Volume 9, Issue 2 University of Houston
by AMNA KHALIQUE
A study examining the use of the word “refugee” in reference to Katrina victims and evacuees by a group of graduate students at the School of Communication won the top paper award at a conference that was held at Louisiana State University.
“It is our social responsibility as journalists to educate and to define the role of democracy in society and culture,” Charles Curt Yowell, graduate student and one of the three award winners, said.
The paper is scheduled for publication in the journal Southwest Education Council for Journalism and Mass Communication in Spring 2007.
The research examined the context of the word “refugee” used in three major publications: the Houston Chronicle for its regional location, the New York Times because of its national reach and Time magazine in order to compare and contrast with the two newspapers.
Communication graduate students Sara Ahmed, Dee Manning and Yowell proposed their study in Spring 2006 in Media During Crisis -- a class taught by Beth Olson, director of the School of Communication. The three decided to work on the study during the summer and send it to various journals for publication.
“American Citizens as ‘Refugees’: The Case of Hurricane Katrina” was selected from among 30 others that were submitted. The students were invited to the Southwest Education Council for Journalism and Mass Communication’s 28th Annual Southwest Symposium held in October to present the paper.
“[The conference] was a panel presentation with three speakers per panel. Many of them were doctoral students,” Manning said.
The study showed that all three publications used “refugee” when referring to the number of evacuees fleeing from Katrina. Research showed the news stories usually did not use the term to depict these “refugees” in a positive or neutral manner. Instead the term was used to show how these victims were negatively impacting others in the community, government and public.
Getting published in a journal is a rarity, but it’s something the faculty and school work towards, Olson said.
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