Prison journalism and Angola Prison media to be focus of conference presentation

Feb 1, 2011 | General News, Liberal Arts

When most people think about “journalism,” they traditionally think newspapers and TV news.  Most never consider or don’t realize that journalism can be practiced in unconventional places, such as prisons. From behind barbed wire fences, American prison journalists courageously expose “outsiders” to life in their world, opening minds that would probably never be opened without these written experiences of what a life of confinement is like in the land of the free.
Dr. Elizabeth Barfoot Christian, an assistant professor of journalism, and senior journalism major Ashley Dison have been accepted to present their research at Carleton University’s 6th Annual Communication Graduate Caucus Conference.  This year’s theme is “Neglected Media.”
“Millions of Americans are part of this shrouded society,” Dison said. “Places of confinement and the methods their occupants use to tell their stories deserve our attention, as journalists in the free world.”
Dison said almost everyone knows someone who has experienced jail or prison, even if for just a short period of time.
Christian and Dison will give an overview of the history of American prison journalism and the lack of access juxtaposed against the model used at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, with a nationally renowned news magazine, The Angolite, and prisoner-run radio and TV stations.
“While it’s not a perfect model by any means, the kind of journalism being done inside Angola is not only life-changing for those doing it and those reading it, it has the potential to change our state criminal justice system, which affects us all,” Christian said.
The conference will be held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on March 10-11.