Conference season

For those of us who work in higher education, the end of the winter teaching semester marks the beginning of conference season, when we have a chance to share our research with our colleagues and catch up on what they’ve been working on since we last met. Since I was on research leave this winter (which means I was released from teaching to focus on research), I took the opportunity to dig into some new research projects and was accepted to present on them at three different conferences. It made for a busy couple of months, but it was a great experience.

In March, I presented at the Press Freedom in Canada: A Status Report on the 30th Anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms conference at my alma mater, Ryerson University. It was a unique gathering in that it was a mix of journalists and journalism researchers as well as practising media lawyers and legal scholars, which made for some intriguing presentations and lively discussions. I presented a discourse analysis of how articles in The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star frame the Harper government’s attitudes about press freedoms and transparency, which was well-received. Just last week I finished writing up a chapter about my research for a book the conference organizers hope to publish.

In May, I returned to Ryerson for the Literary Journalism: The Power and Promise of Story, the Seventh International Conference for Literary Journalism Studies. Literary journalism is something I’ve taught for years, so it was a great opportunity to meet with other profs from around the world who do the same thing. In North America, we tend to think of literary journalism as something that evolved in the 1960s in the US and is epitomized by the sort of writing you find in The New Yorker, so it was fascinating to hear a more international perspective both in terms of the history of literary journalism in different parts of the world and what contemporary literary journalism looks like in places as different as Norway and the Middle East. I presented a paper I’m writing about the similarities between literary journalism and the increasingly popular so-called “alternative” forms of ethnography, including autoethnography and public ethnography, and argued for greater cooperation across our disciplines.

Then, last week, I travelled to the University of Waterloo for the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences to present at the Canadian Communication Association. The CCA has had a journalism interest group with its own track of sessions and meetings for a few years now, so it’s the best chance I have all year of meeting other journalism profs from across the country. It’s always nice to see my far-flung colleagues and meet new ones and share ideas about our teaching practices. At this conference, I presented some research I’m doing with our first-year journalism students; essentially, I’m trying to understand them better and figure out what they think the role of journalism is and why they want to study it. The results are still fairly preliminary, but they’re quite interesting, so I’m looking forward to digging into them a bit deeper in the next few months.

After a busy couple of months, I’m happy to be back on campus again. But that won’t last long, because I’ll be attending the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication conference in Chicago in August, where I’m a finalist in the Great Ideas for (Journalism) Teachers program. Wish me luck!