2003 Summer Newsletter


Summer 2003

Welcome to this special teaching edition of Religion Matters!

  1. From the Head…a good year for RMIG, and it’s only getting better
  2. Call from in-coming head for new leadership
  3. Kansas City RMIG Research Paper Schedule
  4. Emphasis on Teaching: A Call for syllabi, teaching ideas
  5. Emphasis on Teaching: Making Religion and Media courses fun but not fluff is trick to success
  6. Emphasis on Teaching: First Amendment is natural for religion and media courses
  7. Diane Winston named Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC Annenberg
  8. Call for papers
  9. Bibliography

For these articles and more from RMIG Chair Debra Mason, keep reading past the jump.

RMIG Professionalizes, Matures in 2002-03

By Debra L. Mason
RMIG 2002-03 Head

RMIG is one of AEJMC’s smallest and youngest interest groups. But as we conclude our seventh year in existence, we are much stronger, diverse and vocal than in the past.

Among our important highlights this year:
– Seeking and receiving another three-year renewal from AEJMC Executive Committee
– Continuing to expand the number of contest entries and thus reducing acceptance rates-a good thing given our high acceptances
– Created a web site
– Reaching out to more non-AEJMCers than ever in the past
– Partnering in programming that will bring us greater visibility, via two miniplenaries, than we’ve had in the past.
– Creating a new listserv to replace our old one that had ceased to exist in recent years.

Still, there are more things to do. Both RMIG and AEJMC as a whole continue to evolve and, we hope, improve.

In-coming Head Rick Moore of Boise State takes over at the Kansas City RMIG business meeting, scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Thursday, July 31. I hope you’ll join me as we talk about RMIG’s future directions and elect new leaders. Items on the agenda include:

  • A proposal to make officer’s positions two years instead of one. This would take effect AFTER my term so it is clear this is not motivated by self-interest! But we learn a lot in these roles and it seems a shame to relinquish it just when you know enough to be effective. In addition, as a small group, often with a dozen or fewer people at the business meeting, it is hard to find people willing to volunteer.
  • A review of discusssions within AEJMC (and focused in a task force) about the role of AEJMC’s three elected committees of Teaching, Research, and PF&R. These committees annually evaluate the divisions and interest groups based on their abilities to provide programming in the three areas for which the committees are named. Each year the division/interest group completes a detailed Annual Report. This report is what the committee members use to “review” the groups. But there are questions as to the real meaning of these reports, and a division/interest group’s true ability to-given limited programming slots and other limitations-comply with all the AEJMC missions as enunciated by the three standing committees. In addition, sometimes the reports request data that are difficult to acquire (such as the ethnicity of people submitting papers or even that of judges. Unless you know a judge personally, it is almost impossible to know without a good bit of digging). As some have noted, AEJMC has no real punative powers over a division/interest group if its leaders fail to comply with the report requirements (which did happen several years ago in the Newspaper Division.) However, Interest Groups have somewhat more incentive because they come up for renewal every three years and could be disbanded.

There are more issues that we will discuss. Please, join us. We’ve included some light refreshments this year.

Finally, we much thank all the RMIG leaders this year for their help and support. It is essentially. We are all in your debt.

In gratitude,
Debra Mason
Religion Newswriters Association

RMIG Incoming Head Rick Moore of Boise State Unversity invites all RMIG members to consider a leadership position within RMIG, and to attend the RMIG business scheduled for Thursday, July 31, at 6:45 – 8:30 p.m.

The business meeting is expected to last about an hour and the new executive committee will meet immediately following that. Light refreshments will be available.

Available positions include:

  • Vice Head, who plans the program panels
  • Research Head, who manages the research paper competition
  • Secretary, who takes minutes at the meetings
  • Newsletter Editor: Who determines newsletter content, its formatting and distribution/mailing
  • Chairs for each of the three standing committees of Teaching, Research and PF&R.
  • Diversity Committee Chair
  • Membership Committee Chair

If you are interested in serving a leadership role, or if you have questions about the time involved, please contact Debra Mason at mason@religionlink.com.

RMIG’s 2003 Juried Accepted Research Papers

To see the complete schedule, click here.

The following is the list of research papers accepted into RMIG’s paper competition.

