My research focuses on LGBTQ representations in both the LGBTQ and mainstream media. Most recently my work centers on the normalization of gay and lesbian identity in a variety of media context from the LGBT sports blogosphere to fictional television comedies. I have presented fourteen research papers and panels presentations at national and regional conferences for the following organizations: AEJMC, AEJMC Midwinter, AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, AJHA Southeast, SSCA, BEA District II, and Alabama Communication Association. Three of the papers presented were designated as top student papers, and I won the Cultural and Critical Studies top poster award at the 2012 AEJMC National Conference. In September, I will present a paper at the AJHA national conference in New Orleans.
My dissertation will offer a queer critique of recent network television situational comedies, and the role of a normalized gay identity in today’s culture. I am typically a cultural and critical studies researcher, but I have also conducted studies that employed a quantitative method or more traditional qualitative methods. I am also interested in LGBTQ media history, in particular, its role in providing an identity for larger homophile, gay liberation, and queer movements. For example, in my master’s thesis I examined the gay, mainstream, and alternative press coverage of the AIDS epidemic in New Orleans from 1981 to 1991. My future research will be guided by my current research agenda.
PUBLICATIONS (non-peer reviewed)
Byrd Jr., Robert D. (2015) Intersection of race and sexuality. In C. P. Campbell (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Race and Media. New York: Routledge (Forthcoming).
Byrd Jr., Robert D. (2013). Don’t Be a Tool . . . Dress Like a Guy: Denotative and Connotative Readings of Old Navy’s Süpar Tool Advertisement, Synergy 4 (1), 73-80.
SELECTED PAPER PRESENTATIONS
Byrd Jr., Robert D. “’We Knew Them as People’: Local Media Coverage and the National Commemoration of the New Orleans Up Stairs Lounge Fire Victims Since 1973.” To be presented at the 2013 American Journalism Historians Association’s annual convention in New Orleans, LA September 2013.
Abstract: On June 25, 1973, twenty-nine people died as a result of a fire that broke out at a New Orleans gay and lesbian bar. The deaths and the reaction by the city’s media, officials, and churches is often credited with the emergence of a viable gay and lesbian rights movement in New Orleans. This essay explores the local newspaper coverage of the fire as well as the role the local coverage played in the national gay community’s commemoration, via the national gay press, of the fire victims. Examining how gay activists used such a memorial to propel their movement through use of the national gay and lesbian media is important for a better understanding of the cultural history of the United States. Moreover, this essay illuminates an often-overlooked event in the history of the gay liberation movement as well as the city of New Orleans.
Byrd Jr., Robert D. “Creating A Narrative Of (Im)Possibility: Outsports.com’s Declaration of a Gay-friendly Sports World.” To be presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Annual Conference (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Interest Group) in Washington, D.C. August 2013.
Abstract: In this essay, I argue that Outsports.com writers constructed a narrative using a rhetoric of possibility of an open and accepting environment in American professional sport. By relying on straight athletes, as sources, Outsports’ narrative insinuates that an openly gay athlete would be able to successfully navigate the unknown terrain outside the closet and actually thrive as an openly gay athlete. In this essay, I argue, however, that the narrative of possibility relies on heteronormative constructions of masculinity and gayness.
Sipocz, Daniel & Byrd Jr., Robert D. “Did #NBCFail? Twitter and User-Generated Critiques of 2012 Olympic Coverage in a Post-Broadcast World.” To be presented at the AEJMC Annual Conference (Graduate Student Interest Group) in Washington, D.C. August 2013. Third place paper award for interest group.
Abstract: The purpose of this paper was to critically examine the viewer/user critiques of NBC’s coverage through the #NBCfail hashtag, via Twitter, over the course of the Olympic fortnight. The hashtag provided viewers/users with a tool to directly address NBC and like-minded Twitters users to express their dissatisfaction with NBC’s Olympic coverage, to create their own discourse, and to demand better coverage that included more accurately capturing the diverse spirit of the games.
Byrd Jr., Robert D. “Queer As A Football Bat: Hegemonic Gayness And Homophobic Narrative In Out Magazine’s ‘Sports Issue.’” Presented at the AEJMC Annual Conference (Cultural and Critical Studies Division) in Chicago, Illinois August 2012. Top poster award for division.
Abstract: Out magazine featured a shirtless Michael Irvin on the cover of its August 2011 sports issue. The former Dallas Cowboy is clad only in leather football pads and chinos that are strategically tugged by his thumb to reveal the waistband of his briefs—not your typical sports photograph. This paper analyzes the stories and photographs from the Out sports issue to discuss the hegemonic gayness, which includes issues of masculinity and race, portrayed to the readers of a national gay and lesbian magazine.
Byrd Jr., Robert D. “From Outsider To Martyr: The Advocate’s Coverage Of Harvey Milk From 1977 To 1979.” Accepted for presentation at the AEJMC National Conference (History Division) in St. Louis, Missouri, August 10, 2011. Also presented at the AEJMC Southeastern Colloquium in Columbia, South Carolina, March 18, 2011. Top student paper in history division.
Abstract: Harvey Milk’s short-lived political career in San Francisco is a milestone in the gay movement. Milk made waves among the established gay political hierarchy of San Francisco. One member of that hierarchy happened to own the nation’s most-widely circulated LGBT magazine. This paper explores the evolution of The Advocate’s depiction of Milk from a self-centered political outsider with potential to do serious damage to the gay movement to a martyr whose memory will inspire those that follow to continue to work toward the goals he gave his life to achieve.
Byrd Jr., Robert D. “Just Another ‘Snark’ Piece? Outsports.Com’s Queering Of Tim Tebow Through The Scope Of A Homophobic ‘Gaydar.’” Presented at the Alabama Communication Association annual convention in Mobile, Alabama, July 28, 2012. Top graduate student paper.
Abstract: On January 12, 2012, Outsports.com president and co-founder Cyd Zeigler posted a blog on the site’s Jock Talk Blog titled “Is Tim Tebow Gay?” Zeigler offered evidence to substantiate his claim that Tebow is more than likely a closeted professional football player. This paper analyzes the evidence presented by Zeigler and his readers, in the readers’ comments section, and discusses how the Outsports.com community strengthened or weakened its sexual and masculine identity through the queering of Tebow.