Letter from the Head: Farewell and thank you

By Gregory Perreault

In 2011, I came to the Religion and Media business meeting as a graduate student to accept my Top Student Paper award. As our interest group began discussing the need for officers, I found myself as the newsletter editor for the division. Over the past nine years, I have touched and been a part of just about every aspect of this interest group. And, as I suspect you would guess, I was routinely impressed by the insight, thoughtfulness, kindness and leadership in our interest group.

Gregory Perrault portrait

Gregory Perreault

As an interest group, we are—since Political Communication has moved up toward division status—the largest interest group at AEJMC. We are in fact, larger than many of the divisions at AEJMC. The reason for that is simple: what we do is essential. It’s impossible to not look at the world today and see the “winds” of religion swaying the trees, and our job as media and communication scholars is to dissect, predict, understand and teach about the nature of those winds.

When I came into this head position, I decided that my primary goal would be to make sure that our leadership had a chance to say “thank you” to the scholars who made this possible.

We owe a tremendous debt to a number of people who guided this interest group through some tricky waters. If you want to know who many of those people are, check the officer rosters. You’ll see that we have devoted leaders who year after year serve in some capacity. This year, we’ll be saying thank you to two individuals in particular: Dr. Daniel Stout and Dr. Judith Buddenbaum. It is safe to say that without their influence not only would we likely not have an interest group, but would also not have the Journal of Media and Religion and we would likely not have a subfield devoted to this topic. It is impossible to overstate their influence to both Religion and Media and to the field of journalism and mass communication. They drew attention to topics and brought together theories and methods to lay the foundation for our work today.

The work for this year’s conference was different than we had anticipated. We went into the year desiring to emphasize developing new avenues for research for our subfield, as Judie and Dan had done before us. As much of that work was progressing, the coronavirus hit, forcing us to focus on the most important aspects of our work: passing on what we’ve learned. We worked in collaboration with the Council of Divisions and AEJMC leaderships to chart a course for the 2020 conference. And we also offered up RMIG funds in a call for assistance to help graduate students and faculty from at-need institutions be a part of this work. After all, without the people in our interest group, we don’t have one.

Despite the choppy waters, I couldn’t be more thankful to have had the opportunity to serve this division. I’ll be stepping back from the group this year as I focus on tenure and a Fulbright Scholar Award to Austria in the spring. I will be conducting research on digital journalism and teaching at the University of Vienna from March to July 2021. I look forward to working with Folker Hanusch and the team at the Journalism Studies Center. I thank Karen Fletcher, Katie Howard and Nina-Jo Moore for helping me write the grant.

Our subfield has only become more vital and more important — not less — and I look forward to seeing the bright future ahead for this group.

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