2011 Winter Newsletter

Meet me in St. Louis

By Anthony Hatcher, Elon
RIMG Chair

It’s about as cliché a headline as you can write, but in this case it’s also an invitation to get ready to do just that. AEJMC will hold its annual conference in the city from Aug. 10–13, and headquarters will be at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel.

The rates are $170 for single or double occupancy, and $200 for triple or quad rooms. Internet access is included with the room.

As you know, the research paper deadline is April 1, so it’s not too early to book those flights, reserve those rooms, and start thinking about what to do in the city when you’re not attending every single session RMIG has to offer. View our paper call and paper calls from all of the various divisions and groups.

Some food and attraction suggestions: If you like jazz and blues with your dinner, try BB’s Jazz, Blues, and Soups. If ragtime is more to your taste, try the Scott Joplin House State Historic SiteCaleco’s Bar & Grill has 17 TV screens and two saltwater aquariums, as well as steaks, chicken, seafood, pizza, and many, many drinks.

Under the category of Must-Do stuff, you have to start with the Gateway Arch. When you descend from the Arch, you can relax by touring one of the country’s largest breweries.

Read more from this winter’s RMIG newsletter after the jump.

Religion and media in the news

On a different note, I just want to highlight how important our interest group, our research, and our field are within and without the Academy.

No doubt you are familiar with the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor the right of Westboro Baptist Church to picket military funerals. As the Christian Science Monitor put it:

In an important reaffirmation of free speech principles, the US Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that noxious, highly offensive protests conducted outside solemn military funerals are protected by the First Amendment when the protests take place in public and address matters of public concern.

Not only did the high court rule in favor of this obnoxious group of people, the ruling was 8–1. This on a Court considered to lean conservative.

What is the implication for RMIG? As religion and media scholars, we need to become more visible, we need to continue to declare our relevance, and we need to demonstrate how our interest group is in everyone’s interest.

See you in St. Louis.

RMIG St. Louis program set

By Cecile S. Holmes
Vice Chair

The Religion and Media Interest Group will examine religion seriously and consider it from a lighter perspective during RMIG-sponsored and co-sponsored sessions at the annual AEJMC convention in St. Louis in August.

The consequences of the myriad portrayals of Islam in the media will be explored in a panel considering media framing of Islam especially in contrast with documentary film. Set for 3:30–5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, the panel is co-sponsored with the Division of Mass Communications and Society. The session will look at the extensive differences and similarities in the depictions of Muslims and of Islam in media from film to print to television.

Panelists include Brian J. Bowe, visiting professor at Grand Valley State University; Geri Alumit Zeldes of Michigan State University, the producer/director of “Arabs, Jews and the News” and “The Death of an Imam”; Shahira Fahmy, University of Arizona associate professor; and Nadia Dala, Fulbright Scholar at American University and author of several books including When the Veil Falls Off. Moderating will be Lawrence Pintak, founding Dean of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow School of Communication and author of “The New Arab Journalist: Mission and Identity in a Time of Turmoil.”

On the lighter side, RMIG will co-sponsor “Amusing Ourselves to Death” with the Entertainment Studies Interest Group. That panel, slated for 1:30–3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, will look at the concept of entertainment in journalism, political, educational, and religious discourses in American society. It will explore such questions as: How does the drive to integrate entertainment values with news and other types of information affect the content and reception of the media content? Does infotainment represent a threat to the democratic process? Is it a corrupting influence on the public sphere?

Scheduled panelists are Anthony Hatcher of Elon University, and Daniel Panici and David Pierson, both of the University of Southern Maine. Cecile S. Holmes of the University of South Carolina will be the discussant. Pierson will moderate.

This year’s RMIG offerings cut a broad swathe through religion and media. “Handwritten Newspapers,” a panel considering the interesting history of early American newspaper creators, is scheduled for 8:15–9:45 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 11. Co-sponsored with the AEJMC History Division, the panel will include presentations by several scholars including RMIG member Michael Smith of Campbell University.

Working with the AEJMC Council of Affiliates, the RMIG panel, “Saving the Specialties in Journalism: What’s underway? What will it really require?” will be at 5–6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11. Panelists are Matt Frank, assistant metro editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Debra Mason, executive director of the Religion Newswriters Association and director of The Center on Religion & the Professions, University of Missouri; and Patricia Rice, freelancer. Ed Lambeth of Missouri will moderate.

