My scholarship is devoted to the intersections between “community” and “journalism” – two ideas that mean wildly different things to different people.
Community, in the immortal words of Benedict Anderson, has always been imagined. Most folks have a strong understanding of their immediately personal relationships, but beyond their social circles, ideas about cities, states, groups and nations are informed largely by the media. We center our collective identities around associations and pairings circulated in the media, and install those ideas into our day to day lives. That was true in medieval Europe, when the printing press accelerated the standardization and homogenization of language, and it’s true in today’s social media era.
Journalism, meanwhile, is largely an expression of deviance or aberration from routine. As Pamela Shoemaker and Tim Vos point out, we rely on journalists to be proverbial meerkats, scanning the horizon for possible threats and barking at real and potential risks to our collective safety. Those warnings and threats vary based on audience and era, but on a base level, threat assessment is the prime feature.
These two ideas have always been deeply connected. Why bother barking if you’re alone? Journalists, and people, have always flocked into communities and relied upon the media to both cultivate identity and scan for predators. No longer, though, are a handful of national media maintaining a monolithic vigil for an entire country; in the social media era, both community and journalism have fragmented and democratized at a breakneck pace. Journalists still speak to particular audiences, and are learning how to be more approachable and personable, thus sharing more tangible community with their consumers; audiences, too, have become more niche-oriented and specific, which has both positive and negative consequences.
My research tinkers with these overlapping concepts. I maintain a current CV at the bottom of this page, but at the moment (8/7/2017) I’m working on an analysis of intermedia agenda setting and Reddit subgroups on religion and planning a study of how journalists covered local politics in 2017 in communities that flipped red or blue in the 2016 election.