Three Cheers for a Steve Reese Style of Advising

Steve Reese and Seth Lewis, AEJMC annual convention 2017, Chicago

A true highlight of the AEJMC convention that I attended recently was being invited to present on a panel that reflected on the lifetime scholarly achievements of my PhD advisor Stephen D. Reese, who received the 2017 Paul J. Deutschmann Award for Excellence in Research. The award isn’t given every year—28 have received it since 1969, including the likes of Chaffee, McCombs, Gerbner, and Schramm—and it recognizes scholars who have distinguished themselves for pathbreaking research in many phases of their careers. Steve certainly fits the bill, having produced key insights in each of the past four decades.

It’s rare that we get to be so personal in our remarks at an academic conference, but this was just the right venue and the right moment to offer these heartfelt sentiments, including quotes graciously shared by my “academic siblings.” I have included here my talk in PDF form and below:

Three Cheers for a Steve Reese Style of Advising

Seth C. Lewis

Remarks on the occasion of Stephen D. Reese receiving the 2017 Deutschmann Award for Excellence in Research

August 11, 2017

Chicago, IL

Good afternoon. I am truly honored to have this opportunity to speak about the life work and impact of my dear advisor, mentor, and friend, Dr. Stephen D. Reese.

Lest this sound like a eulogy, I promise that Dr. Reese is very much alive and well, and in fact currently engaged in some of the most ambitious and globally focused research of his career.

But, in the spirit of saying good and important things about people while we have the opportunity to do so, I’m grateful to share a few such things with you today.

On this panel, we have heard much about Steve’s field-defining contributions in the areas of media sociology and framing research, and those simply cannot be overlooked. But I’d like to deviate a bit and focus my remarks on what it means to be taught and advised by Steve Reese.

Let me begin by describing some of my own experience with Steve. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. When I left The Miami Herald to pursue a PhD, I had little idea of what I was doing. Because my masters was a professional degree in business, I knew almost nothing about communication research when I stepped onto the campus at UT-Austin in 2006. Somehow, by sheer luck of taking Dr. Reese’s seminar in framing in the spring of 2007 and managing to not embarrass myself in that class, I landed on his radar and eventually was fortunate to have him advise me through my dissertation completion in 2010.

Easy, he was not. He had very high expectations. But he was encouraging, and he instilled confidence — he treated you as a potential equal, even if it took a few years after graduation before you felt truly comfortable to call Steve by his first name.

He taught me how to think conceptually. (And if there is one paramount skill that every aspiring scholar must learn, it is to think conceptually — in terms of relational concepts, the stuff from which theory is organized and tested.) Virtually all that I do today as a scholar, all of the conceptual work that is so central to my research, can be traced back to Professor Reese’s instruction in the essential work of concept development.

In teaching me how to think conceptually, he continually pushed for concept explication. The more thorough, the better; the more careful the definitions, the better. And he pushed not only for more precise abstract thinking, but he was especially concerned that we made the connection between scholarly concepts and public life broadly. Really, why should people care about this research, beyond the boundaries of our campuses and conferences? Who are the “bad guys” and who are the “good guys” in your research story? He wanted to know.

The proverbial “so what?” question may be every advisor’s favorite question, but no one seemed to ask that question with quite the frequency or profundity as Professor Reese. And he wasn’t about to give you the answer to that “so what?” question — you were going to work it out on your own. Ever patient, he was in no rush, content to let students think long and deep, in the most classic tradition of what a PhD education ought to be. In short, he embodied then all that I try to be as a scholar and faculty advisor now.

*   *   *

To adequately capture the experience of being advised by Dr. Reese, I wanted to draw insight and corroboration from some of my “academic siblings.” It’s quite a family tree after all! Professor Reese has supervised 21 dissertations and participated as a committee member on 43 others. In addition, he has led nearly two dozen master’s theses. Think of the thousands of pages littered with “So what?” scribbled in the margins!

So, I reached out to a half-dozen former PhD advisees like myself, spanning a 10-year period, and asked them to describe what it was about Dr. Reese’s advising that most influenced them. What I found, through a rigorous content analysis of these responses, reinforced my own experience. What emerged was a picture of an advisor who cared about the whole student: who taught us how to work hard and discover on our own; who showed us how to be productive intellectual craftsmen; and who modeled something of a Zen approach — a low-key demeanor and steady way of being to withstand the ebbs and flows of academic life.

