2 of Lauren Musgrove’s projects screen at Sidewalk Film Festival

For the eighth year in a row, filmmaker and new Grady College faculty member Lauren Musgrove had projects shown at Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Musgrove, an assistant professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies, had two projects with her company, Purple Magnet Productions, screen at Sidewalk: a music video for the song “Hold on Savannah” by Nashville artist Charlie Argo, directed and co-produced by Maggie Brown, and a short film “Yellow Wallpaper,” a Planet Froth film directed by Ricky Rhodes, based off the short story with the same name by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

Lauren Musgrove (right) poses for a photo in front of a Sidewalk Film Festival sign with her business partner Maggie Brown and director of Yellow Wallpaper, Ricky Rhodes.
Musgrove (right) with her business partner Maggie Brown (left) and director of Yellow Wallpaper, Ricky Rhodes. (Photo: Jaysen Michael)

The “Hold on Savannah” music video was co-produced and edited by Musgrove. Purple Magnet was in association with the production of “Yellow Wallpaper,” and Musgrove was an editor of the film. The film premiered at the Oscar and Bafta qualifying Los Angeles Shorts International Film Festival on July 24, 2023.

Both projects were shot in Alabama, but her production company, Purple Magnet, is now based in Georgia. She founded the company in 2020 with Brown, who was formerly Musgrove’s undergraduate classmate at the University of Alabama. 

“I tell all of my students here that story now,” said Musgrove. “‘Look around you, these people could be your forever collaborators!’” 

Over the past three years, Musgrove and Brown have produced eight music videos, numerous short films and three features. They’re currently in pre-production on a documentary feature. 

“We founded the company because we had a slate of music videos that we were doing,” Musgrove explained. “With music videos, it’s always really fun to collaborate with musicians and come up with a vision together. You can be more experimental. I really like that about them, that you can be more fluid with the storytelling and not be so plot-driven.” 

Musgrove is an eight-time Southeast Emmy-winning filmmaker with an MFA in Film and Media Art from Emerson College in Boston. She has a number of productions to her credit including serving as co-producer and director of “People of Alabama” documentary video series which received an INMA Global Media Award, and “A Day in the Life of America,” which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and is available on PBS. 

But, as a native Southerner, the Sidewalk Film Festival holds a special place in her heart. 

“Sidewalk was the first festival that I was ever a filmmaker at,” said Musgrove. “I think I just fell in love with it. Sidewalk does such a good job making filmmakers feel welcomed, appreciated and valued. I always want to go. Sidewalk has now grown beyond just the festival. It has become a cultural staple for Alabama and the South as a whole.”

Neither “Hold on Savannah,” nor “Yellow Wallpaper” are currently publicly available, although a trailer for “Yellow Wallpaper” is available on Planet Froth’s website. “Hold on Savannah” will be released on YouTube in October of this year.

Juan Meng co-edits book exploring strategic communication during COVID

Strategic Communication in a Global Crisis: National and International Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic” is co-edited by Ralph Tench, Juan Meng and Ángeles Moreno. (Photo: courtesy of Juan Meng)

While 2020 was a period of time many want to leave in the rearview mirror because of the global pandemic, the public relations lessons from COVID-19 deserve to be documented for current and future study. Three scholars have done that with their new book, “Strategic Communication in a Global Crisis: National and International Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

The book is co-edited by Juan Meng, professor of public relations and head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, along with Ralph Tench, professor of communication, Leeds Beckett University in the UK and Ángeles Moreno, professor at the University of Rey Juan Carlos in Spain.

“Our goal was to design a global collaboration research project that focuses on the strategic communication and the COVID-19 pandemic that we hope to make a unique and timely contribution,” Meng said.

The book captures valuable insight from nearly 40 scholars and communication professionals representing 16 countries from five continents, including Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America. Such a scope has marked this book as a first global and international investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic and strategic communication. Subjects covered in the book include, but are not limited to:

  • public health messaging and the effectiveness of health communication campaigns;
  • the successes and failures of the communication strategies used during the pandemic;
  • the trust of information sources and source credibility in the context of a global pandemic;
  • the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public perception of research, science and scientists;
  • trust building and communication strategies in public health emergencies; and
  • national and regional experiences and discrepancies on pubic health responses and global communication.

Meng said the goal in writing the book was to share the benefits of strategic communication in a time of enforced social, political and economic transformation.

“As a global research project, it is challenging but important to accomplish the goal of managing it from a variety of different perspectives: from scholars who are interested in doing global research and students who want to learn global communications; to public health and governmental institutions and entities to aid in developing effective strategic communication amid uncertainty in any public health and safety crises.”

