Dr. Denetra Walker, an assistant professor in the Journalism Department, started her role in fall 2022. While she’s still new to the College, her research draws from years of experience both studying the topic of social justice journalism and working in several behind-the-scenes roles in television news markets in Augusta, Georgia, New York, Houston, Las Vegas and Columbia, South Carolina.
Walker’s research focuses on the experiences of journalists of color and those who are marginalized and underrepresented in the news media. She’s interested in how protests and movements, such as Black Lives Matter, and historic events, such as the civil rights and women’s rights movements, have been portrayed by news organizations.
She looks at what and how news organizations are covering those events in real time, as well as what it is like for, specifically journalists of color, covering things that are so close to their lived experiences.
Learn more about Walker’s work. Listen to the podcast on Anchor, or your preferred audio streaming platform, by clicking here or following the links above.
For many, watching television is a part of daily life, and those clips that show up on screens can begin to leave a lasting impression. Television shows’ portrayals of different people and groups, even in subtle ways, can influence the way individuals and cultures are perceived.
Understanding this, Dr. Laurena Bernabo, an assistant professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies, uses television as a lens to look into issues surrounding race, gender and sexuality. She studies how these issues are being communicated to the public and used as entertainment to make sense of changing social relations. She also studies public responses to these portrayals.
In this episode, Dr. Bernabo dives into some of her research, including a past project, for which she spent time in Mexico City observing how those working on the Spanish language broadcast of “Glee” dubbed over the voices, and her more recent work, which focuses on public response to depictions of single fathers on television.
Listen to the podcast on Anchor, or your preferred audio streaming platform, by clicking here or following the links above.
The two-year, online degree program, which is flexible enough to allow students to continue on with their existing lives, prepares students with narrative journalism skills, pairs them with accomplished industry mentors, provides them with a writing community for life and gives them the tools and connections they need to have their work published.
The program features an impressive and diverse roster of authors, literary agents and other industry professionals who work directly with students, inspiring them and supporting them while they tune their storytelling, reporting and pitching skills.
Graduates of the program are prepared to write books for national and international publishers, as well as for prominent magazines, such as The Atlantic, Bitter Southerner, Oxford American and many others. Graduates are also qualified to teach journalism at the university level.
In this episode, we speak with Moni Basu, an award-winning journalist and author and the director of our Master in Fine Arts in Narrative Nonfiction program.
Listen to the podcast on Anchor, or your preferred audio streaming platform, by clicking here or following the links above.
In this episode, Dr. Bright speaks about the origins of the program, training student journalists in community reporting, the adjustments and advancements made to The Oglethorpe Echo over the past year, what students gain from the experience, and the replicability of the program.
Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for clarity and brevity.
Grady Research Radio: To start, can you give us some general insight on the program, what the College’s involvement with the nearly 150-year-old newspaper entails?
Amanda Bright: It’s been quite a journey. About a year ago, Dink NeSmith (ABJ ’70), who lives in Oglethorpe County and is an alumnus, found out that his county newspaper was about to close. The family that had owned it for a long time had health issues. Obviously, in our industry, local news struggles financially.
He did not want to live in a county without a newspaper, so he called Dean Davis immediately, and they hatched a plan that Grady journalism students would take over The Oglethorpe Echo, the editorial side, as part of a class.
From those early moments in October, we ended up getting a group of interns to take us through to the spring semester. I was asked to teach the class, and we developed a system by which students do all of the reporting for The Oglethorpe Echo every week plus participate in editor and producer roles to manage our six digital products.
So, it’s been a lot of learning very fast, but we’ve essentially been able to save a county from becoming a news desert because of the really hard work done by our journalism students.
Grady Research Radio: I know a big part of local news reporting is being familiar with the community that you’re reporting on. So what mechanisms were put in place to help the student journalists familiarize themselves with Oglethorpe County?
Amanda Bright: I think that’s one of the hardest things that we struggled with off the bat, because Oglethorpe County — it’s about four times the size of Clarke County geographically, but only 15,000 people live there. There’s only one traffic light in the whole county. There are just two chain restaurants. It is a very different environment from the UGA, Athens-Clarke campus.
Getting the students to understand, particularly those who weren’t already from small towns, the types of issues, problems and victories that the people in Oglethorpe County were having was super vital.
So we did a couple different things. We did a bus tour. The superintendent of schools loaded our first very first capstone section onto a bus and took us around the county and showed us the antebellum reconstruction homes, as well as the trailers that didn’t have any running water or electricity, and we got to see the full gamut of life and experience out there.
Since then we’ve hosted open houses where we go out and visit local businesses. We see the office and the courthouse and just try to meet with people.
The other big avenue that I think is really effective is called a community audit. Students, in their beats, research, talk to people and then create some kind of visual documentation of what they can learn about that beat, whether it’s criminal justice and safety or accounting and politics or sports and recreation. So that has been a great tool to get the students into the county to just talk to people and see what they care about and then start pitching stories from that.
Grady Research Radio: Great. So, when Grady entered the picture, were there any adjustments or advancements that were made to expand upon the reach of the paper and the coverage?
Amanda Bright: The big thing was we went from a weekly newspaper to a weekly newspaper and six digital products. That includes a website, four social media platforms, an email newsletter and an E-edition. I guess that’s seven. That allowed us to reach some audiences that had not yet been reached. That was very important to us.
The second thing, which is probably more important, is diversity and impact. I do think that one of the limitations of the coverage before was that it really did focus on the people who are already known, had power, had money in the county.
There weren’t a lot of stories on the people who were different than that. And so we’ve made a concerted effort over the last year to tell stories of lots of different types of people, and I’m really proud of that and the impact that’s made on those people’s lives, covering organizations’ efforts, celebrating with people in the county who may look different than the members of the Board of Commissioners. So I hope that has been something that the people in the county have noticed and have enjoyed.
