Research on Newsreels as a Journalistic Technology

This essay, coauthored with Steve McCreery at Appalachian State and out now in Journalism History, takes a historical look at the development of journalistic technology. The newsreel is a fascinating moment in the development visual news storytelling and this piece looks at how journalistic discourses created the terms by which this technology could be understood as a broader aspect of professional journalism. Steve really kicked this research off with some real passion and insight, and I happy to have been a part of it.

The journal can be a little difficult to track down without EBSCO Access, so be in touch if you’d like a copy.

Steve McCreery and Brian Creech, “The Journalistic Value of Emerging Technologies: American PRess Reaction to WWII Newsreels,” Journalism History (40)3, 2014, pp. 177-186.

Here’s the abstract: This essay investigates World War II-era newsreels in order to understand how journalistic discourses create the means for understanding emerging technologies within the practice of journalism. The essay lays out a theoretical rationale influenced by Bruno Latour and Walter Benjamin for looking at how emerging technologies are understood through public discourse. The analysis looks at newsreels as a form of visual storytelling that presaged television news, and we argue that the wartime press provided a milieu for understanding how newsreels, as a journalistic medium, could be critiqued and understood as a storytelling form and how this form of critique played an important part in characterizing their content as journalistically valid. By focusing on issues of production and censorship alongside the aesthetic and technical aspects of the newsreels, the press created the terms by which newsreels could be judged, evaluated, and eventually integrated into the broader production of journalism. Our analysis shows that, while issues of production were important, newsreels gained their greatest legitimacy through the celebration and lionizing of the cameramen as courageous news-gatherers, equal in stature to the soldiers they filmed. 

 

New Research on 2008 Mumbai Attacks

One of my starkest memories of Thanksgiving 2008 was waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of news coming from Mumbai. I was glued to CNN all that morning and over the following days. Transfixed, this moment marked a shift in the way terrorism operated internationally, as the reporting from American outlets seemed to take these attacks as a specific strike against Western ideologies. I explored these attacks as part of my Master’s thesis at UGA, looked at how Indian newspapers made sense of the attacks in the days immediately following the attacks. In short, this study inaugurated my interest in how news makes sense of the world by offering a discursive means for settling the facts around an event or phenomenon. These facts, and the ways they were told, bore the markings of power, namely post-9/11 ideologies that served projects of perpetual militarism in the service of Western capitalism and liberal democracy.

My scholarly work has expanded beyond this early focus on terrorism, but after years of development and refinement, I am really glad this study found a home in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. It is an important venue in our field, ready to take in challenging and theoretically adventurous work.

Abstract: The November 2008 attacks on Mumbai stand as a key moment in understanding how liberalized Western values discursively construct the terms through which acts of terror may be understood. Rooted in the work of Foucault, this article examines newspaper coverage of the 2008 attacks on Mumbai from the Times of India, Indian Express, and Daily News and Analysis India. Journalistic narratives situated local values and identities inside a discursive structure that construed Mumbai as a victim of a new type of global terror whose threat can be stemmed only through America-centric policies of perpetual militarism. This paper argues that a critical analysis of the discourses surrounding terrorism begets an understanding of the terms that not only construct the attacks themselves, but also render sensible possible reactions to the attacks, even as Western values appear amid news texts published in domestic Indian outlets.

“Six Foreigners Among 101 Dead”: Analyzing the Journalistic Discourse Surrounding the 2008 Mumbai Attacks, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. doi: 10.1080/14791420.2014.953558

 

 

Arab Spring research out at Journalism: Theory, Practice, and Criticism

I just published a new essay using the Arab Spring as a case study to explore journalism’s knowledge-production function, especially as it correlates to the discipline’s role in American liberal democracy. It goes almost without saying that journalists and news organizations produce the public knowledge that circulates around an event, but this essay goes on to investigate precisely how that knowledge gets made. I look at the development of news reports about the Arab Spring over time and, using reflexive texts and essays from major journalists and industry publications, show how journalism operates as a knowledge-production process. This work is very much informed by Latour, but more his interest in broader public and political discourses and less Actor-Network Theory. The big picture here, then, is to start thinking of journalism less as a series of organizational activities that produce the news as a stable object, but to instead think about how those activities affect the broader cultural, social, and political institutions that interface with and rely upon the news as a part of their broader function.

Anyhow here is the cite and a link to the article for those interested:

“Disciplines of truth: The ‘Arab Spring,’ American journalistic practice, and the production of public knowledge,” Journalism: Theory, practice, and criticism, doi: 10.1177/14648849145509711

New Research on Occupy Wall Street

Convergence just early published my article “Digital Representation and Occupy Wall Street’s Challenge to Political Subjectivity.” This work grew out of my dissertation and is part of an upcoming special issue of global activism and new media edited by Carolyn Guertin and Angi Buettner. The contributions to this entire issue are quite good and push beyond the traditional categories that political and social movements tend to be relegated to in communication research. From the articles that Convergence has already posted online, I can say that this issue contains important work and is worth a read. My contribution deals with representation as an ontological and political category, looking at the digital praxis of OWS as a specific challenge to traditional notions of representation.

