As part of a unit on representations of the LGBT community in the media, the University of Alabama Race, Gender and Media class screened and tweeted about “Further Off the Straight and Narrow.”
Archive for July, 2011
Students at the University of Alabama taking a Race, Gender and Media Class comment on the Andrea Wiley documentary Soulmate. The topic for the evening was media portrayals of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community. Wiley addresses those from this community in the documentary quite differently from those producers of “Further off the Straight and Narrow.”
Just two months before CNN Premieres “Latino in America 2,” students at the University of Alabama watched the first Latino in America:THE GARCIAS, which premiered in October 2009.
Six weeks after becoming the first African American elected to the number-two post in the Southern Baptist Convention, Fred Luter brought a message about relationships to Tuscaloosa as two churches reached across racial lines in a special worship service Monday night.
It wasn’t the first time that the predominantly white Valley View Baptist Church and Cornerstone Full Gospel Baptist Church , one of the largest African American churches in Tuscaloosa, have gathered together for worship.
The last time the two churches got together, Dr. Billy Joy was not pastor of Valley View Baptist Church.
Joy, senior pastor of Valley View, wasn’t quite sure how to introduce the praise team and Voices of Cornerstone as he began the service, one in a series of Monday evening worship experiences the church located on Highway 69 has sponsored this summer.
PRAISING GOD TOGETHER
The relationship between members of the two Baptist churches was quite evident at several points during Monday’s service.
Right before Luter’s message, Mark Patterson and Greg Stone of Valley View and Roland Lewis from Cornerstone formed a trio to minister the song “I Will Follow Christ.”
The mix of praise music, contemporary and traditional Gospel songs from the music ministry at Cornerstone was just the prelude to a 35-minute message where Luter challenged those in attendance to consider their relationships with God and one another.
A MESSAGE FOR BODY OF CHRIST
“Those who say they are saved, those who say they are born again, those who say they are Christians, those who say they are believers, we should have a genuine, authentic love for all of the saints,” Luter said. “How I wished the saints of God truly loved each other.”
Based on the first chapter of the book of Ephesians, Luter’s message was entitled “Your Most Important Relationship.”
“If you truly have a relationship with the Savior, you can’t help but have a relationship with the saints,” Luter said.
On the same day as hundreds of same-sex couples began marrying in the state of New York, my pastor here in Tuscaloosa, Ala. devoted some time in his Sunday sermon to the subject on which many even in the Body of Christ (the Church) have been silent recently.
“If God created the institution of marriage, He created it not blindly, but with intent and purpose,” said Bishop Earnest L. Palmer, senior pastor of Cornerstone Full Gospel Baptist Church, where I am a member.
“Just because it [same-sex marriage] becomes law in New York and in four other states, those of us in the Body of Christ need to hold on to what God has said about this institution… It is what God says that counts.”
Even as he preached today, Bishop Palmer knew that he would be treading into some controversial waters that may upset some. But, that was exactly the point.
“I hope I’m making some people think.” he said as he presented his sermon “Blessed by the Blood” this morning.
Bishop Palmer’s words could not have come at a better time for me as I as a journalism and media instructor strive to make “some people think” too.
This won’t be the first time I have shared my religious views in class at the same time as I explain how I operate as a journalist and media professional.
The students will be thinking as I facilitate a unit this Thursday in my Race, Gender and Media class at the University of Alabama. The unit focuses on media coverage of sexual orientation and recent events involving those in the lesbian gay bisexual transgender (LGBT) community.
PERSONAL BELIEFS AND PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
As chair of the Society of Professional Journalists National Diversity Committee, I of all people need to be in a position to help students in a mass communication course understand the difference between one’s personal beliefs and values and the professional responsibility and sensitivity that our ethical standards as journalists (or filmmakers, PR practitioners, advertising professionals) demand.
In my recent “Communication and Diversity” course in the spring, a student expressed outrage that I did not warn him that I would be showing video of a same-sex couple kissing as part of the class. The excerpt of was meant to showcase one of several types of diversity reflected in CNN’s 2010 hourlong special “Gary and Tony Have a Baby.”
I had to explain that slice of American life did not warrant a disclaimer any more than a heterosexual couple kissing did. These are the kinds of lessons that we are challenged with sharing.
Andrew Sullivan’s essay “Why Gay Marriage is Good for America” in this week’s Newsweek Magazine is one article my students are required to read as we examine how the LGBT community has been presented in not only the news media, but also other types of the entertainment media, particularly on broadcast and cable TV as well as in motion pictures.
We’ll also screen “Gary and Tony Have a Baby,” a project that I praised in an earlier post here because of its ability to place the experiences of same-sex couples at the center and largely ignore all the political and religious debates that distract.
Just because you responsibly reflect opposing points of view and different aspects of American life in your mass media product does not mean you have to personally agree with all of those specific points of view. In fact, in the case of a journalist presenting the news objectively, your personal opinion is irrelevant anyway (unless you’re writing an editorial or column).
But, at the same time, your experiences like the one I had in the teachings of my pastor, are important to bring to the table in developing a diverse media product.
