Grad students to present five research papers at annual conference
Five E.W. Scripps School of Journalism graduate students were invited to present their research papers at the annual Association for Education and Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Midwinter Conference at the University of Oklahoma in March 2019.
First year master’s student Michelle Rotuno-Johnson’s paper, “Cultural Hegemony in New York Press Coverage of the 1969 Stonewall Riots,“ examined how the New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Daily News and the Village Voice covered the Stonewall Riots of June of 1969, which are generally regarded as the first moment in the modern gay rights movement in the United States. Rotuno-Johnson explored how the press depicted the people involved in the riots and whether the coverage fit into the hegemonic norms of the day. She also took some time to trace the history of American coverage of queer people.
“It was interesting to me when reading and doing the research how press coverage of homosexuality has changed because there were times when it was common in society to be afraid of gay people because people thought they might be communists and gay soldiers during World War II were seen as unfit to serve and medically unwell,” Rotuno-Johnson said.
Rotuno-Johnson wrote her paper as part of Professor Michael Sweeney’s historiography class. She said he gave her plenty of pointers on how to write well and on doing historical research.
“I think that his tutelage, the fact that we all got to read each other’s papers and had a classmate critique them helped because I was able to see my work from other people’s point of views,” Rotuno-Johnson said. “I liked the fact that we all worked together and helped each other with this because I think that is a big part of the writing process.”
First year master’s student Ling Xin’s paper, “The First Radio Station in China,” examined the effects of the first radio station in China that was started by E.G. Osborn, an American engineer. Even though the radio station only existed for a few months, it increased public interest in using the radio as a source of mass communication. The broadcasts were not only received in China but also in Shanghai, Tianjin, Hong Kong and Kobe, Japan. This radio station created a huge sensation in Shanghai because it introduced broadcasting to China for the first time.
“This research is important because this radio station paved the way for the following radio stations both foreign and Chinese. I’m especially grateful for Professor Sweeney who led my way through journalism history which is new to me because I was a journalist for many years but I have never done a historical study before,” Xin said. “Dr. Sweeney inspired me to write on this topic, he told me how to collect all my primary sources and how to structure my research.”
Second year master’s student Amelia Kibbe’s paper, “Media Coverage of Gun Violence in Schools: A Critical Analysis for the 21st Century Journalist,” examined graphic visual photo and video coverage of school mass shootings. In a critical analysis, Kibbe analyzed the contexts and sub-contexts of ethical arguments, and reviewed existing literature and visual gatekeeping and framing theories. She then wrote about current implications of media coverage of school shootings and she also did cursory examination of media coverage from the 2018 Parkland school shooting. She concluded her paper with a brief summary of current journalistic codes and discussed some guidelines for consideration for future coverage of mass shootings.
Kibbe said before coming to graduate school she had focused on practical journalism experience. She said she is now more confident that she is able to write good research papers that can get accepted for presentation at a conference.
“I felt both the mass communication theory and research methods classes were both great introductions to scholarly research. I took what I learned from those classes and what I learned in my ethics class to write an ethics paper that still included research and theory,” Kibbe said. “I felt I could always go to a professor and ask for help and I thought the topics were explained well in class.”
First year Ph.D. candidate Jessie Roark’s paper, “Mental Health Information Reception and Social Interactions,” examines the stigma associated with mental illness that can lead to social and professional exclusion and the desire of the public to separate themselves from those living with mental illness. Roark said a lot of times mental health is sensationalized, the terminology is used incorrectly and the information might not come from a mental health professional. So, it is important to examine how what we say in the media affects people’s perception of mental illness.
“We know as journalists that our words matter, in this particular case I think it is important to look at the words we say about this particular issue. I believe we have an ethical obligation to not put harm out into the universe,” Roark said.
Roark said she has long been eager for more feedback on her writing. Roark wrote this research paper as part of her research methods class with Professor Hugh Martin.
“I am a good writer but there is always room for improvement. With this class I got pages of feedback on this paper,” Roark said. “I am really excited to sit down and rework some of these sections even though it’s going to be a lot of work I am excited to have gotten that detailed feedback to help me take my paper to the next level.”
Second year master’s student Michelle Michael did a comparative qualitative analysis of the CNN news coverage of the Brussels, Belgium and Lahore, Pakistan terrorist attacks that happened within the same week in March, 2016. Michael conducted a visual analysis and a syntax analysis based on visual framing and social identity theories to examine any otherization messages in the coverage of both attacks. She looked at the earliest video story of each attack on CNN’s online video-archive and the three subsequent video stories for any recurring patterns.
Michael wrote this paper as part of Professor Bernhard Debatin’s qualitative research class and it was her first time writing a qualitative analysis research paper.
“Professor Debatin gave us applicable methods and tools to use when we are doing a qualitative analysis. Having my first qualitative analysis research paper get accepted to a conference proves that I learned from the best,” Michael said.
One of the benefits of submitting an abstract to the Midwinter Conference is that students can still submit it to the larger AEJMC Conference. Students can get feed-back and gain experience presenting their research in front of a new crowd and then they will have the opportunity of refining their paper and then submit it to the larger conference later on.
Journalism Ph.D. candidate and Chair of the GSIG, graduate student interest group, of AEJMC, Aaron Atkins has been to the conference both as a student and as a presenter several times.
“Every time I have been down there the conference is almost entirely populated with graduate students and a couple of new faculty members. It is an excellent platform for students to get their feet wet as far as research presentations goes,” Atkins said.
Associate Journalism Professor and Graduate Director Aimee Edmondson said that the journalism program always has a strong showing at the AEJMC Midwinter Conference.
“These five students continue that tradition, thanks to their hard work and to our world-class faculty at the Scripps School,” Edmondson said.
In 2018 there were at least six students who also got their papers accepted at the conference. Atkins said the fact that several graduate students submitted and got their paper accepted speaks about the quality of research that is going on at the journalism school.
“The willingness to go out and try to present your research at a new place and take that first step says a lot about this program and about the students because this isn’t faculty facilitated this is graduate student facilitated,” Atkins said. “It is about the students taking their own initiative and doing their own thing.”
By Yasmeen Ebada (Master’s student in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism)