use the Robert Goodman collection to probe the relationship between the past, present, and future. Disciplines as diverse as marketing, cultural studies, gender studies, history, information technology, health fields, anthropology, and media studies could all benefit from this large and complex collection. The short supercut video features some of the most nostalgia-generating excerpts from the collection (for me, at least); I hope it will challenge you to think about how you could use one of these videos as a doorway to a new research path. And think about how the technologies and products that you use today will be viewed by researchers in the future!
To access the paper records of the Robert Goodman collection, please visit the finding aid on Archives Online. To access video and film materials, please contact IULMIA staff.
The history of a television news station can be told from many perspectives. Some histories may frame a discussion around the context of national news media, others may focus on a station’s affiliation and ownership, and others still may hone in on a broadcast technology perspective. WSJV’s story should be told through all these lenses. This post will address WSJV’s chain of ownership, network affiliations, and changing production technologies. We can explore these topics through WSJV’s countdowns. These are different from the countdown you might see on film leader. These video countdowns appear as 5-10 second clips between news production segments on WSJV library tapes. They generally provide a WSJV logo, affiliate logo, date, and countdown on top of a background image. The bulk of videotapes in the WSJV News Collection have these countdowns between each news production component. An interesting question is: how can we track the developments of WSJV through these media artifacts? What information do they tell us–or not?
The WSJV News Collection contains videotapes dated as far back as 1981, but the WSJV station began in the 1950s. In March 1954, WSJV started broadcasting as an ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliate station in Elkhart, Indiana. When the South Bend-based WNDU signed on in 1955, it took the NBC affiliation and WSJV transitioned into a primary ABC affiliate. An “affiliate station” is a local station that signs a special agreement with a major broadcasting network. The local station receives a quota of major network programming (for example, a popular sitcom) in exchange for certain agreements such as revenue sharing. These affiliation agreements were hugely important in the 1950’s as American broadcast media transitioned unevenly from radio to television. Local stations could gain viewers through popular programming (ABC, for instance, brought with it American Bandstand and Disney programs like The Mickey Mouse Club). In response, higher viewership brought increased revenue to the station and the major network. This network/station affiliate relationship remained central to WSJV’s operation until its closing.
WSJV likely used a range of media in broadcast production before the dates of the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA) collection. Before videotape, stations could only record broadcasts using film kinescopes. Kinescope technology allowed stations to record broadcasts for reference or re-airing, similar to a later videotape library. The WSJV News Collection does include some taped kinescope recordings. These are from the station’s coverage of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes, that killed 50 people in Elkhart County alone. WSJV taped this footage for later re-use, including a station retrospective in the early 2000’s.
The Palm Sunday coverage came less than a year before WSJV transitioned to color broadcasts. In 1966 the station started airing ABC packages in color, and by 1968 WSJV aired all of its local programming in color too. Throughout the 1960s WSJV probably transitioned fully from using film to videotape during broadcast production. We are not sure what video formats–2 inch helical scans, ½ inch open reel, etc.–WSJV used during this time. By the early 1970’s, however, most television news was produced using videotape rather than film.
The 1970s was a decade of growth for WSJV–in part due to ratings growth for ABC as well. In 1970 WSJV built a new 1,050 foot tower and transmitter, increasing the station’s signal strength 19 times over and making it one of the most powerful UHF stations in the country. In 1972, the station moved to its most current location on Oakland Avenue in Elkhart. The building still stands today. In 1974, WSJV got a new owner: Quincy Media. This was due to changing FCC regulations (WSJV’s original owner, Truth Publishing, had to divest because it also owned the local newspaper The Elkhart Truth), and Quincy’s huge television expansion in the 1970’s. All these details go to show:
The consequential role large corporations have in local television stations
The rapid business and technology changes involved in local television news production
These themes are evident in the countdown footage from the WSJV News Collection. The countdowns appear across different videotape formats. WSJV didn’t use one specific tape format at a time, so there is chronological overlap between the Umatics, VHS, and DVC tapes.
Here is the first example, from a March 1982 Umatic tape:
This example is pretty basic. It includes a credit line for WSJV and its channel number (28), a location line for Elkhart/South Bend, and an animated numerical counter. The Umatic tapes in the collection from the 1980s do not ubiquitously contain countdowns between production segments, but the countdowns represented are of this simple iteration.