It’s not about whether you personally are conservative or Christian or liberal or agnostic. The right thing to do is to tell the stories of gay couples in New York and filmmakers like Maurice Jamal, featured recently on the NPR Program, Tell Me More.
IT’S NOT ABOUT HOMOPHOBIA
I don’t think there’s an iota of homophobia in the comments of Bishop Palmer or anyone else who voices opposition to the concept of gay marriage.
Often those who support laws like the one in New York say those who seek to define marriage between one man and one woman are being homophobic.
Webster defines homophobia as “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality.”
Having and sharing a personal belief about homosexuality does not make one irrational.
PREPARING ALABAMA STUDENTS
Like abortion or immigration, same-sex marriage, and race, issues related to one’s sexual orientation are always touchy subjects on which to teach.
Classrooms on college campuses are the best places to have discussions about the subject, not just for the sake of talking, but for the sake of preparing graduates to take action as they produce work in their chosen profession.
Most of the recent research shows an increasing number of younger people like those undergraduates in my class don’t have hang-ups about same-sex marriage.
But, I think it’s important to STRESS its OK to have and express an opposing viewpoint. We should not silence those students who personally disagree with same-sex marriage in the same way many gays and lesbians were silenced or felt like they could not be open about their sexual orientation.
It’s a delicate, but important balance for those of us preparing the newest generation of media professionals to strike as we talk about one of the biggest issues in the news in 2011.
I reached what I consider to be an important milestone this past week- 500 followers on Twitter.
I like to say that really means 500 people or at least 500 Twitter accounts that are registered to track what I have to say.
No, I don’t use any automated techniques (that I know of) to attract followers. So I believe these are 500 QUALITY followers– mostly people I know and have met.
Should I be excited?
Well, I am happy that I have an audience of those who actually care about what I have to say. Unlike my fellow broadcast journalists who occupy anchor chairs and never tweet but yet have double the number of followers, I actually do use the resource once in a while.
While I do occasionally post updates on Facebook, I am far more likely to provide useful information on Twitter with a 140-character tweet.
The Lady Who Made It Happen
I credit University of Florida Journalism Professor Julie Dodd with my being on Twitter.
It was her “Staying on Top of Technology” session at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Midwinter Meeting of the Scholastic Journalism Division where she introduced the concept of microblogging and the Twitter tool.
After that introduction at The Poynter Institute in January 2008, I came back to Alabama and started my account. Three-and-a-half years later, I finally know how to use Twitter and people are following me.
Tightening Up on Twitter as You Teach It
I frequently quote my colleague, Sybril Bennett (Belmont University) who says Twitter is about research, relationships and reputation.
Dr. Syb (as she’s known in the Twitterverse) is right on!
This summer, I’ve strengthened my understanding of Twitter thanks to people like Robin Ware of The Ware Agency, who showed me how those in the faith-based community are using Twitter.
In 2011, I’ve been sending more direct messages and engaging in exchanges with followers.
After a project earlier this year where I tracked Brian Stelter’s tweets in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, I learned how a very busy media reporter for The New York Times takes the time to respond to Tweets.
He and National Public Radio’s David Folkenflik have taken the time to respond.
If they can respond, so can I.
An Ambitious Twitter Class Project
This week we’re going to another level with Twitter as my University of Alabama students in a short summer course on Race, Gender and Media class are forming a network on Twitter to engage in the Twitterverse.
I suggested that we all follow each other. (No, that’s now why I’m at 500 followers.) To date, I can only count two of my 500 followers from this particular class exercise.
We’re hoping that in addition to extending class discussion, we can engage some of those who have created the documentaries and news products we’re screening in the class.
I just learned today that there’s some interest in a research project I’m doing to look at how we as mass media researchers MEASURE our tweets.
An abstract on that topic has been accepted for presentation at an academic conference in October.
I’ll be re-linking with my colleague, Natalie Brown, to look at one of those measures.
So, 500 Followers– just an indication of what is to come for me in this medium.
Tomorrow will be a big day for me and for our efforts here at The University of Alabama to forge linkages between undergraduate research and engagement with our communities around the state.
I’ve been invited to share with the Walker County Community-Based Research Internship group that is stationed in the city of Jasper, northwest of Birmingham.
Most, if not all of the students in the class have made a commitment to civic engagement as a minor through the University’s New College.
The push for undergraduate student community-based research has involved a number students from other units on the campus here in Tuscaloosa. Now, we’re looking to more formally link campus-wide engagement with actual classes or internship experiences that are being offered on campus.
We’re scheduled to have lunch in historic downtown Jasper.
Among the topics on tap for tomorrow– a recent news report about the life expectancy for women in Walker County, Ala.
As one of the co-conveners for UA’s Scholars for Community Outreach Partnership and Engagement (SCOPE), I will be spending the day with the students who are now in their fourth week on their summer experience.
It should be fun.
This day was different as I journeyed from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham with students from the University’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter, for which I serve as co-adviser.
As a faculty-student team, we did a workshop for the 20 ninth graders.
After working with my own team and with the ninth graders, the lessons were plentiful for the teacher on both levels– with College students and high school students.
