The faculty of the School of Media and Communication includes research scholars, journalists, television producers, new media artists, speechwriters, advertising executives and public relations practitioners. Many cross fields and bring less traditional approaches to communications and media into the classroom. By transcending these borders, the faculty of the School of Media and Communication finds compelling connections that have defined the school since it was founded in 1967 as the School of Communications and Theater.
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- Deborah A. Cai
- Senior Associate Dean
- Deborah Marshall
Former CBS executive Jim McKairnes named Verizon Chair in Global Broadband and Telecommunications
Television producer and consultant Jim McKairnes has been named the Verizon Chair in Global Broadband and Telecommunications at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication.
McKairnes, who graduated from Temple in 1982 with a journalism degree, is a 23-year veteran of the television industry, including 15 years at CBS.
As the Verizon Chair, McKairnes will host the Verizon Symposium on Global Broadband and Telecommunications in spring 2014. Also, he will teach two classes each semester in the 2013-14 academic year, conduct independent studies and serve as consultant to the Department of Media Studies and Production internship director to help foster new television industry opportunities for Temple students.
McKairnes looks forward to teaching in one of the historic capital cities of the television industry.
“Philadelphia is a hub for communication and a great place to learn about the changing world of broadcasting,” he says.
He will be able to pass along insider knowledge of the industry. “The students want to know what it’s like to actually work in these jobs, to understand how the professional world works and find out what it’s like on a day-to-day basis.”
A native of Northeast Philadelphia, McKairnes was born into a television family — his father was a writer and performer on a show called “Lit’s Have Fun” (named after the Lit Brothers department store) in the early days of Philadelphia broadcasting.
Immediately following his graduation from Temple, McKairnes worked as an entertainment magazine editor and freelance writer before moving to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of working as a network programmer.
At CBS, McKairnes initially divided his responsibilities between the current programming and scheduling departments but was soon moved full-time into scheduling. It was a move that helped to take CBS from the bottom of the network ratings ladder in the 1990s to the top in the 2000s, under the leadership of CBS President Leslie Moonves.
In 2006, McKairnes moved to Discovery Communications to head its 11 networks as executive vice president of scheduling before returning to CBS two years later as senior vice president in charge of developing new comedies for its cable division. He has since focused on the creative end of the business.
Currently, McKairnes serves as a consultant for various TV networks and is an adjunct faculty member at DePaul University. He has written two books, 103 Ways to Get into TV (by 102 who did plus me) and The Sheep is What Makes it Funny: From Philadelphia to CBS, How I Found Myself in Television.
“We are extremely fortunate to have Jim McKairnes serve as Verizon Chair in the School of Media and Communication,” says School of Media and Communication Dean Thomas Jacobson. “He has professional experience that is both broad and deep in the television industry. I look forward to the exciting courses and programs he will create while he is here as well as the industry connections he will be able to facilitate for our faculty and students.”
Professor Jan Fernback, chair of the Media Studies and Production Department, says his vast television industry experience has allowed McKairnes to intimately understand the changing media landscape.
“Jim’s expertise in programming will bring a new, strategic voice into the academic conversation about converging media in a globalized environment,” Fernback says.
Survey: Race in the news class develops savvy media consumers
For 16 years, students have participated in an open and frank online dialogue in Professor Karen M. Turner’s “Race and Racism in the News” class. But only now has she realized its lasting impact.
Turner surveyed 66 Temple alumni who took the class between 1997 and 2010 and, through their responses, has found the lessons she taught are still put to use in their personal and professional lives. (During that time frame, 285 people received final grades. From that group, Turner contacted the 102 alumni who had a current email address in Temple’s database.)
The online course is taught in a format in which only Turner knows the identity of the students. They only know each other through user names like “Race 9” or “Race 2,” which creates an atmosphere that offers students the opportunity to err toward honesty, not political correctness.
“When we generally have conversations around race and class, we assume that someone who looks like us may have had similar experiences. So sometimes things that we maybe ought to say, we ought to convey, we don’t, because we assume there’s an understanding with what we assume is a ‘like person’ and that’s not always the case,” she says. “Requiring complete anonymity of the students when they post their comments is challenging — it takes them outside their comfort zone.”
An alien perspective
Each semester begins with the students pretending they’re from Jupiter. They are to characterize for their fellow Jupiterians each Earthling race, solely based on media reports. Over the years, she has found the stereotypes revealed in this exercise have been quite similar from students of any race.
The class continues with discussions about when they first became aware of race and how race is portrayed in the media, which has not evolved as much as Turner would have liked since she has taught the class. She says media have plenty of room for improvement.
“I would like to think that it has gotten better, but with the advent of an African-American president, it seems that we aren’t quite as far along as I thought we had been,” she says. “I found the media tended to repeat, and not report [or] put things in a context. I think it is really a missed opportunity.”
When reporting about the “birther” movement that questioned Obama’s residency, “the media should have been questioning why these are relevant issues. These are opportunities to provide readers, listeners and viewers with a context. This whole eight-year period really could be a time when we could have a much more meaningful and robust conversation around race, but it’s not really happening.”
According to her survey, though, her former students are more aware of the media’s flaws in this area. The alumni who responded represent a diversity in race and age. Many work in media, PR, marketing and education.
One graduate responded that he or she has been complimented for including a “variety of voices” while reporting for a radio news station. Others have found lessons learned in the class have helped in personal situations.
“The course helped me to become comfortable talking about race and ethnicity,” one respondent wrote. “These subjects can at times seem taboo, but the course helps you to think and talk in a constructive way and face racial issues directly, rather than talking around these topics.”
“I want my students to be able to look back on this experience and feel that it was long-lasting, that the way they view media is much more critical, and certainly, if they are in positions of management, that they will reflect on some of the assignments, some of the discussions and incorporate them into how they have their newsrooms cover their stories in a more contextual way,” Turner says.
StratComm professor examines how sharing stories heals after tragedy
Strategic Communication Assistant Professor Kaibin Xu’s article entitled “In the wake of the Wenchuan earthquake: The function of story-sharing in rebuilding communities in the quake disaster zone, ” has been published in Asian Journal of Communication, Volume 23, Issue 2, 2013.
This study investigated the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake survivors’ communication practices in two communities in Beichuan during summer 2009, focusing on survivors’ sharing of earthquake stories.
Four major purposes were identified in quake survivors’ narratives:
- memorializing loved ones and the past
- clarifying conflicting emotions
- reappraising reality and life values
- rebuilding community
This study suggests that sharing such stories serves a therapeutic purpose that helps survivors cope with negative experiences and emotions, and to rebuild their communities.