2010 Winter Newsletter

Rocky Mountain High: AEJMC Annual Convention set for Denver

By Paola Banchero, University of Alaska Anchorage
Religion and Media Interest Group head

From my vantage point overlooking snow-frosted birch trees, summer sounds a long way off. But it’s not too soon to start thinking about the AEJMC annual convention in Denver Aug. 4-7.

The Mile High City is a great place to be in August. Actually, it’s a great place to be anytime. I’m biased. I grew up in Denver and take every chance I can to visit family who live there. So let me tell you a little about the city. First off, Denver is the capital of a state that just crossed the five million mark in terms of population. Like a lot of Western cities, it’s seen a lot of growth. It started as a camp for miners who had struck gold at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and used to have a reputation as a cow town with little nightlife. Boy, that’s changed. Now it’s nearly a continuous urban area, ranging from north of the city to Fort Collins and south of the city to Pueblo. And the city boasts one of the best music scenes with venues like the Bluebird Theater at 3317 E. Colfax Ave. A retro neon sign adorns the establishment, and it’s located on a street that embraces yuppies, recent immigrants and the occasional drug user.

The conference hotel is the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel at 1550 Court Place. Good restaurants and public transit are nearby. If you’re interested in staying at a boutique hotel, you might try the Hotel Monaco. It’s stylish and features one of the best restaurants in the city, Panzano. The restaurant was named a “Top 5” by the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News and given four stars by 5280 Magazine, one of Denver’s city magazines. The luxurious Hotel Teatro is also close by. The historic Brown Palace is the place to have afternoon tea, as the elites visiting Denver have done for decades.

For more of Paola’s take on Denver and the conference, keep reading after the jump.

You’ll notice that Denverites are a mix of sophisticated and outdoorsy. Fashionable downtown workers will strut to high-rise offices sporting heels or Italian loafers, but you’ll also see bike commuters who take a quick shower and are ready to roll at their tech or energy industry jobs.

The weather will likely be warm during the day, and it’s not unusual to get a quick afternoon shower and then have the skies turn blue again. Bring walking shoes to traverse Denver’s streets and perhaps an umbrella or light jacket. It’s the high desert, which means a wide variation in temperature during the day, with August temperatures in August ranging from a low of 52 degrees and a high of 86 degrees.

From the conference hotel, it’s a short walk to the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian strip that runs through the center of downtown. Lined with cafes, shops and skyscrapers, it also has a trolley that allows you to walk, then ride back to your starting place if you are so inclined. If you want to amble further, a good place to check out is City Park. Perfect for a morning run, it also has a great zoo and the Denver Museum of History and Science. There are hundreds of miles of urban trails, from the Cherry Creek Bike Trail to the Greenway Trail along the banks of the South Platte River. It’s easy to rent a bike at Classic Cruisers bike rental. You might even hit My Brother’s Bar, where Jack Kerouac and other Beat Generation heroes once hung out. If you are more of spectator, the Rockies play the San Francisco Giants August 3 and 4 at Coors Field.


Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel
1550 Court Place

As of this writing, the rates for August have not been published on the AEJMC website. Check back for more information.

Hotel Monaco
1717 Champa St.

Rates quoted on the website were about $299 per night in August.

Hotel Teatro
1100 14th St.

Rates quoted on the website were about $219 per night in August.


Brown Palace Hotel

While your per diem might not allow you to dine here, afternoon tea is worth the effort.

321 17th St.

House of Marrakesh

Lamb served all kinds of different ways, but it’s a good place if you have a vegetarian in your group as well.

1530 Blake St.

Panzano Restaurant

Simply delicious Italian food. Upscale, but you can have something light on a budget.

1717 Champa St.


Yummy breakfast fare to get your day started right. On the plus side: perky orange booths in which to sit.

2262 Larimer St.


WaterCourse is a vegetarian restaurant that serves super-fresh, delicious food. It also has a bakery with to-die-for goodies, some of them vegan.

