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AEJMC Convention panels planned for Denver

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

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.

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Linking religion and ethnicity?: Exploring religion of immigrants

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

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.