Meng said the book also explored the impact of misinformation and disinformation on public’s likelihood to follow public health guidelines during the pandemic. National responses addressed in the contributing chapters are tailored to reflect the uniqueness in the coping strategies in each specific country and culture.

“It’s full of multi-levels of insights and perspective from different groups of responses,” Meng said.

Infographic from the new strategic communication book.
Each chapter in the new “Strategic Communication in a Global Crisis” book features an infographic summary.

Many of the chapter authors from different countries were invited to participate through their membership in the European Public Relations Education and Research Association, or through Meng’s research network as the lead researcher for the North American Communication Monitor, sponsored and organized through  The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations

The book is divided into four sections: An introduction; a section written by communication professionals about how they managed the influx of information during COVID; a section examining the response of 16 countries including the trust level of citizens and how each government communicated information; and a conclusion. Each chapter incorporates a visually engaging infographic summarizing key findings and practical implications.

“As editors, we believe it is necessary to provide engaging visual communication information in today’s digital communication environment to advance the meaning of strategic communication and bridge the knowledge gap between social science research and practical implications,” Meng said.

In addition to Meng, several other Grady College faculty, doctoral students and alumni contributed chapters to the book including Yan Jin, the C. Richard Yarbrough Professor of Crisis Communication Leadership; Ruoyu Sun (MA ’17), assistant professor of public relations; Bryan Reber, professor emeritus; Ton Xie (PhD ‘22); and Sung In Choi, a current doctoral student.

The book is part of the Routledge New Directions in PR & Communication Research series.

Booker T. Mattison writes and directs “Twisted Marriage Therapist”

“It is a psychological thriller, and it is indeed shocking,” Booker T. Mattison, an associate professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies at Grady College, said about his newest film, “Twisted Marriage Therapist.” 

A photo of Marija Abney as Dr. Yo. that reads "Nurturing Relationships for Lasting Connection. Grow with Dr. Yo."
In “Twisted Marriage Therapist,” Dr. Yo is played by Marija Abney.

Set to premiere on the free streaming service Tubi on Sept. 7, “Twisted Marriage Therapist” tells the story of a celebrity marriage counselor who gets the husband of a couple she’s counseling committed so she can steal his wife.

“I like thrillers, but the psychological thriller I particularly like because it allows the protagonist to manipulate and to use her mind to impact the minds of other characters in the film,” said Mattison. “And if you control someone’s mind, ultimately you can control their body. So it was a lot of fun both writing the film and directing it.”

Shot in late spring of 2023, from May 14 through June 2, and starring Marija Abney as Dr. Yo, Pha’rez Lass as the husband and Jennifer Sears as the wife, “Twisted Marriage Therapist” is markedly different compared to previous films Mattison has made. 

Mattison has a background in dramas. Last year, he stepped slightly outside of his comfort zone while writing and directing “The Sound of Christmas,” a holiday movie about a widower who falls in love with a music teacher who brings love and music back to the family during the holidays. It debuted on BET+ Thanksgiving of 2022. 

Notably, “Twisted Marriage Therapist” is a sharp turn from a family holiday movie. But Mattison always welcomes a challenge. 

“I was hired to do a psychological thriller, and I did it,” said Mattison. “It allows me to showcase my diversity as a storyteller, as both a writer and a director.” 

“People often ask me, ‘What type of films do you like?’ or ‘What type of stories do you tell?’ My answer is always ‘good ones,’ Mattison added. “I’m not a person who favors one particular genre.”

This approach, of being a diverse storyteller, also influences how Mattison teaches his students at Grady College.  

“My initial objective is to create an environment where students can discover their voice,” said Mattison. “My second objective is to train students to refine that voice and then use it to tell stories that matter to them, independent of genre or subject matter.”

Those interested in taking a look behind the scenes of the production of “Twisted Marriage Therapist” can visit Mattison’s Instagram page.

Herndon named to UGA’s inaugural Fellows for Transformative Teaching program

Dr. Keith Herndon, the William S. Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management, was named to the University of Georgia’s inaugural Fellows for Transformative Teaching program.

The program, operated by the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), was created to bring together experienced faculty from across non-tenure track lines to explore and engage in conversations about advanced teaching practices.

Herndon, who is entering is 12th year of teaching and service at the Grady College, is one of 10 faculty members from across the University selected for the initial cohort. Herndon is the executive director of the Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership and he is a professor of practice in the Department of Journalism.

