Faculty PROFile: Emil Steiner

Professor Emil Steiner standing outside Rowan Universitys football stadium

Emil Steiner, Ph.D., Assistant ProfessorProfessor Emil Steiner inside Rowan Universitys broadcast booth

Program Coordinator: Sports Communication & Media Program

Department/College: Journalism; College of Communication and Creative Arts

Twitter: @EmilSteinerPhD

Degrees:
Ph.D., Media & Communication – Temple University, 2018
M.A., Journalism – Temple University, 2012
B.A., Political Science, Psychology – University of Pennsylvania

What is your area of expertise?

My research areas are contemporary media rituals and texts and the convergence of technology and culture. In particular, I study binge-watching and journalism in order to understand 1) how and why people engage with entertainment, 2) how the media depict that engagement, and 3) how those engagements and depictions are reshaping the identities of viewers and entertainment.

Prior to going to grad school, I served as an editor and reporter at The Washington Post where I was a member of the newsroom awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting. During my time there I founded “The League,” WaPo’s interactive NFL platform. Each day I would create our “NFL topic of the day” and bring in experts—players, coaches, agents, doctors, beat writers—for an interactive discussion and debate with readers. We used emerging technologies to foster active engagement beyond traditional journalistic formats.

Emil Steiner inside the rowan university football sports booth

I continued writing for The Post when I entered graduate school. One of the things I noticed while teaching journalism, was that the training undergraduates got didn’t seem to match the skills I knew they would need for contemporary news reporting. To explore that apparent disparity, I conducted numerous interviews with sports reporters and editors at media companies like ESPN, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo! Sports. I asked them all a simple question: What skills do you look for when you hire new reporters out of college? I then conducted a content analysis of the sports journalism curricula being taught at American universities. Based on my findings I created a curriculum to “bridge the gap” between what was being taught in schools and what was being sought by employers. That curriculum is now the basis of my Sports Journalism II class here at Rowan, and it informs my philosophy for our Sports Communication & Media Program. Our researched balance of knowledge, professionalism, and practical training in contemporary media tools is what makes Rowan’s Bachelor of Sports degree unique.

What is your favorite class to teach, and why?

Since this is my first semester at Rowan, it is difficult to say what my favorite class to teach is. However, I will say that my favorite aspect of teaching thus far has been the interaction with Rowan students. Those who take my courses are passionate about sports and media. Their passion sparks curiosity and makes teaching a joy.

Share with us one aspect of student engagement that you enjoy the most, and why.

Professor Emil Steiner standing on the bleachers of Richard Wacker Stadium

Easy: The light bulb moments. Whether you are a teacher or student what’s more satisfying than the feeling of actualizing ideas through a creative connection of concepts? When a student gets it and can apply it, I feel like I’ve done my job.

What is one thing you wish people knew about your academic discipline or research focus?

The field of communication and media has a complex identity. Although everyone communicates, it’s hard to provide a clear, satisfying explanation of what it is. Communication is not an “ology,” like sociology, anthropology, or psychology, though it shares territory with those disciplines. It’s not a “tics,” like linguistics, semiotics, or statistics, though communication scholars use those tools to cultivate the field. It’s not an “ory” like history, or an “ophy” like philosophy, though its scholars produces bountiful harvests of both. For communication and media to exist as academic disciplines they require the clunky modifier “studies.”

The same goes for those who teach and research them. In English, neither communication nor media can be professionalized. Everyone has heard of psychologists, statisticians, and historians, but when was the last time you heard a “communicologist” give a lecture? No matter how great a communicator that person may be, his/her title will be incomplete without a modifier like scholar, theorist, or professor.

In the absence of nominal identifiers, communication is often misunderstood or assimilated by other more established fields. Every academic discipline can involve some form of communication, therefore, the communication field can appear unbounded. Despite the protean nature, I wish people thought more about how essential communication and media are in the pursuit of knowledge, not to mention our daily lives as social animals. I believe communication’s complex identity is an accurate reflection those who use and study it—humans. This complexity is problematic for articulation, but it can also be empowering for scholarship. My hope is that the field’s interdisciplinary and ubiquity can inspire collaboration among contemporary scholars of all fields and between the territorial silos that have long cloistered academia.

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