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May 08, 2005

University of Montana School of Journalism: New Pollner prof

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Blogging pioneer named next Pollner prof

By Bennett Jacobs
J-School Web reporter

Chris Boese, a writer for CNN Headline News and a pioneer in the Weblog movement, will be the UM Journalism School’s fifth T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor.

Boese will spend the fall semester at the J-school, teaching a class on blogging and working as an adviser to the Kaimin, the student newspaper. Pollner professors also deliver a public lecture during the semester.

Boese2
Chris Boese
“We were particularly interested this year in getting someone who was on the cutting edge of technology,” said Carol Van Valkenburg, chair of the print department and the Pollner selection committee. “Chris will bring something new and unique to the school and we’re certainly looking forward to that.”

Boese started her first Weblog, or blog, in 1994, before the software to do so which is so readily available today even existed.

"I was like, ‘Oh my god, someone’s given me a soapbox,’ " Boese said of that first blog.

Since then she has built and maintained dozens of blogs for herself and others, including some controversial ones for reporters in Iraq.

"I think the bloggers kind of act as a checks and balances to journalists," Boese said. "It's an explosion of words and voices and it gives power to a lot of people and that is empowering."

In the past several years, blogs have become an important and powerful platform for journalists and non-journalists alike to voice opinions and receive feedback as well as communicate with one another.

Boese joined the CNN Headline News team just a month before 9-11. In her application letter she wrote that she went to Headline News because she "wanted a front-row seat to the attempted 'convergence' of broadcast and interactive media with that very busy modular screen."

What she got was a front-row seat at the biggest event in modern media history. During that crisis, as well as during the ensuing two wars, Boese was often the writer vigorously punching out the blurbs on the Headline News double-tiered ticker.

Boese started her career long before her days in the bustling Atlanta newsroom of Headline News. It was in her home state of Alaska were she was first a reporter and photographer for the Frontiersman and Valley Sun newspapers. From there she entered the academic world, working and teaching at universities in Wisconsin, Arkansas, Georgia, New York and South Carolina.

Boese received a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and an MFA in poetry from the University of Arkansas. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, where she earned a doctorate in rhetoric and communication in 1998, Boese studied the impact of interactive media on traditional forms of media. It was there that her relationship with interactive media began to thrive, mostly because she saw it as an outlet for individual voice, she said.

Her dissertation, a rhetorical analysis and cultural critique of the online fan club for the TV program "Xena, Warrior Princess," was the first Web-based hypertext dissertation accepted at the school and is required reading in some graduate seminars.

At the time of the interview for this story on the afternoon of April 1, Boese was having a particularly busy few days in the newsroom.

"What happened yesterday was the best and the worst of things," Boese said. "The Terri Schiavo thing (Schiavo had died the day before) was just shark attacks and exploitation of the mike, the kind of thing that makes me sick. Then the Pope took a turn for the worse and I felt I was doing something important again."

Boese has what she calls "an uneasy relationship with journalism." But that continues to turn her on to the possibilities blogs allow. It also gives her reason to turn to her other love: teaching.

"I've always loved teaching," Boese said. "It charges my batteries up is what it does."
Boese has taught many university classes and conducted as many seminars, but she hopes her time in Montana will be different.

"I want to meet people who are thinking about the things I'm thinking," she said.
Boese said she can lend her technical skills not only to students in her class but to the Kaimin and the rest of the J-School. She said she may use her time at UM to work on a book about her experiences covering 9-11.

Family and friends of 1999 J-school graduate Anthony Pollner created the the T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professorship to honor his memory after his death in a 2001 motorcycle accident. Pollner helped create the Kaimin web page and worked as a Kaimin reporter.

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May 8, 2005 in Journalism, Portfolio, Projects, Vita | Permalink

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