Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Upcoming speaker at Davidson will explain lure of the media

One of the nation's leading scholars in media and communication
studies, Jennings F. Bryant, will present the annual McGaw Lecture at
his alma mater, Davidson College, on Tuesday evening, April 13.

There is no charge to attend the talk, titled "Why Did I Just Watch
That?" which begins at 7 p.m. in Duke Family Performance Hall. For
more information call 704-894-2445.

Bryant is the Distinguished Research Professor and Associate Dean of
the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the
University of Alabama, and Director of its Institute for Communication

In his talk at Davidson, Bryant will combine research findings with
theoretical concepts from Aristotle, Freud and recent communication
and cognitive psychology to explain the appeal of traditional and new
types of media. He will also indicate some relatively unknown
rationales for "guilty pleasures" in the entertainment arena.

Bryant, a 1967 Davidson graduate, earned a Master of Divinity degree
in Communications and Counseling summa cum laude from the Louisville
Theological Seminary. He received his Ph.D. in Mass Communication,
again summa cum laude, from Indiana University.

A prolific and distinguished scholar who has published more than 200
articles in leading journals, he was instrumental in the formative
stages of the Children's Television Workshop and Sesame Street. He
served as President of the International Communication Association and
has been named a Distinguished Scholar of the Broadcast Education
Association. A superb and lively public speaker, he has won several
teaching awards, including this year's Burnum Distinguished Faculty
Award from the University of Alabama.

His varied background allows him to bring valuable professional
experience into the classroom. In his younger years, he was a Spencer
Fellow at Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) where
he worked on Sesame Street and The Electric Company. He wrote for
children's television programs throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He also
founded and sold two companies that produced specialty television
programs, and through the years served as a consultant to more than 45
major media companies.
From 1990 through August 2004, under Bryant's leadership the
University of Alabama's Institute for Communication Research worked
with federal and state agencies, foundations, and more than 60
corporate clients and performed about $8 million in studies to help
them address a wide range of communication issues and problems. The
institute presented more than 200 reports to clients including the
United States Department of Education on the TI-IN United Star
Network, to Lawrence Erlbaum Associates on textbook curriculum
analysis, to the Children's Television Workshop on television violence
issues, to Nick Jr. on the effects of viewing particular programs, and
to Southern Progress Corporation on readership studies.

He conducted a major research project in 1989 funded by the National
Association of Broadcasters about the effects of TV violence on young
viewers, and continues to research on this topic, as well as the
effects of the use of entertainment in educational television. He has
also researched and provided commentary on the commercialization of
children's television and the use of children's programming to sell

Bryant's contributions in terms of media effects include coediting
with Dolf Zillmann the 2002 volume Media Effects: Advances in Theory
and Research, which is used in mass communication theory classes
worldwide. His 1983 book with Dan Anderson titled Children's
Understanding of Television: Research on Attention and Comprehension
is still one of the most frequently cited books on media and children.
In 2001 Bryant and his daughter Alison wrote the second edition of
Television and the American Family. He continues to be among the most
prolific of scholars, publishing four books during the first half of
2006 alone.

He also coedits a series of scholarly books and advanced textbooks for
the publishing firm of Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, many of which have
won major awards.

His visit to Davidson, which will include a workshop for faculty about
how digital media has altered the way young people think and act, is
sponsored by the college's Public Lectures Committee.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for
1,800 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C.
Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has
graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of
the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson
Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the
nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages,
giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson
competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding
Honor Code is central to student life at the college.