My research mission is to find, create, and uphold a more sustainable and equitable journalism. This process certainly isn’t confined to one paper, nor is it restricted to short pieces or lengths of time. My desire to make a journalism that considers all voices and advocates for brighter futures stems from my journey of being silenced and my need to be heard. To build this agenda, I draw first from “The Earth Charter”:
The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more.The Earth Charter
If we believe that to be sustainable means fundamental change, then we must be transgressive and transformative in how we approach our questions and our inquiries. We must think about a more equitable and just future that lasts, not one that is responsive and fleeting to the cultural moment. This means thinking about journalism within the confines of sustainable literacy, which includes five distinct components:
- Sustainability Knowledge: interconnection of environmental, social, and economic perspectives
- Systems Thinking: links between systems and how one decision affects another system
- Social Justice: acknowledges and acts toward dismantling the deeply embedded systems that support and perpetuate inequality
- Futures Thinking: encourages reflections on how current decisions impact future generations
- Active Citizenship: encourages the connections between content and positive action within the defined community
Within these five areas lives the work I do. My research agenda, which centers on how we learn about sustainable, equitable, and ethical journalism, reflects these five components through news literacy, journalism education, LGBTQ+ studies, and care-based practice. It is my life’s work to make connections within and among these five areas; I also believe it is my drive to advocate for others to do the same.
Learning to be sustainable journalism
What I’ve learned about myself while on my research journey is that I’m fascinated by how we come to learn and know about ethical journalism, which I believe must be both sustainable and equitable. I focus on how learning about journalism is done by interrogating how the institution
- contends with politicization and polarization
- responds to cries for a reckoning
- positions itself at the center or the margins.
- recognizes the moral foundations of journalists
- constructs mission statements
- creates course objectives for how students will learn about journalism in their classroom
- believes that learning can be done in ways socially we don’t want it to—such as through people like Hugh Hefner or Larry Flynt, and organizations like Pornhub.
- wrestles with the law for its ability to teach journalists what it means to be responsible
- helps citizens learn about what can be permissible.
- learns about itself through boundary work and discursive institutionalism
- cares for its communities
- responds to LGBTQ populations and stories
I also consider how actors interact with the institution of journalism. In particular how we
- understand trust and the institution of journalism, and what journalism can learn from that trust
- contend with journalism’s historical oppression, especially related to LGBTQ audiences
- process the foundations of learning—the developmental stages of human beings
- learn about journalism’s ability to help us, everyday citizens, be more civically and democratically engaged and literate
I don’t approach this constant curiosity cognitively as many in the learning sciences would. Instead, I engage in my inquiry in a sociological manner, with education and practice at the core of my questioning. It becomes about how we know what we know about journalism—both those that produce it and consume it—and, ultimately, what that knowledge can do to impede or improve the institution’s sustainability. My desire to seek out more ethical and equitable journalism is rooted in my desire to understand journalism from a framework of sustainability, which in turn is rooted in the foundational purpose/question: how do we learn about journalism, and how will we learn about journalism in the future? Who belongs? What practices belong? What forms of professionalism belong? And how do we come to know this?
And I’m drawn to questions about those who are seen as marginalized or deviant because I’ve asked those questions of myself and my identity. I want to know where I belong, where I fit, and where I can contribute a verse. I don’t see this as selfish as much as I see it as attempting to wrestle with who is allowed to help us learn about journalism. And I don’t see it as good or bad, but how can we see these pieces as opportunities to learn more and challenges to think more critically about how what we learn can impact the institution’s future? These questions are how I seek to understand how we—producers and consumers of journalism—learn about journalism and how what we learn can lead to more equitable and ethical practice and education.
I find it easiest to describe the branches and roots of my research agenda by playing on the title of the 1966 spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. My identity is easily shared as “the good, the bad, and the ‘I won’t touch that with a ten-foot pole.’” While it may seem an odd elevator speech for an academic, it is the most simplistic way to understand how my questions, frameworks, and methods coexist.
This agenda comes from personal experiences and my journey to this moment vis-a-vis a teaching career, a marginalized identity, and a desire to belong.
The Good: Education as a liberatory and transformative practice
My work is grounded in the good. I build much of my scholarship to transform education–both the traditional classroom and professional development in our media spaces. When I think about the good, I think about how news and media literacy can provide more equitable and inclusive spaces. I also question how our JMC pedagogy constructs normative values and identities that broadly enforce democracy-building and the moral authority of journalism in particular.
