2005 Spring Newsletter


  1. Editor’s Introduction
  2. Covering Multiculturalism/Covering Religion
  3. A Note from the Research Chair
  4. AEJMC Convention-RMIG Call for Paper
  5. AEJMC Convention-RMIG Schedule
  6. Asbury Student Wins $500 Student Religion Writing Contest
  7. Media, Religion and Culture Dissertation Fellowships

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

Editor’s Introduction

By Jim Trammell
RMIG Newsletter editor

Jim TrammellThe articles in this newsletter look at the future of religion and media in practice, teaching and research.

Michael Longinow examines how multiculturalism has affected him both personally and professionally. If we are to train tomorrow’s quality religion newswriters, we must teach them to be sensitive to the cultures from which the religious flavors are born.

Research Chair Guy Golan looks at the RMIG papers of the past few years and current issues to suggest ideas for future research. (Not coincidentally, the research paper call for the AEJMC convention in San Antonio follows Guy’s article, as does the schedule for the RMIG events.)

Debra Mason features some of the outstanding future religion writers. The winners of the Religious Newswriters Association student contest for religious reporting are listed below, along with links to some of the award-winning articles.

Finally, be sure to note the media, religion and culture dissertation fellowships offered through the University of Colorado at Boulder. These $12,000 awards ought to be a welcome help for the future religion and media scholars trying to finance their dissertation research.

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.

Covering Multiculturalism/Covering Religion

By Michael A. Longinow
Professor of Journalism
Asbury College

Michael A. LonginowThe older I get, the more I’m convinced multiculturalism is not hooey. It’s real. I say it because I feel it, but the numbers are out there to support the notion that the journalism we¹re teaching our students is going to be stuff they have to wrestle with in an increasingly non-white national media landscape. As journalism educators who care about religion and media, we should care the most about what multicultural journalism means, why it matters, and how we’re helping it happen.

I’m half Mexican and half Ukrainian. As a kid growing up at the edge of Chicago, I heard a lot of Spanish in word and music, and I saw a bit of printed Spanish in media around the homes of my Mom’s family. When we visited Dad’s side, the chatter was Russian or Ukrainian with a little Yiddish tossed in. I heard Russian music, too, and saw magazines and newspapers with that tough-looking Cyrillic text. It was thick stuff, this diversity of language and culture. As a kid, I loathed it. I clung to my generic, suburban American friends and asked no questions about their ethnicity. Despite the white flight that raged through my neighborhood in the 1960s, I ended up with few African-American neighbors, but I had a few. We just hung out rather than talk about race.

So it surprised me that one of the fears I had in moving South was that I’d lose touch with the ethnicities of the Windy City and its environs. I shouldn’t have worried. When I got to the Atlanta-area to work as a reporter, one of my stories was about Afghan soldiers airlifted to area hospitals for orthopedic surgery and rehab. Factories sprouted up in our area run by Asian business leaders who struggled with English but had management skills that were astounding. A Shinto priest took part in the dedication and ribbon-cutting of one of those factory sites. It was the mid-1980s and waves of regional Hispanic migration had begun hitting the Georgia economy resulting in stories in our business, education, and community sections.

What I didn’t see enough of in the 1980s was journalism that went beyond mere demographic data-crunching. The journalism I saw rarely went beyond references to ethnic minority groups. It didn’t dig into the deeper stories of those groups. Even less did I see the encouragement of media aimed directly at these groups in Spanish, in Chinese, in Arabic, written with a clear, contextualized understanding of the cultures that comprised these groups. And I never asked why. Shame on me.

