SJMC assistant professor Brendan Watson was awarded AEJMC's Nafziger-White-Salwen Dissertation Award for the top dissertation in mass communication research. His dissertation is titled, "Is Twitter a Counter Public? Comparing Individual and Community Forces that Shaped Local Twitter and Newspaper Coverage of the BP Oil Spill."
Watson's dissertation examines the individual and community-level variables that prevented journalists from 164 Gulf Coast newspapers from raising more critical questions in the aftermath of the oil spill and compares their coverage with the forces that shaped it to the Tweets of 240 "most-followed" Gulf Coast Twitter users. The dissertation seeks to answer whether, in the context of the BP oil spill, Twitter might have served as a counter-public, which challenged the social, political and economic forces that constrained journalists' coverage.
The research committee applauded Watson's use of multi-method design and data collection. Said the committee: "The design and theoretical conceptualization of the research also led him to innovations in data collection. The dissertation is meticulously researched, thoroughly documented, logically organized, methodologically sound, innovative, and eloquently written. It is a fascinating story and a good read, bringing together complementary evidence to explore important questions in the public sphere and contribute to mass communication theory."
Watson received his Ph.D. from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2012 and his master's in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2007.