2006 Winter Newsletter


Winter 2006
Welcome to the newsletter of the Religion and Media Interest Group of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication!


  1. Editor’s Introduction
  2. The Chair’s Corner
  3. Research Topics Involving Hurricane Katrina
  4. News Content and the Religion Debate
  5. Hurricane Katrina and the Media: What went wrong?
  6. Acknowledgement and Applause
  7. Opportunities
  8. Dates to Remember

For these articles and more from editor Crystal Y. Lumpkins, keep reading past the jump.

Editor’s Introduction

Crystal Y. LumpkinsBy Crystal Y. Lumpkins
RMIG Newsletter Editor

The articles in this newsletter focus on the controversy of media coverage concerning Hurricane Katrina and features opinions and analysis from RMIG board members of how religion in some instances became a part of the coverage.

RMIG’s new Chair Hillary Warren also introduces herself and discusses the direction for the group which includes building relationships and collaborating with other AEJMC interest groups for panels that address a variety of issues.

Research Chair Ralph Frasca looks at how Hurricane Katrina poses some unique research questions and how religion has shaped some of the coverage.

Vice Head and Program Chair Amanda Sturgill adds to the discussion about Hurricane Katrina and other news events of 2005 with an analysis on the news value of “conflict” and whether or not “conflict” in these stories is merited.

Secretary Eleanor Block provides also an extensive source list of selective Internet sites which provide extensive information on Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. The sites particularly address the “why” behind the coverage of Katrina and give a more in-depth look at how the media evaluate themselves.

There is also a note about a recent achievement by one of our members. Congratulations to Dr. Dane S. Claussen of Point Park University who has been appointed to become the next editor of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator.

Finally, be sure to note important deadlines coming up and a dissertation fellowship opportunity and faculty opening at The Center for Religion, the Professions, and the Public in the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri.

I hope you enjoy this issue where we analyze the coverage of Katrina and the media and continue to explore the marriage of religion and media. Please let me know what you think and if you are interested in announcing achievements and or opportunities for members. I look forward to hearing from you at cl41@mizzou.edu.

The Chair’s Corner

Hillary WarrenBy Hillary Warren
RMIG Chair

For those of us who have been studying religion and media for a number of years, but have felt like we were in the wilderness, this is an exciting time. Following media coverage of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, commercial success of “The Passion,” the re-election of George W. Bush and the battle over “intelligent design” v. evolution in the schools, interest in religion among journalists and academics has grown.

I was recently at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference and noticed that rather than seeing only one or two religion and media panels programmed, there were also religion and media papers throughout the conference. I spoke about media coverage on a panel concerning religion and public health and found that there are not just JMR researchers anymore; they’re sociologists, economists and political scientists who are realizing that the relationship between religion and media is relevant to their work as well.

It’s also an exciting time for the Religion and Media Interest Group. We’ve just come through our first assessment from AEJMC and I’m pleased to report that the reviewers applauded our conference programming and our focus as a group. We do have a challenge, however. We have a large membership for an interest group, but many of our members send their papers to other interest groups or divisions for the research competition. I’m glad to see that those papers are being presented and that other areas of AEJMC are welcoming papers that deal with religion, but we’d like to see that work be part of our research panels. One misconception that may have led some authors to consider other venues is the belief that we are only interested in journalism but this couldn’t be further from the truth. RMIG has co-sponsored panels on the media and gay marriage, the public relations and the crisis in the Catholic Church and numerous sessions on religion and popular culture. We welcome work from a critical/cultural perspective and work that broadly defines religion and spirituality. If you are a member of this group and are working on a paper to submit this spring, please consider RMIG. One of the benefits is getting to present your work among peers who are focused on religion and media and have the theoretical background to provide quality feedback and suggestions for publication.

Over the next year, RMIG will be doing more to reach out to newer members of the interest group and, in particular, to welcome graduate students and new faculty to participate as moderators and discussants. It’s hard for me to believe that RMIG has now been around long enough that we have members who started out as graduate student members and are now officers. I’m one of those people and we need to ensure that current students and junior faculty find RMIG as welcoming as I did. They need RMIG as a resource and an intellectual home as most doctoral programs don’t have faculty in this area. I’d love to hear suggestions for how we can do more to welcome these newer AEJMC members and encourage them to participate in our programming and research competitions.

