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University Media Professor Selected for Research and Teaching Fellowship by Historic Peabody Awards

August 07, 2015

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. Ethan Thompson, Associate Professor of Communication at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, has been selected to receive a research and teaching fellowship from the George Foster Peabody Awards.  As part of the fellowship, Thompson will spend the 2015 fall semester teaching at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., home of the Peabody Awards.

Established in 1940, the Peabody Awards program is operated by the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications and is considered by many to be the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for recognizing excellence in electronic media. The Peabody Awards Collection consists of more than 90,000 titles, with radio programs and television shows dating as far back as the 1940s, reflecting the best in the history of electronic media in America. While the awards initially recognized the best in radio programming, they have since expanded to reward exemplary TV and web storytelling.

“As a scholar, I love discovering ‘lost’ popular culture,” said Thompson. His love of popular culture compelled him to make his documentary, “TV Family.” The documentary is about the forgotten 1960 television special, “Story of a Family,” about the Robertsons, an everyday family who starred in the show.

During the fellowship, Thompson will teach the class, “TV History through the Peabody Archives.” Students will look at different programs in the Peabody archive and examine topics such as how “quality” television has changed and what we can learn by rediscovering forgotten programming.

“The Peabody Archive is unique because it contains a lot of forgotten TV that exists in the archives because someone – usually the producer – thought it was quality television,” said Thompson. “The archive is also interesting,  because it records how the ‘quality’ of TV has changed over the years, whether we are gauging that by what won a Peabody Award or what was just nominated for one.”

Along with the class, Thompson will lead two conferences, each consisting of 16 invited scholars. These scholars will view a curated series of historical programs. They will discuss and debate the programming and how it might lead us to change our thoughts about television studies, the historical canon, approaches to the archives, assumptions of local production, cultural memory, and more.

“I’m very excited for the opportunity, and grateful that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is allowing me the chance to go away for the semester to do this,” said Thompson. “Opportunities like this don’t come very often in one’s career.”

Thompson hopes to bring back new examples and new ways of thinking to the students he teaches in his current courses on TV at the Island University.