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Big Orange Welcome to new JEM Professor

By Chelsea Babin

Every year, the University of Tennessee family grows as new faces appear on  campus. Some are from East Tennessee, while others travel far to call UT their new home. This year, UT’s College of Communication and Information’s School of Journalism & Electronic Media welcomes a new assistant professor.

Joy Jenkins, PhD, originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is now a proud member of the BIG ORANGE family here on Rocky Top.

Jenkins is an alumna of the University of Oklahoma, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in journalism; Oklahoma State University for a Master of Science in media management; and the University of Missouri, where she completed her doctorate in journalism. She spent two years as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.

“I’m still taking in the cultural differences,” Jenkins said. “It definitely feels a little Southern here. The topology is definitely different – Oklahoma’s super flat, so going somewhere with mountains and actual landscape is really nice.”

After her undergraduate degree, Jenkins stayed in Oklahoma and worked for local media. Her first year out of school, she worked for the Oklahoma Gazette–the alternative newsweekly in the area–as a copy editor and writer. Then, she spent the next seven years at TulsaPeople, a city magazine in Tulsa, as senior editor. She decided to pursue a M.S. in media management during her time in Tulsa as well.

For her doctoral dissertation, she conducted a case study on D Magazine in Dallas Texas. Her study was titled “Brand Believers: Reconciling Journalistic Identity and Organizational Identity at a City Magazine” and examined how staff members discussed their changing journalistic roles and the impact of their publication on their community.

“The primary goal of my research is to produce knowledge about the sociology of news production and the challenges and opportunities facing news organizations and journalists working in the digital age,” Jenkins’ website states. “Specifically, I examine under-studied forms of news media, including local media, alternative media, and feminist media, and their potential to spur social change through content and reader interaction.”

While she is now teaches a section of the introductory course on media writing, Jenkins still finds time to conduct her research. She particularly focuses on local media, alternative media, and magazines.

Since coming to campus last December for her first on-campus interview, she has felt very welcomed by everyone at UT.

“Everyone was very welcoming and nice and friendly, and they seemed interested in my research and what it can contribute to the program, and I just felt at home here,” Jenkins said. “When the offer came, I was like, “Yep, this is where I want to be.”

Jenkins is excited to continue the research she started during her fellowship. She wants to use an international perspective to continue to look at local news and how it is changing in the digital media landscape. Jenkins also hopes to incorporate findings from her research into her teaching.

“Having gotten to travel and do a lot of research abroad, I hope to bring those insights into the classroom, and I’ve been trying to schedule guest speakers that I know from different parts of the world who will talk to students so they can see what journalism is like in other places,” Jenkins said.

One guest speaker is a former Reuters Institute Journalist Fellow who is a political journalist in Moscow. She will describe her experiences reporting on controversial topics in a challenging environment for journalists. Jenkins hopes to bring in various perspectives of journalists from all over for her students.

Jenkins’ first semester has been off to a great start. She said that her students have been attentive and eager to learn.

“I’m looking forward to the class and just seeing how they develop as writers over the course of the semester,” Jenkins said. “They’ve already done a quick writing assignment just to get a feel for where they are, and I can definitely see the potential. I’m excited to see how they grow and learn as they add more tools to their toolkit.”

Jenkins is also excited to learn more about all that the JEM program has to offer to students, such as the student media outlets, the social media center, and the research that graduate students are working on.

Over the last two years, she has collected dozens of interviews and data about different aspects of local news, so she’ll be working on transitioning those into academic publications this semester as well. She’s looking forward to continuing that project and incorporating the local media in Knoxville into her research.

So far, Jenkins has felt right at home here at UT–especially from the various people checking in on her and getting to know her. She’s looking forward to her time in BIG ORANGE country and is excited to get to know more and more people.

“I really love doing collaborative research, so if there are any areas that I am working on that other people–whether in our college or not–are interested in, I love working in teams and I love partnering with people to look into things. … Send me an email.”