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Point Park Globe

Pioneer Public: Former Globe advisor publishes book on women in media

Photo by Courtesy of Golsmiths Press
Cover of professor Aimee-Marie Dorsten’s new book.

On January 16, Goldsmiths Press published, “The Ghost Reader: Recovering Women’s Contributions to Media Studies,” a novel co-edited by Point Park’s own Aimee-Marie Dorsten, Ph. D, mass communication director of core curriculum and professor of journalism. 


“There’s all this history about [media studies], but none of it actually included the women who were really foundational, who were vanguards in this area, it just has always been glossed over,” said Dr. Dorsten speaking on the intention behind the book. 


“Ghost Reader” is an archival collective of previously undocumented or lost contributions from women in the fields of communications and media studies between the 1930s and 1950s, a period widely regarded as formative to the disciplines’ development. 


Dr. Dorsten began researching women’s contributions to media studies over 15 years ago. As she continued to find and document new discoveries, she began collaborating with others doing the same, the culmination of which became “Ghost Reader.”


“This latest project is really a culmination of other people who have been doing this same work in a variety of fields. There were three of us who sort of organized the whole thing, and then there were other contributors.”


For Dr. Dorsten, the intention behind the book was to “change the curriculum” in media studies courses, broadening it with previously unheard, instrumental perspectives. 


“So that was really [the intention], is I need to rewrite the history, one, and two, to change the curriculum, and so it’s not just us writing a book, but then students are aware of it…that there’s a different history than we’ve been used to hearing about up to this point.” 


Having experienced sexism and bias in her field firsthand, the content of the project was especially significant for Dr. Dorsten. 


“I myself, when I first started doing this work, I got really nasty feedback on the first piece I published…I felt a lot like these women felt, and I don’t want that to continue, I want women and people who identify as other to feel confident about their ideas.” 


The process for assembling the book required frequent research trips across the U.S., as well as many painstaking hours sifting through archives looking for information. Dr. Dorsten explained that leads often included footnotes alluding to a woman’s authorship or participation in a novel, with further insight dependent on the depth or existence of a woman’s file. Dr. Dorsten and her colleagues also reached out to families where possible in the hopes of gaining more information. 


“You go back through their stuff, whatever they or their family had saved, and you read it piece by piece by piece…it was so fascinating to me because what you could start seeing was someone’s life. And sometimes it was really exciting and interesting, glamorous, sometimes it was really tragic and sad, and sometimes it was very complicated,” said Dr. Dorsten. 


Beyond recovering this information for the sake of education, Dr. Dorsten explained the importance of doing so to honor the women included and give them the recognition they never received. 


“You’re reading this and it’s like they’re right there with you, and they’re telling you, ‘This is important, please tell somebody, I mattered,’ and [I said] okay, sure, my job is to make certain that you matter,” said Dr. Dorsten. 


One of the difficulties of assembling the book was determining the content to include or omit in accordance with the novel’s pre-determined page count. 


“How would what we included shape how these women were perceived?…Right now, the idea was, what is it about [these womens’] career and their work that makes them really important to our field, and that’s been forgotten? So anything I might say, it really came down to that,” said Dr. Dorsten. 


Dr. Dorsten has considered writing additional pieces including some of the omitted research in the future. 


On a social level, Dr. Dorsten hopes “Ghost Reader” and resources like it help to empower or inspire women. 


“Men need to know that they’re not the only ones with good ideas. I think women need to know that they can have good ideas, that their ideas matter, they should have no problem articulating and sharing those ideas with other people, and women don’t always have to be quiet and play by the rules,” said Dr. Dorsten. 


Further, Dr. Dorsten wants the “Ghost Reader” project to inspire others like it, with the hopes that even more forgotten women will get the recognition they deserve. 


“Hopefully other people in other countries, other contexts, do a similar project where they spend the time to find people in their world that have been forgotten and that really need more attention,” said Dr. Dorsten. 


“Ghost Reader” is currently available to purchase on Amazon and at other popular book retailers.

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