Published: Aug. 16, 2023

By Joe Arney

What bothered Ashley Carter the most about Brittney Griner’s arrest in 2022—besides that it happened at all—was the photo media outlets were using to accompany the news of her detention, on smuggling charges, in Russia. 

Ashley Carter accepts her best paper award from a woman onstage at the conference.“It looked like a mugshot,” said Carter, a third-year PhD student studying journalism at CU Boulder’s College of Media, Communication and Information. “So the first thing you see—whether on Twitter, on Instagram, on a news website—is Brittney Griner behind bars, in handcuffs, standing with a police officer in a foreign country.”

Carter turned her focus toward how the media was reporting on the case. The resulting paper won first place in a best paper competition at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, which took place last week in Washington, D.C.

“I’m so excited,” Carter said of the award for “Criminal Black(wo)man Wrongfully Detained: ‘Now How Can She Feel Like America has Her Back?’” “I think the topic is important enough that it needs to be recognized. And if nothing else, having that award tacked on to this heightens the awareness that it exists.” 

'Building a name for ourselves'

The best paper award was impressive, but it was just one of many CMCI accomplishments recognized at the conference, said Patrick Ferrucci, associate professor and interim chair of the journalism department. CMCI faculty and PhD students claimed seven top-paper awards and presented 27 peer-reviewed papers representing its departments of journalism, media studies, and advertising, public relations and media design. 

“At CMCI, I feel very supported in ... the work I’m doing, both from the faculty and my peers.”
    Ashley Carter, PhD student, journalism

“The amount of representation, particularly with the PhD students from APRD and journalism, shows how far our combined doctoral program has come in the last few years,” said Ferrucci, whose work won two Best Faculty Paper awards. “We now have one of the best-represented programs at the conference and are really building a name for ourselves.”

Josh Foust stands in front of a poster demonstrating his research work at the conference.Another winner, Josh Foust, was recognized for a paper on affect theory specific to masculinity in video games. It’s a topic he first became interested in more than a decade ago, working at a think tank and studying whether insurgents were clandestinely communicating through online games like World of Warcraft.

Researchers studying affect theory aim to categorize emotions and feelings. It’s fairly broad—experts in media studies, medicine, psychology and more study it—but Foust’s focus is on gender and video games. 

“There’s something deeper that men in this space are experimenting and transmitting between each other that hasn’t been captured by research,” said Foust, who is in his fourth year in the APRD doctoral program. “We haven’t yet figured out the right language to talk about this, but maybe this theory can start giving us the language to try to understand the way that feelings flow between people in this space.”

His paper, “Masc Affect: Complicating the Affect of Masculinity in Video Games Research,” won second place in the Critical and Cultural Studies Division. Carter’s paper took first in that category.

Supportive faculty, peers

Foust’s main research thrust is looking at esports in the military—how they’re used as recruiting tools, but also how they’ve evolved as platforms for image management. Carter, meanwhile, is focused on LGBTQ issues, particularly around identity and media representation. 

“There have been times where I was worried about choosing LGBTQ issues as my research agenda, because not all institutions provide the resources I need to pursue that,” said Carter, who also was recognized for her work on a faculty paper that won second place in the Media Management, Economics and Entrepreneurship Division. “But I don’t feel that at CMCI. I feel very supported in that decision and in the work I’m doing, both from the faculty and my peers.” 

That support is clearly paying dividends, Ferrucci said.

“To have several top-paper awards from one college, at a conference like AEJMC, is really a great accomplishment and proof of the high-quality research happening at CMCI,” he said.

A full list of CMCI presentations at AEJMC follows. Names in bold are CMCI faculty and students. In addition, many CMCI faculty and students in journalism, APRD and media studies moderated or served on panels, or led workshops, in addition to serving as heads of different divisions. 

(Top photo of Ashley Carter courtesy Kayli Plotner.)

AEJMC papers and presentations