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.