Donna L. Halper (born February 1947 in Dorchester, Massachusetts) is a Boston-based historian and radio consultant. Beginning in 1968, Halper worked as a radio disc jockey and music director, and is credited with discovering the progressive rock band Rush while at WMMS in Cleveland in 1974. She has taught courses in broadcasting, media criticism, and media history, and is author of a number of books, including the first book-length study devoted to the history of women in American broadcasting, Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting.
Halper attended Northeastern University, where she received B.A., M.A., and M.Ed. degrees. In 1968 she became the first female announcer at Northeastern's campus radio station, WNEU (now WRBB). Halper went on to a career that spanned 12 years as a radio broadcaster, music director, and music producer in Cleveland, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Boston.
In 1980, Halper became a radio consultant for college and commercial radio stations in the United States, eastern Canada and Puerto Rico. In the late 1980s, Halper began teaching college courses about broadcasting, media criticism, and media history. She taught 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, Halper 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 May 2011, she earned a Ph.D. in communication from UMass Amherst.
A media and social historian, Halper has written essays for encyclopedias and magazines. In 2008, she contributed a chapter in Michael C. Keith's Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life, and in 2010, her essay about the impact of McCarthyism on broadcasting appeared in the academic reference work Perspectives in American Social History: Cold War and McCarthy Era. She has also authored a number of books, including Icons of Talk: The Media Mouths that Changed America, a history of talk shows.
Halper has also researched and written about baseball history for the Society for American Baseball Research Baseball Research Journal, documenting radio broadcasting's impact on the game, and highlighting obscure, overlooked or neglected aspects of the sport.
Halper also is a guest speaker specializing in the topic of the history of broadcasting, often bringing with her a collection of rare memorabilia. 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. Her work has focused on women and minorities in media history, talk radio, and people whose contributions to broadcasting have been overlooked or forgotten, such as broadcast pioneers like John Shepard III, Eunice Randall, and Big Brother Bob Emery.
Halper was cited in a 2010 Los Angeles Times profile on WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah as an example of support from "unexpected corners" of society. Although Halper admits that she wonders "how much of what's in WorldNetDaily is just 'Let's be provocative'", she praised Farah's "interesting and honest writing" and says she makes WND "required reading" for her Lesley University students.
Halper is credited with discovering the rock band Rush while working as a radio DJ at WMMS in Cleveland in 1974. After a Canadian record producer gave her the then-unknown band's album, she played a track called “Working Man” on the air. Listeners started requesting more Rush tracks. Soon, other radio stations began including Rush songs in their playlists, and by late summer of 1974, the band got a U.S. recording contract. As an acknowledgement of her role in their success, the band dedicated their first two albums to Halper. Halper appeared in the 2010 documentary about Rush, Beyond the Lighted Stage. On June 25, 2010, she was a speaker when Rush received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
- Full-service radio: programming for the community. Focal Press, 1991.
- Radio Music Directing. Focal Press, 1991.
- Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting. Routledge, 2015.
- Icons of Talk: The Media Mouths that Changed America. Greenwood Press, 2009.
- Boston Radio: 1920-2010. Arcadia Publishing, 2010.
- A Lady Sporting Editor: How Ina Eloise Young Covered Baseball and Made History. Trinidad Chronicle-News, May 2015.
- Katz, Larry (2001-09-04). "'Invisible' No More: Emerson teacher's book examines forgotten female radio pioneers". Boston Herald. p. 33.
- Simon, Clea (2008-10-17). "She blazed a trail locally, and now her career comes full circle". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Tsui, Nick. "Legendary DJ Donna Halper was first to spin Rush in America". Howl Magazine. Howl Magazine. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
- "Donna Halper Associate Professor". lesley.edu. Lesley University. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
- Michael C. Keith (2008). Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life. Peter Lang. pp. 310–. ISBN 978-0-8204-8648-2.
- Caroline S. Emmons (2010). Cold War and McCarthy Era: People and Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-59884-103-9.
- Halper, Donna. "Broadcasting Red Sox Baseball: How the Arrival of Radio Impacted the Team and the Fans". sabr.org. Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- Hulbert, Joanne. "Boston Chapter meeting recap - 11/11/2017". sabr.org. Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- Simon, Clea (2007-02-22). "Thanks for Listening". Boston Globe. p. E7.
- For example: "Tower Records Bankruptcy Heralds Industry Changes" (transcript). The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. 2006-08-23. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Quincy woman's new book celebrates history of Boston radio". Patriot Ledger. The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
- Peter Wallsten and Faye Fiore (2010-01-27). "Joseph Farah found his calling in Obama-bashing". Los Angeles Times.
- Wagner, Vit (2002-05-11). "What A Rush!". Toronto Star. p. J8.
- McLean, Chuck (2008-07-09). "Quincy Woman Still Promoting Rush 34 Years After Discovering Band". The Patriot Ledger.
- "Women see 'underlying theme' in Rush documentary film" Archived 2010-06-19 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Rush gets a star in Hollywood with an assist from Quincy woman"
- Donna L. Halper (April 1991). Full-service radio: programming for the community. Focal Press. ISBN 978-0-240-80083-7.
- Donna L. Halper (1991). Radio Music Directing. Focal Press. ISBN 978-0-240-80081-3.
- Donna Halper (11 February 2015). Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting. Routledge, Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-317-52017-7.
- Donna L. Halper (2009). Icons of Talk: The Media Mouths that Changed America. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-34381-0.
- Donna L. Halper (2011). Boston Radio: 1920-2010. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-7410-3.
- Halper, Donna. "A Lady Sporting Editor: How Ina Eloise Young Covered Baseball and MadeHistory". Academia.edu. Trinidad Chronicle-News, May 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2018.