I will briefly organize these three impressions into what I call “Three Cheers for the Steve Style of Advising.”

Cheer #1: A Steve Style of Advisor makes his students earn it

Some doctoral students leave a visit with their advisor with a list of highly specific to-do items: fix this, fix that, go and do this, and so forth. Not so with Steve Reese. As one advisee put it:

He is a relatively hands-off advisor. I’ve heard stories about advisors themselves making changes to dissertation drafts or telling students what to do in very specific ways. He didn’t do that. He mostly pointed out broad issues and concerns, but that was it. He mostly didn’t even tell me how to address those concerns. That meant I had to think a lot myself, to try to figure out what exactly he wanted. To be honest, at times I did wish he would be more specific. But ultimately, I did manage to figure things out, and the fact that I did it without hand-holding made me a lot more proud of my achievement.

And another student described it this way:

Steve is the opposite of your typical advisor. He asks you to tell him what your project is, and then he just asks questions. Such as: “Well, what about these cases rather than those ones?” Or: “So, is this really the case?” Clearly, those questions are intended to tease out the weaknesses in your idea, without coming out and saying, “Here is where your idea is weak.” He would ask you questions that would help you figure it out yourself.”

The result, we found as students, could be a bit maddening: We wanted direction. We wanted to finish our dang dissertations! But a Steve style of advisor is in no particular hurry, not because he doesn’t care about his students — on the contrary, because he knows that the hard work of thinking, of thinking with a depth and intensity that perhaps is only possible during the dissertation phase of one’s life, will pay dividends throughout a scholar’s career.

As one student put it:

He liked to play with ideas like silly putty: “Can I stretch it this way? How does it work that way?” … He was interested in engaging with you as a fellow intellectual, rather than a go-and-do automaton. When I went into his office, I knew that my ideas would get tested. He wasn’t playing games — he was trying to help us figure things out.

Finally, another student said:

His advising helped me to think more for myself and find the right answers without assistance. This helped me a lot throughout my graduate years. Even now, I keep trying to ask questions and answer myself: why is such an issue important… and so what?

So, making students earn it, for their own good — that’s Cheer #1.

Cheer #2: A Steve Style of Advisor teaches his students to be intellectual craftsmen

Professor Reese cares deeply about bringing order and structure to intellectual work. He is a devoted outliner in all of his writing, and for years has tried, sometimes in vain, to get his students to adopt similar methods of setting up the scaffolding for a well-organized paper, rather than just opening an empty Microsoft Word page and dumping in whatever comes forth.

Indeed, I would argue that one of his most important though little-known contributions has been the teaching documents that he has posted to academia.edu. Among these documents is a research paper organization guide, a how-to for putting together a systematic journal article. It has been downloaded nearly 7,000 times. In my own teaching, I have shared that organization guide with scores of students, and the level of organization and coherence in their writing has improved because of it.

Also among these teaching documents is a piece called “The intellectual craftsman in a digital world.” Drawing on the sociologist C. Wright Mills and his famous articulation of the “intellectual craftsman,” Steve argues that the life of the mind, under attack from all directions, requires a concerted effort to be maintained and cultivated amid a growing sea of distractions. He writes:

What does Mills mean to be an “intellectual craftsman”? This seems like a term better suited to manual, blue-collar work than the rarified space of the academic professional. According to him, for those who feel themselves “part of the classic tradition, social science is the practice of a craft” (p. 1). The craftsman in this sense does not fetishize theory and methods but absorbs and puts them in the service of “problems of substance.” The intellectual craftsman does not separate work from life but has been given the privilege and opportunity to design not just a career but a life. To fully take advantage of the potential for this life, one cannot shirk the responsibility to be constantly managing one’s self, and must take seriously the need to construct one’s character based on the “qualities of good workmanship.” Thus, craftsmanship, the careful curation and awareness of one’s intellectual capital, is at the center of all one’s projects.

