Our Founders

NTC began in the 1930's as a small study group of the Madison, Wisconsin Chapter of the American Association of University Women. Jessie McCanse was education chairman of the group. She gave another member a little assignment that was to last 50 years for both. The project not only marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship, but developed a collaboration that has shaped our organization. That friend was Leslie Spence, Ph.D. Jessie McCanse and Dr. Spence were both English teachers who founded and led the Council for six decades. Through their work, Spence and McCanse assembled the scholars whose work laid the foundation for this emerging field of media education. Among these were Dr. Louis Forsdale, Teachers College, Columbia University, Dr. Edgar Dale, Ohio State University, Dr. Patrick Hazard of the University of Hawaii, and more. 

Jessie McCanse (left) and Leslie Spence (right), seen together in their later years.

Leslie Spence, Ph.D.

Leslie Spence earned her first college degree in English Literature, and after teaching for several years, went on to earn her graduate degree in History and Education. Leslie's job on the AAUW committee was to pull together a group to evaluate and recommend radio programs, each week, submitting their results to the two local Madison newspapers. As it turned out, she was to focus her life on broadcasting's potential and the fine tuning of individual responses to it. Dr. Spence launched the annual nation-wide Look-Listen Project, the first qualitative grassroots evaluation of radio and television. Through her early publications, she began what has become today the National Telemedia Council's major publication, The Journal of Media Literacy.  Dr. Spence led our organization throughout her lifetime and endowed us with the Leslie Spence trust fund that sustains us to this day.

Jessie McCanse

English teacher, educational broadcaster and civic leader, Jessie Hill McCanse co-founded and led our organization for sixty years. In the 1940's, Madison's WHA, the "first public radio station in the nation," invited our fledgling organization to have a "voice on the air." With Leslie as the initial M.C., Jessie McCanse continued the weekly Broadcasts on Broadcasts for a total of 25 years. As a teacher, she brought the sound, reasonable educational principles and practices that underly our definition of media literacy. Mrs. McCanse is our role model for maintaining the highest standards of excellence, fairness, ethics and innovation. In recognition of her life's work, NTC created the Jessie McCanse Award for individual contribution to media literacy, exemplifying her high principles and dedication. See more about Jessie, the award, and the recipients here.