sealPurdue Lifestyles Briefs

February 1997

Prof studies white journalists who promoted racial tolerance

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- When most Southern newspapers were either supporting or ignoring injustices against blacks, two white journalists in Virginia championed the cause of racial fairness, notes a Purdue University communications expert.

The expert, Alexander Leidholdt, assistant professor of communications, has written a soon-to-be published book about one of the journalists and is writing a book about the other one.

For many years preceding the civil rights movement, there was a small but vital group of white, progressive Southern newspaper editors who sought to improve race relations, Leidholdt says.

Both editor Louis Isaac Jaffe and his successor at the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Lenoir Chambers, won Pulitzer awards for their efforts. Jaffe was recognized in 1929 for editorials attacking lynching, Chambers in 1960 for a series of editorials on school integration.

"The efforts of these men, and a number of other Southern liberal journalists like them, have not received adequate attention," Leidholdt says. "Well before the modern civil rights movement, these editors worked hard to advance racial justice."

Leidholdt has written a book about Chambers that will be released this spring by the University of Alabama Press. It's titled "Standing Before the Shouting Mob: Lenoir Chambers and Virginia's Massive Resistance to Public School Integration." Leidholdt also is writing a book about Jaffe.

In 1958, rather than integrate Norfolk's public schools, the governor of Virginia decided to close the city's white secondary schools. "With the exception of Chambers and his staff, all of Virginia's white press supported the state's massive resistance to public school integration," Leidholdt says. Chambers' editorial campaign provided encouragement for moderates and helped defuse racial tensions when the schools were reopened the following year.

CONTACT: Leidholdt, (765) 494-3313; e-mail,

Conversation an active element in comforting

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- When you're upset, putting the hurt into words is probably the best thing you can do to get over it, says a Purdue University expert on communication.

"Emotional support is not something you do or a strategy that you employ. Rather it happens during the act of talking to each other," says Brant. R. Burleson, professor of communication.

Burleson studies the effects of what people say. People know that talking about problems helps, but they may not know why. He says knowing how people become distressed is key to understanding how they are comforted.

"The source of emotional distress doesn't lie in some external state of affairs," Burleson says. "Rather people become upset when they believe events are in conflict with their personal goals and well-being." Thus, he says, overcoming distress requires re-evaluating circumstances in a more positive or realistic light.

"There are no verbal 'magic bullets' when it comes to comforting others," Burleson says. "People mistakenly believe that if they say the right words, they can make others feel better." He says it's not what you say that makes the difference; it's when what you say causes people to reflect on their situation and reappraise it.

He says that when people talk about the things that are troubling them it helps clarify the situation to themselves as well as others. "Discussing a traumatic event helps the distressed person get some distance on it -- reappraise it -- and integrate new perspectives on it within a broader view of life," he says.

Although there are no formulas for conducting comforting conversations, Burleson says some elements do apply:

CONTACT: Burleson, (765) 494-3321; e-mail,

Internet sales won't doom retail stores, expert says

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Despite what some experts are predicting, shopping on the Internet does not mean the demise of malls and retail outlets, says a Purdue University expert.

"We've heard people crying wolf before," says Richard A. Feinberg, director of Purdue's Retail Institute and head of the Department of Consumer Sciences and Retailing. "When the home shopping networks first appeared on television, experts started telling us that consumers would eventually do all of their shopping at home by phone. What these purveyors of doom fail to realize is that a tremendous number of individuals truly enjoy the shopping experience. They love to see, feel, smell and try out merchandise before they buy."

Feinberg acknowledges that television shopping channels and Internet shopping have taken a bite out of on-site outlets' profits, but he says the bite hardly draws blood.

"Estimates show that retail sales on the Internet will grow from $500 million in 1996 to approximately $7 billion in 2000," he says. "Those figures sound impressive until you compare them to the $2.3 trillion in retail sales and $70 billion in catalog sales in 1996."

That's not to say doing business on the Web isn't a good idea for retailers, Feinberg says.

"The Internet is a profitable outlet for a few select types of businesses," he says. "Candy, coffee and flowers appear to be doing well."

Before retailers go on-line, Feinberg says, they need to take a close look at their customers and their services. By encouraging local customers to shop on your Web site, you may be discouraging them from visiting your store. That's not good, since a large percentage of retail sales are "impulse" sales, Feinberg says. However, if you have a product that appeals to people 3,000 miles away, the Internet can be a great way to reach them, he says.

"If your customers and services are unique and fairly narrow in scope, there's a much better chance your product will be discovered and sell well on the Internet," he says. "But, you have to remember that Internet shopping is nothing more than an electronic catalog and that returns will kill you, as they do with regular catalog sales. Returns are a tremendous headache in an electronic medium."

Feinberg also warns of Internet "thieves" who charge thousands of dollars for spots in virtual malls.

"The National Retail Federation will help you set up a Web page for $199," he says. "But don't be fooled into thinking you're going to get rich selling on the Internet. People love to shop in stores. It's as American as baseball and apple pie -- and to get those, it's still quicker to jump in the car."

CONTACT: Feinberg, (765) 494-8296; e-mail,

Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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