2009 Fall Newsletter

November 13, 2009

Table of Contents

Mid-Winter conference set for Oklahoma
Member subscription to journal put on hold
Teaching Tips: The Graduate Student Web Site Mini-Project
Topical research key to RMIG identity

Keep reading past the jump for more from this fall’s newsletter and from Baylor’s Amanda Sturgill.

By Amanda Sturgill, Baylor University
Mid-Winter Conference chair

The annual Mid-Winter Conference is coming March 5-7, 2010, in Norman, Okla.


This conference involves a subset of the AEJMC Divisions and Interest Groups and is a great opportunity to get feedback on work being polished for the annual meeting in Denver. In this case, double dipping is allowed!

It is a special opportunity for graduate students, as well, as the acceptance rates are often more generous, and the audiences tend to be supportive of works in progress. The smaller atmosphere (think a couple of hundred rather than more than a thousand) tends to be a more comfortable way to experience AEJMC for the first time.

The conference generally includes an opening reception, sometimes with a speaker, papers and panels that are organized by theme, just like at the annual meeting, and a lunch. Each session has a moderator and discussant to keep things running smoothly and to give feedback on work.

RMIG authors should submit research paper proposals consisting of a 300- to 500-word abstract by email toAmanda_Sturgill@baylor.edu no later than midnight Central Standard Time, December 1. Please keep in mind that you can only submit any given paper abstract to one of the groups participating in the conference — submitting the same paper abstract to several groups is not allowed. Do not submit full papers. The abstracts should give a clear sense of the scope of the research and the method of inquiry. If researchers have completed their projects by the submission deadline, paper abstracts should also include research conclusions. Once their paper abstracts have been accepted, authors must submit complete research papers (not exceeding 30 pages) to the discussant of their session on the program. Discussants should receive full papers at least two weeks before the conference. Again, keep in mind that papers presented at this conference are also eligible for presentation at the AEJMC national convention. Authors are encouraged to use the midwinter conference as an opportunity to get feedback on their research, improve and finalize it for submission to the national conference.

Authors will be notified no later than Jan. 6.

I hope to see you and your work in Norman this spring.

Member subscription to journal put on hold

By Paola Banchero, University of Alaska-Anchorage

Religion and Media Interest Group head

It was my hope that come February, Religion and Media Interest Group members would receive the winter issue of the Journal of Media and Religion. We’ve recently learned that it’s not that simple.

RMIG had been in talks with the journal’s publisher, Taylor & Francis, last summer and early this fall to provide the four issues of the journal published each year. Taylor & Francis is offering it at a steep discount of $5 an issue, or $20 per year (one volume), if we can guarantee them 100 members. But that would cost the interest group $2,000 a year, and we have only $1,760 in our coffers. This discount applies to print-only subscriptions.

I still would like to offer a journal subscription to members, but it’s necessary for RMIG to build up its savings first. We can do that a couple of ways: We can try to increase membership or we can increase our $10 per year membership fee. Requesting a hike in the membership fee might bring in more money, but it would surely keep some people who have memberships in a multitude of divisions and interest groups from joining ours. These are things we need to mull over. In the meantime, the AEJMC board of directors is going to review when it meets in December.

The journal publishes articles about the full range of religious traditions. It is a vital forum for publication in this subspecialty. Having interest group members receive the journal is something Ralph Frasca and Jim Trammell both worked on during their tenures as chairs. I’d like to help the idea come to fruition soon. But we need to do it in a way that is fiscally responsible.

I welcome your ideas about how we might be able to offer the journal and watch our finances.

Teaching Tips: The Graduate Student Web Site Mini-Project

By Erika Engstrom, University of Nevada-Las Vegas
Teaching chair

The cross-listed course, wherein undergraduate and graduate sections are offered simultaneously, usually includes graduate students who are typically assigned additional work, such as a research paper. If the cross-listed course is a large-lecture undergraduate course, with room made for five to six graduate students, there are ways to not only incorporate a creative project, but also to provide a welcome change of pace for lecture.

I created the “Web Site Mini-Project” for my course, Communication between the Sexes, which typically enrolls 50-80 undergraduates and a handful of graduates. During the section of the course on gender portrayals in the media, I assign the graduate students a class presentation in which they analyze a Web site related to gender issues in some way.

As part of graduate student education, the “Web Site Mini-Project” provides a venue for master’s level students to address a large audience, while expanding the course material with their own takes on how the Internet offers additional venues of gender socialization. This mini-project can be adapted to any course subject that has a presence on the Internet. If the class is small enough, it would be suitable for undergraduates as well.

Graduate students choose a Web site, with my approval, that in some way addresses traditional and nontraditional gender roles and target themselves to particular audiences. The goal of the project is to have students analyze Internet content that illustrates in some form material learned in class. They are able to cite their in-class presentations as a guest lecture on their resume.

Project grades are based on a short (10- to 15-minute) class presentation and a handout summarizing their findings. The presentation portion of the mini-project requires the graduate students to give a short lecture on the Web site they analyze, using the class projection system to navigate the site. They are instructed to treat the project like a professional business presentation, including wearing business attire. Students are graded on the content of their in-class presentation, delivery, poise, and professional appearance.

