Research Agenda and Highlights

My research agenda focuses on understanding how social and technological changes are shaping news and society and finding ways to help journalists adapt to them and serve communities. 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.

While my early research primarily focused on the impact of the web and mobile on newsrooms, change is constant and my next steps are to apply this theory and models to newsrooms that are seeking to become more inclusive and equitable and to work collaboratively with their audiences in ways that increase trust. I’ve also begun to examine best practices for engagement journalists.

I’ve also studied how people are using social media platforms and the opportunities and pitfalls these tools hold for journalists seeking not only to distribute their content widely but also to engage with a diverse audience.

A few highlights:

In 2020, my book with Jonathan Groves, Transforming Newsrooms, was published. Among other things, it chronicles our 10-year longitudinal study of The Christian Science Monitor, beginning in 2009 when it became the first national newspaper to end its daily print edition. The book is a suggested read by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford; is used in professor Jay Rosen’s Studio 20 course at NYU, and helped guide change at the Swiss public broadcast organization RTS.

I have served as the research co-chair for the Participatory Journalism Interest Group at the Association for Education in Journalism and Education for three years and have proposed, developed and moderated a variety of panels for the annual conference.

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 asked by American Press International to serve on their Research Advisory Board. I was named one of a “select group of thought leaders” who worked 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 included then-Executive Editor of the Washington Post Marty Baron, then-Senior Vice President of NBC News Vivian Schiller, then-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 by publishing it online on various platforms. 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