Grady Research Radio: Great. So, it’s my understanding that the paper is primarily staffed by capstone journalism students. So, from the academic side, can you kind of walk us through what students gain from the experience?
Amanda Bright: I think, for many of our students, particularly here at Grady where we have a lot of high achievers, small town, community journalism isn’t the first thing on their mind when they think about a career. They’re thinking of CNN, going to Atlanta.
One of the biggest things I want students to take away is that community journalism is incredibly meaningful and rewarding for them professionally as much as it is for the community. Every semester they’ve done this — the students come back at the end and say, “You know, I feel like I made a real difference. I understood people’s stories. I got feedback from them. I built relationships. People were good to me. They wanted to talk to me.” The student journalists are not vilified as the media in a popular culture sense. They’re seen as people who are serving.
So I think that’s what students gain. I think they gain a sense of impact and they gain a sense of community journalism as a viable career path, which I think is probably what’s going to help community journalism survive in the next era.
Grady Research Radio: And on that note, we all know about community journalism and its downward trajectory in terms of lots of papers closing. So, do you see this as a replicable model for saving community journalism across the country?
Amanda Bright: That is a million-dollar question. We are a nonprofit, and I think that’s important. I really do believe in the nonprofit model for lots of reasons.
We are working on stabilizing a more long-term business model inside of that. Right now we really rely on print advertising. We want to expand to digital, including donations, subscriptions, sponsorships, in order to have community investment in our ability to maintain, which is what a nonprofit does, keep the lights on, in what we do.
The replicability part becomes sticky, because, unless you’re next to a big J school with a capstone class of 20-plus students that are available, that’s hard. We have 22 students dedicated to the county. That’s more reporters than they probably have ever had.
That being said, I do support, and I’m exploring with some colleagues in other universities, the idea that almost all J schools should be doing this. So it may not be able to affect all of the news deserts, but perhaps we can take this model and replicate it, even in smaller regional universities where they have a comms studies program.
Grady Research Radio: Great. Thank you for your time today.
Editor’s Note: This is part of our six-part series highlighting stories produced by Grady College in 2022. The features include stories in each of the following subjects:
Research & Expertise
Service & Partnerships
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but instead highlight a sample of just a few of the hundreds of stories about accomplishments by our students, faculty/staff and alumni. We invite you to visit our Grady College News page for a full list of features posted in 2022.
Grady College launched a new research podcast
Keith Wilson produced "I Didn't See You There"
Booker T. Mattison wrote and directed "The Sound of Christmas"
Grady College is home to faculty members who are constantly growing and improving their fields through research and practice. Below are just a few updates in the category of research and expertise from 2022:
Grady College launched a new research podcast: In early September, the Grady Research Radio podcast debuted, highlighting the research and expertise coming out of Grady College. The podcast features concise conversations with faculty members at Grady College and shines a light on their research and proficiencies, as well as the College’s labs.
Keith Wilson produced “I Didn’t See You There:” EMST lecturer Keith Wilson‘s new film “I Didn’t See You There” won the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The film had its theatrical opening at the Firehouse Cinema in New York City on Sept. 30 and its Georgia premiere at Ciné on Oct. 19. It follows a disabled filmmaker who launches into an unflinching meditation on spectacle, (in)visibility and the corrosive legacy of the Freak Show, after a circus tent goes up outside of his Oakland apartment.
Booker T. Mattison wrote and directed “The Sound of Christmas:” Booker T. Mattison, an assistant professor in EMST at Grady College, wrote and directed “The Sound of Christmas,” a holiday film that debuted on the streaming service BET+ on Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day. The film stars Grammy-winning recording artist Ne-Yo and Serayah (“Empire”) in a story about a widower who falls in love with a music teacher who brings love and music back to the family during the holidays. It is based on the novel “The Replacement Wife” by Tiffany L. Warren, who is a friend of Mattison’s and recommended him to write and direct the story.
Brands and organizations want to attract consumers and gain their trust. Accomplishing both of these tasks, though, is no easy feat. Two factors that greatly impact the attractiveness of advertisements and consumer trust are the personalization of advertisements — adding names and images to ads, for example — and disclosing if and how an advertisement, whether its an image, video or user review, may be manipulated or influenced by a brand.
In this episode, Dr. Alexander Pfeuffer, an assistant professor of advertising in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Grady College, speaks about his research addressing those very topics.
Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for clarity and brevity.
Grady Research Radio: To start, I want to ask you a little bit about your recent research work. I know you recently worked on a study for the Journal of Interactive Advertising that evaluated the effectiveness of personalized recruitment ads. Can you walk me through that study — what you were seeking to learn and what you found?
Alexander Pfeuffer: Yes. So this is a study that was led by Jean Pfiffelmann at EM Strasbourg Business School. The study aimed to address the challenge of organizations recruiting new talent to replace retiring workers.
We have globalization, technological change and all of that shaping the job market. So organizations sometimes find themselves in the position of, you know, having skill shortages. The study wanted to see whether advertising could help organizations meet that challenge.
We looked at personalization as one potential strategy, and that means including personal identifiable information in the ads. We looked at literature on personalization that was out there. We saw that recruitment advertising had rarely been examined and that the insights there are on personalized product, service or commercial advertising in general may not easily translate into the recruitment advertising context.
What we found was actually pretty cool. In the recruitment ad context, we found that personalization could be beneficial to organizations. When an organization addresses potential employees on social media by using both their image and name, they feel treated more considerately. They perceive that organization as more attractive, and they were much more likely to subsequently want to pursue that job or to click on the ad and learn more about the organization. That strategy worked specifically for individuals who perceived the message as less relevant to them on the outset.
Grady Research Radio: Great. So were those the results that you expected to find in your hypothesis for this study, or were you surprised by those results in any way?
Alexander Pfeuffer: I think from the existing literature, we thought that maybe using a name of a person was enough personalization. We thought that using images might be perceived as being too intrusive.
