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Research Agenda and Highlights

My research agenda is focused on understanding how changes in communication technology are shaping news and society and finding ways to help journalism survive and thrive in whatever medium best engages readers.  I’ve conducted extensive case study research applying theories of organizational culture and leadership to news organizations like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Christian Science Monitor as they undergo digital transformations, seeking to distill important lessons learned and to determine how the enduring values of accuracy and independence can be brought to life in new media forms. This research has involved dozens of interviews with media professionals, weeks of ethnographic observations in newsrooms, and surveys.  The added bonus of this work is that it helps to keep my teaching current by allowing me to observe firsthand modern journalism at work and stay apprised of the knowledge and skills my students need to succeed.

More recently, I’ve expanded this focus to understand what makes news startups successful and what we can learn from entrepreneurs and design thinkers about creating a culture of experimentation. As the imperative moves from learning to deliver the news on the web to mobile devices, news organizations must be able to adapt quickly and develop new products that meet readers’ needs.

I’ve also examined how people are using social media tools such as Twitter and blogs and the opportunities these tools hold for journalists seeking not only to distribute their content widely but also to engage with a diverse audience. This applied research is intended to help journalists navigate the changing demands of our profession and determine how best to allocate scarce resources, and it is built on my own extensive experience using these social networking  sites.

A few highlights:

  • In April 2013, I received the Top Research Paper Award at the International Symposium on Online Journalism with my co-author Jonathan Groves.
  • I was awarded a fellowship by the City University of New York in 2013 to study the skills journalists need in the digital age. This project involved  fieldwork at WMC-TV in Memphis.  This opportunity has allowed me to work with Guardian columnist and author Jeff Jarvis and the Director of Research for the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism C.W. Anderson.
  • I have been asked by American Press International to serve on their Research Advisory Board. I was named one of a “select group of thought leaders” who will work to “forge new partnerships and collaboration and to accelerate the level of knowledge and innovation in newsrooms and news companies, while at the same time raising the level of application of scholarly research.”  Members of the group include Executive Editor of the Washington Post Marty Baron, Senior Vice President of NBC News Vivian Schiller, Editor in Chief of Digital First Media Jim Brady, among others.
  • As a former journalist who also trained newspaper reporters and editors at news organizations around the nation, I have long believed that the most important part of academic research on journalism is that it is widely shared with our profession. As thus, I’ve dedicated a good portion of my time and energy to making my research findings and that of others accessible to working journalists using my blog, Changing Newsroom, my Twitter account and my Facebook page. Although this form of writing is not peer-reviewed, it has a substantial audience.
  • My research has been cited or I’ve been quoted discussing it in a number of publications, including:  the Poynter Institute;  Nieman Lab, a publication of Harvard University;  Mashable, an site for digital, social media and technology news;  the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University; Kansas City Star, Reynolds Journalism Institute, University of Missouri; California Watch, a project for the Center of Investigative Reporting; News Channel 3, WREG Memphis; Romenesko’s Media News; MediaGazer, a top aggregator of media news and analysis; PBS Media Shift, a site sponsored by national public television covering how new media are changing society and culture;  Memphis Sport Magazine, Center for Innovation in College Media, The Almighty Link, a blog by Kevin Sablan of the Orange County Register,, affiliated with New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, Mark Coddington’s blog, University of Texas, News 3.0 Media: Lab, Online, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis Daily News, The Memphis Flyer, Harvard Business Review Morning Advantage, The Guardian, Digital Journalism at Southern Methodist University, United Press International University, Ones and Zeros Memphis Flyer blog, Publicity Magazine, WREC-600 AM, Online Journalism Review, Baker Donelson Entrepreneur Minute, U.S. News and World Report, and Columbia Journalism Review