Former professor signs new book


By Katherine Clayton Reporter

Former SDSU Associate Professor Matthew Cecil spoke about his book, Hoover’s FBI and the Fourth Estate in the Archive room located in Briggs Library. SDSU faculty, community members, and friends of Cecil gathered to hear Cecil describe his research and book in detail.

“The book is about the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover and his relationship with journalists during his 48 year tenure,” Cecil said.

Cecil’s interest in the FBI was sparked after seeing newspaper clippings regarding Ben and Stella Dickson, who robbed banks in South Dakota. After looking into the history of them, Cecil noticed that the FBI exaggerated details about the pair. This realization led to further interest in the FBI.

According to Cecil, he has been conducting historical research for the book since 2000 by using FBI files.

“The research is based on 400,000 pages of FBI documents,” Cecil said.

He accessed the FBI files through the Freedom of Information Act. The process includes writing a letter requesting the files, paying the charge for the files, waiting to be approved by the FBI, and receiving the files after 12 to 18 months depending on which file is being requested. He was more concerned with the time between 1924 and 1972 when J. Edgar Hoover was director of the FBI.

“I couldn’t have done it [written the book] without the FBI’s Freedom of Information Act,” Cecil said.

Cecil said the goal of writing his book is to figure out what happened historically and what it means today.

“I wrote the book over a course of three years between 6 and 8 a.m. everyday in my office at Yeager Hall,” Cecil said.

His process of writing the book was looking at history and then using the files to fill in the details.

“The great thing about writing a book is that you get to wrap your arms around a topic …It is the ultimate form of journalism,” Cecil said.

After completing his book, Cecil donated his FBI files to the SDSU Archives located on the second floor of Briggs Library.

“They [the files] are here [in the library] for anyone who wants to look at them,” Cecil said.

“Matt wrote the book when he was here … He let me know when it was finally published. It is standard procedure to have them come and speak,” said Mary Arnold, the department head of Journalism and Mass Communications.

After seeing Cecil finish his book, Arnold says that seeing his accomplishment produces the same kind of feeling that a parent or teacher sees, an idea forming and the idea being accomplished.

The event took cooperation between the different groups to honor the release of Cecil’s book.

“We had one planning meeting,” said Kristi Tornquist, the Chief University Librarian.

The Journalism and Mass Communications department and Briggs Library organized the book signing and speech.

Cecil wishes to credit SDSU Mary Arnold, Laurie Nichols and his colleagues for the support of his book.

“It’s [the book] the great gift I got from SDSU.” Said Cecil.

Cecil is currently the Director of the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.