But we saw that using just the name actually was not effective. I don’t know if that has to do with the context of it being recruitment ads or if it has to do with, you know — personalized names have been used a lot in email marketing and in commercial ads. Maybe the effects of that, which have previously shown to be effective, may no longer be novel and may no longer exert that effect.
So we saw that it really took the name and the image of that person to have that effect. And it needs to be someone who wasn’t really that involved with a message to begin with.
Grady Research Radio: Backing up a little bit, can you give a more holistic introduction to your research — what the majority of it focuses on?
Alexander Pfeuffer: My research focuses on digital advertising effects, broadly. I look at that through a lens of consumer protection and empowerment, and I explore effects that focus on theories of persuasion and the construct of trust.
So the majority of my research has focused on approaches of ensuring that consumers are informed about the persuasive nature of their content and how that empowerment influences advertising effects.
Grady Research Radio: Great. So, reading through a little bit of your research, I noticed there seems to be this overlying trend that transparency is often a good idea for marketers in terms of boosting consumer trust. So, is this true? Can you explain where it is true and why that might be?
Alexander Pfeuffer: I’ve looked at a variety of disclosure messages that aim at making sure that consumers are informed. Originally, I started looking at that in the sponsorship disclosure context, and I found that consumer responses to those disclosures were nuanced.
So, in terms of the effects that we see, it matters what type of sponsorship was entered — what sort of deal was entered and was disclosed. We saw that, for sponsorship, consumers were much more likely to accept a message that was sponsored by the reviewer receiving a free product, as opposed to receiving payments or a commission.
I think the interesting bit was that we saw that the free product sponsorship was statistically equivalent to a review that ostensibly was not sponsored and didn’t have a disclosure at all.
Grady Research Radio: Okay, great. So this might be asking you to speculate slightly, but are there any instances where a marketer or brand can be too transparent — where transparency can hurt them or their brand?
Alexander Pfeuffer: In the context of my research, we’ve seen that being more forthcoming was of benefit to brands. So, giving that additional information instead of just a general disclosure was more accepted by consumers.
(Consumers) are actually somewhat cynical or suspicious of more general disclosures that simply thank the brand for making something possible, versus saying specifically what they received in return.
Grady Research Radio: In that regard, do you believe that this is a trend that will continue? Will consumers continue or increasingly want to see specifics in disclosure messages, rather than the general disclosure messages such as, as you mentioned, thanking a brand for making something possible.
Alexander Pfeuffer: I think it’s a trend that we’ll see in different contexts as well. I’ve expanded my research to looking into disclosures in the context of image manipulation. So we’re seeing that there are certain countries that are already putting requirements in place that photoshopping would need to be disclosed.
We actually just presented a study at an international advertising conference in Europe, in Prague, that focused specifically on that. In that case, we were less concerned with, you know, how that would affect the effectiveness of the ad and more interested in, can we mitigate potentially harmful effects of image manipulation, which has been linked to issues of mental health and negatively affecting beauty standards.
We saw that those disclosures, and specifically if they are more detailed, through different mechanisms, have the potential to reduce some of those negative effects, particularly in terms of the extent to which we compare our own bodies to maybe unrealistic depictions of human proportions that are often depicted in those social media posts.
Grady Research Radio: Following up on that — if governments start to mandate that you have to disclose the information that this image has been manipulated, do you think that image manipulation will continue at the same rate that it might be at right now?
Alexander Pfeuffer: I will have to speculate. I don’t have the data on that. But those limitations apply to sponsored content specifically. We also saw that those disclosures had some negative effects on how consumers perceived brands and also content creators.
So, I would think that it could be beneficial to brands to have less retouched images. We’ve seen brands already trying to show more realistic depictions in their ads, even outside of the social media space.
Grady Research Radio: Now moving forward — what’s next for your research? Is there anything that you’re working on right now or in the near future that you’re particularly excited about?
Alexander Pfeuffer: Yeah, so as an extension of the research that I just talked about with image retouching, we’re also looking at CGI influencers and how disclosing to consumers that an influencer that they’re seeing is actually computer-generated might affect how they perceive the brand, how they perceive that content creator, and how much they would be willing to rely on that information.
So that’s research that’s going on right now. I’m working on that together with Haley Hatfield and Jooyoung Kim, and Nate Evans was also part of the image retouching project. We’re going to be presenting that at the American Academy of Advertising conference in Denver next March.
And then another thing going on is — so one of my research lines has been striving to apply marketing principles and my interest in trust in the context of health and sustainability. So, an ongoing project right now, which was actually funded by the American Academy of Advertising and also by the Coleman Group, which is a consulting firm in Atlanta, looks at the role of trust in social media content about the Covid-19 vaccine.
Essentially, we’ve seen a lot of content come out, be it from institutions and organizations, but also from fellow social media users about their personal accounts and personal experiences with (the Covid-19 vaccine).
We’re interested in seeing, what are the content attributes? So — what are specific aspects of the content that would let audiences generate an initial level of trust so that in a polarizing context we can get to a point where we have a base level of trust so we can engage with the information rather than outright rejecting it before evaluating it in the first place.
Grady Research Radio: Great. Well, thank you for joining today.
Alexander Pfeuffer: Thank you so much for having me.
With the Dec. 6 Senate runoff election in Georgia soon approaching, the Grady Research Radio podcast brought back Dr. David Clementson, an assistant professor in Public Relations at Grady College and a political communication researcher, to discuss the communication strategies of Sen. Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker heading into the election.
Below is a transcription of the episode, edited lightly for clarity and brevity.
Grady Research Radio: So what does a runoff mean for both of these candidates, Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock? Are either of them feeling particularly happy about it?
David Clementson: I bet neither of them is feeling particularly happy about having to do it all for another month, with the more fundraising and the more attack ads, interviews and invitations to debate. Either one of them would have rather won on Election Day.
