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University to Present Program On ‘How Not to Broadcast About Race’

Kevin Ells - TAMUT
Kevin Ells – TAMUT

The Program for Learning and Community Engagement (PLACE) at Texas A&M University-Texarkana will present “Verifying Sources in Science Reporting” or “How not to Broadcast about Race” featuring Dr. Kevin Ells March 27 at 3PM in the University Center 217 on the A&M-Texarkana campus, 7101 University Ave., Texarkana, Texas.

“The presentation will survey how journalistic reports of social science research do not always convey research findings precisely,” Dr. Ells said. “I’ll debunk the widely held but logically untenable belief in the direct connection of claims of fact with policy claims – for example, science and politics, with a startling example of an ex-Cabinet secretary talk radio host trying to discuss race with an utterly unscientific caller. The discussion will touch on media literacy, climate change, evolution and mass incarceration with multimedia examples.”

I asked Dr. Ells how the media gets it wrong? And is there a specific media that does it more or just the press in general? And is it a simple lack on the part of media to understand social science? Still, for all the stressors in media professionals’ jobs, and having to water down highly complex information so that all audience members can understand the news, don’t they manage to do pretty well in bringing us the facts?

“Most people I know in the media here and elsewhere want to bring people useful information, and I know that no one can have a deep background in everything. In a few cases, news professionals meeting deadlines have to play something like the kids’ game of telephone, with some details getting dropped or simplified in a long sequence from careful conclusions in a research report, through an article abstract, into a wire report, onto a radio update or a headline. Non-professional bloggers and social media users can add another few layers in the line from researcher to listener/reader. More time in the presentation will cover the tendency of many members of the public to assume that facts tell them directly how to behave, when it’s our values that direct us how to respond to facts”.

Dr. Ells has served as an associate professor of Mass Communication at A&M-Texarkana since 2014. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Communication Studies from Louisiana State University, a Master of Environmental Studies in Environmental Communication from York University in Toronto, Canada, and a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance from Dalhousie University Halifax, Canada, according to a press release from the university.

A Fulbright scholar, Dr. Ells spent the spring 2015 semester teaching communication courses and conducting research in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, at the juncture of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.

Dr. Ells’ research interests include environmental communication, media ecology and semiotics. He has also published and presented cited papers on these topics.

PLACE is a faculty-led program designed to create a community of learners comprising A&M-Texarkana students, faculty, staff and the community at large. PLACE chooses an annual theme around which to organize a lecture series and other activities that provide focal points for learning and discussion. This year’s theme is “Race and Ethnicity.”

For more information, contact Dr. Michael Perri at Michael.Perri@tamut.edu or Dr. Craig Nakashian at Craig.Nakashian@tamut.edu.

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