And so, with his students in class and his followers online, Professor Reese shares what he has learned about productivity. In another one of those teaching documents he posted, you’ll find one called “profhacks strategies for the busy academic”: a guide to software tools, time-saving tricks, and other sound advice on how to capture key information, retrieve it when you need it, and tame the nasty beast that is email. A key element in this productivity push is the “Getting Things Done” method by the management guru David Allen. While it sounds like a tool for corporate types, the GTD approach, as it’s known, is hugely relevant for academics — we who often find ourselves drowning in too many different projects that need such different forms of attention, never quite accomplishing as much as we’d like. I learned about GTD from Steve early in my doctoral studies, and my own work-life productivity has never been the same.

As one of his former advisees put it:

[Dr. Reese] was constantly trying to help us organize our time: showing us how he used email, how he chose to check it at certain times during the day, and how to manage information. It was part of his “in-touchness” with the student, trying to help us become the best we could be.

Cheer #3: A Steve Style of Advisor has a sense of balance and perspective

Now, amid all that talk of productivity, you should know that no one has more clearly cautioned the field against hyperactivity than Steve Reese. Quantity, he taught us, is not equivalent to quality. And too often young scholars lose sight of that in their flailing scramble to submit five conference papers or squeeze one more article out of a dataset wrung dry. As he wrote:

a bias toward action is a good thing, but academic achievement ultimately requires a careful coordination of reflection and action — not stalling out while waiting for the perfect insights and yet not rushing ahead with poorly thought out ideas.

That type of balance, of continually progressing while not running faster than you have strength, is perhaps the hallmark of Steve Reese’s career. To look at his CV is to see a scholar in full. Someone who produced groundbreaking insights in every decade of his career. Someone who was productive but steadily so, without the boom-and-bust cycle too often seen in tenured faculty. Someone who wrote quite a lot in his life — but only that which was truly worth saying.

And most important is what will not show up in his CV: that Steve Reese has a real sense of purpose in life, a healthy balance of work and family life, a scholarly career grounded in spiritual depth.

In those ways, in every way, his style of advising is one worth honoring today and emulating for decades to come.

Thank you.

 

We’re hiring five new faculty at Oregon, including in Games and Emerging Media Technologies

Here at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, we have five(!) tenure-line faculty openings — in Science Communication (open rank); Social Media and Data Analytics; Media and Intersectionality; Media Studies: Global Media, Technology, and Social Justice; and Media Studies: Games and Emerging Media Technologies (see all the position descriptions here). I’m chairing that last one; the full description is below.

I’ll be at AEJMC this week, if folks would like to connect and chat about this position or the other opportunities at SOJC.

And please spread the word to anyone you think may be interested in these openings. Thanks!

University of Oregon

School of Journalism & Communication

Assistant Professor in Media Studies, in the area of Games and Emerging Media Technologies

Position Announcement


The School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon seeks a tenure-track assistant professor in media studies, with an emphasis in game studies and related issues for digital media and society, to join a nationally recognized program that emphasizes critical thinking, media literacy, experiential learning, and a commitment to social progress and diversity.

Digital games are one of the fastest­growing sectors of the entertainment industry, generating both enormous profits and emerging forms of influence in media, culture, and society. Related developments in mobile applications, virtual reality, and augmented reality likewise are shifting how we think about the nature of media technologies, the philosophies and ethics associated with them, and relationships between humans and machines. The ideal candidate should be poised to help position the SOJC at the forefront of research in game studies and digital studies more generally.

Ideal assistant professor candidates will have a Ph.D. (ABD considered), a well-defined research agenda with evidence of scholarly publication, and a demonstrated teaching ability at the collegiate level. Experience with applying for and securing external grants from relevant government and private sources is especially desired. Professional experience in game design/development and/or other relevant forms of digital media work is desired but not required. The ideal candidate will offer the ability to research, teach, and lead in an innovative fashion.

The candidate should demonstrate the ability to teach courses in game studies, digital media and society, and other areas of the media studies undergraduate area. Teaching opportunities in the candidate’s additional areas of specialization (if applicable) are potentially available across the undergraduate curriculum, as well as in our academic master’s and doctoral programs in Media Studies and our graduate professional programs in both Eugene and Portland. Additionally, the ability to teach courses in ethics and media law may be given special consideration.