You could go any number of ways speculating about Herschel. On the one hand, the libertarian was also on the ballot for the general election, and he probably siphoned off some of Herschel’s support that could have potentially put him over the majority margin.
And there’s all kinds of speculation, as now we see that, regardless of who wins this Georgia seat, the Democrats will retain the majority in the U.S. Senate. That could depress turnout among Republicans who would have been motivated to get Herschel that majority for the Republicans in the Senate.
Or it could benefit Herschel if, let’s say, people had some trepidation about his lack of political experience and were hesitant about wanting him to be a U.S. Senator. Maybe now it’s not as big a deal, if he’s going to be in the minority in the U.S. Senate anyway.
So, yeah, it’s another another month of election torture for everybody.
Grady Research Radio: In just about every one of Warnock’s comms efforts, from his ads to his public addresses and speeches, he continues to question Herschel Walker’s credibility. I know that you’ve done a lot of studies about factors that impede or bolster a politician’s credibility. So where does Walker currently stand in terms of his perceived credibility, and does that even really matter?
David Clementson: Yeah, Warnock has been hammering away, laser-focused on lack of credibility of his opponent, which is pretty typical for politicians to try to pull on each other in campaigns. But Warnock has been really good about staying disciplined and on message, chipping away at the perceived trustworthiness of Herschel Walker.
He’s run ads specifically attacking Herschel for not answering reporters’ questions, running away from reporters, which is, as you said, my key focus in my research. I find this just brilliant strategically to hammer away at the credibility of your opponent, especially in terms of trying to deflect questions from the media and not wanting to be questioned about stuff in debates, press conferences and media interviews.
Herschel seems kind of scattershot with his messaging. A lot of elements are to his benefit as the challenger. He hasn’t been part of the system in which you’ve got inflation, crime, recession and an unpopular Democratic president in the White House. All these factors are just huge to be benefiting the challenger Republican. Yet, we don’t see as much discipline from Herschel in determining the exact issues to hone in on.
Now, in their debate, as in a lot of debates, you go back and forth with politicians calling each other liars. Really, any given day in the news as they’re attacking each other, they’re accusing each other of being liars, and that is the kind of research that I do — looking at the effects of politicians having their veracity impugned.
I know, from experiments that I’ve run, that if a journalist accuses a politician of being deceptively evasive, voters believe the journalist, and it doesn’t matter if the journalist’s allegation is accurate or not. People will still believe the journalist. And this is surprising, of course, when you’ve got surveys, polls out there saying that the public doesn’t trust the media.
But when we move away from self-reported polls and surveys to experiments, where people aren’t being prompted to be suspicious of the media, we see that people tend to believe the media.
So, if Herschel is being accused of being evasive and deceptive, even if he’s not, people will still tend to believe the charge, especially if it’s coming from a reporter. They might be slightly more skeptical of obviously the Democratic opponent who’s motivated in the zero-sum game to tear down Herschel.
It’s a smart strategy of Warnock to present these ads showing, “It’s not just me saying it. Look at what other media are saying.”
Grady Research Radio: I follow the logic that if you say someone is dodging a question people are inclined to believe that. But is that really a big deal? Does it really affect people?
David Clementson: Right. I’ve run some experiments showing just what happens in someone’s cognitive processing when there is an allegation of evasion.
I’ve run experiments that show that if people think a politician is trying to keep them from thinking about something, that triggers rumination. All this research in cognitive and social psychology describes the detriments of obsessing over something.
So, if Herschel was asked about his stance on X issue, and he didn’t want you to think about it, he tried to deflect that question, that can very well cause rumination in voters’ minds. It causes them to obsess over it and to want an answer even more.
So, when Warnock is out there telling people, “Look, a reporter asked Herschel about this ex-girlfriend or this child or abortion and he wouldn’t answer the question,” that triggers rumination, which then plays this key role in depressing the trustworthiness in the candidate.
Grady Research Radio: Speaking a little bit more about how Warnock is accusing Walker of dodging questions, do you believe that has the power to flip any votes or motivate a higher voter turnout?
David Clementson: I think it can definitely depress turnout, and it can proverbially splash on other things. By accusing Herschel Walker of being deceptive and dishonest, not answering questions, running away from reporters and not wanting to debate, you are not just imputing his integrity, his character, but questioning his trustworthiness entirely, which can then splash on everything else. If you can’t be trusted, then what else matters? Why would you vote for somebody if you can’t trust them, if you can’t take their word for it?
So, yeah, I can see it having a depressing effect on turnout, demoralizing the base, which is why Herschel would need to be getting out in front of that more, being more forceful in defending against it.
Grady Research Radio: This is semi-speculative, as is a lot of this, but the libertarian candidate received roughly 2 percent of the vote. Do you foresee those 2 percent of voters being motivated to come out to vote in the runoff?
David Clementson: Given that they were inclined to not vote for either Herschel or Warnock, you would think, well if they weren’t motivated in the general election when they were already going to be turning out, why would they turn out a month later in a runoff when Herschel and Warnock are the only ones on that ballot?
But, at the same time, they’re libertarians, who are conservatives — even more extreme than conservative Republicans. You have Herschel wanting limited government and libertarians wanting no government. So they’re going to be siding ideologically with Herschel Walker.
Whether they’re going to be motivated to turn out, I mean, that’s a crucial 2 percent. Even the libertarian said during the campaign that he knew he was being a spoiler. He knew he wasn’t going to win, but he at least wanted to be on the ballot and motivate a runoff.
So Herschel could be focusing on those kinds of folks, hammering his own conservative ideology to keep them motivated. And we see a lot of ads from Warnock reminding his supporters that the race was really close, no one got 50 percent, we’ve got to bring this over the finish line. I haven’t seen those kinds of ads from Herschel.
Grady Research Radio: What do you believe is Walker’s best approach going into the runoff?