I’m seeing more and more that the media of ethnic groups is something that is growing around the edges of the American media marketplace. One voice for change has been from people of faith. But we’re all familiar with the story about why they don’t get the microphone. In some places the media voice of ethnic groups is louder and crisper than others. I’m glad to see it growing in Kentucky. And our recent mid-Winter meeting in San Antonio brought home to me that Texas really is part of that big demographic swing: census estimates tell us the Lone Star State, along with California, New York, and Florida will not only contribute a third of all the youth to this nation, a good number of those young people will be non-white. That’s not just demographic drivel to me. It used to be. But for the first time in my life, the personal and professional are merging. I’m seeing that the notion of readership-sensitivity and audience-targeting are concepts that have an element of the human in them. People read what matters to them where they live: at home, in learning environments like schools, and community centers, and city soccer fields, and churches, synagogues or mosques. It’s stuff that people talk about and wave around in bars, and coffee shops, and fast-food restaurants on Tuesday nights or Saturday mornings. The journalism that will matter to them, that they’ll cut out of the paper or magazine and stick on the refrigerator or hand-carry across town to a friend, that they’ll interrupt by running to the phone and telling someone to turn on the TV, is media that dialogues with them. It’s media that listens before it speaks. It’s media that goes beyond seeking a “WOW” from the reader; It begins with a “WOW” from the reporter and editor and photo staff. It’s the stuff that asks questions the multi-ethnic community thought no journalist would ever ask. Because they thought journalists were clueless about their people, their culture, their ways. Some of them very old ways.

This is not rocket science. It’s harder because it requires us, as American journalists, to think beyond ourselves and what we thought worked. But, then, future-thinking has always been like that. I hope RMIG picks up this challenge and runs with it in years to come.

A Note from the Research Chair

By Guy Golan
Assistant Professor
Louisiana State University

Guy GolanIt is with great enthusiasm that I volunteered to serve as the research chair for the Religion and Media Interest Group this year. I have been an active member of this wonderful interest group for more than four years now and have witnessed its expansion in terms of both membership numbers and scope of research. As the April first deadline approaches for this year’s AEJMC paper submission deadlines, I feel it is important to reflect on our field of research.

An analysis of paper abstracts presented in our interest group over the past years highlights several key areas of research focus: coverage of religious groups by the mass media, analyses of religious imagery and language in media campaigns and attitudes of religious groups towards the mass media. The following titles exemplify these research areas: Independent News Web Sites’ Coverage of Religious Freedom and Restraints on Religion in Central Asia by Eric Freedman and Maureen Walton; The Detroit Newspapers’ Coverage of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit Before and During the Newspaper Strike by Geri Alumit Zeldes; The President and the Marketing of American Civil Religion by Andrea Allen and Religious Beliefs, Media Use, and Wishful Thinking in the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election by Barry Hollander.

While these three areas of research are somewhat prevalent, they are in no way the only areas of religion and media that scholars focus on. The current war on terror, social issues such as school prayer and gay marriage as well as religion and popular culture all provide wonderful opportunities for scholarship.

One area that I expect to be key to research on religion is the national debate over stem cell research, genetics and abortion. The issue of media, religion and the body often leads headlines in terms of coverage. As the media provides national as well as local platforms for these important debates, media scholars have an important role to perform.

Moving beyond research topics, I believe that the diversity of our members will lead to a diversity of research methods utilized in relevant research. A close examination of papers presented during past years reveals that qualitative research, as well as critical cultural work, are the leading methodological approaches in our field. I would argue that the application of a quantitative approach to the study of religion and the media would be beneficial as it will allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the field when triangulated with widely utilized qualitative approach.

Finally, I would like to ask all RMIG members to reach out to our colleagues and our students and to tell them about the Religion and Media Interest Group at AEJMC. We must all keep in mind that the future and success of our interest group largely depends on our ability to grow and diversify in terms of both membership and research focus and approach. To quote Plato: “The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant.”

I am hopeful that you will all submit research papers to our interest group this year and am looking forward to seeing you all in San Antonio.

