Category: CIS News

Electionland at UA

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ Department of Journalism and Creative Media is partnering with a coalition of organizations to create a virtual newsroom that will produce stories on voting problems as they happen. The initiative, termed Electionland, is one of the first of its kind.

By creating a virtual newsroom to produce stories on voting problems in real time, and by distributing leads about voting problems to local journalists who can follow up on them, the project aims to help those who might have been turned away to cast their ballots. It’s an issue ProPublica believes is particularly urgent this election cycle because of new legislation that could affect citizens’ access to the ballot box, and because of the doubt cast on the validity of the system by one of the presidential candidates.

“There is no more essential act in a democracy than voting,” ProPublica stated in a news release announcing Electionland. “But making sure that the balloting is open to all and efficiently administered has been, at best, a low priority for many state legislatures, a victim of misplaced priorities and, at times, political gamesmanship.”

Chip Brantley, senior lecturer of emerging media, and his team of C&IS faculty and students will aid the organization in its initiative this Election Day from their own newsroom on The University of Alabama’s campus. Using a variety of social networking sites, data software and reporting systems, the team of approximately 30 students will monitor polling sites across the states of Alabama and Mississippi.

By viewing users’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the “feeders” will report voting problems to a team of professional journalists assigned to specific regions of the country. From there, the national Electionland desk – also staffed by professional journalists – will liveblog pertinent election happenings and appear on national media to discuss these issues as needed.

The University of Alabama’s Department of Journalism and Creative Media is one of only 14 journalism programs in the nation selected to participate in this year’s Electionland. Other programs include: Columbia University, CUNY, the University of North Carolina and the University of Missouri. Corporate and organizational sponsors include: ProPublica, Google News Lab, Univision, First Draft, and USA Today Network.

C&IS professors Dr. Kim Bissell, Dr. Scott Parrott, Dr. Jen Hoewe and Meredith Cummings have also contributed to the UA Electionland project.

C&IS Welcomes Dr. Bill Evans as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies

The fall 2016 semester introduced new faculty members and initiatives to C&IS. Dr. Evans, professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, will now serve as the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and said he looks forward to continuing to grow and invest in the doctoral program. Dr. Evans brings more than 13 years of experience to the position. His leadership is supported by a team that includes Marylou Cox, program assistant, who transitioned into her new role after serving the Telecommunication and Film department for 12 years.

This new leadership team cites the University’s investment in graduate education as an important resource as C&IS continues creating a program that excels in all areas of graduate study. A strong commitment to expanding research and welcoming new faculty members keep the C&IS doctoral program leading national rankings. C&IS continues to increase the number of graduate students each year, with 334 enrolled this fall, 50 of which are in the PhD program.

The C&IS doctoral program focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to the study of mass communication and information sciences. As students work alongside leaders in sports communication, health communication, emergent media and more they develop leadership, research and teaching skills that will continue to advance the fields of communication and information sciences.

An Advocate for the Deaf: Dr. Darrin Griffin

Dr. Darrin Griffin, assistant professor of communication studies, is an advocate for Deaf* culture and has conducted research on nonverbal communication, interpersonal communication, lies and deception. As a child of deaf adults (CODA) Griffin’s experiences have shaped his interests and scholarly work on nonverbal communication since the beginning of his academic career.

Griffin’s understanding and exploration of Deaf culture has led to several Deaf culture initiatives in the College of Communication and Information Sciences. Most recently, he hosted a training session for local law enforcement officers on best practices when working with deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Officers also learned basic sign language to use during traffic stops and key components of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to his work with public officials, Griffin has piloted an interim course on Deaf culture. This summer, students spent two weeks immersed in Deaf culture studies on campus before traveling to Washington, D.C. where they visited Gallaudet University – a private university for the education of the Deaf. Griffin has plans to expand the curriculum to include a winter interim course with a travel component. This time, the group will head to Austin, Texas – Griffin’s home town and one of the hubs for Deaf culture in America.

*in reference to the culture surrounding individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, the “d” in deaf is capitalized.

Dr. Darrin Griffin received his undergraduate degree in Deaf studies and deaf education from the University of Texas at Austin. He then moved to Buffalo, New York where he earned his PhD. His dissertation focused on deaf schemas. For more on Griffin’s work, visit this site.

 

Student Executive Council (SEC) President Claudia Hogan: Involvement and the C&IS CommUnity

The sweeping sprawl of tables at Get on Board Day features over 500 campus organizations ranging from student government to a variety of mentoring programs and pre-professional societies. Students have more opportunities than ever to connect their passions with a purpose. Outside of Get on Board Day, each year the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) also hosts CommUnity, an event to showcase the over twenty student organizations housed in the college. CommUnity allows students to join organization leaders in the Rotunda of Reese Phifer for information and countless involvement opportunities. Current Student Executive Council President, Claudia Hogan, says that it is the starting point for anyone looking to get involved within C&IS.