We value candidates who share the following school priorities: attracting undergraduate and graduate talent, offering relevant experiential learning opportunities, and academic excellence through enhanced research productivity.

The SOJC is an ACEJMC-accredited program with a century-long history at the University of Oregon, which is a comprehensive research university and a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Our program thrives as a journalism and communication school known for innovation, ethics, and action. We offer four undergraduate concentrations (in advertising, journalism, media studies, and public relations), four professional and academic master’s programs, and a doctoral program in media studies.

We invite applications from qualified candidates who share our commitment to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning and work environment. Employment begins September 16, 2018. To ensure consideration, please submit application materials by October 2, 2017. The position will remain open until filled. Interested candidates should submit a letter of interest, CV, and the names of four academic references to http://careers.uoregon.edu/cw/en-us/job/520583/assistant-professor-of-media-studies-games-studies.

For inquiries about the application process, please contact sojcjobs@uoregon.edu or the HR Manager at 541-346-2369. Specific inquiries about the position may also be directed to the search chair: Associate Professor Seth C. Lewis, Shirley Papé Chair in Emerging Media, sclewis@uoregon.edu.

The University of Oregon is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution committed to cultural diversity and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The University encourages all qualified individuals to apply and does not discriminate on the basis of any protected status, including veteran and disability status.

CfP: Special issue of New Media & Society — “Truth, facts, and fake: The shifting epistemologies of news in a digital age”

I’m excited to announce the following call for papers for a special issue of New Media & Society: “Truth, facts, and fake: The shifting epistemologies of news in a digital age.” I will be co-editing the special issue with two terrific partners, Mats Ekström and Oscar Westlund of the University of Gothenburg (the three of us are working on a recently funded grant to study the epistemologies of digital news production). Note that, in addition to the special issue, shortlisted authors will be invited to participate in an online workshop in early 2018 that will allow for feedback on each other’s work as well as a chance to experiment with a virtual meeting format.

Thank you for sharing this CfP far and wide!

CALL FOR PAPERS: Special issue of New Media & Society and related online workshop

Truth, facts, and fake: The shifting epistemologies of news in a digital age

Co-editors:
Mats Ekström, University of Gothenburg
Seth C. Lewis, University of Oregon
Oscar Westlund, University of Gothenburg

Tentative timeline:

  • Abstract submission deadline: Monday, October 2, 2017
  • Notification on submitted abstracts: Friday, October 20, 2017
  • Online workshop focusing on the special issue theme: in early February 2018
  • Article submission deadline: Thursday, March 1, 2018

Verified, fact-based information is presumed to be an important feature in society, for citizens individually and for democratic governance as a whole. During much the 20th century, legacy news media enjoyed a prominent position in attempting to fulfill that role, reporting on happenings near and far. Journalists professionalized over time, developing standards, norms, methods, and networks of sources that enabled them to make knowledge claims. Such epistemological practices—presumed to provide factual and reliable public information—have made journalism one of the most influential knowledge-producing institutions in society.

However, both slow and sudden changes are challenging the role of journalism in society. There is an ongoing but gradual shift from legacy media to digital media. On the one hand, this shift has opened new pathways for news access and distribution across an array of platforms—social, mobile, apps, and the like. On the other hand, this shift has generally undercut the business models of legacy news media organizations, resulting in the weakening and downsizing of newsrooms and the fragmenting of collective audiences for news—altogether raising questions about the continued viability of journalism to produce reliable information. Meanwhile, the more sudden change in the information landscape is the rapid expansion of actors that, in some cases, are intent on providing “alternative facts” or otherwise questioning the accounts of news media. This comes at a moment when many people, particularly in developed countries, appear to have little confidence in the press. While some of these sources seek to verify facts in a journalistic fashion, others pursue a deliberate strategy of disinformation for political or financial purposes. The success of such “fake news” has led to widespread debate about what some are calling a “post-truth” era.

