RELIGION AND MEDIA INTEREST GROUP NEWS

RELIGION MATTERS Summer 2006
The Newsletter of the Religion and Media Interest Group
of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

Articles:
1. Editor's Column
2. The Chair's Corner
3. Panels Present Special Topics of Interest
4. RMIG Acknowledgements and Applause
5. Connecting with the Religion News Reader
6. RMIG Needs Your Help
7. Reviewers wanted

Editor's Column

By Crystal Y. Lumpkins
RMIG Newsletter editor

It's been quite a year as we look back at several news events that touched on religion and media issues. Some of those issues covered quite extensively in the media included the academic and church debate over intelligent design to stories on the court battles over constitutional issues of marriage and freedom of speech. A variety of topics such as these has been featured in the RMIG newsletters and will be the topic of discussion at the upcoming AEJMC Convention in San Francisco; RMIG Vice-Head and Program Chair Amanda Sturgill highlights these panels in this issue and the painstaking process that it took to actually get them nailed down.

In this issue readers also will have an opportunity to get a jump start on recently released books. RMIG members and officers Hillary Warren and Ralph Frasca have written books that are sure to make a buzz in both academia and the mainstream media. RMIG's annual report also is available for newsletter readers. And as always, we showcase our members recent achievements and accomplishments; one such accomplishment is University of Missouri's Cassandra Fruest's completion of her Master's Project that aimed to assist religion editors and reporters parallel the coverage to that of the community's needs.

We hope that this issue will give you an overview of the Religion and Media Special Interest group and invite you to join us in San Francisco.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the newsletter and hope that you have found it helpful and informative. Thanks to the RMIG committee and all the readers for your support and continued interest.

The Chair's Corner

By Hillary Warren
RMIG ChairGoodbye and Thank you.

I'd like to start this with a thank you to Amanda Sturgill, Ralph Frasca, Crystal Lumpkins and Eleanor Block who kept the interest group on track with programming, research, communication and organizational work this year. As I was writing the annual report to send to AEJMC, I was able to note growth in many of our target areas and much of the progress can be attributed to the officers. If you'd like to read our annual report, it is available here (MSWord file).

Please make plans to attend our annual meeting, which will be on Thursday, Aug. 3 at 6:15 p.m. We'll not only be electing new officers, but we also have some significant topics to discuss and colleagues to celebrate. RMIG has been asked to revisit our organizing documents and Eleanor Block has researched by-laws of other interest groups and divisions for us to consider. In addition, AEJMC has asked us to clarify our relationship with the Journal of Mass Media and Religion and Dan Stout is preparing to speak on that. Finally, we will have a reception to honor our colleagues who were integral to the founding of RMIG and are now retiring or have recently retired-please be sure to join us as we celebrate our members' contributions and the progress of the interest group.

See you in San Francisco.

Panels Present Special Topics of Interest

By Amanda Sturgill
RMIG Vice-Head and Program Chair
Greetings from your vice-head,

Hillary Warren and I survived the notorious chip auction in December and were able to program RMIG for three co-sponsored panels. This was our year to be in "Chip reduction," meaning that in a typical year we can program four, but this year, only three.

But we have a diverse program of panels, nonetheless, relating to some hot topics in journalism and we hope to see you there. At 3:15 p.m. on Aug. 2, we will be taking part in a mini-plenary session on the alternative press. This is a great opportunity for the division, as our contributor is an editor from a Buddhist magazine. We are co-sponsoring with COMJIG, MAG, and GLBT. There are only four mini plenaries in the time block, so please make an extra effort to attend.

At 5 p.m. that day, we, along with SCIG, are sponsoring a teaching panel on covering the intelligent design issue. The panelists are a combination of academics and working journalists. This is an issue that is and will continue to be in news. Please come and share your perspective on how to prepare students to cover religious controversy.

We will have research panels and our member's meeting on the 3rd (please come!), and then on the 4th at 1:30 p.m. we are sponsoring a panel on how faith communities reach out to the disabled. Our panelists will, again, include both academics and communication officers for faith communities.

P.S. By the way, the chip auction isn't that bad.

