Journalism and the AAR-SBL

Journalists are few at the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature’s joint annual meetings.  But the New York Times‘ Mark Oppenheimer, searching around for “the narrative,” noted that some fraction of the participants wore flowing robes and weirdly remarked about people carrying hefty reference books, as  Steven Ramey notes in his fisking of Oppenheimer’s reportage at the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog. (My take: Oppenheimer saw books and just guessed at what they might be.)

My frustration at Oppenheimer’s representation of the AAR/SBL conference illustrates the limits to the descriptive aspect of both ethnographies and the news.

As for the Pagan studies sessions, no one from the Pagan Newswire Collective showed up, which might be a better thing than the sort of odd reporting that PNC produced last year in San Francisco. PNC is providing community news announcements in the regions that it covers, and  it has one pretty good blog, The Juggler. But I sense a loss of momentum.

Todd Berntson of Pagan Living TV, which is I think still in the start-up phase, attended the “Mapping the Occult City” pre-conference event and did some on-camera interviews with some of the presenters. I expect that that video will be available before long.

I know from my own reporter days that it is hard to attend a big meeting and get “the story.” You hope for a newsworthy keynote presenter, or maybe you find someone colorful to profile in a news feature.  “Mapping the Occult City” could have been presented as a documentary, since it included an architectural tour and a performance, as well as talking heads. Maybe at least those interviews will be archived some place.

2 thoughts on “Journalism and the AAR-SBL

  1. Greg Harder

    Here are the three PNC Bay Are articles on the AAR from 2011 – and and

    As for this year there is no PNC bureau in Chicago, The closest is in Minnesota. Jason Pitzl Waters who started the Pagan News Wire Collective I believe wrote two or is it three posts on The Wild Hunt about this year’s AAR, and I think he plans further follow-ups.

    It seems to me by the look of it that the PNC is providing better coverage than The New York Times article you mention, and we are all volunteers. We don’t have expense accounts and we don’t get paid by the word.

    Greg Harder
    PNC Bay Area reporter and photographer

    1. Greg,

      Yes, I saw those at the time. The piece on the reception was OK. The second piece was basically an announcement. And the writer of the third seemed to want to condemn the AAR because it was not Pantheacon. In other words, you don’t go the AAR to hear presentations on how to be a better Pagan.

      As you undoubtedly read in my final paragraph, covering large meetings is difficult. Just going to a session with a notebook might not be the best approach to take. One-on-one interviews, for example, could be more productive.

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