Jason Mittell Named to Inaugural Class of Peabody Fellow Scholars

By Will DiGravio, News Editor

Jason Mittell, professor of film and media culture, and american studies, has been named to the inaugural class of Peabody Fellow Scholars at the newly formed Media Center at Peabody, a research center and digital media production branch of the Peabody Awards located at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The goal of the center is to turn Peabody into an organization that promotes a close examination and discussion of the work of Peabody-winning storytellers, and how that work contributes to national dialogues surrounding social issues.

Mittell, along with five other fellows, will help shape the direction of the center.

As an organization, Peabody is mostly known for awards, and the director, Jeffrey Jones, is interested in making, as he said, Peabody into a year round organization. Throughout the year, the organization will do more outreach, educate, engage with the broadcasting/cable/streaming industries, engage with the public, engage with the press” Mittell said. “The idea is to highlight how Peabody is a resource of expertise on television, radio, web-based video.”

The Peabody Fellow Scholars will serve as a resource for the center, where they will assist with a number of initiatives, including writing editorial or analysis pieces for publications, assisting the center with outreach, and using their expertise to examine and provide greater context for Peabody-winning pieces, which are broadly awarded for “excellence.”

“As fellows, we are tasked with being ambassadors to that value,” Mittell said.  “One of my goals is to find ways to help promote the production and consumption of stories that matter; to highlight that television is not just about fun, diverting, entertaining things – not that those aren’t useful – but that it has the ability, and I think somewhat unique ability, to create ongoing stories that you become really immersed in, that can have an impact on your life and the world.”

All of the Peabody Fellows, with the exception of Mittell, come from large universities which, as opposed to liberal arts colleges like Middlebury, are known for their focus on research.

“I’m really proud to be named and to be appointed,” Mittell said. “I think it’s very possible to be a highly productive and high profile researcher [at Middlebury] and there is both infrastructure that the administration provides and also an opportunity because we’re working with such great students to bat ideas around and I find that that’s really exciting.”

Mittell said that teaching at Middlebury for fifteen years is one of the greatest assets that he will bring to the Media Center at Peabody.

“Every day I’m in the classroom talking to students who are really smart but they’re not experts. I’m communicating with people who want to learn something but they’re not coming from a place of insiderness,” Mittell said. “I think most [academic writing] is for other academics to advance the field, rather than writing for the public. And while teaching is not the same as writing for the public, I feel like my own abilities to present information, whether through writing or through lectures, or through presentations or panels, has greatly benefited by the fact that I’ve spent fifteen years working with undergrads and honing my ability to communicate at a non expert level to engage with curious people.”