Communication in Action – NCA Convention 2014

Recently, I attended the 100th National Communication Association Convention in Chicago with 3 fellow students (pictured) in order to expand my understanding of where I could go and what I could do with a communication degree. So far I only knew that I enjoyed studying things on a global scale and that I was interested in health and political topics. I went to numerous panels, fairs, and receptions over the course of the convention in the hopes of gaining some insight for what my future could look like. Little did I know, going to this convention let me grow in academic and personal ways.

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For starters, my favorite events were the panels. They were organized by topic and then 3 or 4 distinguished communication professionals would showcase their work for the topic and answer questions. It was essentially an academic version of speed dating – intro, information, questions, then on to the next person! The panel that resonated with me most was the “Future of Health, Risk, and Crisis Communication”, which is where I met Dr. Chan Thai from the National Cancer Institute. Her objective for research is incorporating theoretical perspectives into objective-based research; in other words, academia into real-world application. I found this interesting since I want to work in a government or private sector organization. When I told her that, she said to “research everything, but always have an application in mind. Constantly be asking ‘What’s next?’ of your research to make sure it can have impact. A positive outcome from research is one of the most effective ways people can change society, especially in health related circumstances.” Her advice is incredibly valuable and I expect to focus on how my research projects can be used in society from now on.

Second, the graduate school fair was amazing! I immediately gravitated towards the University of Kentucky for its Crisis and Risk Communication focus. (Just to say – I went to the other tables, too!) There I became interested in working with governmental organizations – something UKY does often. I immediately asked the representatives at the booth of which faculty members were at the conference and where I could find them. Little by little, I worked on making connections.

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By the end of my conference, I was exhausted. I was, however, determined to meet Dr. Shari Veil from UKY. After attending Ohio University’s reception party, I went to the Kentucky’s. I cannot stress the importance of confidence enough during events like these! Even though I was shaking and genuinely stressing out in my head, introducing myself to Dr. Veil went a long way! She was excited to meet someone interested in the university and introduced me to everyone – from faculty member, Dr. Spence, to current graduate student, Marjorie Buckner. When I asked Dr. Spence about what makes a good communication student, he told me to “build on every piece of work you write. Make sure that it’s a continuation of research and that the topics are related – not random and scattered. That’ll set you up for major projects and will make you more knowledgeable.” Every person I met gave amazing advice and were all very welcoming. This experience proves what I’ve been told my whole life – A little bit of confidence goes a long way! After all, I wouldn’t have even made it to the reception if I was too shy. By the end of the night, I had handed countless people my business card. I honestly couldn’t believe how quickly I had made those connections – it was a true “networking” experience.

I have gained an entirely new mindset from this conference. If you are a communication scholar – You need to go! All of the advice I heard (from professionals, faculty, and students) about the communication field and how to excel in doing what you love, while still maintaining humanity and emotions, is priceless. With them and this convention, I am a better prepared scholar and a more holistic person. They truly had an impact on where I think I’d like to go with my degree and what I can do with my research to have a positive impact on society.

How did you find your passion? What made you decide your career path? How can communication research apply to you?

For Freedom of Press’s Sake

With internet censorship and privacy becoming a growing issue each day, the implementation of Turkey’s new law is shocking. The law will tighten the state’s grip on the Internet and changes the majority of original Turkey internet law from 2007. Street protests and campaigns against the new law have been in full force since the law approval on Sept. 9th.

President Abdullah Gul of Turkey sanctioned the controversial legislation, but hurt his public identity in the process. A Twitter campaign – #UnFollowAbdullahGul – was launched and his follower count promptly dropped by more than 100,000 in two days. The public is so concerned and outraged with this new law because it will allow Turkey’s telecommunications authority, Telecommunication Directorate (TIB), to block websites without first obtaining a court order, block specific URL’s (unlike the 2007 law), and regulates the amount of information saved and tracked through the internet. Even though a court order is necessary within 24hrs of a website being blocked, it will stay that way until the court makes a decision, which could take a long amount of time.

Turkey Law

This is worrisome because news reports and other sources of information can be blocked immediately when uploaded. As an American, I know our freedom of the press is protected and we value it greatly; what are the political and social implications of having news continuously blocked and censored? Is it truly “helping the citizens of Turkey”? A primary example of the cultural impact this could have is seen in the blocking of YouTube from 2007 until 2010 for videos against Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. This changed the entire outlook of internet and social media usage.

One of the many reasons this law was adopted so quickly was because of leaked phone recordings that have evidence of “document corruption in state tenders and bribery involving businessmen and the Turkish government.” The head of TIB is appointed by the government, so it is speculated that the government may be working to control this situation more than they will admit. Their response to the public outrage is that the law was necessary for reasons of “national security, to protect public order, and to prevent a crime from being committed.” It sounds reasonable, but time will tell if this is truly why the law was enacted.

“The real problem and the bitter truth, which is mostly ignored, is the excess of power to undermine the judiciary and providing juridical immunity to government officials.” (Source)

The Republican People’s Party, the opposition to the Turkish government, released a statement stating that “the AKP government, striving to restrict freedom in every domain, is stepping up its pressure on the Internet, which is becoming increasingly important in our daily lives.” I cannot imagine not having freedom of speech, which is (as I understand) the primary concern in Turkey. This new law is seen as a severe form of censorship and puts citizens out of touch with the rest of the world. News in Turkey can become extremely biased and distorted only certain coverage and reports are allowed.

Summed up, the latest amendments mean that the Turkish government can now “legally” hold information about all Internet users in Turkey, including which websites they visit when and for how long, and have the power to block websites and URL’s whenever they deem necessary. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, for the sake of free speech and free press.

References: Turkey’s Main Opposition, Turkey’s Top CourtNew Turkish Internet Law, Online Freedom vs. The Red Flag, Turkey Pulse, New Internet Law In Turkey Sparks Outrage

Side note: Andy Alexander, an Ohio University Alumnus, was part of a group of American journalists representing the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) in Turkey. See the news article here.