837 E. 17th Ave.

Deadline for paper competition approaches

By Chiung Hwang, BYU-Hawaii
RMIG Research co-chair

The paper call is out. You may find it on AEJMC website/newsletter or RMIG website, if you have not yet received it through e-mail. We encourage everyone to consider submitting your work to our interest group. Please also forward the paper call to your colleagues and graduate students. All topics related to religion and media, and both quantitative and qualitative research methods, are welcome.

The deadline for the paper competition is April 1, 2010, as usual. We will also continue the paper competition reward system this year to encourage quality papers. The winners last year received not only a cash award, but also a very beautiful plaque that they can proudly display in their office.

I am compiling a list of relevant journals to our field, which you will find under a separate page, listed at the top. This is something I think can be useful for publication consideration. What I have so far is the beginning of this compilation process. Please drop me a note if you know of any other journals that I should include. The final product, I hope, can be a brochure to distribute to all our members as a reference. This list includes the journal titles and the condensed version of their descriptions.

Special SPIG call for Denver AEJMC: Social justice journalism in the classroom

By John Jenks, Dominican University
Small Programs Interest Group research co-chair

Teresa Housel, Hope College
Small Program Interest Group research co-chair

We teach techniques and technology, law and theory, but how should we handle questions of social justice?

Advocacy for the poor and powerless is nothing new to journalism. Muckrakers and crusaders through the decades have lived by the motto: “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” Many of us teach students about America’s strong tradition of the alternative press that still thrives today. Additionally, many colleges and universities have social justice as part of their mission.

But what should this mean to journalism educators? How does a commitment to social justice square with journalists’ ideals of fairness, accuracy, impartiality and truth? Here’s a chance to explore. SPIG invites critical essays, qualitative papers, and quantitative research on the issues and questions involved in pursuing justice through the journalism classroom.

We already have a slot reserved for this research panel during the Denver convention — 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 5. This is in addition to our regular research showcase at the scholar-to-scholar session.

Submit your papers through the standard All Academic on-line process by April 1. (Details available at: http://aejmc.org/_10call.php) Make sure you use the phrase “social justice” somewhere in the title.

If you have any questions, please contact either of us:

Research Co-Chairs

John Jenks (jjenks@dom.edu)
Teresa Housel (housel@hope.edu)

Take a road trip to Focus on the Family in Denver

RMIG is planning a visit to Focus on the Family during the Denver conference. The global non-profit evangelical Christian organization is headquartered about 90 minutes south of Denver in Colorado Springs. Focus on the Family’s primary ministry is in strengthening and defending traditional family values. Founded in 1977 by Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family has been particularly adept at using radio, the Web, forums, film and print media to spread its message that the family is central to the Christian faith. The organization recently received a lot of media buzz with the airing of a Super Bowl commercial featuring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother.

The plan is to leave the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel at approximately 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, August 4, and return in time for the keynote speaker at about 6 p.m.

RMIG is organizing transportation for the event but needs to assess interest before we can determine whether to charter one or two buses for the occasion. The cost per member is likely to be about $30. We would love to have as many members as possible attend. And please tell people outside of RMIG membership who you think would be interested in visiting Focus on the Family about this opportunity.

RMIG in the Social Sphere

By Guy Golan, Seton Hall University

So much has been made during the past few years about the emerging role of social media and Web 2.0 and its transformation of the news industry and society. One of the best things aboutthe social sphere is its ability to connect people and help them communication across the World Wide Web.

The Religion and Media Interest Group of AEJMC is taking full advantage of the various social media platforms.

Our WordPress newsletter blog includes the latest news and information regarding the interest group. Our Twitter page allows members to communicate via the power of micro blogging. The Religion and Media Ning Page, allows interest group members to exchange ideas about teaching and research via a great social network.

And finally, our Facebook Group is a great platform for all members current and future to learn more about the Religion and Media Interest Group of AEJMC and to communicate with its many members.

We invite you all to take full advantage of our active social sphere presence. Please join our Facebook and Ning pages and follow us on Twitter.