Sometimes these countdowns can even tell us how the station operated. Here is an interesting example that shows how WSJV used their tape library:
This countdown is from a September-November 1990 Umatic tape. The countdown features a nighttime shot of the WSJV station building, a compound WSJV 28/ABC logo, a location line for Elkhart/South Bend, and an animated numerical counter.
On the same Umatic tape, there is a different countdown for September 19, 1990:
The countdown here is similar but not identical. The WSJV channel 28 logo appears before the ABC logo, and this countdown includes a specific date. Why would two different countdowns appear on the same tape? Although we are not yet certain exactly how WSJV employees assembled these library tapes, some clues indicate the answer. Take another look at the ABC Closed Circuit monitor image above. This image didn’t appear to viewers during WSJV news broadcasts, it was just a test image producers could use on studio monitors. It appears on a tape from the WSJV library because employees could record library tapes straight from these broadcast monitors. The same likely goes for these 1990 countdowns. They would have appeared on broadcast monitors in the studio between segments. The countdown allows the producer to cue up a segment exactly. These two countdowns probably played on different monitors in the production studio around the same time. It could be that certain monitors played certain countdowns, or it could be as simple as a producer incidentally created a second countdown for his or her immediate use.
The important thing here is to see how these countdowns can be understood as “internal documents” for WSJV. They give us an understanding of the studio’s self-image throughout time.
In 1995, WSJV entered an agreement that ended their ABC affiliation and established a new network affiliation with Fox. In the early 1990s, Fox received rights to broadcast NFL games and sought out new affiliations across the country. It is probable that the strong Chicago Bears fanbase in Michiana incentivized WSJV to make a Fox affiliation agreement. In October 1995, the station started broadcasts as a Fox affiliate station. Another Michiana television station, WBND, took the ABC affiliation. Let’s take a look at a countdown from WSJV’s early Fox days:
This example is from a VHS tape dated October 1995-January 1996. A few changes are immediately apparent. First, the production aesthetics have changed quite a bit from the early 1990’s examples above. The background image shows a busy production studio rather than the exterior of the building. The text and animation components take up a larger portion of the screen. The countdown animation appears twice: one that looks like a digital clock timer (bottom left) and a rotating number (top right). The overall effect is much “busier;” this countdown was definitely designed to evoke the rapid-paced image of 24-hour news networks.
Another key difference: WSJV has a reduced presence on this countdown. Rather than the large “28 WSJV” logo in the September 1990 example, here the main credit is given to “Fox 28.” WSJV receives a smaller credit line below and a location credit of South Bend (rather than Elkhart/South Bend). Even though the station was located in Elkhart, WSJV was strongly associated with simply the South Bend region during its Fox affiliation. South Bend is a more widely recognized city (home of Notre Dame) and is identified with a Chicago sports fan base. It’s worth considering here: what shifts are happening here? Can we trace a trajectory away from the “local-ness” of the station? How can we characterize the change in WSJV’s internal image?
As we move into the 2000’s, we see fewer and fewer of these countdowns in the WSJV tape library. Fox logo usage gets more and more ubiquitous across the station’s imagery. Here is a logo that viewers saw during broadcasts from the local channel in 2009:
Any trace of location or local station name is gone here. Instead, we get the glossy intro animation we associate with major network news: quickly shifting bars of color and line behind a big network logo. Programming, too, has become closely tied with the network–most people now associate the informal “morning show” format with networks like Fox.
Although I hate to tell a story of decline, WSJV’s history ends with a loss. In 2016 Quincy Media transferred WSJV’s Fox affiliation to WSBT-TV in exchange for ABC and CW affiliations at a Peoria, Illinois station. The sixty-two year old local news station aired its last news broadcast July 29, 2016. WSJV staff all either transferred to other stations or were laid off.
Although the reasons for the station’s closure are complex, I hope that these historical details give you some context for the event. Local media is an important form of self-expression. I encourage you all to ask what happens to that expression when larger entities–such as major networks and owning companies–are so closely involved.
The following video is a supercut of these logos and countdowns. The countdowns are bracketed by the surrounding footage on each tape. The countdowns from the 1980’s and the first September 1990 countdown appear at the beginning of tapes, so other segment footage only follows the countdowns. The September 19, 1990 and October 31, 1995 countdowns are bracketed on both sides by other footage on the tapes. This gives you a sense of how the countdowns separate segments on the WSJV News Collection videotapes.