Students must provide handouts for the class. Handouts are graded on content, which requires the inclusion of the following: site specifics (URL address, target audience, and statement of purpose), content-specific messages related to concepts from past lectures and readings, theory illustrated by and perspective of the Web site, and critique, which includes students’ personal opinion of the site. Additional grading criteria include mechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar) and creativity, which includes the use of graphics, color, and illustrations. I provide examples of past handouts on the course WebCampus (Blackboard) site.

The Web Site Mini-Project provides an alternative to the traditional research paper but still providing an outlet for graduate students’ critical thinking and analytical skills, as well as a public speaking experience using technology in the large lecture. It also encourages synthesis of ideas and incorporation of creativity via the handout summary. I use material from Web Site Mini-Projects for exam questions, which further illustrates how this form of assignment provides the instructor of the cross-listed course a win-win alternative to the traditional research paper.

Topical research key to RMIG identity

By Rick Clifton Moore, Boise State University
Research co-chair

I recently taught a graduate class on the intriguing subject of “Communication and Community.” Since that time, I’ve considered many of my experiences in relation to those concepts. For example, how can the research functions of RMIG be related to these concepts? I want to suggest here that one can connect these ideas rather easily. Moreover, I think the pairing helps us realize a vital mission of our organization, the process whereby we determine the research presentations for the annual convention.

One topic that we discussed often in the aforementioned seminar was exclusivity. If the word “community” has any meaning at all, it must imply boundaries. Admittedly, my students and I often felt some ambivalence as we discussed this in relation to communication. “Inclusivity,” the opposite of exclusivity, is, after all, de rigueur.  And, certainly every class about “communication” endorses breaking down “walls,” which are emblems of exclusion. But, my students and I constantly reminded ourselves that a group that wishes to have a clear sense of identity must express to its members (and those interested in membership) what is unacceptable.

At a certain level, RMIG engages in this practice each year when we invite scholars to submit manuscripts for our research competition. What is submitted can’t be any manuscript; it must have some connection to a specific media dimension that all of us in RMIG feel is worthy of study, the concept of the religious. Thus, if we receive an amazingly insightful submission that does not devote significant attention to some aspect of religion, it will be excluded.

In addition to this topical exclusiveness, we also have quality standards that determine who may and may not be part of our group (at least, the subgroup that presents in August). If a scholar has engaged in research that does in fact devote significant attention to some religious dimension of media, but that scholar does a poor job of addressing his or her subject, the research will be excluded from the conference sessions.

While all of this may seem somewhat negative, I want to end on a positive note. To start, I would suggest that every good division or interest group in AEJMC practices this topical and quality exclusion and it is what makes those divisions and interest groups strong. More importantly, though, I would stress that the exclusion I discuss above is neither essential nor final. That is, there is no inherent character in a scholar that would prevent him or her (if persistent) from participating in RMIG scholarship. If there are media researchers in the academy who cannot think of an interesting religious dimension to what they study, they should ask a few members for suggestions on how to develop such a dimension. With the quality issue, our submission reviewers should attempt to provide instruction and encouragement for even the weakest manuscripts, so “outsiders” can re-submit and eventually be part of our ensemble of presenters.

In brief, all of this relates to our August business meeting at Boston wherein we discussed a possible move to division status.

For RMIG to make such a change, it must increase its size but maintain its established identity and quality. A topical and well-judged set of research papers is a key part of this. I would thus encourage you to be part of this process, either as someone who submits work or someone who reviews it.

Want to be part of RMIG’s research activities?

Here are two good ways to get involved.

1)    Submit a paper. Start working on that media/religion research now. There’s plenty of time to get a paper ready by submission deadline, which is April 1, 2010. A full call for papers will be in the January edition of AEJMC News.

2)    Help evaluate submissions. The interest group always needs scholars to help evaluate the manuscripts it receives in the spring. This is a great way to keep abreast of some of the newest research in the field.

If you have questions about submitting papers, or you think you would like to serve as a reviewer, please contact Chiung Hwang Chen (chenc@byuh.edu) or Rick Moore (rmoore@boisestate.edu).


David Dixon
David Dixon

The Religion and Media Interest Group provides a place to meet and share ideas with colleagues who think broadly about the intersection of faith and media. The group is not limited to a particular religious orientation or theoretical perspective, yet members recognize that religion and media affect each other in interesting and important ways that affect the lives of both religious and nonreligious people. These topics continue to grow in importance as we live in the global multicultural society of the 21st century.

—David Dixon, Malone University

RMIG is a great interest group to join because it is both big and small. As the largest AEJMC interest group, RMIG connects with a lot of smart, interesting people who are doing work and teaching in a plethora of contexts having to do with religion and the media that cover it. But RMIG is also small—small enough that our business meeting is not a festival of nametag-surfing. Small enough that anyone can meet and talk with some of the real pioneers and superstars in the field. The work is high-quality, the people are great and the opportunities are fantastic, with participation in the MidWinter Conference and an affiliated journal. I highly recommend it.

—Amanda Sturgill, Baylor University

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