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.

Podcast: Exploring Grady College’s Qualitative Research Lab

Listen to Grady Research Radio
Apple Podcasts/Spotify/Stitcher


Recently, the Grady Research Radio podcast had the pleasure of featuring Dr. Karin Assmann, an assistant professor in the Journalism Department at Grady College, a former U.S. correspondent for Spiegel TV, and the director of the Qualitative Research Lab. The lab is for both graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in qualitative research, which, in very simple terms, involves collecting and analyzing non-numerical data.

In this interview, 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. 

Below is a transcription of the episode, edited for clarity and brevity. 

A quote graphic that reads "I'm really excited about this lab. I hope to attract and support students who are also interested in doing qualitative research and provide them with resources through this space." Grady College: What is qualitative research?

Karin Assmann: So, qualitative research looks at performances and practices of human communication. The data that we work with is from interviews that we conduct, or focus groups, participant observations, ethnographies, documents and case studies.

For example, in a study I conducted with master’s student William Newlin, we looked at Fox News’s Sean Hannity’s media bashing during the weeks before and after presidential and midterm elections. So that means we obtain video and transcripts and searched for themes. The Qualitative Research Lab has a computer with really powerful qualitative data analysis software that we use to do that work.

The qualitative part, it doesn’t mean it’s higher quality. It just means the kind of data that we collect and the methods and the theoretical approaches we use are different than, for example, people using survey data.

Grady College: The Qualitative Research Lab is still very new, having started in Spring of 2022. At this point, most of the research coming out of the lab has been focused on news deserts in rural Georgia. Dr. Assmann goes on to explain.  

Karin Assmann: I’ve had Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) students — students who are undergraduates who want to pursue research — do interviews with people in rural communities here in Georgia, asking them about their news and information needs and habits.

They would conduct these interviews, either in person or via phone or Zoom, and then download the audio files, import them, transcribe them and then analyze them to determine how people talk about the way they consume information or pursue information. 

Grady College: Has the research conducted in this lab yet influenced anything outside the walls of Grady College? 

Karin Assmann: I certainly hope that we’ve influenced some of the people who have seen our presentations. The CURO students, they presented during the symposium. I’m still finishing one of those papers, and I hope to turn that project, which is about rural Georgia, specifically one county in Georgia, into a pilot project that would help rural communities figure out how to better fulfill those information needs, given the fact that they may not have a local newspaper at all.

Grady College: While news desert research has been the primary focus so far, Dr. Assmann makes it clear that the Qualitative Research Lab is open to any kind of research that uses interview data or other non-quantitative data. 

Karin Assmann teaches in front of her class.
Karin Assmann instructs her students on the first day of fall semester classes 2022. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)

Karin Assmann: I’m hoping that this new cohort of master’s students will take the opportunity to come in here and do guided research with me. We’ll have the right kind of software that they need to answer some of the research questions that they might have.

We started this last semester, and I have to thank Dr. Janice Hume and Dr. Charles Davis, our dean, who gave the okay for this. I was asking for funding from our Department for every new student who wanted to do it and who needed a license for this software. It’s called MAXQDA, by the way. It was adding up. It was getting so expensive, I thought, why not create a lab where we have everything we need. Anybody can come in here with the data on their hard drive and use what we have. 

I also wanted to create a space where we can actually talk through some of these things. That’s one of the other things that qualitative research is. It’s really figuring out the meaning of human beings’ expressions. Often, you don’t really discover themes or the meaning of things when you’re sitting alone at home. So, it’s great to have a team that you can sit around with and brainstorm directions that you could go in. That’s the kind of space that I wanted to create here.

Grady College: Dr. Assmann’s path to academia started as a professional journalist. She was the correspondent for a German news station called Spiegel TV, based in Washington. 

Karin Assmann: I worked for print and radio, and I’ve been a producer, reporter and correspondent for television. As the industry evolved, I became more interested in finding answers to questions about the news media industry, like about journalists’ work conditions and practices and about how newsrooms worked. Of course, this was in part because I was working in a newsroom and wondering what was happening all around me. 

My dissertation looked at how the demands of audience engagement labor affected journalists. For that, I interviewed 150 journalists and audience engagement editors and strategies. I also spent about two months in various newsrooms documenting work routines. There I found that my methodology of choice, of course, has always been qualitative.

That’s why I’m really excited about this lab, because I hope to attract and support students who are also interested in doing this kind of research and provide them with resources through this space, hopefully resulting in some conference presentations and journal publications. 

I’m also the incoming head of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC) Culture and Critical Studies Division, which is traditionally a division that’s partial to qualitative research and one that’s really welcoming and supportive of grad students. 

Grady College: How can those who are interested in working in the Qualitative Research Lab get in touch with you? 

Karin Assmann: If you’re interested in working with me in this lab, just contact me. My email is KBA@uga.edu. Stop by my office. Just reach out to me and talk to me about what your research interest is and see if it aligns with the kind of work that we do here. And then we’ll take it from there. 