Hogan, a sophomore studying Public Relations and Political Science from Gadsden, Alabama, found her place on campus within Professional Women in Communication and Business (PWCB) during her first semester on campus. She recognized the influential power of building her professional skills while creating a network with other women on campus and quickly decided to became more involved. At the end of her freshman year, Hogan ran to represent the department of Public Relations as a delegate in Student Executive Council (SEC), and after earning her spot in SEC, she ran and was elected to the position of President.

Student Executive Council is an organization unique to C&IS that features leaders from each of the student organizations within C&IS along with delegates from each area of study and Student Government college senators. SEC’s goal is to advocate for students across the college and help student organizations transform their dreams into tangible realities.

SEC makes it possible for students to host and promote events or travel to conferences across the country. This year, Hogan hopes to increase the amount of funds available for students and emphasize the importance of involvement to young students. “When you get involved early on in your college career, you have an opportunity to stick with organizations and to help shape them and see them grow,” Hogan says.

It is not often that students involved in so many areas across the college are able to sit in the same room and share their thoughts, perspectives, and ideas, and Hogan believes that in SEC “it’s everyone’s mission to make C&IS an even better place to study what we love.”

RESEARCH: LGBTQ Families and Children’s Literature

Dr. Jamie Cambpell Naidoo is an associate professor in the School of Library and Information Studies. His research interests include the portrayal of underrepresented groups in children’s and young adult literature and library services to gender-variant and LGBTQ children and parents. He is the 2016 recipient of the American Library Association’s Achievement in Diversity Research award.

LGBTQ Families and Children’s Literature

LGBTQ families with children are legitimate members of a community and should receive the same library services and educational opportunities as any other type of family. Children in LGBTQ families are not different than other children in their need to feel accepted, valued, and loved. Libraries hold a unique opportunity for these families by creating welcoming environments that acknowledge these families and celebrate their differences and similarities. By providing children’s book that represent LGBTQ families, libraries validate their experiences, provide opportunities for children in LGBTQ families to make important literary connections and develop positive self-efficacy and self-esteem, and assist all children in understanding themselves and the world around them.

Given the current political climate where specific states are creating anti-LGBTQ legislation designed to discriminate against individuals in LGBTQ families, we are at a critical juncture to educate our children to respect family and cultural diversity. If we want U.S. children to be successful members in our culturally pluralistic world, then we must instill common virtues such as kindness, acceptance, and understanding. The research that I conduct explores how librarians can assist children in celebrating diversity, rather than ridiculing and rejecting peers and other individuals whose perspectives are different from their own. This is covered in my book Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children’s Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content (Libraries Unlimited, 2012) and in my other publications such as the paper “Access to a world of Rainbow Family children’s books via partnerships and programs: Suggestions for library outreach to LGBT family associations,” 2015 IFLA Conference Proceedings (available here) http://library.ifla.org/1289/ and the article “Over the rainbow and under the radar: Library services and programs to LGBTQ families” in the journal Children and Libraries (Winter 2013). I also examine how educators can use digital apps and other forms of digital media to help children explore all types of cultural diversity. This is evidenced in my book Diversity Programming for Digital Youth: Promoting Cultural Competence in the Children’s Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2014) and article with Dr. Miriam Sweeney, “Educating for social justice: Perspectives from library and information science and collaboration with K-12 social studies educators” in the Journal of International Social Studies (2015).

C&IS Faculty Win Big at AEJMC

Faculty members in the College of Communication and Information Sciences attended the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference (AEJMC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the first week of August. AEJMC is a nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals. Its mission is to promote the highest possible standards for journalism and mass communication education, to cultivate the widest possible range of communication research, to encourage the implementation of a multi-cultural society in the classroom and curriculum, and to defend and maintain freedom of communication in an effort to achieve better professional practice and a better informed public. Several C&IS faculty members received awards for their contributions to the fields of journalism and mass communication, and for their outstanding commitment to teaching.

Dr. Andrew Billings was honored as Mass Communication and Society Journal’s Reviewer of the Year.

Dr. Dianne Bragg won second place for “Great Ideas for Teaching” from the Standing Committee on Teaching. 

Dr. George Daniels and Dr. Wilson Lowrey won top paper honors in the AEJMC Presidential Paper competition for their examination of the Comm-J master’s program partnership with The Anniston Star.

