Shared Interest Leads Alumni to Pioneer Research on Media and Society

Although veteran journalist and educator Brian J. Bowe finished his Ph.D. in 2014, he stays connected to the MSU College of ComArtSci through research on the interplay of culture and media.

In the 2010s, Bowe was driven to study the ways news media coverage reflects and informs culture as a doctoral student in information and media through the School of Journalism. So was Naheda Makhadmeh, a doctoral student the same program. The two joined MSU master’s alumna Jennifer Hoewe in examining the portrayal of Islam in American media. Their 2013 paper earned high honors from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and was later published in the Journal of Media and Religion.

“I was very fortunate to come to MSU,” said Bowe. “I took a graduate class on reporting on Islam my very first semester. That course set the agenda for my whole Ph.D. program.”

Observing Contemporary Media

Today, Bowe and Makhadmeh stay in touch, comparing observations on contemporary media and the transformation of journalism education. Bowe is an associate professor of journalism at Western Washington University. Makhadmeh is the chair of the Journalism Department at Yarmouk University in Jordan.

The two reunited in Spring 2019 when Bowe was teaching American Studies at the University of Jordan as a Fulbright Scholar. Bowe visited Yarmouk for two days of guest lectures and participated in World Press Freedom Day activities. During this visit, Bowe and Makhadmeh also developed a new, ongoing research collaboration to study Jordanian journalism students.

“We’re both interested in understanding journalism students and what motivates them,” said Bowe. “It’s important for journalism educators to have this type of knowledge since the profession is changing so rapidly. It’s interesting to make cross-cultural and cross-national comparison and to see how perceptions and motivations differ.”

Signs of Synergy

MSU Professor of Journalism Geri Alumit Zeldes recognized the synergy between Bowe and Makhadmeh early on, having served as an adviser to both from 2010-2015.

“Brian and Naheda are extremely knowledgeable of pioneering framing theory that confirms that American journalists cover Islam with a different lens than journalists in other countries,” said Zeldes. “This is an area that is new and fresh in mass communication media and is so important given current events.”

Zeldes commented that her former students are deep learners, profound scholars and exceptional creative thinkers. She recalls collaborating with Bowe and others from MSU on the 2011 short, award-winning documentary about the fatal shooting of a Detroit imam by the FBI. She also recalled her interactions with Makhadmeh and observed her commitment to rigorous research and effective teaching as an international student and scholar — skills that quickly led her to take a leadership position in Jordan’s premier journalism program.

“They are both so enlightened and in tune with other people,” Zeldes said of her former students. “They live what they do.”

For Bowe, it was Zeldes and the other faculty and students in MSU’s Information and Media program that fostered a solid research community that could thrive on collaboration. That environment, he said, contributed to the direction of his career, as well as to the professional bonds he shares with Makhadmeh. He noticed MSU’s influence on the way he and Makhadmeh research, teach and communicate, when he guest lectured in her qualitative methods class.

“You could see MSU’s imprint on our teaching,” he said. “We were both teaching similar ideas in the same ways. There was a lineage of excellence that came out in both of our approaches. Even though I was very far away from East Lansing, I felt very Spartan at that moment.”

By Ann Kammerer