Media and Politics Group Annual Conference ReportBy Daniel Jackson on 9 December 2013
A crisis of political engagement?
The conference opened with a keynote by Ruth Fox, the Director and Head of Research for the Hansard Society. Her talk titled: "The Media and Political Engagement: Helpful or Harmful to our Democratic Health?" presented some of Hansard’s recent data on political engagement and the media and politics. For Fox, the situation is no less than a crisis, with their data suggesting that the media has a lot to answer for, and little evidence that tabloids enhance the democratic life of the country. She also encouraged scholars to download and use their data and engage in further scrutiny of their work.
Minority Voices, Media and Politics
The primary theme of this year’s conference was ‘Minority Voices, Media and Politics.’ The conference explored the often problematic relationship between the media, politics and marginalised, silenced or minority voices in contemporary society. Taking a broad approach to the topic, our conference included papers from different disciplinary, methodological, historical and national perspectives; from the voices of extremist violence, to mediations of tear gas and representations of disability in the media. We were also treated to a keynote by Dr Emily Harmer (Loughborough University), who presented her research on press coverage of female politicians in historical perspective. We aim to take forward some of the conference papers into an edited collection on the conference theme.
Music and Beer
Our third keynote was more than just a Professor of American Literature and Culture, Will Kaufman is a musician whose keynote was a musical tribute to Woody Guthrie; the enduring voice of 1930’s protest music.
Alongside this musical feast, we decided to give the conference drinks reception something of a twist. We have all attended conference wine receptions, right? Memorable? Probably not. We therefore wanted to make our drinks reception stand out, and offer something for those beer lovers like ourselves. Ably supported by our BA Politics and Media students (who are responsible for the funky logo!) we ran the inaugural Media and Politics Group beer festival. A selection of ten British ales was offered, each with accompanying tasting notes courtesy of BU’s Dr Darren Lilleker. We even got a bit carried away and designed a beer festival logo which was printed on conference glasses!
All modesty aside, it was a rip-roaring success, and something we will be doing for future events.