Thursday, July 31

8:15 to 9:45 am
Refereed Paper Session: How Shall They Hear? Examinations of Self-Representations By Religious Communities
Moderating/Presiding: Kenneth D. Loomis, North Texas

Journalism in Service to the Church*
Martin Yina and Tony Rimmer, California State, Fullerton

Authenticating Religious Experience: A Textual Analysis of the Construct of History and Religion at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah
David W. Scott, South Carolina

Religious Community on the Internet: An Exploratory Analysis of Mormon Websites**
Daniel A. Stout, Brigham Young

Use of On-Line Bulletin Boards By Churches – An Exploratory Study
Amanda Sturgill, Carly Engibous, Megan Holmes, Pattama Jongsuwanwattana and Prachi Purohit, Baylor
Discussant: Lynn Schofield Clark, Colorado

* Top Student Paper
** Top Faculty Paper

Friday, August 1

11:45 am to 1:15 pm
Scholar-to-Scholar. These are the RMIG-juried papers that are among the 78 research papers displayed at this AEJMC-wide poster session.

Presentation of Media Practice
Jin Kyu Park, Colorado

Created in Whose Image? Examining Network TV’s Treatment of Religion
Scott H. Clarke, Michigan State

Preferred Shades of Green: Religion as a Factor in News Framing of Environmental Advocacy
Rick Clifton Moore, Boise State

Religious Beliefs, Media Use, and Wishful Thinking in the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election
Barry Hollander, Georgia

Religious Socialization and the Media: A Qualitative Study of How Baby Boomers View the Entertainment Media as a Cultural Resource for Parenting
Lynn Schofield Clark, Colorado

Press Freedom and Religion: Measuring an Association Between Press Freedom and Religious Composition
Guy Golan, Louisiana State and Colleen Connolly-Ahern, Florida

The Economic Response of Religious Television Stations to Digital Implementation
Brad Schultz, Mississippi

A Structural Equation Model of Religiosities Effect on Mass Media Use and Civic Participation
Greg Armfield, Missouri-Columbia
Discussants: Mara Einstein, Queens and Myna German, Berkeley

3:15 to 4:45 pm
Refereed Paper Session: Religion in the News: Uncovering Patterns in Secular Coverage of Major Stories

Moderating/Presiding: Eric Gormly, North Texas

Following the Party Line: Xinhua News Agency’s Coverage of the Falun Gong Movement
Chiung Hwang Chen, Brigham Young- Hawaii

Appalling Sin or Despicable Crime: An Exploration of Media Frames Surrounding the Catholic Church Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal
Lois A. Boynton and Dulcie M. Straughan, North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Aid Workers or Evangelists, Charity or Conspiracy: Framing of Missionary Activity as a Function of International Political Alliances
David N. Dixon, Azusa Pacific

Religion News and Cultural Categories: The Intersection of Religion, Media and Culture in Journalism
Cheryl Casey, New York

Discussant: Judith Buddenbaum, Colorado State

Call for syllabi, teaching ideas

RMIG is asking for example of course outlines, descriptions, syllabi and suggested readings for a planned online database of these course materials.

As teachers, we know envisioning a course and going through the detailed planning is the hardest part of the job.

By some collegial generosity and sharing, RMIG hopes to provide an invaluable resource to its members who are interested in teaching a course around the topics of media and religion but who don’t know where to start.

If you have a syllabi or other materials you are willing to share, please send them to RMIG Head Debra Mason at mason@religionlink.com. Please include in your message a phrase stating that you agree to have the material posted on RMIG’s web site.

The deadline for submissions is Sept. 1, 2003, although of course we will always update it with new syllabi.

Thank you in advance to those of you who can help with this.

Making Religion and Media courses fun but not fluff is trick to success

By Judith M. Buddenbaum
Colorado State University

The study of religion and media is now an accepted research specialty. Courses on religion and media are increasingly common.

Although I have found there is still lingering doubt among some administrators and faculty about the viability of courses on religion and media, I have also found they are an example of the “build it, and they will come” phenomenon.

I teach a religion, media and society course as one of a smorgasbord of freshman seminars incoming students at Colorado State are required to choose among. My course is always one of the first to fill to capacity. Students flock to it because they consider the topic inherently interesting and relevant. Once in it, they are rarely disappointed. But in the process, they discover that what they thought would be a “fun course” may be fun, but it isn’t fluff.

I, too, find the course fun. But offering a course that is fun, but not fluffy, takes some doing. Through trial and error, I have found some things that can make a good course even better.

