Former Knight Center doctoral researcher Tony Van Witsen will begin teaching next week as a full time visiting faculty member at Alma College, a small liberal arts school in Alma, Michigan. He will be teaching two undergraduate courses, Research Methods and Relational Communication, which will mostly encompass the relationship between science and policy. Tony entered the I & M program in August of 2014 and successfully defended his dissertation this past May. His research examines news coverage of environmental controversies and complex scientific issues, particularly the ways journalists make sense of statistics.
Knight Center researcher, Leigh Anne Tiffany, received two paper awards at the 2020 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference this August.
Tiffany, a second-year Ph.D. student in Michigan State University’s Information and Media program, received the Top Theory Paper Award and second-place Top Student Paper Award from the Communication Theory and Methodology Division.
Her award-winning paper, titled “The Journalism-Public Relations Role Continuum,” proposes three new theoretical models for addressing the relationship between journalists and public relations practitioners, specifically how to delineate these closely connected professions. The desired outcome of this theoretical paper is to increase interdisciplinary research between journalism and public relations scholarship, as well as provide guidance for ways to better clarify these fields in future research.
By David Poulson
Ever wish the public better understood the science and research you produce?
Both are far too important to confine to researchers and academics. Building a public constituency for them is key to making good decisions and policy. It is also important for advancing your career.
MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism offers a free online workshop this summer to teach MSU students and faculty to engage public audiences with science and other research.
Two doctoral students affiliated with the Knight Center earned their Ph.Ds. at the end of the spring semester.
Tony Cepak and Tony Van Witsen successfully defended their dissertations on topics related to environmental and science journalism.
Cepak’s dissertation used oral history, archival and ethnographic fieldwork to explore the long- term picture-making projects of Jack Corn and Milton Rogovin in Appalachian coal fields during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Corn, a photojournalist, and Rogovin, a social documentary photographer, both worked to disrupt popular discourse and advance mining photography past the stoic, soot-covered aesthetics of the early 20th century.
His dissertation, “Views of the Valley of Despair: The Photography of Jack Corn and Milton Rogovin in Appalachian Coal Communities (1956-1979),” examines the intimate and powerful imagery they created that repositions coal mining from being celebrated as a material vital to economic and social prosperity, to illuminating the exploitive and devastating effects mining had on miners, their families, their communities and the land.
Van Witsen’s dissertation, “How Daily Journalists Verify Numbers and Statistics in News Stories: Towards a Theory,” recognizes that statistics are widely acknowledged as an essential part of journalism but acknowledges that routine news coverage involving statistics leaves much to be desired.
He examined the verification process in detail by combining 1) qualitative interviews with 15 working journalists about their attitudes, decision-making and work practices regarding statistics; 2) a content analysis of statistical information in a sample of stories created by these journalists; and 3) an item-by-item examination of the decision-making processes behind each statistic in each sampled stories.