Abstract: “This article considers the ways in which practices of digital representation were deployed in the Occupy Wall Street movement, arguing that acts of self-representation render intelligible not just the politics of a movement like Occupy Wall Street but also make sensible the relations of power such projects are immersed within. Building upon the notion that the specific power of the movement was exercised via a situated understanding of representation, this essay investigates how a digitally mediated sensibility made the broader critiques at the core of the Occupy movement not only intelligible to those inside and outside the movement but also offered a mode of subject constitution that pushed against liberal notions of political subjectivity.”

Brian Creech (2014) Digital Representation and Occupy Wall Street’s Challenge to Political Subjectivity. Convergence 20(4) doi:10.1177/1354856514541354

 

 

Research on MIA out at CCC

I am really happy about this pub and, more importantly, the venue it is appearing in. This essay, “Refugee status: Tracing the global flows on M.I.A.,” takes a view of Sri Lankan pop artist M.I.A. informed in equal parts Homi Bhabha’s understanding of hybridity and Arjun Appadurai’s work on global flows and argues that M.I.A. offers an ideal site for studying the enunciation of critique from within popular culture texts. This was a tricky theoretical move to make, but I found that if we are to treat media objects as more than inert texts, then it is important to turn to the historical and political conditions these texts emerge from, engage with, and obscure. Discourses of terrorism and violence dictate the terms by which M.I.A.’s popular critique of state power might be understood, but these terms also have a specific historical and material existence beyond the epistemological limits they place on media texts.  For anyone looking to engage with popular texts as more than just entertainment objects, the aesthetic process stylizes these concerns, and in the case of M.I.A., obscures them in a way that allows them to move across global boundaries via popular media markets.

Citation

Brian Creech (2014) Refugee Status: Tracing the global flows of M.I.A. Communication, Culture & Critique 7. doi:10.1111/cccr.12051

Abstract: This article argues that Sri Lankan pop star M.I.A. forms an ideal site for the textual study of globalized identity, particularly amid discourses of state power, terrorism, and violence. Rooted in the literature of media and terrorism and grounded in postcolonial theories of hybridization, this study analyzes M.I.A. and her music as globalized media objects, looking at how they use hip-hop as a cultural form to esthetically engage with discourse of violence in order to launch a critique of state power. The factors that enable this critique (globalized media systems, technologies, and cultural forms) help to create a discursive position from within popular culture where new forms of critique can be enunciated and popularized.

“Rising Tide of War” now out at The Communication Review

My article investigating the journalistic discourses surrounding the carpet bombing of Cambodia is out now at The Communication Review. I deeply appreciate the space this journal occupies amid the field of media research and am honored to have my work appear in its pages. This paper continues a line of inquiry I may be on for a while, looking at how the Cambodian bombings were constructed as an object of journalistic knowledge, with deeper ramifications for understanding the particular ways American military power enjoyed a tacit authority in the pages of Time. Time, like most other mid-20th century magazines, is a fascinating site of analysis because it aspired to be the distillation of what was important in American news and culture. By investigating these dominant sites of mainstream discourse, we can understand more broadly the terms by which our institutions, interests, and objects of journalistic knowledge are rendered as legitimate.

This paper should be a worthwhile read for those interested in Cambodia, media and war, and journalism history more generally. Not to spoil the ending, but Nixon makes an appearance as well, once again cheekily exhumed for flogging.

“The Rising Tide of War”: Cambodian Bombings and the Discourses of American Military Power in Time. The Communication Review 16(4): 189-210. 

“A Measure of Theory” in American Journalism

Last October, my colleague and fellow University of Georgia alum Amber Roessner pulled together a panel for AJHA exploring the role of theory in journalism history. I am not a historian, but I do fashion myself as theory literate. American Journalism published my contribution, “A Post-strucuturalist Approach to Theory and History: Toward a Genealogical Understanding of Media Texts and Artifacts,” alongside the work of Amber Roessner, Rick Popp, and Fred Blevins. The essay is currently one of AJ’s most read and can be found here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08821127.2013.790778#.UjtWimR4bCp

For those without permissions or library access, a version of my contribution is available here: Creech_Journalism History and Theory Revised

Here’s the citation for those interested:

Amber Roessner, Rick Popp, Brian Creech, & Fred Blevens, “‘A Measure of Theory?’:Considering the Role of Theory in Media History ”American Journalism 30, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 260-278