Donna Halper

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Donna Halper, summarizing a paper she co-wrote with Christopher Sterling about the date of Reginald Fessenden's first broadcast

Donna L. Halper (born February 1947, Dorchester, Massachusetts) is a Boston-based historian and radio consultant. She is author of the first booklength study devoted to the history of women in American broadcasting, Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting.[1] In 2014 a new updated edition of this book was published. In late 2008, she completed her fourth book, Icons of Talk: The Media Mouths that Changed America, a history of talk shows; that year, she also had a chapter published in a new book by Michael C. Keith called Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life.[2] In 2010, she had an essay about the impact of McCarthyism on broadcasting published in a new encyclopedia, Perspectives in American Social History: Cold War and McCarthy Era. In 2011, she completed a new book for Arcadia Publishing, Boston Radio 1920-2010. [1] And in 2014, she completed a revised and expanded second edition of Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting.[2]

Halper attended Northeastern University, where she received B.A., M.A., and M.Ed. degrees. In 1968 she became the first woman announcer at Northeastern's campus radio station, WNEU (now WRBB).[3] Halper went on to a career that included twelve years on the air, in Cleveland, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Boston. She also was a music director and gave a number of new bands their start. While working at WMMS in Cleveland, Halper discovered the rock band Rush. Halper was also pivotal in getting them signed to a record contract; as a result, the band dedicated their first two albums to her.[4] An article about her longstanding friendship with the band was published by her hometown newspaper, The Patriot Ledger, in July, 2008.[5] Halper is also seen in the 2010 documentary about Rush, Beyond the Lighted Stage.[6] On June 25, 2010, she was a speaker when Rush received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.[7]

In 1980, Halper became a radio consultant, one of the few women to be such. She has consulted for college and commercial radio stations in the United States, eastern Canada and Puerto Rico on various aspects of running a radio station.

In the late 1980s, Halper also began teaching college courses about broadcasting, media criticism and media history. She continued to teach part-time at Emerson College, in the journalism department and the Institute of Liberal Arts until the summer of 2008, when she accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Communication at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1987–88, Donna taught courses at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire on radio programming. She has also taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Massachusetts Boston. In Communication. In May 2011, she earned a Ph.D. in Communication from UMass Amherst.[8]

While acknowledging that she does not always agree with him, Halper is a fan of Joseph Farah, the founder of, and "makes the site required reading for her students at Lesley University."[9]

Halper has won or been nominated for several awards for her teaching.[citation needed]

A media and social historian, Halper has written a number of essays for encyclopedias and magazines. She does frequent speaking engagements about the history of broadcasting, bringing with her a collection of rare memorabilia.[10] She has been a guest expert on NPR, PBS, the History Channel, and on local television stations WCVB-TV and NECN, commenting on media history.[11]

Her expertise is in women and minorities in media history, Talk radio, and individual entrepreneurs whose contributions to broadcasting have been overlooked. Among the forgotten broadcast pioneers whose careers she has researched are John Shepard III, Eunice Randall, and Big Brother Bob Emery. Some of her other essays can be found on The Archives @, where she is a contributing editor.

In her spare time, she collects rare magazines and artifacts about media history, as well as stamps and old postcards. Halper has been a Big Sister and a mentor, and for the past 29 years has been the advocate for an adult with autism.


  1. ^ Katz, Larry (2001-09-04). "'Invisible' No More: Emerson teacher's book examines forgotten female radio pioneers". Boston Herald. p. 33. 
  2. ^ "Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life" (publisher's Web page). Peter Lang Publishing Group. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  3. ^ Simon, Clea (2008-10-17). "She blazed a trail locally, and now her career comes full circle". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  4. ^ Wagner, Vit (2002-05-11). "What A Rush!". Toronto Star. p. J8. 
  5. ^ McLean, Chuck (2008-07-09). "Quincy Woman Still Promoting Rush 34 Years After Discovering Band". The Patriot Ledger. 
  6. ^ "Women see 'underlying theme' in Rush documentary film"
  7. ^ "Rush gets a star in Hollywood with an assist from Quincy woman"
  8. ^ Doherty, Charles J. (2006-04-10). "Professor Profiles: Donna Halper". Mass Media. Retrieved 2008-07-28. [dead link]
  9. ^ Peter Wallsten and Faye Fiore (2010-01-27). "Joseph Farah found his calling in Obama-bashing". Los Angeles Times. 
  10. ^ Simon, Clea (2007-02-22). "Thanks for Listening". Boston Globe. p. E7. 
  11. ^ For example: "Tower Records Bankruptcy Heralds Industry Changes" (transcript). The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. 2006-08-23. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 

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