Several years ago, as a graduate researcher at the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, I kept having these vivid flashes of straight-up authenticity while examining news photographs. I was looking at Anthony Spina’s original prints of the 1967 “Twelfth Street riots” (largest urban uprising in U.S. history) for the Detroit Free Press. Something about handling these pre-published documentary photographs, that I had seen for years reproduced in hundreds of places, felt exceptionally raw and real. I grew up familiar with Detroit–it’s where my paternal roots are, and my dad and I visited family many times a year. This archival experience, though, provided me the most powerful connection I’ve ever felt with that city. Since then, I have understood how significant uncompromising self-representation and documentation is for communities.
A couple hundred miles south and a few years later, I was seeking out an internship with the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive as an MLS candidate in the Department of Information and Library Science. I developed a keen interest in videotape and television preservation in IULMIA archivist Andy Uhrich’s Moving Image Preservation seminar. Andy proposed that I work with a new accession of thousands of videotapes from a defunct broadcast television news station in Elkhart, Indiana. Very little was known about the collection, except that the contents were a seeming mish-mash of pre-broadcast news components. I jumped at the opportunity and have found that the WSJV News Collection presents some of the most exciting opportunities and deepest challenges for archives to fill a significant gap in the documentation of regional communities in an era of media globalization.
WSJV was a broadcast television news station with major network affiliations from 1954-2016. The station used a range of technological advancements in broadcast news production across the 20th century. This includes broadcast production transitioning from film (kinescope), to magnetic videotape, to born digital recordings. Like most other television stations, WSJV utilized different videotape formats for most of its history. Long running stations like WSJV found that keeping a tape library was quite useful for ongoing news production. The tapes could help producers find, for example, b-roll and sound bytes without having to go out and shoot in the field. This collection appears to contain WSJV’s entire videotape library from 1981-2011.
It’s somewhat rare for an archive to have and provide access to a broadcast news station videotape library. Archives and special collections across the United States do provide access to exceptional broadcast news collections. Some examples of these are endeavors initiated by the Association of Moving Image Archivists Local Television Project, including the Minnesota Historical Society/KSTP-TV Archive, Arkansas Educational Television Network Video Vault, and Boston TV News Digital Library. I’ll be talking about institutions and projects such as these in a later blog post. These collections largely provide access to documented whole broadcasts. Fewer institutions offer minimally curated (by the creating station) collections of news videotape libraries. The enormous richness of these objects is due both to their quantity and to their pre-broadcast, in-situ production use. The components on each tape (roughly 40 each) vary from “raw” in-the-field footage with no edits, to partially edited voiceover/sound byte segments, to more fully edited news story packages. Each tape has a chronological sequence of these components over a one- to six-month range. The effect while watching these is of a slice-of-life, informational sense of history. The raw connection you feel watching these tapes is akin to the experience I had several years ago at the Reuther. Rather than one city, though, WSJV documents an entire midwestern region.
WSJV was major broadcast television affiliate for the “Michiana” region (northwest Indiana and the southwest tip of Michigan) 1954-2016. Michiana was a unique television market because it was a “UHF island” bounded by metropolitan areas to the north (Grand Rapids, MI and Milwaukee, WI), east (Detroit), south (Indianapolis), and west (Chicago). In other words, WSJV provided broadcast television news coverage for consumers without access to major metropolitan stations. The history of the region in the 20th century combines themes relevant to the rust belt cities that surround Michiana and the Great Lakes, including massive deindustrialization, changing racial and ethnic populations and resulting civil rights struggles, and public health concerns. The stories represented in the WSJV collection are extenuations of this regional history.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be opening up this collection in a series of blog posts. I’ll explain the history of WSJV, show how the collection can be used to research a significant topic (the AIDS epidemic in Indiana and Ryan White’s story), and provoke some questions that this collection asks of the archival profession. Overall, I want to give you a general sense of how we can process a collection like this and what it offers. The following video is an attempt to give you a glimpse of the range of content the WSJV News Collection offers (in just a few short minutes!). This is a compilation of segments from the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s. The segments feature a range of broadcast news production formats, including voiceovers, sound bytes, raw b-roll footage, a full package, and a recorded broadcast.