David Clementson: Going back to what we were talking about — his veracity, his trustworthiness being impugned — I think he needs to fight fire with fire and refute these allegations that he’s being deceptive. I think he should also be honing in more on a message.
Now, you could say Warnock doesn’t really have a message either. He’s just attacking the opponent. But, if Herschel wants to do the same thing and fight fire with fire, he should be more laser focused on that. He could be turning around the same kind of accusations against Warnock, because there are certainly clips out there of instances where Warnock would dodge questions in press gaggles and debates also.
Grady Research Radio: Based on your studies, why do you believe that refuting is a good tactic for candidates?
David Clementson: I’ve run experiments on this very thing. This series of experiments that I’ve run have shown that a politician absolutely has to refute an allegation of deception lodged against him.
But my experiments show that it’s not just about the verbal communication of refuting, like saying, “No, I did answer that question. You’re falsely accusing me.” You’ve also got to have a believable demeanor at the same time, which really gets us into some deep behavioral scientific research.
And Warnock, we see, is good about modifying his nonverbal behavioral impressions in the face of charges that are lodged against him. I think Herschel is pretty good too. We saw instances in the debate where Herschel was really good at keeping his demeanor together.
The words really don’t matter as much as having a believable demeanor. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, it will carry more weight in regards to voters believing what you’re saying.
Grady Research Radio: We spoke about this a little bit at the beginning, but what do you anticipate voter turnout looking like for this runoff election? And do you believe the runoff will benefit one candidate over the other?
David Clementson: Well there are a few factors here. One is that if the majority in the U.S. Senate hinged on this election, then people all over the country — practically all over the world — would be parachuting in. It’d be even more of a circus than it is right now if all of Congress rested on who wins this race. Turnout would have been just off the charts.
Fortunately for those of us who want some veritable peace in our lives, it’s not that way. So, ironically, the candidates are really having to bolster turnout themselves with the kinds of messaging and events that they’re doing and media outreach.
Now to your second part of the question — simply because the general election midterm had the libertarian spoiler on the ballot, siphoning off conservative voters, you’ve got to think it would benefit Herschel to get another shot at it without the libertarian on the ballot mudding things. But, yeah, we’ll see.
Grady Research Radio: Thank you for joining us today.
The current media landscape is full of unreliable and deceptive information, through deep fakes, click bait, conspiracies and more. With advancements in technology and the sheer amount of information out there, discerning between what is real and fake has perhaps never been more challenging.
To learn more about the program, including what courses are offered, what students gain, and how to get started, the Grady Research Radio podcast sat down with Dr. Keith Herndon, the executive director of the Cox Institute, the William S. Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management and director of the Cox Institute’s Certificate in News Literacy, and Charlotte Norsworthy, a part-time instructor at Grady College, the editorial director of The Red & Black, and the program coordinator for the Certificate in News Literacy.
Below is a transcript of the conversation, edited for clarity and brevity.
Grady Research Radio: Can you tell me what your roles are with the certificate program?
Keith Herndon: I am the executive director of the Cox Institute, and the certificate is an initiative of the Cox Institute. Specifically, as it relates to the certificate, I’m the director of the certificate.
Charlotte Norsworthy: And I’m the program coordinator. I help on the logistical side of things, making sure that students are enrolling properly, making it through the certificate, and being granted that certification at the end of the program. I’m also a part-time instructor at the university.
Grady Research Radio: Okay, great. Can you give me background on the certificate — its origins and why you determined there was a need to establish this certificate?
Keith Herndon: Well, I think that I started to sense a need for the certificate through some of the interactions I was having with students in the intro class, which we call JOUR 3030. The full title is Media News and Consumers. That course is open to any major on campus. We have a wide range of students in that class, ranging from finance majors to sport management to a wide range of Grady majors, including advertising, public relations, EMST and journalism.
When I started seeing the wide range of understanding of how the media actually operates and what we meant by this idea of misinformation and disinformation, it became pretty clear that there needed to be this broader approach to talking about news literacy with our broader student body.
Charlotte was my original TA when I took over teaching that class, and she also witnessed that firsthand. You can add something to that observation, right?
Charlotte Norsworthy: Absolutely. Students are coming at media from all different backgrounds, perspectives and contexts. How they were raised and socialized — all of that plays into how they engage with the media.
We realized, through doing that class, that they are also actively participating in the spread of information. And so, what is the quality of that information that they are engaging with and sharing by being active users in the digital space and on social media? It has a pretty hefty impact, and we were seeing that firsthand.
Keith Herndon: It was natural to use that course (JOUR 3030) as the intro for the certificate. That course explains what the First Amendment is, why it’s important and what it does and doesn’t do. That’s a really good, you know, foundational course to build a certificate around.
The certificate is based on four courses overall. There are two intermediate courses, which are our ethics and diversity class and our news credibility class. We end it with a capstone course that was developed by Dr. Amanda Bright called Digital Savvy.
Grady Research Radio: Can you kind of do a quick overview of some of the things one would learn in those courses?
Keith Herndon: The ethics and diversity class looks at how the news media operates internally. What are the things that the news media would consider conflicts of interest? How does the news media think about sourcing? We also want to think in terms of inclusivity. Are we covering our communities holistically? That’s where the diversity part comes in.
We also look at how our newsrooms operate in terms of making sure that we represent the communities that we cover. Do we have the right voices in our newsrooms? All those are part of the equation. So that’s what we mean by ethics and diversity. It’s more of an internal look at those kinds of issues.
The news credibility course is much more of an external look. That’s where we talk about this issue of trusting in news. How does the consumer interact with the news media? What are some of the key things that have affected trust in the media? What are some of the things that we have to address from political leanings? How do political leanings affect a person’s relationship with the news media? The news credibility course is looking at it more from an external perspective.
I already mentioned JOUR 3030. That’s the foundational class. It’s where we explain to people what misinformation and disinformation is — how we think of that as almost like pollution in our ecosystem, the same way we think of plastic as polluting the ocean. We really get into some of those fundamentals in that class.
