Monday, November 08, 2010

PSUers at NASSS: Research Review

Presentations at the 31st annual NASSS conference wrapped up this weekend, highlighted by a handful of Penn State College of Communications alumni and current students. Alumna Erin Whiteside and graduate student Jason Genovese began the final day of presentations before students Laura Caldwell and Melanie Formentin also presented their current research.

Genovese, currently teaching at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, kicked off an early morning session with his presentation The Complexity of Sports Television Reporting in the Modern Sports-Media Complex. He highlighted the factors that complicate the reporter-source relationship in sports television media production. Using ethnographic techniques, Genovese outlined how reporters are adapting to the changing nature of contemporary reporter-source relationships. Reporters are feeling a push to adapt to new technologies, becoming more versatile and multi-skilled to work with changing technologies. Reporters also face conflicts of ownership; one group often owns the media outlet and the team being covered, meaning reporters must consider the wants of the ownership group when reporting on an issue.

Whiteside, currently teaching at the University of Tennessee, presented her work “I Repeat: I am Not a Lesbian!” Sexuality and Heteronormativity in the Sports Media Workplace. Using discourses of sexuality she analyzed underrepresentation and marginalization of females in sports media. Through interviews with female SIDs, Whiteside found that sexuality is an overwhelming part of the sports media workplace environment. Female sports media practitioners are consciously and constantly fighting the notion of being a lesbian simply because of their choice of profession. Experience playing sports, marital status, and working with women’s sports enhanced these feelings, making these professionals feel as though they needed to defend their sexuality in the work place, whether they were heterosexual or not.

Caldwell’s research, ESPN’s “Body Issue” and the Limits of Liberating Gendered Bodies, used textual analysis to assess that the images presented are both positive and negative. Caldwell analyzed both ESPN “Body” issues to determine if they explored and celebrated athletic form or simply sexualized the athletes photographed. Although the 2010 issue was more sexualized than the original issue, stereotypes of athletic beauty were challenged through the presentation of females engaged in sport and the inclusion of disabled athletes. Male figure skater Evan Lysachek also challenged athletic stereotypes by being shown in a graceful pose. She suggested that, ultimately, interpretations of the images are likely to be dictated by audience perceptions.

Finally, Formentin presented her work Moving Beyond the 2004-05 NHL Lockout: A Fan Survey. In this study, she looked at the 2004-05 lockout as an organizational crisis and attempted to gauge perceptions of the NHL’s reputation five years after the event. Using Situational Crisis Communication Theory, she surveyed 140 fans to assess whether variables of the theory can predict or be attributed to reputation following a crisis. A survey of 140 fans suggests that the league’s reputation has marginally improved. Additionally, Formentin found that it may be possible to deconstruct the notion of reputation to assess both organizational and industry reputation when developing crisis management strategies.

- Melanie Formentin

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