My overarching goal as a communication researcher is to conduct studies that explore norms and standards of journalism. I strive to produce scholarship that can help journalists in the evolution of the profession. Technology has increased both the number of voices in the marketplace as well as the volume of the discussion leaders. Yet, in its 2021 State of the News Media overview, the Project for Excellence in Journalism noted that newspapers continued to decline despite their critical role in social discourse and democracy. My research agenda addresses the values and traditions of journalism and how these change as news media evolves.
My dissertation combined qualitative and quantitative methods to make an industry recommendation as to how online newspapers should handle corrections. The simple practice of making a correction to amend the record is vital to being honest with audiences and previous research has suggested that corrections can build publications’ credibility. More recently, I have expanded on this research to explore how editing structures have changed in newsrooms and how international codes of ethics address corrections policies. Both articles draw on a democratic theory of the press based on citizens’ need for accurate information.
Additionally, my research has used the learning theory of Communities of Practice to explore how students learn in student media newsrooms and expanded on that theory by identifying how faculty media advisers function in a liminal role that is both part of and outside of the community. I have also investigated how we teach students about handling errors in media. It is critical that we educate the communicators of the future about how to be accurate and how to be transparent and accountable when they are not. I am continuing to extend previous research that identified different kinds of errors/corrections and best practices for handling errors and corrections, in both professional and student newsrooms.
I enjoy combining research methodologies by first doing a thematic analysis of content and then a content analysis to quantify the themes identified, and I find this to be particularly useful when producing research for audiences that include both academics and working professionals. For example, I conducted a textual analysis of corrections in The New York Times and was able to suggest that in addition to falling on a continuum of objectivity and subjectivity, corrections also fall along a perpendicular continuum of high and low democratic impact. This was then quantified through a content analysis, with Dr. Alyssa Appelman, which indicated that the majority of corrections do little to serve the public. Currently, Dr. Appelman and I are conducting research on working editors and how their roles have changed in recent years. In particular, we situate changes in employment satisfaction with industry changes and in the context of COVID-19.
In all, while I am working to produce rigorous research that is of interest to academic colleagues, I am also hoping to generate research that could help journalists and students successfully navigate the changing news media industry by identifying best practices. My research acknowledges the significant changes in the journalism and communication fields and consistently aims to preserve the best of what has come before, while incorporating new approaches, perspectives, and technologies.