Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Trustee Scholarship recipient Marianna Macri ’06 (Malvern, Pa.) sought to make academic headlines with her study of early American journalism by presenting her research at a national conference last month.

Macri, an English major, presented her research on the early American newspaper as a source of both entertainment and news at the 18th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) April 15-17, hosted this year by Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. She was among 42 Lafayette students invited to present their work at the conference.

After studying newspapers published in the United States from 1788 to 1800, Macri found that “news editors of the early American Republic were motivated by a desire to please the reading public, and fulfilled this desire by molding their papers into an entertainment medium.” The content was traditional “news, political analysis, current events, opinion, and diversions,” but it was delivered, says Macri, “with dramatic presentation, a direct address to the reader, and a projected facade of truth, all of which contribute to my conclusion that these newspapers possessed the primary, businesslike purpose to entertain and thereby sustain a loyal readership.”

The study resulted from a history course taught by Deborah Rosen, associate professor of history, who is overseeing her project.

“The course was Creating a Nation, and we had to do a research project,” says Macri. “The great thing was that Professor Rosen put no restrictions on us; we could write about anything in the time period that caught our interest.”

Macri, editor-in-chief and arts & entertainment editor of The Lafayette, was naturally drawn to studying the influence of newspapers.

“It was commonly known back then that newspapers had a blatant political bias. Politicians very often owned different newspapers and used them as PR tools to advance their careers or to have impact on shaping public opinion. They used entertaining devices to appeal to the masses. Boiled down, they were trying to run a business where getting the news right came in dead last,” she says.

Macri spent countless hours using a microfilm machine, reading newspapers obtained through interlibrary loan, and traveling to other colleges to do research.

“I looked at anything that sparked my interests,” she says. “A hard news story might be placed right next to a sentimental poem. A newspaper might reprint a story from a competing newspaper and then run a belligerent response right next to it. One newspaper ran a seven-month-long narrative about one man’s travels through Europe. The only problem was that it was so embellished with drama, with wild yarns, that whatever element of truth was in there was lost.”

She analyzed major newspapers as well as smaller publications such as the Salem Gazette,Columbian Sentinel, Spooners, Vermont Gazette, and, yes, the Porcupine Gazette.

Her study, says Macri, allowed her to take “a literary approach to a historical topic, to analyze a text as I was taught in English.”

“Marianna’s outstanding analysis of early national newspapers was based on excellent research in primary sources; her essay was clear, engaging, and written with creative flair; and her interpretation was highly original,” says Rosen. “Previous scholars of 1790s newspapers have exclusively focused on examining the papers’ partisan nature and political impact, while Marianna ventured into entirely new territory by examining the devices the publishers and writers used to entertain their readers in order to retain the subscribers they already had and even to attract new readers.”

Thanks to Rosen’s tutelage, says Macri, she is seeing how the delivery of today’s news has its roots two centuries ago.

“These papers [influenced] news as to how we get it today. People don’t respect the news because they are disillusioned by the hype used to sell it, just as it was done in the past. One sees this especially in modern broadcast news that has the same motivation of the 1700s: play off the emotions of viewers and shape opinion through entertainment,” she says.

“It has been amazing working with Professor Rosen,” adds Macri. “She helps you establish a personal relationship between faculty and student, between student and classroom material. I knew that I wanted a college that gave me close interaction with faculty, and I found that in attending Lafayette.”

Macri also speaks highly of the English department.

“The faculty has been so excited to share their wealth of knowledge,” she says. “The department is just amazing. The faculty is incredibly helpful and they are sincerely intellectual people who push me to new heights, to establish my own perspective and understanding about literature. I have never felt so motivated to test my intellect as I have with the English professors at Lafayette.”

Macri is considering law school; however, she has not abandoned journalism.

“I am a writer primarily — I am a little hesitant about broadcast news where the focus is on ratings and entertaining people,” she says.

In addition to her roles within the newspaper, Macri is a member of the equestrian team, a tutor in reading and mathematics through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center, and has been an actress in College Theater productions of The Club, The Real Inspector Hound, and The Cherry Orchard. She has interned at Easton’s Express-Times newspaper as well as with the Associated Press, where she will work again this summer. She received an honorable mention last year in Lafayette’s annual Jean Corrie Poetry Competition.

She is a graduate of Villa Maria Academy.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year.

Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholarship recipients have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 (totaling $30,000 over four years) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is more than $7,500.

Categorized in: Academic News