The RMIG panel, “Fall From Grace,” co-sponsored with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Division of AEJMC, is scheduled for 3:15–4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10. It will look at the history and long-range impact of clergy and lay leader sexual abuse on victims, churches and society. Expected panelists include Pat Rice, longtime religion reporter and a now a freelancer with the St. Louis Beacon. Holmes is scheduled to moderate that panel.

Here is the complete schedule, for travel planning purposes:

Wednesday, Aug. 10

  • 1:30–3 p.m. – ESIG/RMIG panel – #39 “Amusing Ourselves to Death”
  • 3:15–4:45 – GLBT/RMIG panel – #145 & #155 “Fall From Grace”
  • 5–6:30 – RMIG/COA panel – #148 “Recession and the Religion Beat”

Thursday, Aug. 11

  • 8:15–9:45 a.m. – RMIG/History – #48 “Handwritten Newspapers”
  • 5–6:30 p.m. – RMIG juried paper session
  • 6:45–8:15 – RMIG business meeting

Friday, Aug. 12

  • 12:15–1:30 p.m. – RMIG poster/scholar to scholar session
  • 3:30–5 p.m. – RMIG/MC&S panel – #147 “Media Framing of Islam”

Research on religion and media: the final frontier

By Rev. Kyle Huckins, Indiana Wesleyan
RIMG Research Co-Chair

We’ve had hundreds of studies on political agenda setting, scores on Internet usage, and scads of histories from the 1600s to the present. But the intersection of faith and journalism remains a quadrant of corners with many empty spaces.

RMIG is here to help fix that. The faculty and student paper submissions are coming in, and yours is welcome, too. Jim Trammel and I will take papers on any topic related to religion and media. We’re not looking for musings, ramblings or annotated bibliographies. We want original research giving some color and texture to the aforementioned intersection.

You might examine religious group members and uses of secular media. The preacher often tells the congregation to turn off the TV, but do members actually hear and obey?

Exploration of media coverage of religious issues and groups is one with which I have a good amount of experience, having examined this with regard to Christian Coalition, Moral Majority, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and more. Sometimes the media love you — William Sloane Coffin, for example — and sometimes they hate you — Jerry Falwell being a prime exemplar there.

Studies of the audiences for religious news are quite helpful, as they tell us about what kind of spiritually related information people are seeking. We know from old readership surveys newspaper audiences would like more religion coverage, but what’s up lately?

Media strategies of religious organizations reveal both something about society and the groups themselves. I know Christian Coalition changed its messages over time, and media coverage changed right along, too. But are those observations true for every religious group?

Religious advertising is intriguing to examine in a time when the Internet is in its ascendancy. Are people clicking on those “Got Jesus?” links? Or “Got Buddha?” for that matter?

Religious and spiritual content in popular culture relates detail about values in media. We know dads often are portrayed as a bit dimwitted; are the religious shown as intolerant?

Papers focusing on historically underrepresented religions, denominations and/or groups will assist in helping researchers understand the marginalized. For example, the denomination in which I am ordained, the Church of God in Christ has 8 million members — 6 million in the USA — but has hardly any media coverage in mainstream outlets.

Religious contexts outside the U.S. bring a global perspective to our studies. I know of many regional religions, but none without a worldwide perspective. Still, the research on these movements and media across the globe are virtually nonexistent.

Remember the maximum length of research papers is 25 pages, excluding endnotes and tables. The Top Paper competition for both student and faculty papers gives $100 to the winner of each, with the second-place student and faculty papers receiving $50 each. The awards will not be given if the selected papers are not presented at the convention. In order to be considered for the Top Paper competition, please specify either a student submission or a faculty submission on the cover page of the paper.

All paper submissions must follow the 2011 AEJMC Uniform Paper Call. Questions should be submitted to the RMIG Research Chairs Kyle Huckins at kyle.huckins@indwes.edu or Jim Trammel at jtrammel@highpoint.edu. Type “RMIG Research Paper” in the subject line when communicating via email.

Happy researching — and see you in St. Louis, Louie, as the old song goes!

Good teaching requires constant attention

By Rick Moore, Boise State
RIMG Teaching Chair

When I speak to colleagues about why they became college professors, most indicate it was because they loved the idea of teaching a subject that was fascinating to them. Whether on my own campus or at a national conference, the item people mention as the initial career motivator is pedagogy, not research.

Of course, when we get bogged down in our careers, many of us seem to abandon — or, at least, ignore — our first love. There are so my pressures on our time that we tend to drag out those dusty lecture notes and perfunctorily share whatever information we have, hoping it sticks. More honestly, hoping that nobody notices we are on teaching cruise-control. This is a far cry from the zeal that led us to become professors. When we began this journey, we really cared whether or not students were being enlightened and did our best to do so.

