I recall the two moments that defined the trajectory of my research career. The first was during a conversation with a former journalist and editor who helped de-Americanize a prominent news literacy curriculum for teaching in other countries, including Hong Kong. New to the field, I asked him why the curriculum did not address the business aspects of news. To my surprise, he explained, simply, that it is not relevant because the curriculum focuses on the evaluation of content and how journalists produce it. Having sat through journalism and news literacy classes that taught about the church and state divide and then discussed the business aspects editors must consider in selecting stories for publication, this didn’t ring true. The second moment was two years later while attending Poynter’s Teachapalooza. On day one of this three-day journalism educator training, I attended a session about how journalists need to understand the business side of news so that they can better engage readers with content they want. These experiences made me realize that journalism is changing and that the professionalism that many journalists once knew and now teach is morphing into something else.
My research centers on the intersections of journalism, public relations, and education. As media fields evolve at a breakneck pace in the digital age, so too are their professions and the boundaries that separate professional work. Research on ethics and best practices in media is vital to informing education for current and future media professionals working across a range of digital media from social media platforms, to digital news publishing, to automated advertising. Research on what is currently practiced and taught within professional settings should certainly inform the need for media education in the classroom. However, I hope that this research also leads to the opportunity to work with industry to evaluate business models for ethical best practices and open avenues for ongoing training that are an inevitable necessity as digital media develops with increasing speed. Equally important, this research can be valuable as we prepare digital media users to both practice online communication ethically and also demand ethical use of data, protection of privacy, and transparency from industry. Further, as lawmakers consider new regulations on the tech industry, this research will lend a deeper understanding of the societal implications of digital business models and the subsequent evolution of content.
As I work over the next few months to complete my dissertation and to finish publications in progress (including an evaluation of pedagogical approaches used in corporate-created digital safety and citizen curriculum), I will continue to publish the many fascinating insights afforded by my thesis work. I then plan to restructure my dissertation in an effort to publish it for consumption in the academy and in industry. In addition, I am looking forward to collaborating with others in my field and in related fields both in the US and abroad to strengthen educational solutions to the information disorder that touches each corner of the globe.