2004 Winter Newsletter


  1. Editor’s Introduction
  2. Getting it Right? Religion, Media and Politics
  3. Call for papers: AEJMC Convention, Aug. 10-13, 2005
  4. Call for contributors: Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media
  5. Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships in Media, Religion, and Culture at the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication

For these articles and more from editor Jim Trammell, keep reading past the jump.

Editor’s Introduction

By Jim Trammell
RMIG Newsletter editor

 A student of mine caught me in the hall after class. “What do you think of this?” she asked, handing me the current issue of Seventeen.

“I don’t read a lot of magazines targeting teen girls,” I said. “So I probably don’t have much of an opinion on it.”

She turned to page 102 where, interspersed within the “Fashion,” “Beauty” and “Stars” sections, was Seventeen‘s “Faith” section. Apparently, the teen magazine has started printing more articles about how young girls and women approach spirituality and religiosity. The issue I saw included a story about a Jewish college cheerleader cut from the squad allegedly for religious differences. It also featured sidebars about Christian, Muslim and Jewish charities that teens can get involved in.

I was slightly amused by the section, especially since it was placed a few pages after Seventeen‘s dating survey results (where we discover that 85% of its readers French kiss, by the way). My student, though, didn’t share my amusement.

“You can’t put religion on the same level as make-up and boy bands and chewing gum,” she said with a grimace on her face. “Young readers will start to think of religion as the new hip accessory of the in-crowd, and not realize religious faith is not a fashion statement. Putting religion in Seventeen won’t make it a better magazine. But injecting Seventeen into religion will weaken the significance of religious faith.”

This lead to a nice discussion about how religiosity influences, and is influenced by, mainstream culture. We talked about churches that incorporate pop music in its sermons, and pop stars who incorporate religiosity in their public personas. We talked about how people are buying more religious books, but they are getting them at Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart instead of the local Christian bookstores. And, of course, we talked about the fashion statements of Christian t-shirts. (Surely, Seventeen will cover this topic eventually, if it hasn’t already.)

I realized that by talking about religion in mainstream media (and conversely, mainstream media in religion) my student began to better understand the influence and implications of media culture within western society. I left the conversation thinking that even though a “Faith” section may not make Seventeen a better magazine, it made our discussion of media culture stronger than it would have been otherwise.

This newsletter features more examples and opportunities to incorporate religion into media studies in an effort to make media scholarship and instruction stronger. RMIG head Michael Longinow encourages us not to be complacent in our instruction on covering religious issues, particularly in such a volatile election year. The call for papers for next year’s AEJMC conference is also below, as is a call for contributors for the upcoming Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media.

I hope the RMIG newsletter will prove to be edifying in our exploration of the marriage of religion and media. I invite you to write share your announcements and musings with us through the newsletter or the listserv. I look forward to hearing from you at jim-trammell@uiowa.edu.

Getting it Right? Religion, Media and Politics

By Michael A. Longinow

The October issue of Christianity Today shows George Bush and John Kerry on horses charging each other in jousting positions. It’s a cover that, without much effort, could be replicated in roughly the same month every four years going back generations. The images are familiar. Horses. Horse-races. Battles. And, since about the Eisenhower era, faith.

The faith of presidents is something that matters to voters. That’s not new. What is new is how the American news media has seemed to misfire on coverage of the faith that each candidate brings to the political table. We’ve heard about that eloquently from Judith Buddenbaum, Mark Silk, and Stewart Hoover.

It comes up again this year. Nobody really seems to know the real story about the faith of our president or the senator from Massachusetts. Ron Susskind, in New York Times magazine, in October, said it didn’t matter. It’s really about political perception anyway. George W. Bush’s reputation for Christian extremism will, if he is re-elected, spark a revolution within the GOP within hours of the close of the polls, Susskind predicts. And of course, religion among Democrats – something only tangentially explored in this election season – will be as prominent a part as ever in the search for a winning Democratic candidate in 2008. But isn’t it more complicated than that? If we don’t think so, I’d suggest, we’re missing the point.

We should admit that this time around the confusion over religious coverage of presidential politics lacks substance at a deeper level. We live in an America where Islam, Judaism and the offshoots of these faiths have become a noticeable part of our socio-religious landscape. The perception that Arab nations have of the United States and its allies in the Iraqi conflict stems powerfully from their religious world view. But it also has an effect on the perception this country has globally and affects how well American journalists will be able to cover stories in decades to come. It affects us and our classrooms. The question is how well we’re preparing our students to cover the growing role that Islam, Judaism – and even the changing definitions of Christianity – play in world decision-making and decision-making in the U.S.

From one standpoint, it’s a no-brainer. Just teach basic reporting better, right? Ask more questions. Get more background. Use the clip file (or Lexis-Nexis) with better key words. Don’t fall into the sinister Arab stereotypes seen on TV dramas and in films like “The Siege.” Be more effective in welcoming students into journalism and communications study who are unashamedly religious. (The University of Illinois’ College of Communications recently highlighted in its alumni magazine a student journalist on-camera in her TV project wearing a Muslim head covering.)