  1. Signal your intent. “Religion and media” is a fine topic, but it’s vague and overbroad. As a name for a course, it can invite misunderstanding if students enroll thinking you will emphasize one thing, for example religion news coverage and you emphasize religious television. You can’t cover everything, so you’re better off giving your course a title reflecting what you will emphasize. As a focused seminar, the one on “The First Amendment, Religion and the Media” I taught last fall worked well. Election year seminars on “Religion, Media and Politics” have also been winners. But the possibilities are endless. Some day I’m going to build one around media coverage of issues at the intersection of religion and medicine from the controversy over smallpox vaccinations to cloning and stem sell research. Others have good luck with a “popular culture, popular religion” course that focuses on the impact and portrayal of religion and religious themes in popular music, movies and TV entertainment programs.
  2. Cater to your students’ schedule. What works best may vary from one school to another, but my students at Colorado State students participate more fully in late morning or early afternoon classes than they do in classes that are scheduled to begin before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. I have also found that, for a 3-credit course, two 90-minute sessions work best. Meeting in shorter sessions three times a week doesn’t give enough time for discussion. With longer once-a-week classes, it’s hard to develop continuity between sessions and maintain interest and focus within them.
  3. Lead by following. I’m a natural lecturer, so I have had to curb my instincts by constantly reminding myself that, in a course such as this, students don’t need to hear or know everything I know. Students like it better, and there is less danger that they will think I am trying to impose my own beliefs on them, if I let them do the bulk of the “teaching.” To do that, I assign responsibility for most class sessions to a panel of two or three students who must provide an overview of the readings for the day, offer their views on how those readings fit in with previous ones and contribute to the theme for the course, and then ask a question or two to get a discussion started. I also require students to research a course-related topic that interests them and then present their findings in oral reports to their classmates. For my part, I go into class session with a few notes on the main points I think students should know plus a few ideas I want them to wrestle with; I insert my comments wherever they seem to fit. If they don’t fit anywhere, I may begin the next class sessions by saying something like, “I’ve been thinking about what we were talking about…” “Did you know…” or “What do you think about…”
  4. Reward critical thinking. Open-ended essays that require students to integrate ideas and come to their own conclusion are a better option than assignments that require learning isolated facts. While essay assignments can be hard to design and to grade, I find them worth the effort. Students learn more and remember the main points better when they have to wrestle with ideas and come to their own conclusion. And I learn more about my students’ interests and their real level of understanding from reading these essays than I could ever learn from easier-to-grade assignments short-answer assignments. However, giving this kind of assignment means that I do have to remind myself that there really are no “correct” and “incorrect” answers – just thorough, logical consideration of material from a number of sources, accuracy in presenting that information, and evidence of understanding the differences between fact and opinion and their appropriate use in developing an argument.
  5. Police the boundaries. The situation may be different at a private, religious college, but at a state university it’s important to make sure everyone understands there is a difference between “religion” and “religious.” The First Amendment protects everyone and that protection will be assured of that protection in class. I try to make it very clear through word and example that it’s ok for students to express opinions based on their religious convictions; it’s also ok for others to agree or disagree with classmates’ opinions, whether or not those opinions flow from religious beliefs. It isn’t ok to attack or make fun of those opinions or insinuate that they are wrong. If a student strays from those ground rules, I make the student stop, apologize and then try to make the same point in some other, less threatening way. I also tell my students to hold me to those same standards and I praise them when they do Because I am not shy about sharing my religious beliefs and offering my opinions, I also make it a point to show that my grading is viewpoint neutral by sharing with the class good essays in which students have taken an approach I would not have taken or have argued for a position with which disagree.

Courses Exploring Religious Freedoms of First Amendment Provide Meaty But Challenging Course

By David W. Scott
University of South Carolina

In my short term as a professor, I have had the opportunity to teach first amendment classes in two states (New Hampshire and South Carolina). I think the greatest challenge in teaching this course is helping students to understand the current legal issues arising from both the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.

Many of my students bring with them very strong religious beliefs and often attended public schools that integrated religious ideology into their curriculum or extra curricular activities. The challenge, in this course, is to help students address legal questions regarding the Establishment Clause without feeling threatened or invalidated for their beliefs.