Again, the paper submission information is:

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

AEJMC Convention-RMIG Call for Papers

The Religion and Media Interest Group 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. 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. Top Papers – The RMIG Division is also sponsoring an “Award Winning Paper” competition for top faculty and student papers at this year’s 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: Guy Golan (RMIG Research Chair), Manship School of Mass Communication Louisiana State University, 211 Journalism Building, Baton Rouge, LA 70803; ggolan@lsu.edu.

AEJMC Convention-RMIG Schedule

Tuesday, August 9; 5:30 to 10 pm Preconference Workshop
There will be more information on the preconference workshop, but if you’d like to weigh in on your preferences, that’d be great. The workshop will be on analyzing religion in film and television and we’ll also have a speaker on current trends in the social theory of religion. We’re cosponsoring this with the Entertainment Studies Interest Group, so I think we’ll have some lively discussion.

Wednesday, August 10

  • 10 to 11:30 am Refereed Research Session

Thursday, August 11

  • 8:15 to 9:45 am Refereed Research Session
  • 3:15 to 4:45 pm PF&R Panel with Entertainment Studies on Religious Boycotts
  • 5:00 to 6:30 pm Refereed Research Session
  • 8:30 to 10 pm RMIG Members’ Meeting

Friday, August 12

  • 7:00 to 8:00 am RMIG Executive Meeting (but all are welcome!)
  • 8:15 to 9:45 am Teaching Panel with Scholastic on Religious and Press Freedom
  • 11:45 am to 1:15 pm Scholar to Scholar (RMIG has 7 slots)
  • 1:30 to 3:00 pm PF&R Panel with Minorities and Comm. on Immigration and Faith

Saturday, August 13

  • 8:15 to 9:45 am PF&R Panel with PR on Catholic scandal and PR crisis

Asbury Student Wins $500 Student Religion Writing Contest

Debra MasonBy Debra Mason
Religion Newswriters Association

An Asbury College student has won the nation’s only student contest for religion reporting.

The Religion Newswriters Association presented student Andrew Olsen with the Chandler Student Religion Reporter of the Year Award and a check for $500 last fall at its annual meeting. The award also pays the travel of the winner to receive the award.

Entries for this year’s Chandler Student Religion Reporter of the Year award are due by May 1, but can be submitted any time before that. There is a $15 entry fee and forms are available at http://www.rna.org/chandler.php.

The winners from last fall and their stories are (we’ve linked to the articles when possible):

First place: Andrew Olsen, Asbury College

  • A pastor accused, a congregation torn
  • When court becomes chapel
  • Say a little prayer for you

Second place: William Nathan Ross Todd, University of Missouri

Third place (tie): Jeffrey LaBroad, Boston College

  • Last rites: Possibility of church closings a concern for local parishes
  • Bishops consider banning speakers
  • ‘Renewal’ kickoff event opens dialogue

Third place (tie): Amanda Michaels, University of Notre Dame

  • A higher calling
  • ND students continue to flock to Mass
  • Mass forges friendship, community

Entrants must submit three news or feature articles printed in academic year 2004-05. They can be published in a student publication or during an internship at a general circulation newspaper. Online-only content is not eligible.

If you have any questions, please contact Debra Mason, executive director of RNA, at mason@RNA.org. Please encourage your students to enter or solicit entries from your student newspaper staff.

The Chandler Award is funded by former Los Angeles Times Religion Reporter Russell Chandler and his wife, M.L. Chandler is a former president of RNA and longtime member of the group.

Media, Religion and Culture Dissertation Fellowships

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder welcomes applications for the 2005-06 academic year for a dissertation fellowship program in media, religion, and culture. Three one-year fellowship grants of $12,000 each will be awarded to doctoral students/candidates at the dissertation proposal-writing stage, or who are in the first year after the dissertation proposal is approved. Deadline is April 5, 2005. Applications are available online at www.mediareligion.org/.

This program is supported by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. For further information, contact Scott Webber, Webbers@colorado.edu, Stewart Hoover, stewart.hoover@colorado.edu, or Lynn Schofield Clark, lynn.clark@colorado.edu.

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