“Dr. Herndon is exactly the kind of professor who should be a Fellow for Transformative Teaching. He is already highly skilled and innovative, and he will contribute significantly to discussions about advanced teaching practices,” said Jonathan Peters, journalism department head. “At the same time, he is always searching for new ways to connect with students and to explore content in fresh and compelling ways.”

CTL has several goals as it launches the program during the upcoming academic year, including creating an opportunity for senior faculty to share ideas with other dedicated, highly motivated, and innovative teachers. CTL said the program will help reinforce an instructional environment that honors and recognizes the skills and values of dedicated instructional practitioners across campus.

“My time in the classroom has provided the most rewarding experiences of my professional career,” Herndon said. “It is an honor to represent my students and my colleagues through participation in this fellowship. I’m eager to engage with the faculty selected for this program as we share experiences and learn from one another.”

Herndon’s teaching acumen has long been recognized. He was the Department of Journalism’s Teacher of the Year in 2014. He won a teaching fellowship in 2016 from the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, and in 2019 he received a UGA Creative Teaching Award.

Prior to joining the Grady College faculty full-time in 2012, Herndon was president of a strategic planning firm focusing on the media and technology sectors. He also had a 22-year career with Cox Enterprises, serving as a vice president in its internet division following his work as a reporter and editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Herndon received his bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Grady College. He earned a master’s degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Oklahoma and completed his Ph.D. in Media and Information from Australia’s Curtin University.

Grady College welcomes new full-time faculty

With the start of the academic year, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication is proud to welcome four new full-time faculty.

Nicholas Eng and Ruoyu Sun are new faculty members in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, while Benjamin Han and Lauren Musgrove are new to the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies.

Nicholas Eng joins AdPR as an assistant professor of public relations. Dr. Eng recently earned his doctoral degree from Pennsylvania State University, and his research foci are the interplay between messages and audiences in responses about health, science and the environment. Prior to his graduate studies, Eng worked in advertising and public relations in both agencies and social enterprises. He has a master’s degree from North Carolina State University and a bachelor’s degree from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

He is motivated by having a meaningful impact on the world. “That is why a lot of my research has a prosocial aspect to it, as I seek to understand how we can shape people’s behaviors toward a healthier individual and planet,” Eng said.

Benjamin Min Han joins EMST as an associate professor. Dr. Han’s research focuses on television studies, race and media, and global media, especially the intersections between Korea and Latin America media and culture. He is the author of “Beyond the Black and White TV: Asian and Latin American Spectacle in Cold War America.” He taught communication courses at Tulane University, and received his doctorate degree in cinema studies from New York University. He has a master’s degree from University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree from University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Han is motivated by intellectual curiosity and meeting new people with diverse backgrounds. He is relocating to Georgia with his wife and eight-year-old son.

Lauren Musgrove joins EMST as an assistant professor. Professor Musgrove is an eight-time Southeast Emmy-winning filmmaker and the co-founder of Purple Magnet Productions, a women-owned production company committed to supporting a more inclusive and geographically expansive industry. She has a number of productions to her credit including serving as co-producer and director of “People of Alabama” documentary video series which received an INMA Global Media Award, and “A Day in the Life of America,” which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and is available on PBS. She has an MFA in Film and Media Art from Emerson College in Boston and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama.

“We are thrilled to be back in the South,” said Musgrove, who is moving to the area with her husband, Will, and their Boykin Spaniel, Tallulah, who was born in Georgia.

Ruoyu Sun (MA ’17), returns to AdPR as an assistant professor of public relations. After earning her master’s degree at Grady College in public relations, Dr. Sun continued her studies at the University of Miami, recently graduating with a doctorate in communication. Her research specialization focuses on corporate communication, stakeholder engagement and relationship management. Sun earned a bachelor’s degree in international journalism from BNU-HKBU United International College in China.

She is excited to be back in Athens at UGA. “As an alumna of UGA and the College of Journalism and Mass Communication, I have a deep sense of connection to the university. What excites me most is the opportunity to rejoin this vibrant and innovative community as a faculty member and contribute to its growth.”

Grady College is pleased to welcome several new part-time instructors as well including:

  • Sam Jones, Journalism
  • Diana Keough, Journalism
  • Ashley Patterson, EMST
  • Kamille Whittaker, Journalism

Grady College faculty and graduate students share insights at 2023 AEJMC Conference

Faculty and graduate students from Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication will present research and network with educators at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication annual conference. The 2023 conference takes place in Washington, D.C. August 7-10.