Altogether, these developments point to many opportunities for research and theory. A general question concerns how the epistemologies of journalism—knowledge claims, norms, and practices—are shaped by the changes and challenges in digital news production. How do journalists know what they know, and how are their knowledge claims articulated and justified? To understand the destabilization of the epistemic status of journalism articulated in current debates, what is needed are empirical studies, historical explanations, and theoretical developments. Moreover, it is essential to better understand how news consumers perceive news, “fake” or otherwise; e.g., how do they evaluate and act upon such claims? Citizens also need media literacy skills to assess the quality of information; what constitutes such literacy, and how does it respond to the knowledge conditions of the contemporary digital environment? As a response to the rise of fake news, several groups have mobilized to investigate information. The functioning and implications of such mobilizations (such as fact-checking movements), as well as digital media tools that aid citizens and professionals in verifying information, are important to analyze to develop our understanding of the production and consumption of more or less verified and non-verified information in a changing news media landscape.

For this special issue, the guest editors welcome two kinds of article submissions: theoretically informed and empirically rigorous articles (using quantitative, qualitative, computational, and/or mixed methods), as well as conceptualizations involving systematic and relevant literature reviews. Contributors may address issues including, but not limited to, the following:

* The epistemology of different forms of journalism—such as data journalism, which conveys news through the analysis and visualization of numerical data, and participatory journalism, which involves audiences and communities in news construction;

* Knowledge-oriented norms, values, and practices applied when publishing and distributing news, accordingly to varying socio-cultural, political, organizational, and technological contexts;

* The shifting networks of sources on which journalists and other information professionals rely;

* The discursive construction of “truth” and “facts” in the context of news production, distribution, and consumption;

* Notions of “fake news,” “post-truth,” and related controversies brought to light by the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and which are applicable also in many other countries and contexts;

* The knowledge-oriented practices of news consumers as they encounter purportedly “fake news” and propaganda online (and, by extension, questions of and conceptualizations for media literacy);

* Verification on/for social media as well as related forms of technologically driven means of information assessment;

* Perceptions and practices of professional footage vis-à-vis amateur footage, including issues of authenticity and authority;

* The formation, vision, and practices of initiatives, groups or organizations working toward identifying “fake news,” on behalf of professionals, the public or both;

* Comparative perspectives on news consumers and their relative trust in different forms of media processes and products;

* The development, appropriation, and use of technological systems and tools for verification.

Information about submission:

Proposals should include the following: an abstract of 500-750 words (not including references) as well as background information on the author(s), including an abbreviated bio that describes previous and current research that relates to the special issue theme. Please submit your proposal as a PDF to the e-mail address ekstrom.lewis.westlund@gmail.com no later than Monday, October 2, 2017. Later that month, by October 20, authors will be notified whether their abstract has been selected, and consequently if they will be encouraged to develop and submit an article for peer review.

Please note: Authors whose abstracts are shortlisted for full-paper submission to the special issue also will be committing to take part in an online workshop, hosted by the University of Gothenburg, to be held in early February 2018. This experimental approach will allow for the sharing and commenting on drafts as well as the discussion of more general theoretical issues, future research opportunities, and networking among scholars. Live sessions will be held for portions of two days, in addition to a week period for open commenting and discussion. Further details will be conveyed to shortlisted authors.

Finally, full articles will be due Thursday, March 1, 2018, for full blind review, in accordance with the journal’s peer-review procedure.

News! I’m taking a new role as Papé Chair at the U. of Oregon

UO-SOJCBeginning Fall 2016, I will join the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication as the inaugural Shirley Papé Chair in Electronic Media. I’m thrilled and honored to have this endowed-chair opportunity, to further my research and teaching on journalism and technology, and to work with a terrific set of colleagues both in Eugene and at the School’s Turnbull Center in Portland. Notably, the School has grown tremendously in recent years and is celebrating its centennial in 2016.

While my family and I are sad about leaving behind the many people and places we love here in Minnesota, we’re also excited about the unique nature of the chair position and this new adventure ahead, particularly given that it puts us closer to family roots in the Pacific Northwest.

I have loved my six years as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota, and am deeply grateful to my colleagues here. They have been friends, mentors, and collaborators in the best sense of those words, and I am so much the better, personally and professionally, for having worked with and learned from them along the way.

From Minnesota Gophers to Oregon Ducks, here we go!

