March 23, 2009

Podber wins fellowship from Berea College

by Pete Rosenbery

Dr. Jacob J. Podber
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Jacob Podber, an associate professor in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Department of Radio-Television, is a recipient of a 2009 Berea College Appalachian Music Fellowship.

Podber said his work is a continuation of his research on the importance of country music radio programming “and how Appalachian music on the radio and later television helped contribute to the region’s identity.”

Podber’s 2007 book, “The Electronic Front Porch: An Oral History of the Arrival of Modern Media in Rural Appalachia and the Melungeon Community,” provides a unique look at the arrival and impact of radio, television and the Internet on rural Appalachia. The book earned the 2008 Ray and Pat Browne Literary Book Award for the Best Focused Study in Popular and American Culture.

Podber will be in residence at the nearly 1,600 student, four-year college in Berea, Ky., in April and May.

His research will utilize several portions of oral histories in the John Lair Collection and the Renfro Valley Barn Dance Oral History Collection. Podber is eager to examine the Lair Collection, specifically, the “Listener Mail.”

“I have always thought it extremely important to include the voices of the ‘regular’ listener when researching radio,” Podber said. “Listeners’ thoughts regarding the programming on Renfro Valley Barn Dance’ can help elaborate the human diary that I have been working on by not only investigating mass media in general, but how early radio audiences chose their programs and the impact the medium had on their lives.”

Podber said he also wants to deepen his investigation of listeners’ stories and thoughts by conducting content analysis of the song texts included in the “Mail Series,” in addition to material found within the radio program scripts, performer correspondence, and business correspondence.

Podber plans to also take the opportunity while at Berea to conduct oral history interviews with veteran radio listeners in the region. He anticipates his research will result in several conference papers developed into journal articles.

The fellowship program provides one- to three-month residencies to conduct research into Berea College’s collection of non-traditional music and promote the preservation of and access to that music, according to the college.

SIUC’s Department of Radio-Television is within the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

“We are very proud of Professor Podber's accomplishments and the continuing recognition of the importance of his work in Appalachia through honors such as the Berea College Fellowship,” Dean Gary P. Kolb said. “His scholarship has received wide recognition and he is becoming one of the leading national and international authorities on the rise of electronic media in rural and indigenous communities. This Fellowship will allow Professor Podber to add depth to his already impressive body of work on Appalachian radio in particular.”

Podber earned a doctorate of philosophy in mass communications from Ohio University, a master's degree in film from Columbia University, and a bachelor's degree in theater from the University of Florida. He has been with SIUC since 2002.