Several faculty will be honored for outstanding work including Kyser Lough, assistant professor in journalism, who co-authored “Beyond Graduation: Evaluating the Impact of University-Level Solutions Journalism Education on Journalists in the Field,” a Top Faculty Extended Abstract in the Scholastic Journalism division.

Denetra Walker, assistant professor in journalism, placed third in the Critical and Cultural Studies Division highly-regarded James Murphy Top Faculty paper competition for her paper, “Black Television Journalists and their Lens of ‘Gatekeeping Blackness.’”

Finally, alumna Jane Singer (ABJ ’76), City University of London, is the 2023 winner of the Paul J. Deutschmann Award for Excellence in Research, which recognizes a body of significant research over the course of one’s career. Singer will be recognized at the General Session on Aug. 9. Singer was the recipient of the Grady College Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award in 2017.

A day-by-day summary of sessions which faculty and graduate students are participating includes:

Monday, Aug. 7

8:30 to 10:00 a.m., Karin Assmann is a discussant for “Redefining the Scope, Value, and Influence of Community Journalism.”

8:30 to 10:00 a.m., Kyser Lough is a presenter for “The Influence of Photo Editors on Visual News Representation”  a Visual Communication division, poster session.

8:30 to 10 a.m., Hye Jin Yoon presents “The Role of Fresh Start Mindset (FSM) and Collectivistic Orientation in Mental Health Awareness Ads,” in the Visual Communication, International Communication and Advertising Divisions.

10:30 a.m. to Noon, Hye Jin Yoon and Jeong-Yeob Han, along with graduate students JaKyung Seo and Youngjee Ko, present “The Order Effects of Humor and Risk Messaging Strategies in Public Service Announcements Promoting COVID-19 Vaccinations: The Moderating Role of Trust in Science,” part of the Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk Division.

12:15 to 1:45 p.m. Juan Meng and Glenna Read are panelists discussingArticulating your career identity,” organized by the Public Relations Division. The panel is followed by the Graduate Student Luncheon, which is sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. This is an offsite panel and event.

Tuesday, Aug. 8

8:30 to 10:00 a.m., Itai Himelboim is a discussant for “Social Media Effects, Mood and Image,” a Scholar to Scholar (poster) session.

8:30 to 10 a.m., Juan Meng discusses “The Online Media and Global Communication: Bridging scholarship between the global north and the global south.” This invitation-only breakfast event is organized and sponsored by our partner university, School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Shanghai International Studies University.

12:30 to 2 p.m., Yan Jin and graduate student Wenqing Zhao are presenters for “Public Affairs, Public Opinion, and Public Relations,” a Public Relations Division Refereed Research Paper Session. The presentation is titled “Pushing Hands and Buttons: The Effects of Corporate Social Issue Stance Communication and Online Comment (In)Civility on Publics’ Emotional and Behavioral Responses.”

12:30 to 2:00 p.m., Bart Wojdynski, Kyser Lough and graduate student Sohyun Park are presenters for “Effects of Visuals in Solutions Journalism: A Social Media Eye-Tracking Experiment,” a Newspaper and Online News division, paper session.

2:30 to 4 p.m., Karin Assmann moderates the research panel “It’s About Power, Stupid! (Re)Exploring Critical and Cultural Studies.”

2:30 to 4 p.m., Juan Meng is a teaching panelist for “Let’s Go Team! Fostering dynamic teamwork for career readiness, a panel co-sponsored by the Public Relations Division and the Internship and Careers Interest Group.

6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Kyser Lough presents at “Beyond Graduation: Evaluating the Impact of University-Level Solutions Journalism Education on Journalists in the Field,” a Scholastic Journalism division, Top Paper session.

Wednesday, Aug. 9

Noon to 1:30 p.m., Itai Himelboim and doctoral student Jeonghyun Janice Lee are presenters for “If It Bleeds, It Doesn’t Lead: Emotional Appeal and Engagement in an Immigration and Election Conversation on Twitter,” AEJ Scholar to Scholar (poster) session.

6 to 9 p.m., Karin Assmann moderates the Cultural and Critical Studies Divisions Top Research Paper session.

Thursday, Aug. 10

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Kyser Lough and recent undergraduates Cassidy Moore (AB ’23) and Anna Chapman (AB ’23) present “Evaluating Ethical Community Representation in Photojournalism Through Feature Photographs and Demographic Congruence” a Media Ethics division, paper session.

