Getting to know… Cynthia Carter
Reader, School of Journalism, Media
Cardiff University, Wales, UK
What are you currently working on?
I’ve started researching the production of news and current affairs for children in order to better understand the relationships between children’s news producers and child audiences.
Another area I’ve been developing examines girls’ journalism and political blogging. Coming out of this, I’ve recently written a book chapter on journalism, girls and power coming out in 2019 in my co-edited book (with Linda Steiner and Stuart Allan) Journalism, Gender and Power. Girls are engaging in the public sphere now more than ever. The chapter explores how girls’ contributions to public debates might be used to rethink “girlhood” and girls’ relationships to journalism and social, individual, and political power.
The views and voices of minority ethnic and working-class communities are rarely heard in the media in Wales. To address this pressing democratic challenge, I am at the early stages of working with journalists at MediaWales in Cardiff on a schools-based initiative to provide journalism training opportunities for young people from these backgrounds. We hope the experience would encourage students to consider a career in journalism where they might contribute to strengthening and widening civic representation across social backgrounds and ethnicities in Wales.
Meenakshi Gigi Durham, our previous CAMmer in the Spotlight, would like to know: Is there a current issue in the news that has caught your attention in terms of the way it has been reported? Why did it attract your attention, and what are your thoughts about its media representation?
Thanks for this wonderful question, Gigi! In February 2018, I was absolutely gripped by Florida teenager Emma Gonzalez’s speech at the March for our Lives gun control rally in response to the mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where she is a student. I found the following to be the most powerful of her insights:
“[…] if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something. We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because […] we are going to be the last mass shooting.”
Gonzalez and her fellow students at the rally so clearly represented the political potential and power of young people today all over the world, when they are given (or create their own) media platforms to be heard. What struck me most about this and other related events was how many strong and outspoken young women were at the forefront leading the political challenge around gun laws in the US. In this case, I think the world’s news media generally did an admirable job fairly representing the young women’s and men’s views and taking them seriously.
What has been your most memorable project so far, and why?
The most memorable and rewarding has to be the 2007-2009 CBBC Newsround and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project looking into what children want from the BBC in terms of news provision. Travelling with colleagues to primary and secondary schools all over the UK and speaking to over 200 children was a logistical challenge but so rewarding personally and professionally. Rarely had such a large and wide age range group of children (aged 8-15) been asked for their views about the provision of news for young people. Insights generated by the project challenged many of the assumptions being made at the time (and since) – that children find the news to be boring, they do not follow it and are apolitical.
Which achievement are you most proud of, and why?
I’m very lucky and grateful that there is much to choose from! But I would have to say that I always feel most proud when I have students tell me how much my teaching has meant to them and how it changed and broadened their lives in such positive ways.
What is an important question from parents and practitioners that we as academics cannot provide a good answer to yet?
Gigi Durham said it best in the last issue of CAMmer in the Spotlight when she asked “how influential are the media in children’s lives?” Of course, we’ll never really know because, as she suggests, there is no one answer to that question. I would encourage fellow academics to ask why they think adults want an answer to this question. What, exactly, is at stake? What are we, as academics, parents and practitioners hoping to find? What are our personal and political motivations? Do we too often assume media influences are negative? If so, why? What are some of the positive impacts the media have on the lives of children?
What would be your work motto?
I’ve never been especially keen on the term “work-life balance” but it reminds us that it’s important to have spaces for creativity and sustenance outside of the “day job.” It really does help to step back from our academic selves from time to time to put things in perspective!
Which of your publications is your favorite, and why?
My favourite is probably my first proper book chapter, “When the Extraordinary becomes Ordinary: Everyday News of Sexual Violence” in the collection News, Gender and Power I co-edited with Gill Branston and Stuart Allan. It was the first substantial publication coming out of my PhD – a part time doctoral project which took me a long time to complete as I was a brand-new lecturer and young mum. I really don’t know how I managed to do all of this simultaneously – I seem to have had boundless energy back then!
If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you want to do and why?
I’ve long wanted to undertake a children’s news newsroom ethnography. In my past research I’ve looked at children’s news content and researched the child news audience. I’m now interested in better understanding how children’s news producers perceive the child audience and how such perceptions shape the kind of news produced. I’m at the very early stages and it’s proving to be a more challenging and expansive project than I’d originally thought, of course!
If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?
Always greet any setbacks in your academic career as opportunities to develop more patience and to think more broadly and creatively. Greet successes in the same way. And don’t be afraid to challenge academic orthodoxies.
Who would you like to put in the spotlight next?
I would like to nominate Sofie Van Bauwel.
To download a copy of this edition of CAMmer in the spotlight click here.