Meet Journalism’s Dr. Christine Eschenfelder

Christine and some of her MTSU students

Eschenfelder (second from right) with some of her MTSU students.

Assistant Professor Christine Eschenfelder began teaching at the MTSU School of Journalism in the fall of 2015,
bringing to the classroom years of professional experience in television news. She worked for more than a dozen years in television news as a reporter, anchor, assignment manager and producer in local television markets. She is dedicated to diversity and generating stories with viewer benefit. Christine also believes in the power of great storytelling — bringing an issue to life through exceptional writing and captivating images. She has been honored with several industry awards including the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award.

Christine a little anxious at the Harvard-Yale game!.jpg

Eschenfelder, more than a little anxious at a Harvard-Yale football game.

Dr. Eschenfelder earned her Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Florida. She is passionate about teaching the skills, theories and ethics of the profession to young journalists. She is strongly focused on the future of journalism and has a commitment to excellence in teaching. The courses she teaches at MTSU include Media Ethics and Electronic News Writing. Dr. Eschenfelder taught broadcast journalism courses at the University of Florida before joining the journalism faculty at MTSU.

Her research focuses on newsroom diversity, women in television news, work-life balance and broadcast journalism educational. She is the 2017 recipient of the MTSU School of Journalism Edward Kimbrell Teaching Excellence in Journalism faculty award.

The Leading Edge recently caught up with Dr. Eschenfelder:

What inspired you to pursue a career in broadcast journalism? Where did you get your start?

I always enjoyed watching news. I grew up in a household where, when Walter Cronkite came on, there was no talking! I remember how my parents revered him. They told me stories about the day Kennedy was assassinated, and it was Walter who broke the news. My mother also loved Edward R. Murrow, which inspired me to learn more about his work. I show clips of Cronkite and Murrow in my classes.

Christine at the TN AP Awards with students Annie Hobbs and Katie Inman.jpg

Eschenfelder with students Annie Hobbs and Katie Inman at the Tennessee Associated Press Awards.

During the 1980 presidential election, I remember writing down election returns provided during news cut-ins and rushing them to my parents. I found it very exciting to watch news, history really, unfold in real time. As I got older, I realized the power of information and storytelling … the power journalists have to empower others. I wanted to be a part of that. And I’ve always loved writing.

I had several internships before working in markets including Jacksonville and Fort Myers, Florida. I did it all … I ran the teleprompter, worked the assignment desk, was an associate producer, reporter, did some anchoring. It was very rewarding. I’m glad I learned to do so many different jobs. I also met some amazing people and journalists along the way.

Could you talk about the work/story that led to you winning an Edward R. Murrow award?

I am honored to have two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. One of those awards is for my part as a contributing reporter in the news documentary “Faces of Freedom: America’s Frontline Heroes.” I was privileged to share a few of the stories of the brave men and women who served our country during World War II. One of those is the story of how a father developed a clever way to keep track of the location of his three sons as they fought across Europe and the Pacific. The other award is for a feature story I did with my favorite videographer, Dan Eschenfelder. “The Museum under the Museum” is about the many treasures held in a light- and temperature-controlled storage area on the bottom floor of a museum in Florida. It’s not just about the beautiful pieces in the collection but also the genuine love the curators have for their work. We had fun with it!

Is teaching something you always wanted to do? What research projects are you working on now?

Christine at Ph.D. graduation.jpg

Eschenfelder at her Ph.D. graduation at the University of Florida.

I was so focused on being a journalist for so many years that teaching wasn’t something I was thinking about yet. But at one point, I became very curious about the profession itself. I began to observe the culture of the newsroom and reflect on the lived experiences of the journalists. That curiosity led me to graduate study. It was then that I realized how much I love working with students and passing on what I’ve learned to the next generation of journalists. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to be part of two of the most rewarding professions … journalism and teaching. It’s wonderful to watch my students grow in skill and confidence. Recently, I attended the Tennessee Associated Press Awards, where many of our MTSU students were nominated for their work. It was delightful to see them win so many awards for their hard work and talent. And when they call to tell me about a great job or internship offer, I’m so happy for them.

My research agenda follows my initial interest in the lived experiences of journalists, especially women and minorities. I am in different stages of several studies including exploration of work-life balance issues for television news professionals, challenges for women working in television news, and best practices for preparing journalism students to make the transition from the classroom to the newsroom. I just returned from the Broadcast Education Association annual conference where I was part of a panel on mentoring diverse students. Several of my MTSU colleagues were on the panel as well as an MTSU student.

Who are your favorite artists/fave TV shows/guilty pleasures?

I read, listen to and watch A LOT of news. But, anyone who knows me or has been in my office knows how much I love Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter and the Marvel movies. I grew up a Star Wars fan! You can find Chewbacca and R2-D2 hanging out on my desk and bookshelf. My children are big fans now, too. As a family, we came to love Harry Potter, and I can’t get enough of Thor and the other Avengers. We have taken many family trips to Disney World and Universal Studios to enjoy the movie-themed rides and attractions. I also enjoy classic films, and I’m a big Bond fan.

My Spotify playlists are pretty eclectic. I have a little bit of everything … Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble’, Journey, Van Halen, Jason Derulo, OneRepublic, Johnny Rivers … and, of course, all the Bond theme songs.

Love The Big Bang Theory and some of the Netflix originals including The Crown and Peaky Blinders. I also enjoy watching college football. But here’s the shocking guilty pleasure: I admit it … I watch Dancing with the Stars. Tom Bergeron is so witty and, hey, the gorgeous Erin Andrews is a fellow Florida Gator. And I can’t dance at all, so I’m in awe.

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Categories: Faculty, News

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