Boundaries of Journalism: Professionalism, Practices and Participation

9781138020672I’m excited to announce the publication of Boundaries of Journalism: Professionalism, Practices and Participation (Routledge, 2015), which I co-edited with the immensely talented Matt Carlson of Saint Louis University. The book includes some terrific contributions from an international group of scholars studying boundary work and journalism. It is published as part of the Shaping Inquiry in Culture, Communication and Media Studies series edited by Barbie Zelizer.

Below is the back-cover material, as well as the table of contents and links to more online:

 

BOUNDARIES OF JOURNALISM: PROFESSIONALISM, PRACTICES AND PARTICIPATION
Edited by Matt Carlson and Seth C. Lewis

Routledge, 2015

The concept of boundaries has become a central theme in the study of journalism. In recent years, the decline of legacy news organizations and the rise of new interactive media tools have thrust such questions as “what is journalism” and “who is a journalist” into the limelight.

Struggles over journalism are often struggles over boundaries. These symbolic contests for control over definition also mark a material struggle over resources. In short: boundaries have consequences. Yet there is a lack of conceptual cohesiveness in what scholars mean by the term “boundaries” or in how we should think about specific boundaries of journalism.

This book addresses boundaries head-on by bringing together a global array of authors asking similar questions about boundaries and journalism from a diverse range of perspectives, methodologies, and theoretical backgrounds.

Boundaries of Journalism assembles the most current research on this topic in one place, thus providing a touchstone for future research within communication, media and journalism studies on journalism and its boundaries.

Reviews

“As emerging forms blur the line between media writ large and the realm culturally acknowledged as journalism, the concepts of boundaries and boundary work become vital tools for scholarly sense-making. Carlson and Lewis make an immense contribution to journalism studies, bringing together an international group of scholars to explicate these concepts that both highlight journalism’s universal traits and identify it as contextually unique.” — Dan Berkowitz, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa, USA

“Carlson and Lewis expertly weave together a variety of thoughtful conceptual and methodological perspectives on boundary work in journalism. The compelling contributions to this outstanding volume offer key insights into cultural, political, technological and economic factors influencing the construction of boundaries between journalists and audiences related to news practices, participants and professional norms.” — Bonnie Brennen, Nieman Professor of Journalism, Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University, USA

“Boundaries of Journalism provides an apposite intervention into the uncertainties surrounding definitions of journalism and journalists. The collection provides an eclectic mixture of perspectives looking at the social and material changes affecting journalism in the 21st century. The book provides a further building block in advancing the maturity of journalism studies.” — Howard Tumber, Director of Research, Graduate School of Journalism, City University London, UK

Contents

Introduction: The Many Boundaries of Journalism Matt Carlson

Part I: Professionalism, Norms and Boundaries
1. Out of Bounds: Professional Norms as Boundary Markers — Jane B. Singer
2. Nothing But The Truth: Redrafting the Journalistic Boundary of Verification — Alfred Hermida
3. Divided we stand: Blurred Boundaries in Argentine Journalism — Adriana Amado and Silvio Waisbord
4. The Wall Becomes a Curtain: Revisiting Journalism’s News-Advertising Boundary — Mark Coddington
5. Creating Proper Distance through Networked Infrastructure: Examining Google Glass for Evidence of Moral, Journalistic Witnessing — Mike Ananny
6. Hard News/Soft News: The Hierarchy of Genres and the Boundaries of the Profession — Helle Sjøvaag
7. Internal Boundaries: The Stratification of the Journalistic Collective — Jenny Wiik

Part II: Encountering Non-Journalistic Actors in Newsmaking
8. Journalism Beyond the Boundaries: the Collective Construction of News Narratives — David Domingo and Florence Le Cam
9. Redrawing Borders from Within: Commenting on News Stories as Boundary Work — Sue Robinson
10. Resisting Epistemologies of User-Generated Content? Cooptation, Segregation and the Boundaries of Journalism — Karin Wahl-Jorgensen
11. NGOs as Journalistic Entities: The Possibilities, Problems and Limits of Boundary Crossing — Matthew Powers
12. Drawing Boundary Lines Between Journalism and Sociology, 1895-1999 — C.W. Anderson
Epilogue: Studying Boundaries of Journalism: Where Do We Go From Here? — Seth C. Lewis

Routledge Site
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