We will soon be posting the interest group’s call for papers for the 2010 annual conference in Denver as well as details about how you can become a member and about our annual business meeting.

I think that you will find that RMIG members are extremely friendly on both the web and in person and we hope that you will stop by on the one of our many web platforms to say hello.

Learning Styles: New Review of the Research

By Erika Engstrom, RMIG Teaching Chair
University of Nevada-Las Vegas

If you’ve taken any teaching development courses through your institution’s teaching and learning center, perhaps you have had some training in the educational concept of learning styles. A new study in the December 2009 issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest reviews the literature on learning styles and applies a set of criteria to such studies that assesses the educational benefits of this approach to instruction.

In “Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence,” Pashler et al. take to task the learning-style industry, wherein the publishing and selling of measurement devices to help students and instructors has flourished. These assessment “products” essentially serve as evaluations to see if a student has a certain learning style, such as visual, verbal, auditory, or assimilative. The idea here is to match a student’s learning style with the way an instructor delivers class material. Visual learners would learn more if more visuals were presented during a lecture, for example. These assessments include the Dunn and Dunn Learning-Styles Model and Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory.

The authors posit that the learning-styles approach to teaching is appealing, but lacks empirical evidence that shows that a given student’s learning style is enhanced somehow by instruction that is tailored to that particular learning style. The authors then distinguish learning style preferences from the learning-styles hypothesis. Learning style preferences simply reflect a person’s self-reported preference of a mode for learning new information. The learning-style hypothesis, however, posits that learning will be ineffective, or at least less efficient, if learners receive instruction that does not fit their learning style (or the converse, that learning will be enhanced by congruent teaching style).

After reviewing the methods and outcomes of learning-styles studies, the authors conclude that the literature “has revealed only a few fragmentary and unconvincing pieces of evidence” that meet their evidential criteria for supporting the learning-styles hypothesis (p. 116). These include using an experimental method to compare two or more groups each assessed as having a certain learning style. Each group then would be randomly assigned to a learning style method, and then given the same achievement test. Support for the learning styles hypothesis, say the authors, “receives support if and only if an experiment reveals a crossover interaction between learning style and method…” (p. 109).

In their conclusion, the authors say that given lack of support for the effectiveness of matching learning styles with instructional style, “it seems especially important to keep all avenues, options, and aspirations open for our students, our children, and ourselves. Toward that end, we think the primary focus should be on identifying and introducing the experiences, activities, and challenges that enhance everybody’s learning” (p. 117). Finally, they write, “If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated,” (p. 117). In short, it seems, good teaching is good teaching, no matter the learning style preference of the student.

Source: Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork., R. (2009). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105-119.

(Also see “Learning with Style,” an item summarizing this article in the Jan. 8, 2010 issue of Science, p. 129).

AEJMC Convention panels planned for Denver

By Anthony Hatcher, RMIG vice chair
Elon University

Interested in sex, television, newspapers, the environment and God? Then RMIG has a great lineup of intriguing panels planned for the 2010 AEJMC Convention in Denver you won’t want to miss.

On Wed., Aug. 4 at 10 a.m., RMIG partners with the Entertainment Studies Interest Group (ESIG) on a teaching panel entitled “Entertainment Television Theologies.” As a means to help students learn how to explore media texts, this panel demonstrates an exercise in helping students critically evaluate texts by considering entertainment genres as theologies. The exercise requires students to explore a television genre, then answer such questions as:

  • What is the Golden Rule of this genre?
  • Who are the saints of this genre?
  • Who are the devils of genre?
  • What are the sacraments of this genre?

Genres include religious programming, music programming, dramas, political satire, comedy, and children’s programming. The moderator will be Jim Y. Trammell of High Point University.

On Thursday, Aug. 5 at 11:45 a.m., RMIG presents a PF&R panel on “Eco-theology” with the Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk (ComSHER) Interest Group. Since Rachel Carson made ecology a household word, the environmental movement has been associated primarily with secular liberals. But many mainline and evangelical churches are taking the stewardship of the earth seriously.