As I have revised my notes and discussions in the class, I have found a few methods to help maintain the integrity of the material while also allowing students to question both their own experiences and the current legal climate. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be sure to differentiate institutional religious beliefs from personal religiosity. I have found that the First Amendment does a great job of doing this. If we accept the current interpretations of the Establishment Clause, we can recognize that the intent of the clause is to prohibit state-sponsored orthodoxy (although this may not have been the case when the Constitution was first written). The challenge then, is for the students themselves to debate whether or not a particular religious text favors a particular faith (e.g., The Ten Commandments, a Nativity Scene, the Koran, the “In God we trust” phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance or on currency).
  • The Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment’s focus on personal religiosity allows the use of assignments in which. students review school cases when students are punished for wearing religious shirts or other paraphernalia (believe me, there are plenty of those for review). One goal here is to help students see that omitting religious orthodoxy from state-sponsored institutions is not sacrilegious or a threat to religious beliefs and tenets.
  • I emphasis at first that many constitutional theorists argue (and much history attests to this) that much of the value of the First Amendment derives from the founders’ construct of Natural (or God-given) Law. For some history on this, see http://www.law.indiana.edu/ilj/v73/no1/yang.html.
  • I challenge students to differentiate “behavior” from “beliefs” when it comes to the authority of lawmakers in this country (for example, I ask students why it is that the government can so freely regulate their ability to drink but not which church they attend the conclusion is that one regulation does not infringe on their natural rights of self-determination or beliefs, while the other does.).
  • Pass out a copy of the US Department of Education’s “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.” This gives them the “official perspective” and serves as a primer for further discussion about their own experiences.
  • Discuss original intent versus current law. I have had on some occasion students argue that the Founders were very religious and that their intent was to allow God to be included in government settings. This is always a great lead-in to discussion of other original interpretations of the first amendment versus the current legal climate (for example, the original first amendment would not prohibit the states from restricting ALL speech). Students are then allowed to discuss and debate the merits of the history of various laws or interpretations of the Constitution versus current Supreme Court decisions (again, refer to the Indiana website above for discussion of this subject as it pertains to the First Amendment).

While these classroom ideas may not change student opinions of the students, they at least leave the classroom with broader perspectives. In the words of one of my former students, “The thing I hate so much about your class is that just when I think Iím right about something, you come along and challenge my expectations.” This “Eureka” experience, to me, is the highlight of teaching Media Law.

Diane Winston named Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC Annenberg

USC Annenberg School for Communication

LOS ANGELES, June 5, 2003 – Diane Winston, a veteran journalist, noted scholar and author, has been selected as the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, Dean Geoffrey Cowan announced today.

Winston, whose assignment begins August 1, 2003, will develop programs to enhance religion reporting across the nation through workshops for working journalists, research, conferences, as well as classroom instruction. She comes to USC Annenberg from the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she has been responsible for programs in religion and media and religion and academic scholarship.

“Religion, spirituality and moral values are so much a part of American life that they deserve much better coverage,” said Michael Parks, director of USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism, where Winston will be based. “Diane Winston is an outstanding reporter and an influential scholar who shares a deep commitment to improving the practice of journalism. I am delighted we have been able to recruit a journalist and scholar of Winston’s caliber for this Knight Chair.”

Winston has worked as a reporter for several of the nation’s leading newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald and The News and Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army (1999) and co-editor of Faith in the City: Religion and Urban Commercial Culture (2002). She has directed religion and media projects at New York University and Northwestern University. She holds a Ph.D. in religion from Princeton University, an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University, a Master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and B.A. from Brandeis University.

“Having worked with Diane at the Baltimore Sun, I’m well aware of her abiding interest in journalistic coverage of religion. I can’t think of anyone better qualified for this Chair,” said John Carroll, editor of the Los Angeles Times.

“Diane’s experience uniquely pairs her many years as an exceptional religion journalist with her abilities as a rigorous scholar,” said Debra Mason, executive director of the Religion Newswriters Association. “We look forward to collaborating with Diane and USC in our mutual efforts to raise the bar for religion coverage in the news media.”

The Knight Chair was established at USC Annenberg thanks to a $1.5 million grant announced last September by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Religion Newswriters Association, The Freedom Forum and more than a few journalists in all media are working to improve religion coverage,” said Eric Newton, Knight Foundation’s director of journalism initiatives. “But I think we all would agree that true journalism excellence in this field is still a long way off. With the appointment of Diane Winston, the USC Annenberg School for Communication is building the dynamic leadership, diverse talent and growing resources to make a major contribution to the field.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities. The USC teaching position is the 17th such endowed position established at U.S. colleges and universities since 1990 by the Miami-based foundation. The foundation has invested $25.5 million in the Knight Chair program.

