When first reading the blog prompt I got a bit nervous—though I think I am beginning to get a better understanding of the theories that scholars use in their work, I still struggle to completely understand what is meant by “methodology” (and from reading a couple classmates’ posts, it appears I am not alone). However, this post is an attempt to pin down both of those components of the article I chose, Dr. Sally Ward Maggard’s, “Cultural Hegemony: The News Media and Appalachia.” After our class on primary sources and discussions of perhaps including an analysis of news coverage of the “Palmertown Disaster” (considering renaming the event—see other post), I decided to spend some time over break looking into any sources that discuss how news is covered in Appalachia and/or during the early 20th century in America.
Sally Ward Maggard was the Assistant Director of the Appalachian Center at the University of Kentucky at the time this article was published in 1983, and eventually became Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Adjunct Assistant Professor of History at West Virginia University. Her extensive background in Appalachian Studies certainly qualified her to write a piece on the ways in which news media has traditionally portrayed Appalachia, and this article has provided a useful theoretical framework for my project.
Within the first two pages of the article, Maggard introduces how the processes involved in shaping identity or consciousness and defining knowledge are a part of what is known as “cultural hegemony” or, the power to shape definitions of reality (68). The theory of cultural hegemony frame Maggard’s article, as she discusses the ways in which media in part has had the task of “producing and disseminating the content of the dominant culture” in America, and in doing so have portrayed a certain image of Appalachia (72). She discusses how news coverage of Appalachia either occurs only in the event of an extraordinary occurrence (good or bad—mostly bad), or fails to provide the context within which these events occur. Maggard explains the negative consequences of this selective coverage:
“Defined as moonshiners or miserable people, residents of Central Appalachia face great odds in trying to use the national media to interpret their needs and problems to the general public. Deeply embedded stereotypes affect the way the news media perceive, and define for the general public, protest from the mountains” (78).
By introducing and detailing the theory of cultural hegemony, describing the process through which it was established and then applying the theory to a case study of news media coverage in Appalachia, Maggard provides an effective illustration of the use of a theoretical/methodological framework. I believe this article and cultural hegemony will prove useful for my project, and I look forward to applying this theory to the case study of the Palmertown Disaster.