And then it ends with the capstone course called Digital Savvy. That’s more of a practicum class, where the idea is, okay, how do we then spot false information? What are some tools that we can use to understand that this is not accurate information? This is not a photograph that depicts what it says it depicts. This is a video that’s not real. It’s been altered in some way.
Grady Research Radio: I know this is open to any student at the University of Georgia. So, can you talk a little bit about the train of thought, the reasons for opening it up to the entire campus? What would a student who isn’t directly involved in journalism on a day-to-day basis gain from this?
Charlotte Norsworthy: Yeah, so I think our thought process on establishing the Certificate of News Literacy in a way that all majors and all students could access was from the perspective that news literacy is something that everyone participates in. Everyone should be aware because they are all active participants and sharing media and engaging with news.
So, if you are, you know, any sort of informed citizen of society, being media literate is a crucial skill. It’s also a skill that is applicable across careers, right? So, in journalism, we are news gathering. We are creating news. We are producing and disseminating. So, it’s highly specialized and important to us in this field, as well as other Grady majors.
But majors across the university could also find themselves benefiting from it, because companies across the globe and across factions and fields and industries are also online. They’re also digital. They’re also engaging with information and producing the spread of information. So are they doing so in a way that’s accurate, that’s fair and balanced, that’s not polluting the ecosystem even more?
Grady Research Radio: Great. Are there any prerequisites for this certificate, or can a student start this freshman year?
Keith Herndon: The JOUR 3030 class has been designed from the very beginning to be open to any student at any point of their University of Georgia journey. We consider that to be an entry-level course. We have students in that class who take it in their freshman year, sometimes even their very first semester of their freshman year. We also have a group of sophomores who take it. Obviously that’s a required class if you’re a journalism major. It’s an elective for any other major.
That would be the way this would work. If it’s a journalism major that’s doing this certificate, all of the courses and the certificate would count for their major. If it’s a student outside of the journalism major and they do this certificate, it would count as a part of their electives.
Grady Research Radio: Okay, great. So, a journalism student, they could easily embed this into their schedule while not adding any time to their graduation schedule?
Keith Herndon: Yeah. That’s the way it works.
Grady Research Radio: For a student who’s in Grady, maybe in Advertising or Public Relations or Entertainment and Media Studies, how much time could this potentially add to their schedule?
Keith Herndon: I don’t think it would actually add anything if they’re building it in as part of their degree program. Most of the students in our College have plenty of room in their schedule for electives.
Now, they have to make some decisions. They wouldn’t be able to do a double major and a minor and another certificate and still do this as part of their normal course. I mean, it would be one of the things that they would have to choose as part of their degree program.
The journalism students, because this is part of their curriculum, can select these and it would just be embedded into their degree program. Others would have to figure out how to make it work within their body of electives that are available.
Grady Research Radio: Great. So you said there’s also a research component connected to this. Could you elaborate on that?
Keith Herndon: Charlotte and I are working with one of my teaching assistants, Kate Hester, who is one of my graduate assistants in the Cox Institute. And we’re looking at this idea that news literacy is essentially a critical thinking skill. It’s essentially something, as Charlotte alluded to, that all these different industries are looking at as almost a leadership attribute.
And so, we are doing some systematic review of literature, looking at the pedagogy that underlies the classes that we’re teaching, and then looking at how that pedagogy aligns with leadership education and other types of critical thinking training. We will document all of that. It’s called an innovative practice paper that we would then submit as a conference paper with the Association for Leadership Educators. Charlotte and I have collaborated on several of these types of pedagogy leadership framework papers in the past.
Anything you want to add to that process?
Charlotte Norsworthy: I think that the actual practice of going through and constructing these innovative practice papers is incredibly valuable to the research field.
Research typically deals with qualitative and quantitative research methods, and I think that these types of papers bridge the gap from the traditional academic methods into the practicum side of journalism, which is unique to our specific industry. You have to actually do the thing and then you can study the thing. So, this Certificate of News Literacy is sort of us doing the thing. But then we’re also reviewing how it’s impacting those themes that Keith mentioned.
Keith Herndon: And so I think that a lot of what we do in the Cox Institute, you know, our full name is the Cox Institute for Journalism, Innovation, Management and Leadership. So we think that the certificate is innovative, but we also think it has a component of leadership embedded in it. A key attribute of being a leader, in my estimation, is to be truthful and to be trustworthy.
The idea that we have to think of it in terms of the things that we share on social media, the things that we produce out there in the world — it goes beyond just journalism production. It’s anything we do on social media. Are we sharing a post? Are we liking something that may not even be remotely accurate? But the very act of liking it has put it out in your information dissemination.
We want students to think, “Well, is that putting me in the best light?” That’s learning to be discerning about how you live your life. And that’s a critical thinking skill. That critical thinking skill of how we look at all of this information, that is definitely a leadership attribute.
Through this research, we’re trying to look at leadership theories, some critical thinking frameworks, and how other industries might approach similar types of training. We want to document all that and see how it comes together.
We’re at the very beginning of putting together this research material. So check back in with us this time next year and we’ll have a little bit better of an understanding of how it all came together. But we’re really excited about that aspect of it. We’re also excited about bringing in one of our top graduate students to help us with that project as well.
Grady Research Radio: Great, so to wrap up here, what if a student wants to embed this certificate program in their schedules? How can they go about doing that?
Charlotte Norsworthy: The best thing to do is to first talk with your advisor and make sure the 12-hour program that it takes to complete the certificate is manageable and doable with the goals that you have based on your majors, minors and certificates that you may be balancing on top of this program. I would definitely advise you to talk with your academic advisor and make sure that that’s going to work
I would then say, when you’re on Athena, whenever you’re establishing your majors and your minors, you can also click the drop down and add the Certificate of News Literacy as your certificate to formally establish that.
