What do students in Minnesota have in common with their peers in the Middle East? For one thing, they spend their free time text-messaging their favorite reality television shows, according to students in Catherine Squires' seminar on global media. Their discovery “broke some pervasive media stereotypes,” she observes.
Professor Squires explores when and how racial identities emerge in mass media; what culture and history producers and audiences draw on in racial discourse; and how people see other identities—like professional identities—relating to racial identity in the midst of these debates. For example, in her freshman seminar, “Achieving Our Country: Civil Rights and American Journalism," students explore how African-American and mainstream white journalists reported on civil rights issues from slavery to affirmative action.
She's heartened by the hunger she sees in her students for conversation about race that breaks out of old patterns. “They want to speak about their experiences; they want to understand them in larger frameworks…. Students are willing to be intellectual explorers.”
In her first book, Dispatches from the Color Line, Squires analyzes contemporary news coverage of multiracial people and identities. Her second, African Americans and the Media, was published this fall. In October 2008, she led “The Obama Effect,” a national conference on media coverage of the first African American major political party candidate for president of the United States.
Formerly an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Squires is the University's first John and Elizabeth Bates Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity and Equality.
That chair is funded by a generous, longstanding endowment made by the Cowles family to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and sustained by a commitment to building and sustaining diversity on the part of the U, CLA, and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
The SJMC faculty Diversity Initiatives Committee plays “…a leadership role in helping us to build a more diverse professional community and advance vigorous intellectual engagement,” explains Al Tims, SJMC director.
“A core value of American journalism is to give voice to those sectors of society for whom the forces of inequality have muted or denied their voices,” he says. “The vitality of the public sphere depends on them.”
This article is a compilation of articles from M unleash: a report on giving to the University of Minnesota and Murphy Reporter, Summer 2007, a publication of the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communication.