RMIG Acknowledgements and Applause

Warren and Frasca's New Books Now Available

There's Never Been a Show Like Veggie Tales: Sacred Messages in a Secular Market (AltaMira Press, 2005)

Singing animated vegetables with Christian messages, The Veggie Tales children's video series might seem strange to newcomers. But with their combination of media savvy, fun plots, and Biblical messages, Veggie Tales videos became standard viewing in millions of evangelical homes in the 1990s. Then in 1998, Veggie Tales videos began to appear in Wal-Mart and Target stores, a feat unprecedented for an avowedly Christian media company. In telling the story of Veggie Tales, communication professor Hillary Warren tells the history religious communication in America, the story of a Christian company's tension between selling God and selling out, the story of Christians struggling between the sacred and the secular in their media choices. Read it and you'll see indeed why there's never been a show like Veggie Tales.

Warren says what she really liked about writing the book was that she was able to return to her journalistic roots and use interviews and industry research along with social science methods to tell a story about religious media and the economics and culture that supports it.

For more information about the book, contact Hillary Warren at HWarren@otterbein.edu.

Benjamin Franklin's Printing Network: Disseminating Virtue in Early America (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006)

Professor Ralph Frasca explores Benjamin Franklin's printing empire in his book Benjamin Franklin's Printing Network: Disseminating Virtue in Early America. Frasca examines Benjamin Franklin's numerous reasons for creating his printing network and his altruistic desire to guide Americans to virtue.

In Benjamin Franklin's Printing Network: Disseminating Virtue in Early America, Frasca outlines Franklin's devotion and passion that lead him to publish as he believed moral lessons as service to humanity, and therefore to God. In the book, Frasca highlights the founding father's citation of the Book of Matthew chapter 25, as Franklin commented in a 1738 letter to his parents that he wished to serve God through his virtuous deeds. "Scripture assures me, that at toe last Day, we shall not be examin'd what we thought, but what we did; and our Recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord, but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures." Nine years later, he advised almanac readers, "What is Serving God? 'Tis doing Good to Man."

For more information about the book, contact Ralph Frasca at ralph.frasca@marymount.edu.

Connecting with the Religion News Reader

Connecting with the Religion News Reader is the Master's Project of Cassandra Fuerst, University of Missouri School of Journalism May 2006 graduate. The project explored religion journalism's place at small newspapers such as the Columbia Missourian. The Missourian served as a unique model in that it is also a classroom for its reporters. While all the editors are professionals, the reporters are students at the University of Missouri learning journalism through practice.

The project aimed to help religion journalists better understand readers. Through interviews with 17 Columbia residents and three Missourian editors, Fuerst looked to see if the interests of the community paralleled the direction of religion editors and reporters. For more information about the project, Fuerst can be reached at cassandra.fuerst@gmail.com.

RMIG Needs Your Help

It is the membership that makes RMIG strong and we want YOU to take a part in interest group leadership. Being an interest group officer means a little bit of work (generally less than 10 hours per year, with a few exceptions), a chance to meet fabulous, interesting people, another quarter inch on the vita, and a chance to shape the future of this interest group.

Available positions include head of the division (liaison to AEJMC, facilitator for the other officers), vice head and program chair (plans the sessions for the annual conference), research chair (runs the competitive paper session), teaching and PF & R chairs (generally contribute articles to the newsletter and help with organizing panels and may help arrange teaching and/or PF & R related events), newsletter editor (solicits articles for and edits twice-yearly newsletter) and secretary (keeps records and notes of annual meeting). We are also considering adding a membership chair that would spread the news about and recruit for RMIG.

If you want more information about any of these positions, please contact any of the current officers (names and contact information are here). Then come to the members' meeting on Aug. 3 at 6:15 p.m. See you in San Francisco.

Reviewers wanted

A note from Eleanor Block, RMIG secretary and contributing editor of Communication Booknotes Quarterly:

COMMUNICATION BOOKNOTES QUARTERLY seeks book reviewers in any area of media, telecommunications or information policy, American or foreign. Reviews are short (a long paragraph) and pithy to help readers make interesting purchasing decisions. It's usually best to specialize in one or two topics (such as a specific country or region, or a topic like religion and the media), and we ask that multiple reviews come in at least twice a year, preferably three or four times. CBQ is also interested in receiving proposals for topical literature reviews covering 24-28 recently published resources. CBQ is published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. For more information see http://chrissterling.com/proj-cbq.html.

Questions? Contact Editor Chris Sterling (George Washington University) at chriss@gw.edu.

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