Ralph Hanson is looking forward to leaving his laptop at home when he takes his son to basketball practices this spring.
After five years, one blown laptop and too much time spent carrying his computer around, publisher McGraw Hill Higher Education will print the textbook that Hanson, an associate professor at the WVU Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, wrote.
“Mass Communication: Living In A Media World”takes a narrative approach to telling the story of the media in contemporary society. Hanson started work on the book in 1999, after the publishing company asked him to submit a mass communications textbook proposal.
“The media are a central part of your life. You cant talk about your life without talking about the media,”Hanson said.
Hanson uses story telling to help students understand communication concepts and developments over the years. When he explains the development of rockn roll, he starts by discussing Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Presley, a white southern kid singing soul music, and Berry, an African American playing hillbilly music, sparked the rockn roll frenzy of the 1950s.
Hanson said students can read the stories, remember them and relate them to their own lives and experiences, making understanding mass communication much easier for them.
“I was trying to make it so students understand what the media are and what it means in their own lives,”Hanson said.
Hanson took an integrated approach to writing the book. All the chapters have discussions of women, minorities and the Internet. In a chapter on public relations, for instance, Hanson discusses Martin Luther King Jr.s use of public relations to spur the civil rights movement in the South, calling King a”brilliant PR practitioner.”
The book comes with a video and CD Rom. Students can take video tours of newsrooms and broadcast stations. Hes also written a 50,000 word teachers guide to accompany the 512 page book.
“It was more work than I could have imagined I could do. It has also improved my teaching more than I could have ever have imagined,”Hanson said.
Hanson teaches Journalism 101: Introduction to Mass Communication at the SOJ . He began using pre press copies of his book in the class during the fall 2003 semester.”I know my material inside and out and I know it with the most current information available,”Hanson said.”Its very satisfying to have a book that perfectly fits your needs.”
Hanson said writing the textbook was the hardest thing hes ever done in his career. The former newspaper reporter earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Iowa State University, where he majored in anthropology and journalism. He earned his doctorate in sociology from Arizona State University. Before coming to WVU , Hanson was an assistant professor of journalism at Northern Arizona University.
But Hanson wont be taking it too easy now that the five year project has ended. He hopes that with the success of the book he will be producing multiple editions. And he has several research projects in mind, including a look at how journalists cover illness, specifically diabetes.
Hes working on a project with West Virginia Public Broadcasting to analyze the content of West Virginia political ads, as well as how much money politicians spend on the ads. That project will take place this fall and will be incorporated in a fall class.