Grady College remembers Spencer Tinkham

Dr. Spencer F. Tinkham, admired for his affable nature, prolific research and dedication to students, died June 29, 2023. He was 79 years old.

Tinkham served as a professor of advertising at Grady College for 37 years before retiring in 2018.

“Spencer Tinkham was a consummate gentleman and a tireless, diligent scholar,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “I’m immensely thankful our time at Grady overlapped a bit, for I had long admired him. Everyone who knew him admired him.”

Headshot of Spencer Tinkham in early 1980s.
Spencer Tinkham, ca. mid-1980s. (Photo: Grady College Archives)

Tom Russell, dean of Grady College from 1983 to 2000 during much of Tinkham’s tenure, agreed.

“I remember Spencer as a faculty member who was always ready to help graduate students and faculty alike with their research problems.  He was truly an anchor of the Grady graduate program throughout his tenure.  We were most fortunate to have him as a faculty colleague and, more importantly, as a friend.  He will be missed by the many who benefited from his wise counsel.”

Over the years, Tinkham taught undergraduate courses in advertising research methods, management and campaigns. He also taught graduate-level courses in advanced communication research and quantitative data analysis, and was actively involved with the American Academy of Advertising.

Karen King, professor emerita, had a long history with Tinkham going back to 1977 when he was her Ad Campaigns professor at University of Illinois.  They were also colleagues at Grady College and the American Academy of Advertising.

“Spencer was a prolific advertising scholar and a main-stay at the annual American Academy of Advertising meetings with a number of top research article awards,” King said. “He helped train several generations of advertising scholars and was on almost every doctoral dissertation committee for advertising students at Grady. He was a particularly gifted teacher of graduate students as he had a unique way of breaking down and explaining complex statistical analysis for which legions of grad students and colleagues were grateful.”

Spencer served as faculty advisor for Tom Landrum (MA ’87), vice president emeritus for Development and Alumni Relations at the University of Georgia, when Landrum was earning his master’s degree.

“I simply would not have made it without his help,” Landrum said. “He encouraged and motivated me as I labored on my thesis. Together, we made a deep dive into the statistical relevance of the data I collected and he was there for support all through the process.”

Landrum recalled his thesis defense and the help Tinkham provided.

“Over the years, I have come to appreciate just how much I learned from Professor Tinkham and how grateful I am that he was chair of my reading committee. I know I’m not the only student he encouraged and mentored. Grady College was fortunate to have him.”

Tinkham served as the dissertation chair for Hye Jin Yoon (MA’ 06, PhD ’10) when she was getting her doctorate degree at Grady College in the early

Spencer Tinkam helps with Hye Jin Yoon’s hooding ceremony as she graduates with her doctoral degree in 2010. (Courtesy of Hye Jin Yoon)

2000s. Yoon, who is an associate professor at Grady College, remembers how friendly and kind he was, especially to Ph.D. students.

“His presence was always calming and soothing during our most anxiety-ridden years,” Yoon said. “Any conversation with him, short or long, was always intellectually invigorating. As a current Grady professor, I owe him, along with all my great Grady professors, my career and success. We will always  cherish him in our hearts and minds.”

According to King, Tinkham was also an accomplished pianist and singer who appeared with the men’s University of North Carolina choir on “The Ed Sullivan Show” back in his college days. He used to joke that when he retired from Grady, he was going to write country western songs.

“I believe that he will be most remembered by his friends, colleagues, and former students for the seemingly endless supply of grace and the kindness he shared with all of us,” King said.

Prior to joining the faculty of Grady College, Tinkham taught in the Marketing Department of Columbia University Graduate School of Business, at the University of Illinois and as a visiting professor at the University of Florida. His research on political communication, especially message and audience factors in persuasion, earned him national attention including a ranking in the top 25 academic advertising researchers in the Journal of Advertising.

Upon being named the Teacher of the Year for the Department of Advertising and Public Relations in 2007, the late Ron Lane said of Tinkham, “He spends countless hours in his second office, Conference Room 203, mentoring graduate students. On a daily basis, undergraduate and graduate students are lined up outside his office for that personal attention he is so famous for.”

Tinkham earned his doctorate degree in communications and his master’s in advertising from the University of Illinois. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of North Carolina.

  • Dean Charles Davis recognizes Spencer Tinkham's retirement at the spring end-of-semester reception on April 25, 2018. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Grady faculty and graduate students present at ICA conference; Walker and Kim to receive Outstanding Dissertation Awards

Several Grady College faculty and graduate students will present their research at the annual International Communication Association Conference May 25-29, 2023.

The conference takes place in Toronto.

