by Michael Sweeney, Professor; Associate Director for Graduate Studies
PhD student Michael “Clay” Carey has been busy with research.
He has the lead article in the spring 2013 issue of Journalism History: “Community Journalism in a Secret City: The Oak Ridge Journal, 1943-48.” The article examines the community newspaper of the town that did much of the secret war work to develop the atomic bomb. The newspaper could not, and did not, talk about the single issue that brought everyone together in the newly formed town of Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Carey also will present two papers April 24-28 at the annual convention of the Eastern Communication Association in Pittsburgh. The papers are: “‘This is Not What Amish People Do’: Representations of Amish Crime Victims and Perpetrators in Mainstream News Coverage,” and “Role Development and Hostile Commentary in Online Community Newsgroups.”
The former examines media representations of Amish people who were involved in a series of attacks in northeastern Ohio in 2011. The attacks received widespread media attention because both the victims and perpetrators identified as Old Order Amish. A qualitative textual analysis of articles in two metropolitan daily newspapers explored stereotypes and the theoretical notion of an “other within the other,” which explains perceptions of deviance in “Othered” groups. The analysis identified oversimplified, homogeneous representations of Amish groups, iconography, and a dependence on non-Amish sources to explain Amish beliefs and practices. Attack victims were represented as both deviant and subjugated. Their attackers were represented as the more deviant “other within the other.” The study adds to the body of scholarly work on representations of Amish groups specifically, and of religious entities in general, in mainstream American media. It also expands the understanding of portrayals of “other within the other” in media.
The latter study examines the ways in which social roles develop to address disruption, aggression, hostile comments, insults, and other commentary that might be considered negative or detrimental to productive dialog in online settings. A qualitative textual analysis of 208 comment threads on a community newsgroup page hosted by Topix.com identified nine roles that developed when negative commentary was present in the online forum. In addition, a random subsample (N = 105) was drawn for an exploratory content analysis that examined the relationships between identified roles and the presence of impolite and/or uncivil comments on message threads. The quantitative analysis revealed that uncivil threads were less common than impolite threads. Message threads with negative (impolite or uncivil) posts were often shorter than threads that did not include negative posts. As message threads became longer, negative posts became less prevalent. The appearance of certain roles was associated with longer message threads.
In addition, Carey presented a paper in March at the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium in Tampa, Fla.: “Universal Invitations and Inexhaustible Resources: Portrayals of Rural Life in Popular Magazines of the Late 1800s.” This exploratory study examines the descriptions of rural situations, people and places that appeared in three popular magazines – Munsey’s, McClure’s, and Cosmpolitan – in the late 1800s and early 1900s. During the Progressive Era, industrial and financial growth were rapidly reshaping the American social landscape, contributing to the growth of large cities, increasing transportation opportunities, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor. This work suggests that three dominant frames emerge to orient coverage of rural America. A fourth frame, less common than the others but still relevant, is also discussed. The paper argues that the frames present an interesting and at times conflicting view of America’s rural communities in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Rural areas were presented as lands of financial opportunity – places where, with the aid of cosmopolitan sophistication and science, wealth could be found and modern society could thrive. Stories also depicted rural America as a place to be admired, consumed, and sometimes distained. Its traditional values were lauded while its backwardness was chided. The paper argues that the dichotomies present in those frames – old and new, tradition and progress, work and leisure – are not unlike those evident when one considers the state of the magazine publishing industry, and in fact society as a whole, in the early 1900s.