My overarching goal as a communication researcher is to conduct studies that address the evolution of the norms and standards of journalism. In particular, I strive to produce scholarship that can help journalists in the evolution of the profession. Digital technologies have increased both the number of voices in the marketplace as well as the volume of the discussion leaders. Yet, in its 2012 state of the news media overview, the Project for Excellence in Journalism noted that newspapers—the last generations’ leader—continued to decline despite their critical role in social discourse. My research agenda addresses the traditions of print journalism and how, or if, these can transition to newer platforms and models of the news media.
My dissertation combined qualitative and quantitative methods to make an industry recommendation as to how corrections should be handled in the online versions of newspapers. The simple practice of making a correction to amend the record is vital to being honest with consumers and previous research has demonstrated that the presence of corrections can build credibility for a publication. However, with the lack of a physical product, newspapers have failed to carry this tradition smoothly from print to online. This practice was anchored in the physical newspaper, with most corrections appearing on page two or three. Online, there is no page two or three and people often access the online version of papers from links rather than accessing the whole. Therefore, based on interviews with former and current senior editors and survey results from current editors, I was able to suggest that corrections should travel with their source material. I presented part of my dissertation at the International Communication Association’s 2012 conference.
More recently, my research has explored how we teach students about errors in media and how to address them. It is critical that we educate the journalists of the future about how to be accurate and how to be 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.
I enjoy combining research methodologies by first doing a textual 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 a mixed audience. 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 Alyssa Appelman, Ph.D., which indicated that the vast majority of corrections do little to serve the public. Currently, Dr. Appelman and I are working to explore whether the impact of error—how much it serves the public—affects readers’ perceptions of credibility. This more nuanced exploration may help professionals prioritize the errors they address.
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 successfully navigate the changing industry by identifying best practices. My research acknowledges the significant changes in journalism and consistently aims to preserve the best of what has come before and to honor those traditions by applying them to today’s technologies.