Lastly, I’d like to welcome the new officers. Amanda Sturgill of Baylor is Vice-Head and Program Chair and is hard at work on programming for San Francisco. Ralph Frasca of Marymount is Research Chair and has a wealth of experience in running research competitions. Eleanor Block of Ohio State University is continuing as Secretary and will be researching bylaws for our consideration at next year’s meeting. Gail Henson of Bellarmine has a wealth of ideas to contribute as Teaching Chair and Cecile Holmes of South Carolina brings her extensive professional experience to serve as PF&R chair. Finally, I want to especially recognize Crystal Lumpkins, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, who has made this newsletter possible.

Research Topics Involving Hurricane Katrina

Ralph FrascaBy Ralph Frasca
RMIG Research Chair

The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath invite analysis of the mass media and how they functioned regarding this disaster. For our purposes in RMIG, Hurricane Katrina poses interesting research questions.

For instance, did this hurricane have religious significance? Some evangelical Christian leaders employed the airwaves to suggest that Katrina fits into a larger context. Hearkening to Biblical prophecy regarding the End Times, Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Hal Lindsey stated that Katrina demonstrates “the judgment of America has begun.” The 700 Club’s host Pat Robertson wondered, “have we found we are unable somehow to defend ourselves against some of the attacks that are coming at us, either by terrorists or now by natural disaster? Could they be connected in some way?” Christian radio commentator Charles Colson speculated that God allowed the hurricane “to get our attention so that we don’t delude ourselves into thinking that all we have to do is put things back the way they were and life will be normal again.”

Colson also saw a connection between the hurricane and terrorism preparation. He noted, “one lesson I observed from Katrina is that we had better win the war on terror and resolve to prevent another 9-11. Katrina exposed how easy it would be to take a city out.”

Another research question: did the federal government exert too much control of the media in the disaster zone? For several days after Katrina, federal troops blocked reporters from access to corpse recovery in New Orleans. Several photographers and camera crews reported troops threatened them and confiscated their film.

And another: how did the media portray the survivors’ reliance on religious faith? For instance, The New York Times reported that 80 percent of survivors surveyed said their faith was very important to them, and 81 percent said surviving Katrina strengthened their beliefs, while only 4 percent said the ordeal weakened their faith.

Two final items:

  1. I warmly invite you to serve as a judge of RMIG research papers for this year’s AEJMC convention. To accept this invitation, please e-mail me your contact information and general subjects about which you feel most comfortable reading (e.g., law, content analysis, broadcasting). Write to me at ralph.frasca@marymount.edu](mailto:ralph.frasca@marymount.edu).
  2. Hillary Warren tells me that the Council of Divisions voted this year to shift research-paper submissions online beginning in 2007.

News Content and the Religion Debate

By Amanda Sturgill
RMIG Vice-Head and Program Chair

At the time of this writing, the happy holidays/merry Christmas controversy was a major religion story in local and national media. And even our 30,000-circulation daily here in Waco, Texas, had a story about a local mega church canceling services on Christmas day.

A major feature of these stories seems to be having the extreme viewpoint, representing a bizarreness news value, with balance coming from interviews with other members of the clergy or parachurch groups representing balance and adding conflict to the news value.

But is the conflict really there? Is it bigger than other potential areas of conflict? This was a rich fall for these types of stories. Pat Robertson suggests the U.S. should “take out” Hugo Chavez. And, as syndicated columnist Leonard Witt pointed out “Ah, Pat, Pat, Pat. Thank you, Pat. Whenever there’s a slow news day, we can always count on you to liven things up with your special wisdom.” When Franklin Graham suggested that Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment for Mardi Gras, The Charleston Post-Courier ran a column from a local pastor who suggested that this is not logical or Christian.

Conflicting views are always there within and between faith communities. But I think most adherents would not want to resolve differences by debating them before an audience that is unlikely to understand the motivations of each side and the finer points of the debate.

Outrageous statements that are bizarre are news. Sometimes it is important to underscore the bizarreness by having a statement of a mainstream viewpoint, for example when media ran stories quoting Muslims in America about views on jihad and terrorism after Sept. 11. But many times, a view that is bizarre and extremist is self-evident as such. Perhaps what goes with out saying should, in fact, not be said.

Hurricane Katrina and the Media: What went wrong?