Among the highlights are the presentations of two Outstanding Dissertation Awards: one to Denetra Walker, assistant professor of journalism, and one to Solyee Kim, lecturer in public relations.

Walker’s award comes from ICA’s Ethnicity and Race in Communication Division. Her dissertation, written at the University of South Carolina, was titled “Gatekeeping Blackness: The Roles, Relationships, And Pressures of Black Television Journalists at a Time of Racial Reckoning.”

Kim’s award is the James E. Grunig and Larissa A. Grunig Outstanding Dissertation Award for her paper, “DEI Sensemaking and Social Identity Signaling in Public Relations: Recruitment of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ Practitioners Through DEI Cues.” Kim earned this award through the Public Relations Division

Other faculty and graduate students participating in the ICA conference include (listed in chronological order of presentation):

Thursday, May 25

1:30 p.m., Charlotte Varnum makes a pre-conference presentation, “Eyes and ears: Examining how mobile users navigate and make listening decisions on podcast platforms”

Friday, May 26

9 -10:15 a.m., Yan Jin is the chair and discussant for a panel, “”Leading Strategic Communication Through Turbulent Times: How the Contingency Theory Advances Practice in the Management of Crises, Conflicts and Complex Public Relations Issues.” (2-Kenora, Sheraton)

Noon – 1:15 p.m., Juan Meng chairs the panel “Innovation in Strategic Communication Research and Education.” (2-Kenora, Sheraton)

1:30 – 2:45 p.m., Juan Meng and Michael Cacciatore co-present the paper, “The Integrated Role of Adaptive Leadership, Sense of Empathy, and Communication Transparency: A Novel Approach to Trust Building in Public Relations.” (2-Kent, Sheraton)

4:30-5:45 p.m., Yan Jin co-presents “Public’s Health Information Consumption During a ProlongedPandemic: The Competing Roles of Journalists and Digital Influencers and Their Effects in Combating Message Fatigue.” (LC—Grand Ballroom, Sheraton)

Juan Meng also serves on the International Journal of Strategic Communication Editorial Board which meets Friday evening.

Saturday, May 27

9 – 10:15 a.m., Yan Jin chairs a session, “Addressing Misinformation and Benefits of Information,” and also presents with Xuerong Lu, a graduate student, “”There is a time for everything in organizational corrective communication: The effects of correction placement timing and refutation detail level on combating crisis misinformation.” (2-Elgin, Sheraton)

3 – 4:15 p.m., Michael Cacciatore co-presents the research, “Legitimate and appropriate science communication: The effects of anthropomorphic and satirical humor on source credibility.” (Dominion, Sheraton)

Sunday, May 28

9 – 10:15 a.m., Michael Cacciatore presents the research, “Cultivating interest in science through humor: Mirth as a leveler of gaps in science engagement.” (Cedar, Sheraton)

10:30 – 11:45 a.m., Juan Meng chairs the session, “Ethics, Listening, Purpose, and Dissensus: Various Applications of Public Relations” (M-Norfolk, Sheraton)

1:30 – 2:45 p.m., Hye Jin Yoon and Youngji Seo, a graduate student, discuss their paper, “The Individual/Combined Effects and Order Effects of Fear and Humor in Sun Safety Messages on Social Media” (2-Mackenzie, Sheraton)

4:30 – 5:45 p.m., Laurena Bernabo presents research on “Race, Representation and Identity.” (Room 2Kent)

Monday, May 29

9 – 10:15 a.m., Hye Jin Yoon and Youngjee Ko, a graduate student, present the research, “The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility Orientation in Green Demarketing Publicity and Advertising.” (2-Provnicial North, Sheraton)

Noon – 1:15 p.m., Karin Assmann serves as a panelist for the session, “Of the People, by the People, for the People: Re-Inventing Public Media to Support Democracy and Social Change.” She will also discuss her paper, “Crisis of Confidence: German Public Media Under Pressure.”

Vaccine hesitancy persists among parents

The majority of U.S. parents accept the recommended vaccine schedule for their children. But new research from the University of Georgia suggests vaccine hesitancy among a small but significant percentage of Americans doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

The study reviewed recent published data and studies on vaccination rates and acceptance from a number of sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual National Immunization Surveys, peer-reviewed journal articles and articles in respected national media outlets, such as the New York Times.

For the present study, the researchers defined vaccine hesitancy as reluctance or indecision that may cause a parent to choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children. Vaccine hesitancy is the reluctance or doubt about the value of a vaccine. It can cause parents to delay or decline a recommended childhood vaccination.

