UHV professor’s research on media featured in three new books

A University of Houston-Victoria professor's research on power, race, religion, politics and the media, and their impacts on society have been featured in three recently released books.

Mark Ward Sr., a UHV associate professor of communication, joined 13 other scholars from the across the country to publish “Leadership Through the Lens: Interrogating Production, Presentation, and Power,” edited by Creshema Murray of the University of Houston-Downtown and released by Lexington Books. The collection of essays explores ways in which diverse leadership styles are illustrated in a variety of contexts on television.

Mark Ward

“The current political climate has highlighted how styles of leadership make a difference in our institutions,” Ward said. “Television not only reflects what we think about leadership and power, but also shapes what we think. The examples covered in the book range from ‘Saturday Night Live’ parodies of the 2016 presidential debates, to dramas like ‘The Americans’ and reality shows like ‘Total Divas.’”

Ward’s own essay is titled “Television Transcendent: How the Electronic Church Constructs Charismatic Leadership as a Norm of American Religious Life.” The essay shows how televangelists and radio preachers model leadership based on personal charisma, and how this leadership style has become the norm in local churches.

“Three-quarters of U.S. adults affiliate with an organized religion, and one-quarter affiliate with evangelical churches,” Ward said. “Whether it's in the White House or in the local pulpit, leaders who base their power on personal charisma can be effective but must also be held accountable by their followers.”

Issues of religion and race in the media were addressed in another essay by Ward titled “Segregating the Dial: Institutional Racism in Evangelical Radio” and published in the book “Contemporary Christian Cultures: Messages, Missions, and Dilemmas.” Edited by Omatayo Banjo and Kesha Morant Williams, the volume features essays by 14 scholars and was released by Lexington Books as part of its Rhetoric, Race, and Religion Series.

“The book addresses issues of race and culture in religious life and how these issues impact the ways people individually and collectively live out their faith,” said Ward. “Media messages are a big part of that, and various chapters in the book cover topics such as faith-based political rhetoric, periodicals, social media and commercial music.”

In his essay, Ward points out that one in five American adults consume religious media on a daily basis and nearly half listen to religious radio in a given month, which is more than the percentage who attend a church. Further, one-fifth of all U.S. radio stations air a religious teaching, talk or music format.

“Because of media deregulation, ownership of these religious stations is dominated by large media corporations that determine what most people will hear,” said Ward. “My essay documents how African American voices are virtually absent on these networks, both on the air and in the boardroom.”

Ward also joined 13 other scholars and editors Shing-Ling S. Chen, Nicole Allaire, and Zhuojun Joyce Chen to explore “Constructing Narratives in Response to Trump’s Election: How Various Populations Make Sense of an Unexpected Victory,” released by Lexington Books. The volume features Ward’s essay, “The Dangers of Getting What You Wish For: What Do You Say to Evangelicals?”

“The evangelical community debated whether to support Trump despite his character issues,” Ward said. “Ultimately, the pro-Trump message of the Christian Right, broadcast over Christian media, filtered down to the pulpits and the pews.”

In his essay, Ward examines how this process occurred.     

Ward’s research on media and religion has drawn national attention, most recently last fall when he received the 2017 Clifford G. Christians Ethics Research Award for his books “The Electronic Church in the Digital Age: Cultural Impacts of Evangelical Mass Media, Vols. 1 & 2.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.