1. Impressions and Experiences of College Students can sometimes surprise you
As we arrived at the building down the street from Woodlawn High School where our sessions were taking place, one the UA students indicated how important it was to be careful going to Woodlawn and to go WITH someone.
Suddenly, I was concerned that I would be criticized for taking University students from the Society of Professional Journalists chapter on a community visit to an “unsafe neighborhood.”
The same student later in the day told me that the student’s grandmother had attended Woodlawn High School. So, there was an indirect connection to University of Alabama of which I was totally unaware.
2. Provide iMovie and pocket camera instruction? — maybe NOT.
One of the UA students who had never taken our multimedia class was able to show the high school students how to view video in the program that’s part Apple’s iLife 2009 suite without ANY guidance from me.
So maybe video editing software is intuitive? At least when it comes to a program like iMovie, I may not need to stress out about making sure I’ve demonstrated how to do everything with the software.
Minutes later, I found one of the rising ninth graders taking, selecting and deleting photos with the Kodak zi8 pocket video camera– again without having ever been shown HOW to do it.
3. “We can take notes on our cell phone”
So I’m providing instruction on doing video stand-ups and giving students background information that I would normally have written down on a pad.
They didn’t have paper handy. So, these ninth graders pulled out their cell phones and started typing notes as text messages.
One of the young men decided to use his phone as a makeshift teleprompter. He typed out his standup and had a friend hold his phone under the camera lens.
I haven’t yet viewed the video that will be edited for the standup, but I can’t wait to see what this final product looks like. It was my first time using a cell phone in doing a video standup
My lesson for the ninth graders may have been how to do a standup for on-camera presentation. But, the lesson for me, the teacher– be familiar with what students coming into your class who LIVE on cell phones can do.
I’m never been a big cell phone person. But, I’m quickly realizing if I am going to have this generation of students showing up in my journalism class in the next four years (or at our high school workshop sooner than that), I have to change my method of instruction.
4. Eating lunch IS a big deal
Yesterday before our recording studio visit, one of the students from Woodlawn Academy asked the program director, Chip Brantley, if we were eating lunch at school.
I thought ‘why is that an important question now? Who cares about lunch? You’re going to a recording studio. That’s the big news of the day.’
Today I visited the lunchroom at Woodlawn High School and see why our catered lunch of pulled pork barbecue and barbecue chicken, baked beans and potato salad WAS indeed a big deal.
Let’s just say the lunch menu in the cafeteria today was reminiscent of those days when I would BRING my lunch back in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia.
No offense to the cafeteria staff at Woodlawn. The soft tacos, toss salad and corn on the menu today were not exactly what I was expecting for lunch.
A MEMORABLE WEEK
I can’t thank my colleague Chip Brantley enough for inviting us to work with the Woodlawn Summer Academy. I know, I personally can say these last three days have done FAR MORE for me as an Alabama transplant from Virginia than I’m sure I could have done for the students at Westlawn.
This is why institutions like the University of Alabama HAVE to reach out to connect with students, especially when they are in communities in our backyard.
When I began this morning’s presentation, I polled the rising ninth graders about their college plans. Almost all of them raised their hands indicating they are looking to pursue a degree after they graduate four years from now.
Two of these ninth grade students already have plans to major in engineering, another psychology and a fourth student has plans to be pre-law. These hopes and dreams WILL COME TRUE because of efforts like the Woodlawn Academy.
I have a feeling this is NOT the last time I’ll be journeying to Birmingham’s Woodlawn neighborhood.
From poetry to song, the 20 students in the program took a sample of their creativity to the microphone. Some, who might not have thought of themselves as a singer at least ACTED like they could sing when they got in front of a microphone.
The goal today was to provide a real-world experience with the process producing a project that reflected great writing and allowed one’s talents to shine.
While many of the students were recording their own prepared projects, I took a half-dozen of them aside to another recording booth and worked with them in preparing elements for radio-style news reports.
We talked about ways to improve one’s delivery and even the idea that some people think they just can’t talk the right way for radio.
Best of all, today’s visit was a warm-up for what I would will experience when I have the full group for a special video/digital presentation on Wednesday.
The goal today was to gather some “Fresh” video that could be used in a video exercise for the students.
I met my interview subject at the school at the appointed time.
We set up the camera and proceeded to conduct the on-camera interview.
Suddenly about two minutes into the recording, the woman I was interviewing looked away to someone behind me.
I looked back and a man with a dog was there. He asked “Excuse me, you from the cable company. I’m looking for a job.”
When I explained that I was not from Birmingham and that I didn’t work for the cable company, he proceeded to ask if I could spare some change for him to get some food.
When I declined, he walked on down the street.
The woman, who went to Woodlawn High School explained that is very common here in the East Birmingham community.
The interview went well, at least I thought.
When I returned to Tuscaloosa, I discovered the windy conditions had seriously affected the production quality of my video.
But, perhaps there was something we could salvage from the video.
Maybe the lesson learned on this first day was NOT about the interview, but the residents in this community in which I was a visitor.