September 4, 2015

Honoring journalism that celebrates labor

Fore 'n' Aft journalist/illustrator Virigina Olney

Contributed by Lincoln Cushing, Archivist and Historian

Fore'n'Aft, 1943-07-30
Mary Chapman, field reporter for Fore'n'Aft, 7/30/1943

Labor Day is an opportunity to celebrate workers and their contributions. But often the workers that don’t get visibility are the very ones too busy writing about it — labor journalists.

In the World War II Kaiser shipyards, a revolution took place in industrial production — massive numbers of ships were turned out in record time by ordinary/extraordinary Home Front citizens, many of whom had never even seen a ship before. But telling that story was also work, and it fell to the editorial team of the weekly shipyard magazines. Fore ‘n’ Aft reached those in the four Richmond, Calif. yards, while The Bos’n’s Whistle was for the three yards in the Portland, Ore. region.

Traditional journalism was simply not capable of reaching the new workforce. The editorial staff had to evolve to reflect the views and interests of women and people of color. The biggest change was bringing women on board. Writers and illustrators such as Virginia Olney and Emmy Lou Packard brought a fresh perspective to industrial journalism, and their pioneering was supported by external media partners such as African American photographer E.F. Joseph.

Fore 'n' Aft journalist/illustrator Virigina Olney

Fast forward to Kaiser Permanente now, with a diverse staff producing content for publications such as Hank (named after Henry J. Kaiser) aimed at both a labor audience and its management and physician partners. The ground broken during World War II continues to this day.

There’s an old expression — “Nothing about us, without us, is for us.” That holds true for authentic journalism as well as anything else, and this blog honors those unacknowledged workers who get the message out.