After you do that, we’re notified of that formal enrollment and you can start taking your courses starting with JOUR 3030 and work your way through the program from there.
Keith Herndon: Right. I do want to emphasize one thing that this is different from some certificate programs at the university. It is open enrollment. There’s no application process for our certificate. It’s four courses and all of the courses are always available. There are plenty of seats. There’s no need to have an application process.
We want to make this simple and easy for any student that has an interest in learning about the news media, news literacy, understanding the leadership attributes around that, and understanding its importance.
All they have to do is go to Athena and enroll. So as long as you’re a student in good standing at the university, then you can do the certificate. We’re really excited about that.
We’re in the process now of meeting with advisors at the various colleges and talking about it in classes. We’ve built out a website as part of the Cox Institute so that there’s more information out there. Charlotte has put together a really robust frequently asked questions page. So, you know, anybody can find the information they’re looking for. But it’s an enrollment, as opposed to an application, certificate.
Charlotte Norsworthy: And it’s a do-it-at-your-own-pace kind of program, which I think is also unique to other certificates. You don’t have to complete it within a semester or a series of semesters.
There’s a specific order that you take the courses in. But if you start with JOUR 3030 your first semester freshman year, you can wait until your senior year to finish up the three courses if that’s the only space in time that you’ll have.
We’ve set it up so that it does have an intro course. There are two intermediate courses. Those can be taken in any order. We do prefer that you take the JOUR 3030 Media News and Consumers first. But then you can take News Credibility or Journalism Ethics and Diversity in either order. Once you’ve completed those, you finish it up with the capstone, the Digital Savvy course.
Grady Research Radio: Great. Well, thank you both for your time here today.
As podcasts continue to grow as a popular form of media, it is only fitting that the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication would turn to audio storytelling to help highlight its research and expertise.
The new Grady Research Radio podcast, which debuted on Sept. 7, 2022, and is recorded in the podcast studio Studio Not Found, features concise conversations with faculty members at Grady College and shines a light on their research and proficiencies, as well as the College’s labs.
The podcast’s debut episode covered the news of Grady being named one of the nation’s inaugural solutions journalism hubs by the Solutions Journalism Network. It features interviews with Grady faculty and solutions journalism experts Dr. Amanda Bright, Dr. Kyser Lough and Ralitsa Vassileva, who explained what Grady College is currently doing in research, instruction and outreach to advance solutions journalism, what the new designation means, and how students, educators and professionals in the region can get involved.
“There’s so much happening on campus that we never hear about,” said Vassileva. “A podcast that spreads the word across silos could advance solutions journalism beyond what we can achieve on our own. It could spark new ideas for collaboration.”
The solutions journalism episode was soon followed by one on Grady’s Brain, Body and Media (BBAM) Lab, a lab directed by assistant professor of advertising Dr. Glenna Read used to research psychophysiological reactions to different forms of media and messages. In the lab, researchers can attach sensors to subjects to track how they respond to audio and visual stimuli. Many of the studies conducted in the lab monitor participants by using electrodes that measure activity in the heart, movement of facial muscles on the forehead or around the eyes, and electrodermal activity, or sweat glands, on the hands. The lab also uses electroencephalography (EEG) that measures brain wave activity.
Similarly, the podcast’s third episode sheds light on the new Qualitative Research Lab at Grady College, where graduate and undergraduate students can pursue research focusing on qualitative, non-numerical data. It features a conversation with Dr. Karin Assmann, an assistant professor in the Journalism Department at Grady College and the director of the Qualitative Research Lab. In the episode, Dr. Assmann explains what goes on in her lab, speaks about recent studies conducted in the lab, and offers insight into how those interested can get involved.
The fourth and fifth episodes zero in on the 2022 general elections in the state of Georgia. The fourth episode features a conversation with Dr. David Clementson, an assistant professor in Public Relations at Grady College and a political communication researcher, about the state of political debates. The fifth includes a discussion with Joseph Watson, Jr., the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Grady College, about political advertisements.
“Grady College has many tremendous researchers who work really hard to run studies and collect data answering tough questions and addressing huge phenomena that affect our lives,” said Clementson. “The Grady Research Radio podcast is a great way for professors’ studies to translate to the general public in a fun, conversational and approachable way. I love listening to the podcast and learning more about my own colleagues who are working hard on impactful research.”
The sixth and most recent episode focuses on the field of game studies and features an interview with Dr. Shira Chess, an associate professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies (EMST), a game studies researcher, and the author of books including “Play Like a Feminist” and “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity.” Dr. Chess discusses her research, why video games may not get the attention they deserve, and what the future may hold for the field.
Grady Research Radio is hosted and produced by Jackson Schroeder, the public relations specialist at Grady College. It is generally released biweekly, and a complete list of episodes can be found here.
Over the summer, Dr. Chess published an introduction for an article in the journal Critical Studies in Media Communication titled “The future of media studies is game studies,” which shines a light on the significance of video games in the broader field of communication studies.
In the episode, Dr. Chess discusses her writing, why video games may not get the attention they deserve, and what the future may hold.
Below is a transcription of the episode, edited for clarity and brevity.
Grady Research Radio: What is game studies?
Shira Chess: A lot of scholars out there are studying video games and have been for a while now. It’s been an emerging field since around the late 1990s, when games stopped being considered toys and started really increasingly being considered media objects.
Grady Research Radio: You recently published an article titled “The future of media is game studies.” Can you explain what that article is, just a brief overview?
Shira Chess: It was an introduction to a special issue. So, to back up a little bit, one of my academic heroes, Mia Consalvo, and I were talking about something we could work on together during the pandemic. And, you know, things were pretty glum during the pandemic, in general, for a lot of people. We were trying to think of a project that would really get us excited about what it was that we did again.
