March 04, 2008

COMJIG to tackle tough issues at AEJMC in August

Thanks to excellent panel ideas from COMJIG members, officers Liz Hansen (vice-chair and programming chair) and I (your fearful chair) were able to cobble together what I think is a pretty exciting and boundary-pushing program for the August AEJMC convention. Once again, I think our group has transformed from "The Little IG That Could" (as founding chair Jock Lauterer once called us) to our new identity as "The Little Group with a Big Footprint" (as immediate past chair Peggy Kuhr described us in August).

At the infamous "chip auction" at AEJMC's winter meeting, held in St. Louis in December, Liz and I frantically negotiated with a variety of other AEJMC groups to lock in the following program for the Aug. 6-9 convention in Chicago. We also managed to make sure all COMJIG sessions are held Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, thus alleviating our members of the pain and loneliness of talking to empty seats during AEJMC's dreaded Saturday afternoon time slots.

That said, here's the lineup for August:

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, we open our program at 10 a.m. with "Anonymity and Identity in the News," a debate about the pros and cons of anonymity in our biz, from the use of anonymous sources to news stories to the beautiful ugliness of anonymous posts to online discussion boards. The panel is co-sponsored with the Media Ethics Division, and this session marks COMJIG's first formal collaboration with the Media Ethics folks.

At 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 6, COMJIG has another first-time partnership, this time with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Interest Group: "Beyond Geographic Community -- Culturally Defined Community Newspapers in the Chicago Area." The panel will feature representatives of a variety of ethnic, religious, and GLBT media in the Chicago area. (Special props to our PF&R chair Ralph Hanson for throwing this one together at the last minute -- it attracted a lot of potential co-sponsors).

Following that session on Wednesday, COMJIG again participates in a mini-plenary session (our third year in a row for the high-profile sessions!). Titled "The Transformation of Print Journalism," this panel addresses AEJMC's challenge to divisions and interest groups to offer at least one program that focuses on the future of the industry, and will feature a mix of professionals and scholars who will discuss how a variety of print media are adapting and thriving in the digital/online age. This session is co-sponsored by our friends in the Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group, Media Management & Economics Division, and the Newspaper Division.

Thursday's programming starts at 1:30 p.m. with COMJIG's scholar-to-scholar research session. COMJIG chair Bill Reader and a team of anonymous judges will choose the best-designed poster and present the winner with a very special prize (don't worry -- it'll be the kind of prize somebody will actually be happy to receive).

Then at 5 p.m., we team up with Civic/Citizen again for a session titled "What the F***?!! Dealing with offensive postings on news Web sites," which should prove to be a lively, R-rated (for language) discussion of the place of profanity in audience-feedback forums. (As a side note, we had a lot of fun during the planning sessions referring to this as the "F*** Panel" -- it was just like being back in the newsroom).

COMJIG and Civic/Citizen will follow up last year's joint members' meeting with another one, tentatively scheduled for 6:45-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7. We will be working with Civic/Citizen to come up with a special topic for the joint members' meeting, and are hoping to sneak some Chicago deep-dish past the hotel-catering cops so we can meet and eat. Thanks to our former research chair Jack Rosenberry (now Civic/Citizen chair) and Civic/Citizen vice-chair Mary Beth Callie for agreeing to turn our members' meetings into a bonus round-table discussion.

On Friday, we'll start the day with our sole-sponsored research-paper session at 8:15 a.m. Research chair Andris Straumanis will honcho that shindig, at which we also will be presenting the top student paper with our first-ever prize of $100 (so be sure to encourage your community-minded graduate students to submit their papers to COMJIG!).

Then after lunch, we'll team up with the Newspaper Division for an amazing panel titled "Case Studies of Courage in Community Journalism," which will feature a panel of small-town newspaper editors who battled problems in their communities at great personal risk. Thanks to COMJIG stalwart and former PF&R chair Al Cross of the Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues for not only pitching this excellent panel idea, but for offering some IRJCI funds to help cover the travel expenses of our brave panelists.

Then at 3:30 p.m. Friday, we'll close out COMJIG's programming with the teaching panel, "Whose Learning Curve Is It? Strategies for Incorporating Digital Media Into Civic-Oriented Students Media and Courses," a teaching panel that will give all of us ideas for learning how those of us trained in "legacy media" can get up to speed -- and STAY up to speed -- on the whiz-bang techno-mojo needed in today's poly-media environment. This is another good partnership with Civic/Citizen.

Again, many thanks to all of the COMJIG members who submitted panel ideas. We can never find co-sponsors for all of them, but it's nice to have so many members who give us great ideas for programming.

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