FOOTNOTES September/October 1999
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ASA Annual Meeting Over the Newswire
Rachel Gragg, ASA Media Office

Wandering among the sociologists at this year’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, you may have noticed the occasional, somewhat disoriented looking individual wearing a crimson ribbon on his or her nametag. These were members of the press, probably working out the logistics of how to cover so many sessions simultaneously.

This year’s meeting did, in fact, receive quite a bit of media attention. We had stories on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and CNN, as well as the local Chicago news. CBS and ABC Radio both featured stories on studies released at the Meeting. Newspaper coverage ranged from The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and the LA Times, to local papers like the Dubuque, Iowa newspaper. We also received quite a bit of attention in the U.K., with stories appearing on BBC Television and Radio, and several newspapers in England and Scotland. The Toronto Star also covered the conference extensively. Overall, more than 50 articles were published covering the Annual Meeting.

News coverage tended to cluster around certain studies; typically when one news source covered a study, others followed. Certainly, the studies that received the most attention were those for which press releases were done by ASA or by the sociologists’ own institutions (Penn State did an outstanding job in preparing press releases for conference participants). Among the papers receiving press coverage were: Nicholas Wolfinger’s (University of Utah) study of whether or not the children of divorced parents are more likely to divorce; a study by David Post and Suet-Ling Pong (Penn State) looking at the relationship between employment and math and science achievement among 8th graders; and a study by Suzanne Bianchi and her colleagues (University of Maryland) that examined the distribution of housework between husbands and wives.

The ASA also held three media events—two media briefings and a “media-only” question and answer period with Dr. Kenneth Prewitt, Director, U.S. Bureau of the Census, that followed the Town Meeting held on August 8. The first media briefing was about hate and hate crimes in America, and featured Valerie Jenness (University of California, Irvine), Ryken Grattet (University of California, Davis), and Abby Ferber (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) as panelists. James F. Short, Jr. (Washington State University) was the panel moderator. The briefing ultimately received widespread media coverage, and the same group will be presenting at an ASA Congressional Seminar on October 21. The second media briefing was on assimilation, and included Mary C. Waters (Harvard), Susan Gonzales-Baker (University of Texas at Austin), and Richard Alba (SUNY, Albany) as panelists. Roger Waldinger (UCLA) was the moderator. Reuters covered the briefing for its wire service.

In general, the media coverage of the Annual Meeting was extensive and by-and-large presented the ASA and sociology as a discipline in a very complimentary light. Anyone attending the Annual Meetings should be encouraged to take the opportunity to present your research to the media, and help us expand the public’s understand of both the discipline and the work that we do.

Rachel Gragg completed her ASA Congressional Fellowship with Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) in July and worked at the Executive Office on public information issues for July and August. This fall she joined Senator Wellstone’s office as a staff member.