Dr. Senyo Ofori-Parku earned the Professional Freedom and Responsibility Top Paper Award from the Advertising Division. 

Dr. Scott Parrott won second place in the Promising Professors competition in the Mass Communication and Society Division.

Dr. Brett Sherrick won the Mass Communication and Society Dissertation Award for his dissertation titled “Immersive Mediation: The Roles of Flow and Narrative Engagement in a Persuasive Health Game.”

ICIR Scholar Spotlight: Dr. Scott Parrott

Dr. Scott Parrott studies media and social cognition, or how media shape the way one thinks about other people and the mental processes by which this occurs. He is also interested in how mass media portray social groups.

What made you interested in your field?

In my former life, I was a news reporter in North Carolina. I was actually an investigative reporter toward the end, so we did these big projects, and the last major project I worked on was about mental health care. North Carolina had fallen on hard times –they had restructured the old mental health system, but it was not doing well. We did 19 or 20 articles on this topic. While I was reporting, I met a lot of people with a range of mental illnesses like anxiety to schizophrenia. They kept saying one of the major problems that they face in terms of healthcare and living healthy lives is how people with mental illness are portrayed in the media. The media do not do a good job of telling the world what it’s like to live with a mental illness, and so the things that people think about mental illness are usually wrong. This can lead to stereotypes, stigma, and problems for society. I made the transition from reporting to academia, and now I have the opportunity to see if they were right- and guess what, they were right.

Why is research needed in your field?

I think we underestimate the influence of media in our lives. Think about your own day -from the time you get up to the time you go to bed- and how often you interact with the media, even if it’s watching a movie or using social media. I think it’s really important to understand what kind of effect that’s having on us and why: the why is a big question in research. You’re not really supposed to be an advocate when it comes to research; you’re supposed to be neutral. But if your research can do good and try to change stigma, like the ones attached to mental illness, then that is a good thing.

What are some of the steps to your research process?

A lot of white boards. I think my problem is I’m interested in too much, so I have to put the blinders on and focus on one thing at a time. I have a difficult time with that because there is just so much in the world that is interesting, especially when it comes to media and the way our minds work. I, typically, just start with an idea that gets the wheels spinning. Then the next thing is to read as much as you can on the topic and see what’s been done because usually there’s not an idea that is completely original. The design is really important especially when it comes to experiments because you have to be sure that what you’re measuring is what you’re measuring with the questions you ask people. With media content, you’re exposing them to types of media, so you have to be sure the stimulus material is getting at what you’re interested in. Usually that’s it. It sounds really short, but it’s actually a time-consuming process.

Do your findings alter preconceived notions that you’ve had on a subject?

Yes. For instance, I do gender research as well, and there was a study we did recently where we looked at crime-based television shows and how they portrayed gender. Essentially, we found that women were underrepresented, so it was a predominantly male television world. But then when women, white women in particular, appeared in these programs, they often became victims of violence by random strangers, which completely disregards statistics from the FBI. So there is some kind of gender message going on there. The question for me again is why, why is this happening? I came up with this experiment where participants came in and sat down at the computer and I announced that they would write a script for a TV show. I told them that I was randomly going to assign them a genre, it could be anything from an ER drama to a sitcom, but really everyone got crime dramas. Ninety percent of the scripts had a female victim because of gender stereotypes. We view males as protectors, while we consider females in need of protection. However, the surprising finding was as I was reading the scripts later on, a pattern emerged. A lot of the scripts began with ‘a women is walking home alone from work at night and she is attacked from behind.’ So I used software to check that I wasn’t reading too much into it, and it turns out that the same description kept turning up in the scripts. These results took the research in a whole new direction, and it’s starting to look at what’s happening mentally. We are basing our perceptions of crime, mental illness, and other things on what TV is telling us, and TV is telling us lies. It shapes how we interact with the world.

What do you need to conduct your research?

I do content analysis, so I don’t need much to do my research. I just need people who enjoy doing the same types of research. So every Thursday I get together with a couple of Emerging Scholars students and we sit in a computer lab and analyze content -right now we are looking at portrayals of schizophrenia in news organizations. They’re great help. The other thing I use is a software called inquisit, which is something they use in psychology to measure reaction times.

Why do you involve others in your research?

It’s a lot more fun. My mentors, at some point, introduced me to research. Then I went to graduate school here, and later at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and participating in research was one of the most rewarding things in my life. It did completely change my life. I remember sitting in classes and my mind would be blown. I really like working with undergraduates and master students because they haven’t been introduced to much of the research world. When you can just see that excitement and fascination kicking in, it’s really rewarding.

*This interview was originally published on the ICIR website as a “scholar spotlight.”