But in another sense, maybe we should be doing more with helping our students integrate their faith with their practice of good journalism. David Aikman, a former senior writer for Time, has contributed to the understanding of George W. Bush’s faith with a book that explores the president’s religious background. It’s exploration that emanates from clear-eyed peering through Washington flak-fog, but it also asks the kinds of questions that only a religious person could find.

World Journalism Institute, covered recently in CJR, is a seminar-style training ground for journalists with the underlying mission of helping student blend their faith with good reporting. Founder Bob Case took heat in Christianity Today for his motives in creating the institute. The CJR piece raises questions of its own. What neither piece point up is the 800 lb. gorilla hiding behind the creation of World Journalism Institute (and the Summer Institute of Journalism under auspices of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and the media-internship portion of the Focus on the Family Institute.)

The incoming generations of students out of North American high schools (public, private and home-schools) are young people who want to believe. They want to be great journalists – maybe – but they want to know how they can take a vibrant faith into their Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting projects. Those of us teaching at AEJMC-accredited or AEJMC-affiliated programs should take the hint. We need to find ways of helping students get better answers about faith in public life. They’ll vote with their feet if we don’t.

Call for Papers – AEJMC Convention, August 10-13, 2005

The Religion and Media Interest Group of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication invites submission of research on any topic related to religion and media. RMIG is interested in papers using any recognized research method and any recognized citation style. Please note that RMIG is interested in research presentations, rather than essays or commentary. Possible areas of focus for the research include but are not limited to studies of religious group members and uses of secular media, exploration of media coverage of religious issues and groups, studies of the audiences for religious news, media strategies of religious organizations, religious advertising, religious and spiritual content in popular culture, and so on. The competition is open to both faculty and students. Papers will be considered for presentation for research panels and a research poster session.

IMPORTANT: Please follow the guidelines for the AEJMC Uniform Call for Papers (available on the AEJMC website, www.aejmc.org). Please note the maximum length of 25 pages, excluding endnotes and tables. Presentation: The best papers will be presented at the AEJMC 2005 convention; thus, an author must be there. The convention will take place August 10-13, 2005 in San Antonio, TX.

Top Papers: The RMIG Division is also sponsoring an “Award Winning Paper” competition for top faculty and student papers at this year¹s convention. The “Top” paper in each category will be selected from among the refereed papers submitted to the RMIG competition. The top paper winners will receive $100 and a certificate. In the case of multi-authored papers, all authors must be students to qualify for the Top Student Paper award.

All submissions must be sent Priority or First Class and must be postmarked by April 1, 2005, and must be received by April 6, 2005, for consideration. All submissions should be sent to:

Dr. Guy Golan
RMIG Research Chair
211 Journalism Building
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-7202

Call for Contributors: Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media

Berkshire Publishing Group is seeking scholars and other experts to contribute to the Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media to be published by Routledge in Summer 2005.

The Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media is the eighth volume in the Berkshire/Routledge Religion & Society series. We expect the Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media to become the definitive reference source on all forms of religious communication, with particular attention to mass media, writing, and verbal messages.

The Religion, Communication, and Media volume is edited by Daniel Stout (University of South Carolina), assisted by an editorial board of Associate Editor Judith M. Buddenbaum (Colorado State University), and Consulting Editors Clifford Christians (University of Illinois), Stewart Hoover (University of Colorado), Jolyon Mitchell (University of Edinburgh), John Durham Peters (University of Iowa), Joseph Straubhaar (University of Texas), and Hillary Warren (Otterbein College).

The Religion & Society series explores and explains the major forms of religion-society interaction over time and across cultures, with an emphasis on the modern world. Each volume in the series addresses a different general topic through articles, primary source sidebars, and photos. The six published volumes-covering Millennialism and Millennial Movements, African and African-American Religions, Fundamentalism, Religious Freedom, Religion & War, and Religious Rites, Rituals, & Festivals-have earned excellent reviews for their scholarly quality and clear, readable articles. The seventh through ninth volumes are now being prepared.

All contributors will receive a free copy of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media (retail price about $140). Contributors who write more than one article may select copies of other volumes in the series. All articles will be peer-reviewed by the board of editors, and authors will be fully acknowledged in the published work.

We currently have articles available in the categories of: Alternative Religious Movements, Forms of Communication and Media, Historical Periods, Religious Traditions, and Key Concepts.

If you are interested in becoming a contributor to this vital and exciting project, send a message indicating which category you are interested in writing, along with a paragraph about your position, experience in religion and communication, and major relevant publications (we do not need a CV at this stage), to our project editor, Jess LaPointe, at jess@berkshirepublishing.com.

Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships in Media, Religion, and Culture at the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication

The University of Colorado’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is pleased to announce a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Media, Religion, and Culture. Grants are available in the amount of $12,000 for a one-year fellowship. Deadline for applications for the next academic year is April 2005. Send your application materials to:

Scott Webber, Fellowship Coordinator
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
UCB 478
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0478

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