New podcast spotlights Grady College’s research and expertise

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. 

Four students and two faculty pose for a picture in Utah in front of a grove of trees with a mountain in the background.
Kyser Lough and Ralitsa Vassileva (second from right) took a small group of students to the Journalism Solutions Summit in Utah.

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.

Photo of participant having wires put on his head to detect his responses to media and messages in the BBAM Lab.
The BBAM Lab supports research investigating cognitive and emotional processing of audio and visual media. (Photo: Submitted)

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.” 

Shira Chess holding up a cake designed to look like her book Ready Player 2.
Shira Chess cutting the cake during a celebration for the release of “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity” in 2017. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

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.

Faculty profile: Joseph Watson, Jr.

According to Joseph Watson, Jr., to understand a person, one has to understand who his heroes are and who he admires.

Watson, who spends his days teaching about public advocacy, issues management and shaping public opinion in political contexts, focuses on the ideals of individuals who have helped guide his professional path.

“Encouraging civility and civil discourse are my true motives,” Watson says, explaining not only what guides him, but what characterizes his heroes.

He is proud that his list of heroes is bipartisan, and includes Mother Teresa, William F. Buckley, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. And, then there are material nods to his other heroes, including his penchant for bow ties, a tribute to the late Democratic Sen. Pat Moynihan, and his black, horn-rimmed glasses modeled after those worn by Atticus Finch in the film, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”=

It was Watson’s father who planted the seed of a career related to politics at an early age.

Watson grew up in a household where his father, a union steelworker, followed Democratic politics and regularly watched shows like “Meet the Press” on television.

An ideology class in college led him to re-examine his political leanings, with a new fascination for conservatives like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and later, former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp.

It was also during this time that Watson started tutoring students in economics and realized the satisfaction that comes from teaching.

“I am most comfortable prepping others,” Watson explains. “I like working behind the scenes, and I get a natural high from working with young people to help them achieve their goals.”

Two years out of law school, Watson began working on Capitol Hill where he served as the legislative director for Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, which led to an appointment working on Internet policy in the George W. Bush Administration. A move to the private sector in 2005 brought him to Exelon, a Fortune 100 energy company, where he ultimately served as the director of public advocacy.

Three years ago, the urge to teach returned to Watson, and he left Exelon to serve as the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications. The Public Affairs Professional Certificate program is offered in partnership with the School of Public and International Affairs and is the first of its kind in the country, offering an education that promotes a holistic combination of political science, journalism and public relations courses for undergraduates.

Joe Watson frequently brings guests into his class to talk with as a way of keeping his lessons fresh and current. (Photo: Dayne Young)

While Watson doesn’t care for the current climate of political divisiveness, he does appreciate the learning opportunities it provides.

“Whatever is going on, we are going to talk about it,” Watson says about his teaching that brings students together at watch-parties during political debates and mid-term elections.

Watson also relishes the special topics courses he teaches, including one on civil rights and his current class on the women’s rights movement taught for the centennial of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. and Susan B. Anthony used public affairs communications to achieve their objectives and create an environment where those laws were passed. I teach my students to use those same tools.”

Watson also directs the intensive Grady D.C. program each summer where students live in Delta Hall while working full-time internships and taking an online class.

“One of the most important lessons I can teach is how to renormalize bipartisan relationships and friendships,” Watson says. “It’s important at an early age for students to get comfortable with people they may not see eye to eye with and have meaningful conversations.”

Watson is proud to be working alongside Tieger in developing the program. Tieger is a 1969 alumna of Grady College who has prospered in a public affairs career spanning more than 40 years in Washington, D.C., and most currently in Naples, Florida.

“It’s an honor to lead the first program in the nation that prepares undergraduates in this area,” Watson said. “There are several master’s programs that focus on public affairs communications, but there is no reason that students should have to wait until graduate school for this education.”