“Vaccine hesitancy is much discussed but needs to be better and more consistently studied,” said Glen Nowak, lead author of the study and co-director of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Center for Health and Risk Communication. “A key finding from this review is that many parents’ concerns about childhood vaccines have persisted over time.

“The recent studies we examined continue to show many new parents are concerned about the number of vaccines given at one time for young children, and many parents are concerned about potential side effects or safety. Unfortunately, all this persists despite years of widespread medical community and public health awareness and efforts to address vaccine hesitancy.”

Nowak previously served as the media relations director at the CDC and the communications director for the agency’s National Immunization Program.

“Our review is a reminder that the medical community and public health need to continually provide vaccine education, especially to first-time parents, about why vaccines are used, how vaccines work, what vaccines can do and what they can’t do,” said Nowak, who is also a professor in UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Parents hesitant about HPV, flu vaccines

The researchers found recently published surveys indicate that most parents accept recommended childhood vaccines and have their children vaccinated on schedule.

However, their review of recent studies also showed higher levels of hesitancy for specific vaccines, particularly HPV and flu vaccines. Recent studies suggest that only three out of five teens are fully vaccinated against HPV, and 92% of parents with unprotected children in one CDC study said they were not likely to get them vaccinated.

The researchers also found that recently published research consistently found significant differences in vaccination rates across states and demographic groups.

For example, more than 88% of infants in Arizona received the hepatitis B vaccine at birth compared to only 62% of Florida newborns, according to one study.

Similarly, another study found Georgia, Maryland, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Kentucky had a 5% to 10% decline in kindergarteners vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (known as the MMR vaccine) in the 2020-2021 school year. Several other states, including Washington and Idaho, also had counties with high levels of nonmedical vaccine exemptions.

Several recent years of CDC data showed lower rates of pediatric vaccination among Black and Hispanic children. Additionally, children who weren’t covered by private health insurance were dramatically less likely to receive almost all recommended vaccines, as were those in lower socioeconomic households.

Political affiliation may affect willingness to vaccinate children

The review also found some evidence to suggest there may be a connection between parents’ general political beliefs and reluctance to vaccinate one’s children.

The researchers recommend that more and continued research is necessary to better understand how political beliefs are related to parents’ understanding of vaccine benefits and risks.

The small number of recently published articles that were examined in the review suggested vaccine hesitancy among self-reported conservative individuals was associated with valuing personal liberty. The limited available evidence, however, primarily focused on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and the idea that adults can and should be able to make their own medical choices.

“That’s different than what is often found when it comes to childhood vaccination hesitancy,” Nowak said. “This type of hesitancy reflects concerns beyond a vaccine’s effectiveness or safety, which are things doctors and nurses are often able to address. This type of vaccine hesitancy, which may pertain more to vaccines recommended for adults, involves things like, ‘I don’t want to get it because it’s my right to not get it.’”

Nowak noted that successfully addressing vaccine hesitancy based on philosophical or political values is a much harder hurdle for health care providers and public health experts to overcome.

Public health, medical community must continually invest in vaccine education

Another challenge in building vaccination acceptance and reducing vaccine hesitancy is that the population of parents with children who need vaccines is ever changing.

“Every single day, new parents are coming online, so efforts to improve vaccination acceptance can’t just be a single campaign and then it’s done,” Nowak said. “Vaccine education needs to be ongoing and highly visible, which would require a culture change in the public health and medical communities.

“I think the culture has been changing, but we haven’t crossed the threshold where vaccine education is a big part of public health and the medical world, particularly with pediatricians, family physicians, nurses and OB-GYNs.

“Until we get to that point,” Nowak continued, “I think we’re going to continue to see many parents and others be reluctant or have doubts about the safety and benefits of recommended vaccines.”

Nowak noted that state and local vaccination requirements for day care and school enrollment can be helpful to reach community immunity levels for certain diseases, but that mandates don’t build trust in the medical and public health community among parents.

“Trust is essential if you’re actually going to reduce hesitancy,” Nowak said. “We have to do more to educate parents, particularly first-time parents and during pregnancy, about the vaccines that will be recommended after the child is born, why those vaccines are recommended and the importance of young children getting those vaccines in a timely manner.”

Published in Pediatric Clinics of North America, the study was co-authored by Michael Cacciatore, co-director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication and an associate professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Whistleblowers losing faith in media impact

The whistleblowers who once trusted journalism are losing faith in the institution.

new study from the University of Georgia found that many whistleblowers who reached out to journalists in the past no longer believe media has the same ability to motivate change, and they feel let down by a system they once trusted.