Occasionally, then, we should probably prod each other a bit and give some encouragement to pay more than lip service to something we all have claimed to be very important. Each of us can ask ourselves and our colleagues to what extent we are really demonstrating to others that teaching matters.

Put differently, as professional educators we should try harder to develop accountability relationships with our colleagues. By “accountability relationship” I mean a partnership in which each person encourages the other to follow through on commitments we mutually agree are important. We should occasionally ask each other, “So, what have you done lately that demonstrates that you are still committed to good teaching?”

As teaching chair for our interest group, I thought I might provide a few examples of what I think are good answers. If I asked a friend the question above, any of the following hypothetical responses would seem to me a good indicator that she was actively engaged in the pedagogy component of her profession:

  • She recently attended a workshop through the center for teaching and learning on my campus. That helped me consider some new ways of implementing active learning in my Media Effects class.
  • She just read Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do and learned a lot from the author’s interviews with professors who have won national accolades for their pedagogy.
  • She organized a brown bag discussion with her department faculty wherein they all talked about what is working (or not) in this semester’s classes.
  • She devoted half an hour from her Media and Religion class to talk with her students about their own perceptions as to what she and her colleagues do that facilitates or detracts from their learning. They enlightened her as to their own learning styles and their attitudes toward current faculty teaching methods.
  • She decided to skip one of the research panels at AEJMC Denver, and instead attended a teaching workshop. She noted that she can read those research papers online at a later date, but could not actively engage with other classroom educators as well as she did in person at the conference.

In sum, there are lots of ways to actively work toward maintaining (or improving) teaching quality. And, by the way, if you are not aware, AEJMC has a portion of their website devoted to teaching.

To end this particular discussion with an intriguing question, allow me to set the question up with an analogy. The discussion above has to do with commitment and how we can encourage each other in our commitment to something we claim is important to us. On a few occasions in my life, I’ve heard one Christian ask another Christian a pointed question that is intended to measure commitment level to their shared faith. In that context, the first person asked the second, “If some ruling body in our country suddenly made worshipping God a crime and you were arrested and put on trial, would the government be able to find enough evidence to convict you?” That “accountability relationship” question can be transferred rather easily to just about any religious belief. It can also be transferred to most any vocational commitment (especially if we see “vocation” in its etymological sense, as “calling”).

Put simply, imagine if some ruling body in our country suddenly made visible commitment to good teaching a crime. If you were arrested and charged with the crime, would the state be able to find enough evidence to convict you? That’s something for all of us to consider as we finish up another busy academic year full of manifold obligations tugging at our time.

Campbell U’s conference to focus on media and religion

By Michael Ray Smith, Campbell
RIMG PF&R Co-Chair

It takes faith to hold a religion conference on April Fool’s Day and that’s what Campbell University is doing this year.

On April 1–2, scholars from across the nation will meet in Buies Creek, 30 miles south of Raleigh, to present papers on films such as “2012” and “Alice in Wonderland” along with TV series such as “Lost” and CBN’s news program. Speakers will share ideas from Plato to Postman, from Paul Tillich to James Carey from hard news to persuasive communication. They will talk about redemptive media and contemporary Christian music and everyone will have something to say about religion.

The presenters include RMIG members such as Michael Longinow of Biola and Cecile Holmes of University of South Carolina. The institutions represent a spectrum from Liberty University in Lynchburg to Brigham Young in Utah to faith-based schools such as DePaul in Chicago to state schools such as University of North Carolina-Wilmington and James Madison University.

This year’s conference features 35 speakers. The conference began in 2004 at Campbell University and attracted about 20 scholars mostly from Virginia and North Carolina. It continued regularly for several years, when it looked as though another university would host it. This year marks the fifth conference and Edward A. Johnson, my conference host, and I plan to call it the “Fairly Regular Faith and Communication Conference.”

The best papers, selected by the participants, will be collected into proceedings as a publication that Johnson hopes to circulate this summer.

Unlike some of the large academic venues, this conference is cozy and participants share meals as a group, a highlight for many who are traveling from the Midwest, west coast and points north and south.

Dr. Wally Metts of Spring Arbor University will present a keynote address Friday night, “Rethinking the Christian College Curriculum.”

Registration will continue until the day of the conference. For a complete list of the presenters and their topics, see http://faithandcommunication.wordpress.com.

This entry was posted in NewslettersBookmark the permalink. .