Increasingly, religious groups have been pressing for a wider understanding of environmental responsibility. The panel presents research and discussion in this important eco-friendly religious trend.

Dane Claussen of Point Park University moderates a panel on “Sex, Media, and Religion” on Fri., Aug. 6 at 8:15 a.m., co-sponsored by the GLBT Interest Group. Coverage of Proposition 8 in California, and a reexamination of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, have placed issues of sexuality, civil rights and religion once more in the national media spotlight.

The panel explores coverage from a variety of perspectives, and whether the tenor of the coverage has changed as the American public has (at least according to some polls) seemed more comfortable with equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Later that day, at 1:45 p.m., RMIG teams with Cultural and Critical Studies for “Brainstorming: Teaching Students to Think Critically and Creatively.” Brainstorming serves as a technique to encourage students to think outside the box in both skills and theory courses. Panelists will discuss how they encourage their students to develop interview questions when working on news stories, and to think about research topics related to mass media and society, such as ethics, free expression, media economics, and media culture.

Of particular interest to journalists is “Losing my religion page: The new normal for faith coverage.” This PF&R panel, co-sponsored with the Newspaper Division, explores the implications of declining faith coverage. As daily newspapers redeploy with lean reporting and editing staffs, some are even dropping the Saturday religion page, a decades-long tradition in some towns. How thoroughly are news organizations covering local churches, synagogues and mosques, or the local impact of religious movements? Additionally, what tools are emerging as the new best practices to engage and inform? These and other topics will be discussed on Saturday, Aug. 7 at 10 a.m.

The range of panels at the 2010 convention is broad and deep. We encourage you to attend all sessions, and come with questions of your own.

Linking religion and ethnicity?: Exploring religion of immigrants

By Myna German, PF&R chair
Delaware State University

Professional freedom and responsibility is defined by AEJMC as “programming in the area of free expression; ethics; media criticism and accountability; racial, gender and cultural inclusiveness; and public service.” How does this affect the reporting of religion?

One of the areas that I have been researching is Global Migration and Communications Technology with collaborator Padmini Banerjee from the Psychology Department at my university, Delaware State. What we are researching is whether technology allows global migrants — individuals who change their country with as much ease as we would change our state — to create permanent links that are so fluid that it as if you never left. If you enter a new country, you will be calling home as easily as you would from New Jersey to Illinois or California and emailing as prolifically as you would from New York to Tennessee. Hence, what was once a permanent separation in the days of my immigrant grandparents coming to America around 1910 or 1920 is less consequential. What we research is whether this technological hookup system aids or abets assimilation and acculturation.

We have not looked at religion yet, because none of our new immigrants that we study mentions it. We could take it a step further—will global migrants stick to the same church in the new host country (incoming country) or join a house of worship more popular there in their new community? That would be the next frontier. Or will the Internet lead to a cyberchurch hookup with the Old Country that supersedes any in-person meeting that could be arranged in the new place?

What is our professional responsibility to report immigrant religion in the United States? Or, are we busy with house of worship listings in our own towns or dealing with the closure of religion pages in the newspaper. This is certainly an area that we could study when the smoke clears.

One idea that I had was to expand the Religion and Media Interest Group classification to include Ethnicity. How would you feel about Religion/Ethnicity and Media Interest Group? Would that include the topic that is currently on my plate or create a turf battle with other divisions such as International that might study topics such as this? Or, is our responsibility to leave the study of ethnicity and nationality to other quarters. What if religion overlaps with ethnicity? Is that within our purview—or do we need to become more eclectic in this regard? Are religion and ethnicity the same for some groups?

Or, is the world leaning more toward “cosmopolitanism” to use Appiah’s phrase? Is the study of ethnicity no longer a responsibility of the journalist or communications researcher? That is certainly an issue that we could discuss and whether ethnicity, unless it overlaps with religion, is a responsibility of RMIG.

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