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Simmons recognized by AEJMC

Charlene SimmonsHas the Internet become a democratic medium and source of alternative information, like some hoped? Or is the Internet, like other mass media, controlled by large media corporations? Dr. Charlene Simmons, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, explored these questions in an award winning article to be recognized at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) annual convention in August.

Simmons examined the entities behind the most popular Web brands. Her article concludes that the most frequented portion of the Web is controlled by commercial corporations and does not appear to serve as an alternative to traditional media sources.

“In many respects the Web looks nothing like the alternative, democratic medium advocates once hoped it would become. Today, a large portion of the most frequented part of the Web, or the ‘Web within the Web,’ is controlled by commercial corporations. Of the 100 most popular brands on the Web, only 6 brands are operated by the government or non-profit organizations. The rest of the brands are owned by public and private corporations seeking to make a profit,” Simmons said.

Simmons’ paper, "The interconnected Web: Media consolidation, corporate ownership, and the World Wide Web," has been judged by the AEJMC as one of the top three faculty papers in her division, Communication Technology.

“Also of note is the growing Web of connections existing between popular Web brands. Of the top 100 Web brands, 37 share a parent company with another popular Web brand. ... Among the 77 parents companies a number of additional connections exist. For instance, many parent companies have entered into partnerships with other parent companies. Additionally, a number of the parent companies share common stock holders and members of their boards of directors,” Simmons said.

The changing face of the mass media professions represents huge challenges for young people, according to Dr. Kittrell Rushing, head of the Department of Communication. Rushing says Simmons is helping UTC students to be competitive in very competitive professions.

“Mass communication graduates must be knowledgeable in basics modern communication methods. Students must be aware of current communication strategies, and students certainly must be sensitive to the effects of mass media on many audiences. The world is changing so rapidly many veteran teachers are having difficulty keeping up,” Rushing said. “Professor Simmons brings to our profession and to our UTC students current skills and knowledge. We are fortunate to have young faculty with Dr. Simmons' expertise here at UTC. The Communication Department is especially fortunate. She adds a great deal to our work.”

June 1, 2007