By Eleanor Block
RMIG Secretary

There was no other news story in 2005 that received as much coverage in every type of media as Hurricane Katrina including the death of Pope John Paul II and the war in Iraq. It was a year in which weather news and particularly Hurricanes Katrina and Rita dominated the news. Within a very brief time after the start of Hurricane Katrina, criticism of its coverage began. Bloggers had a field day while much of the coverage was also criticized by the mainstream press and broadcast outlets.

A search of the Internet reveals hundreds if not thousands of sites that provide information how the media covered Hurricane Katrina. Many sites also reveal how colleges and universities covered Katrina in their own press or through special projects undertaken by students in journalism departments.

The following are some selective sites which focus specifically on the second part of the title; what went wrong? It is first and foremost a record of a fairly profound self-examination or soul searching by seasoned and student journalists who knew that something went wrong and want to see that it does not continue or recur.

A panel discussion at Ohio University in which, “four distinguished journalism professionals” examine issues of race and class and media coverage.

Journalists from CNN, BBC News, The Denver Post and The Oklahoman tell their own stories about covering Katrina’s aftermath.

Audio recordings from a teach-in on September 16, 2005 offer insight into religious, communication, historical, geographic and other aspects of the coverage in addition to some valuable related links.

A discussion of ethical and journalistic considerations in the coverage of Katrina by four Florida journalists.

Features the text and a complete podcast of a panel of faculty members and Springfield News-Leader Executive Editor Don Wyatt.

Includes such items as What’s Getting Covered, Reporting on the Reporting, and Sites Worth Seeing. A wonderful site with examples of what it calls extraordinary coverage as well as many examples of criticism.

Tim Russert, Ted Koppel, Paula Zahn, and others participate in a discussion. The site includes text, photographs, and streaming video.

Features a recording of a presentation by Anderson Cooper of CNN, Don Wycliff of the Chicago Tribune, Mason Granger, WSDU-TV and moderated by Nicholas Lemann, Dean, Columbia Journalism School.

A round-up of journalists and discussions on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, CNN’s “Reliable Sources, ABC’s “This Week and “Fox News Sunday” as well as many other online and printed media commentary compiled by Richard Prince in his online column “Journal-isms” from the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Acknowledgement and Applause

D.S. Clausssen Appointed Editor of Major Scholarly Journal

Dr. Dane S. Claussen of Point Park University has been appointed to become the next editor of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, a quarterly scholarly journal published by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Dr. Claussen, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, and also Faculty Development Coordinator, at Point Park University, began phasing into the editorship in January and will take full responsibility for the journal in the spring. The first issue officially under his editorship will be the summer 2006 issue.

Dr. Claussen has been a member of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator’s Editorial Board since July 2003 and has been a manuscripts reviewer for it since October 2000. He also has written book reviews for the journal.

In the editorship, Claussen succeeds Dr. Jeremy Cohen, Assistant Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education at Pennsylvania State University-University Park, State College, Pa., who has held the position since 2001. (Other recent editors have included Dr. James A. Crook, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, 1988-2001; and Dr. Thomas A. Bowers, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1983-1988). The journal was founded in 1958.

Dr. Claussen is Head/Program Chair for 2005-6 of the AEJMC’s History Division; Research Chair for 2005-6 of AEJMC’s Magazine Division; Vice-Chair of the Professional Freedom & Responsibility Committee for 2005-6 of AEJMC’s Media Management & Economics Division; a member of AEJMC’s Task Force on Diversity; and a member of the AEJMC’s Religion and Media Interest Group.

Dr. Claussen holds a B.S. (journalism) from the University of Oregon (1984); M.B.A. (corporate finance and labor relations) from The University of Chicago (1986); M.S. (mass communications) from Kansas State University (1996); and a Ph.D. (mass communication) from The University of Georgia (1999).


Media, Religion and Culture Dissertation Fellowships

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder welcomes applications for the 2006-07 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 March 31, 2006. Applications must be mailed to:

Monica Emerich
Media, Religion and Culture Fellowship Coordinator
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Colorado
1511 University Ave., 478 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0478
More information can be found at: http://www.colorado.edu/journalism/mcm/mrc/mrc-fellowships.htm

The Center for Religion, the Professions, and the Public and the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia seek a journalism faculty member who will direct an interdisciplinary center involving faculty affiliates from diverse disciplines. The Center is funded in part by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. For a complete description of the position and application instructions, please visit http://rpp.missouri.edu/about/director-search.html.

Dates to Remember

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