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the USC Annenberg School for Communication is among the nation’s leading institutions devoted to the study of journalism and communication, and their impact on politics, culture and society. With an enrollment of more than 1,500 graduate and undergraduate students, USC Annenberg offers B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in journalism, communication, and public relations.

Call for Papers

4th International Conference on Media, Religion, and Culture
September 1-4, 2004, Louisville, Kentucky USA

Call for Proposals
Deadline: Received by November 7, 2003.

The 4th International Conference on Media, Religion, and Culture invites proposals for papers, panels, and creative showcases. The conference will focus on five themes: (1) production (how and why diverse print and electronic media have acted as bearers of social, cultural, and religious meaning); (2) community (ways that media have been used in temples, synagogues, mosques, and churches to enrich worship and enhance dialogue and a sense of belonging); (3) audience (how audiences have interpreted or used particular media for both implicit and explicit religious ends); (4) ethics (religious responses to issues of media literacy or media justice); and (5) globalization (worldwide issues, including virtual religion in which a sense of place doesn’t seem to matter).

The purpose of the conference is to share the latest developments in and research on religion, media, and culture. Each of the preceding three international conferences generated continuing conversations as well as a published book. Rethinking Media, Religion, and Culture (Sage, 1997), edited by Stewart Hoover and Knut Lunby, followed the first meeting in Uppsala, Sweden; Practicing Religion in the Age of the Media (Columbia University Press, 2002), edited by Stewart Hoover and Lynn Schofield Clark, followed the second meeting in Boulder, Colorado; and Mediating Media: Studies in Media, Religion, and Culture (T&T Clark, 2003), edited by Jolyon Mitchell and Sophia Marriage, followed the third meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland. A selective anthology of quality original work will likely emerge from this conference, too.

Proposals should be no longer than 500 words. They must include:

  • Title of proposed presentation
  • Name(s) and title(s) of author(s)
  • Institutional affiliation(s) and address(es) of author(s)
  • Category (paper, panel, or creative showcase)
  • Description of presentation

An international panel will evaluate proposals on the basis of originality and significance. Applicants will be notified of their status in February, giving those chosen to present six months to prepare. All presenters must preregister.

Send proposals as email messages or .rtf attachments to ferre@louisville.edu. For more information about the conference, see www.MediaReligionAndCulture.org.

Focus on Research: Recent Publications through 2002

Compiled by Eleanor S. Block
Ohio State University

The following is a list of recent media and religion publications, although it is not an exhaustive list. A future newsletter will list research for 2003.


  • Clausen, Dane S., (Ed.) (2002) Sex,religion, media. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield. Hoover,
  • Stuart M., & Clark, Schofield Lynn. (Eds.) (2002). Practicing religion in the age of the media: explorations in media, religion, and culture. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Mason, Debra L., . & Holmes, Cecile S.(Eds.) (2002). A Guide to religion reporting in the secular media: frequently asked questions. Westerville, OH: Religion Newswriters Foundation.
  • Smith, Michael Ray. (2002). The Jesus newspaper: the Christian experiment of 1900 and its lessons for today. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
  • Underwood, Doug. (2002). From Yahweh to Yahoo: the religious roots of the secular press. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Journal Articles

  • Buddenbaum, Judith M. (2002) Social science and the study of media and religion: going forward by looking backward. Journal of Media & Religion, 1(1), 13-.
  • Christians, Clifford G. (2002). Religion perspectives on communication technology. Journal of Media & Religion, 1 (1), 37-.
  • Evensen, Bruce J. (2002). “Saucepan journalism” in an age of indifference: Moody, Beecher, and Brooklyn’s gilded press. Journalism History, 27 (4) 165-177.
  • Hoover, Stewart M. (2002). The Culturalist turn in scholarship on media and religion. Journal of Media& Religion, 1 (1), 25-.
  • Kerr, P.A., & Moy, P. (2002). Newspaper coverage of fundamentalist Christians, 1980-2000. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 79 (1), 54-72.
  • Lindlof, Thomas R. (2002). Interpretive community: an approach to media and religion. Journal of Media & Religion, 1(1), 61-.
  • Stout, Daniel A., & Buddenbaum, Judith M. (2002). Geneaology of an emerging film: foundations for the study of media and religion. Journal of Media & Religion, 1 (1), 5-.Stout, Daniel A.. (2002). Religious media literacy: towards a research agenda. Journal of Media & Religion, 1 (1), 49-.
  • Waters, Ken. (2002). Vibrant, but invisible: a study of contemporary religious periodicals. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 78(2), 307-.
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