“If you don’t believe that an outlet or journalist can carry you across the finish line—meaning can affect change, attract enough attention and attract the attention of the right people—then you’re losing faith,” said Karin Assmann, study lead and assistant professor in UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “So if you think the institution of journalism no longer has the same impact, maybe because you see algorithms dictate what people pay attention to, then you lose faith.”

Distrust in institutions leads to skepticism

Assmann’s study was inspired by her own career as a journalist and a desire to protect the profession as it undergoes significant change. Assmann spoke with 16 whistleblowers who contacted journalists between the 1970s and 2010s, discussing their decisions to go to the press, their experience during interviews and their reflections on how media has changed.

Although they once believed journalists would protect sources and stories would foster accountability and evoke change, study participants noted the erosion of media’s reach throughout the last several decades.

“Especially with early whistleblowers, I would say through the early 2000s, there would be an emphasis on television,” Assmann said. “People would tune into the evening news, and pay attention to what this whistleblower had to say, trusting that it must be worthy of the audience’s attention if it made it into the evening news.”

But today, many whistleblowers believe consumers are less likely to watch the news or read a newspaper—they’re tuning into YouTube and reading brief push notifications or social posts instead. This, coupled with a loss of faith in institutions, meant that if they had another whistle to blow, they might rely on a different medium to spread the message.

“Another thing about whistleblowers is that their trust in their own institution has been damaged,” Assmann said. “So many of them see journalism as an institution that is equally damaged because they may have an ideology that tells them corporate ownership dictates how news is spread, the same way that maybe corporate ownership is responsible for whatever they’re blowing the whistle on.”

A lack of resources impacting newsrooms

Assmann’s study also cataloged the care with which whistleblowers selected journalists. They sought individuals with an established byline, experience reporting on specific topics and a dedicated audience.

“The whistleblowers talked about individuals plus institutions. Jeff Wigand, for example, was really strategic,” Assmann said, highlighting the former tobacco executive who reported that chemicals were added to a tobacco blend to increase the nicotine’s effect. “He looked at ‘60 Minutes,’ looked at the ratings. He knew the program was going to reach millions of people.”

Another example from the study was Tom Drake, who exposed excessive spending at the National Security Agency in 2010.

Drake relied on anonymity for his own safety, and he sought out a specific journalist who would understand the nuances of encryption and the intelligence community in order make sure his report was understood and well-reported.

“He had to find somebody who understood encryption, who would buy into all of the safeguards he had set up in order to share what he had to share without being found out,” Assmann said. “That is an extreme example, but other people follow that same logic and choose who they see as a subject matter expert. That kind of expertise is now at risk, I would say, in the current media landscape.”

Now, reporters are stretched thin and more likely to cover multiple topics.

“You’ll often start working at a news organization, and maybe you’ll have a beat, but you’ll also have to do 100 other things,” Assmann said. “How are you supposed to build trust? How are people supposed to recognize you as somebody who is a subject matter expert?”

Trending lack of trust

There are several factors at hand in waning faith in media, including shrinking newsrooms and a growing gap between communities and journalists. And in a world where more consumers rely on quick articles—or just headlines—to stay up to date, newsrooms need to become better resourced to rebuild trust.

“My suspicion, and I don’t think I’m alone with that, is that there is a crisis in local news,” Assmann said. “People don’t meet journalists in their everyday life anymore. Normal citizens don’t find themselves represented in local broadcast or the local paper.”

Continued research, however, can highlight opportunities to support newsrooms and rebuild some of that trust to combat negative perceptions, Assmann said.

“There’s a mistrust in the news media that’s been fostered, I would say, in the last couple of years through some politicians who have something to gain from the news media losing credibility,” Assmann said. “So I think this is a huge construction site for us to work on as journalism scholars and as journalists.”

If things continue along the same trajectory, whistleblowers could start turning to alternative forms of media to share their stories. Many interviewees in the study reported having greater trust for alternative news sources—blogs or social media—than traditional media.

But Assmann is wary of fully attributing this shift to mistrust.

“I would say that rather than calling it mistrust, it reflects them being media savvy and understanding how media networks work and audiences work,” she said. “The new, modern whistleblower may be born out of mistrust for mainstream media and just figures out that these are the best ways to get their stuff out of there. Maybe the next whistleblower will say, ‘I’ll make it a TikTok video,’ if, you know, TikTok is even still around.”

This feature originally appeared UGA Today website