Grady students to present research at CURO Symposium

On April 4, two Grady College undergraduate students, Ireland Hayes and Josie Lipton, will be presenting their research at the CURO Symposium, an annual event highlighting undergraduate research at the University of Georgia. 

Held by the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, this year’s symposium will take place from April 4-5 at the Classic Center in downtown Athens and feature both oral and poster presentations from UGA students. It is the first CURO Symposium since 2019 to be held in person. 

Ireland Hayes presents “Making the News: Rural Georgia Influencers”

Hayes, a third-year journalism major from Folkston, Georgia, will be presenting her research on how small communities throughout the state without traditional news coverage, like a daily paper or local news station, are filling those gaps. 

“I’m looking mostly at Facebook groups, talking to the administrators and moderators of the groups to see how they view themselves and how they decide what goes on and what might get taken off of the pages,” said Hayes, who has been working with Karin Assmann, assistant professor of journalism, as her mentor.  

Ireland Hayes sitting outside of Grady College working on her computer.
Hayes, who is from a mostly rural area in southern Georgia, said her hometown receives Jacksonville news. (Photo: Jessica Gratigny)

“When Ireland heard that I was working on a study about rural information networks here in Georgia, she asked if she could participate with her own set of research questions,” Assmann said. With her Qualitative Research Lab, Assmann hopes to support more students like Hayes and Lipton, as well as graduate students interested in doing this kind of research with her. 

“It’s exciting to see our student journalists wanting to engage with larger questions about the future of the industry and journalism’s role in society,” Assman added. “CURO is a great way to support these emerging scholars as they take their first steps into research.”  

“Dr. Assmann has been very helpful in getting me into that research mindset and teaching me how to conduct research, guiding me through that as I start this first project,” said Hayes. 

With first-hand experience living in a Georgia news desert, Hayes’ ultimate goal is to identify what impact Facebook groups and rural influencers have on news-starved communities. She is evaluating if Facebook groups are used out of necessity or if they are desirable. 

While her research is ongoing, Hayes intends to use the results to develop a pilot information pipeline system that is ideal for these rural news deserts. 

“That is the end goal of all of this,” said Hayes. “How can we create something to fill that need for reliable local information that is more fact-checked and standardized?”

Ireland Hayes' poster displaying her research.
Ireland Hayes’ poster displaying her research. (Created by Ireland Hayes.)
Josie Lipton presents “One Town, One Newspaper: A Case Study of Information Routines Among Citizens of Oglethorpe County, Georgia”

Lipton, a third-year journalism major from Seattle, is also studying news deserts. However, her research focuses specifically on Oglethorpe County, an area that recently had its local 148-year-old newspaper, The Oglethorpe Echo, revitalized thanks to a partnership with Grady and its students. 

Josie Lipton works on her research while sitting outside of Grady College.
Lipton, a third-year student, hopes to attend law school in the future. (Photo: Jessica Gratigny)

“UGA joined the project as a way to take over the paper and make sure that people in Oglethorpe County still have a news source, but they do still only have the one paper. So, my research, to sum it up, is about finding a balance between where people are getting their official news and how the community supplements that,” explained Lipton. 

And where do they turn? Again, the answer is Facebook. 

“You hear this association between Facebook and news and you immediately get goosebumps as a journalism major,” said Lipton. “But, it is really not as bad as you think.”

“It is a lot of smaller groups that function just to discuss what is going on in the community,” she added. “I found that a lot of people who are in charge of the big groups are like newsmakers. Because they’re informed on what is happening in the community, they use Facebook as a platform to keep other people informed.”

Lipton dissected the types of posts and topics discussed on Oglethorpe County Facebook news groups and determined that the topics “pets” and “events” comprised 56 percent of all content. She also interviewed the administrators of Oglethorpe County’s Facebook groups and found that residents view Facebook as a tool to get immediate access to information. 

“By the time a story came out in the Echo, it was already old news. Having Facebook groups allows for more immediate access…to things going on in the county,” Stephanie Maro, the administrator of the Facebook group Oglethorpe County Local News, told Lipton during her research. 

Lipton, who is also mentored by Professor Assmann, and whose research will contribute to Assmann’s ongoing project, thanks both Assmann and Kyser Lough, an assistant professor of journalism, for help and inspiration with her research. 

“Of course I thank Dr. Assmann,” said Lipton. “Dr. Lough has also been really helpful. He wasn’t directly involved in this research project. But just by taking his classes, I’d say he was really helpful in terms of encouraging me to see people how they are. I took his photojournalism class, and that really helped me get over my anxiety when approaching people.”

Josie Lipton's poster. Created by Josie Lipton.
Josie Lipton’s poster displaying her research. (Created by Josie Lipton.)

Both Hayes and Lipton will be presenting their research on posters in the Grand Hall of the Classic Center from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, April 4.