The idea of the special issue wasn’t just about one specific topic in game studies, but was highlighting the potential in the future and looking to younger scholars and junior scholars to see where they see the field emerging. So, the article that I wrote was largely an introduction to that special issue.
We did sort of have this provocation as the premise, you know, that the future of media studies is game studies. A big reason for that is, what happens in academic conferences a lot of times is that everybody kind of stays in their silos. You go to an academic conference or you read journal articles and you tend to stay in your little silos of what you’ve been studying and what everybody around you has been studying. And you sort of continually look at the same things over and over again.
I’m making some broad generalizations. There are certainly academics who do not do that. But, at conferences, for instance, a lot of times what happens is you don’t end up seeing the scholarship and the changes in a specific subfield because you just haven’t been paying attention.
So, we sort of started teasing out this idea — media studies folks could really learn a lot by stopping and looking at game studies, even if they’re not somebody who studies video games specifically or plays video games. And that is sort of a reflection of a larger problem, something that I’ve studied a lot, which is how people tend to be very dismissive of video games, you know, treat them like they’re a toy and like there’s no content there to study. Really, they are rich with content. They are overflowing with content.
Part of my career has been trying to talk to people about video games, why they should reconsider them, and why we need to expand the market of video games. This article was very much trying to do the same thing within media studies, trying to convince people who are media studies scholars and maybe study television or film or other areas and say, “But wait, maybe you should look at some game study scholarship, some emerging scholars, and take a look at some things they’re doing, because you might be surprised.”
Grady Research Radio: So, why do you think there is this resistance to accepting game studies, or even video games in general, as a viable source of media and not just a game?
Shira Chess: I mean, I think it’s changing. I think, in terms of resisting game studies, it’s just as I said. I don’t know that a lot of scholars are like, “ugh, game studies.” It’s more like, “That’s not for me.”
But the problem is, with the way corporate conglomeration works and with the way that transmedia storytelling works, we all are studying digital games to some extent. Everything has gotten a little bit more fuzzy. That does matter, in the same way that television matters in a different way than it did a decade ago, with the advent of streaming services, right? Television is different than what it was. Video games are different from what they were.
In terms of why people are dismissive of video games — I started off by saying scholarship on games and violence, or scholarship on games and addiction, looking at those sort of salacious things creates a low-level moral panic sometimes. But the reality is that video games are a medium still figuring themselves out, and we’re only really just now starting to see what they are and what they can become.
Grady Research Radio: Absolutely. I don’t want to ask you to speculate too much, but what do video games have to offer that the general public may not necessarily see?
Shira Chess: So, a couple of things that I have written about in the past.
This is not my specific area, but I know a lot of good scholars, such as Aubrey Anable and Katherine Isbister, have written about games and affect. Video games are particularly well situated to get us thinking about the emotions of others and put our subject in somebody else’s body. That’s pretty cool, right? It is in a way that films and television sometimes can do, but that reliance on action puts us in a place where we might empathize differently with different subject positions.
One thing that I’ve written about a bit is video games and agency, or will to act. Video games are training machines. They teach us how and when to act on things and get us to think about our actions.
And then, in general, there are some video games out there that are just aesthetically beautiful. In the same way that books and film and television are beautiful, there are beautiful video games out there.
I am certainly not saying that somebody should dump all of the other media in their lives and replace it all out with video games. That would be ridiculous. But I do think that there are opportunities to play games in ways that will give us moving experiences similar to other forms of media.
Grady Research Radio: Great. So back to the article. You did touch on a lot of this already, but can you go back and explain your argument, the purpose of this article and where it’s all going?
Shira Chess: The argument was basically, “Hey, look over here.” It’s not deep. It wasn’t meant to be deep. It was more like, you know, we’ve gathered together some young junior scholars that do have some interesting arguments, and we think that you should read them.
We specifically asked the scholars to write things that were on the shorter side, to make it a little bit more accessible, to make it a smattering of a lot of ideas, rather than a couple of big thoughts.
Basically, when we approached people, we were like, “What do you think is the future of game studies?” And everybody kind of took that assignment a little bit differently and responded to it in different ways. So, all of these people, collectively, created this tapestry of different ideas and thoughts, which was really what we were looking to do in the first place.
Grady Research Radio: This might be kind of a two-part question. Game studies is a relatively new thing. Video games are relatively new. But, do you believe that it has been on an upward trajectory in terms of people accepting it as a valid form of media? Do you foresee this article, this whole idea, having a positive impact on game studies?
Shira Chess: I think that, in general, people are taking video games more seriously than they have. But I think that’s with a caveat, right?
I think that there are more people playing video games than ever before, because mobile devices make games more accessible. You are hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t play any kind of digital game, whether that is a console-based game, whether that is Candy Crush Saga, or whether that’s Wordle, right? Once you start expanding your definition of what a digital game is, you realize we should all be in on this conversation about what they can look like and what they can be.
I think, though, that at the same time, it’s brought in new layers of anxieties. For a long time, people would come to me, you know, both inside and outside of academia, and they would say, “Oh you study video games. They’re so violent.” Or somebody would write a journal article talking about violent video games. And my first answer would always be, “Which video games?” Because, you know, I spent a large portion of my career studying Diner Dash and Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Other than some aesthetic violence in Kim Kardashian Hollywood, I would say that that’s not a very violent game, right?
But the problem is, the industry and audiences often centralize the games that are violent, or the games that are big console games. We’re starting to see that breakdown a little bit. And with that comes a lot of anxieties within the industry, because the industry itself goes through phases of free fall, and there have been problems over the last couple of decades. But, at the same time, I would say that some of the anxieties about video games and violence have been replaced with anxieties by video games and addiction.
And that’s not to say that those things aren’t real or not worth talking about. But this medium is still figuring itself out. And by ignoring the product, we don’t get to shape the medium.
Grady Research Radio: Thank you for joining us today.
Shira Chess: Thank you very much for having me here.