The Bad: Deviant practices and problematic norms
I consider myself a media sociologist as I am passionately interested in studying people (actors), places (publications/newsrooms), and ideas (moral panic) that are perceived as deviant in journalism and media and by the general public. This area reflects my desire to recognize the role of deviance concerning public perception, journalistic/media norms and values, and the educational underpinnings of media texts. Oftentimes, these are understood as bad. They are framed as being outside the boundaries of journalism or at least positioned at the margins. For me, “the bad,” or what we define as such, is an opportune avenue for studying potential futures, equitable needs, and means of inclusionary practice and discourse. This includes my attention to specific values (i.e., trust and objectivity), beats (i.e., politics and media), or texts (i.e., far-right podcasting) as ways for us to understand our boundaries and what we are willing to accept. It also includes my desire to interrogate not just the news but, in fact, the areas the news elites position as low-brow or “bad” to journalism’s identity. This includes tabloids, genre-based magazines at the margins of communities and crowds (i.e., Fangoria), and pop culture coverage and media (i.e., celebrities, professional wrestling, and reality television). I often rely on media criticism and texts in this work and interview and speak directly to media producers.
The “I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole”
One of the areas I am most interested in is the discussions and discourses associated with sex and sexuality in journalism and media spaces. This includes focusing on specific issues (i.e., sex coverage, contraception use, AIDS responses, and corporate social responsibility), texts (i.e, Playboy, Hustler, Pornhub, and OnlyFans), industries (i.e., pornography and sex work), and identities (i.e., LGBTQ+). My approach to this work is liberatory and attempts to find ways in which these perceived-to-be highly deviant pieces can be seen as ways to improve our moral compass and learn to be more accepting in our daily lives and media practices.
Instead of relying on calling this “the ugly,” I find that it is the place that many scholars possibly are unwilling to go. The political climate and heightened rhetoric against LGBTQ people, “obscene” material, and legislation impacting sex work and sexual minorities are critically important to my identity and deeply fascinating to my work. As a nation, the United States is one of the few that favors violence above sex in its content. It regulates sex more than violence. Yet, the growing need for sex-positive discussions and interpretations of sex and sexuality in media still emerges.
Framework and core areas
I use metajournalistic discourse as a guiding framework to understand the institution of journalism, primarily as it seeks to define, create boundaries, and legitimize itself. My projects rely on the components of this approach to provide commentary and establish an understanding of journalism as an evolving institution.
News (Media) Literacy
My time as a teacher informs my research practices, which in this area often seek to provide applied research. I see this work as an opportunity to break outside the ivory tower to provide opportunities for marginalized voices. Projects in this area span humanistic and social scientific paradigms in an attempt to further civic and democratic outcomes through media use, practice, and knowledge.
Journalism (Media) Ethics
The bulk of my work aims to understand the normative values and roles of journalism and media through the lens of ethical practices. While I engage in theoretical labor in this area of research, most often, the context of my projects is considerably more applied in nature. My work in ethics often addresses actors within the journalism or media industries and organizational concerns with codes of ethics or corporate social responsibility. I also seek to apply this knowledge to various ways of learning, such as the classroom and onboarding/training experiences in newsrooms and media outlets.
Journalism Professionalization: Education and Practice
I see my work as a transformative opportunity for journalism education and journalism practice. I find what I do as a form of translation, with the chance for education and media research to speak to one another. A goal of much of my research is public and practical. I want to impact the future by researching practices in the present.
Mixed Methods Research
I describe myself as a genuinely mixed methods researcher. I am a transformative pragmatist, meaning I attempt to enact and impact social change through questions and methods appropriate to them. Many of my questions prioritize qualitative methods, but my mixed methods practice is open to finding and utilizing the appropriate methods to solve and respond to the problems and questions I identify.
I am a collaborative scholar with a love of pursuing my own work as well. I traditionally utilize interviews, critical discourse analysis, and surveys to respond, analyze, and interrogate the data I collect. I am interested in visual communication and continue exploring methods appropriate to that practice. Additionally, in conjunction with my co-author, we are in the process of developing and proposing a method that emerges from queer theory and camp. We call this method detachment/attachment analysis, and are working through its applicability to both humanistic and social scientific theories and questions.