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Frank Beacham Papers

Eighty items, 1988-1994, constitute an archival introduction to the work of Honea Path native and 1969 University of South Carolina Radio and Television Journalism graduate Frank Beacham (b. 1949). A former staff reporter for United Press International, the Miami Herald, Gannett and Post-Newsweek, Beacham went on to create his own television production company, Television Matrix, which during the 1970s and 1980s developed and produced a wide range of programming for broadcast, cable, syndication and home video markets.

The collection focuses upon two of Beacham's principal media projects of the past six years. A boxed set of six audiocassettes entitled "Theatre of the Imagination: The Radio Days of Orson Welles," co- produced by Beacham and the late Richard Wilson in 1988, features tales on tape from the radio career of the young Welles and documents Beacham's pioneering efforts at restoring more than one hundred sixty hours of surviving programming by this theatrical legend. Among several reviews of the project, critic Richard Kostelanetz's lengthy one in the New York Times, 10 September 1989, represents the wide positive response to this radio retrospective.

In 1990 Beacham wrote and directed a radio program called "The Orangeburg Massacre," based upon the book by fellow journalists Jack Bass and Jack Nelson. This effort turned out to be a controversial, award- winning docudrama which was broadcast by American Public Radio in 1990 and again in 1993. Included in the collection is both Beacham's final draft of the script for the program, dated 1 September 1990, and an audiocassette of the production, which starred David Carradine, Blair Underwood, and James Whitmore. Copies of numerous articles detail the response to the broadcast and include observations by Bass, Cleveland Sellers, and Columbia newspaperman Kent Krell, in addition to those of Beacham himself. Here also is a taped interview, 31 December 1993, with Rhett Jackson, a member of the South Carolina Probation, Pardon, and Parole Board, regarding the pardon on 20 July 1993 of Sellers for his conviction relating to the events which transpired in Orangeburg on 8 February 1968.

The collection further contains an extensive sampling of Beacham's published writings. One unit is comprised of copies of columns contributed to two magazines on a monthly basis: on information technology, for TV Technology; on sound, for Radio World. Another is made up of specimens of his syndicated column "Questioning Technology," written for distribution to more than one hundred newspapers in the United States and Canada by Alternet, a San Francisco-based news service for alternative newspapers. In his letter of donation, 3 October 1994, Beacham explains his interest in this subject—"The column reflects my [belief] that most mass media technology reporting today is a description or celebration of what's new. Little attention is paid to the effects a new technology might have on our daily lives and our culture. We hear about any negative effects only years later, when it's too late. Yet, we know from history that for every advantage a new technology offers, there's always a corresponding disadvantage. The question is not always what a new technology will do, but what it will undo." He concludes—"I am attempting to explore these questions in advance, as new technologies are being introduced on the market. Since we are in the midst of the greatest period of technological change in our history, I think it's time that the media start paying attention to the price we are paying for rapid technological growth."

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