Agora Journalism Center Faculty Fellows

The Agora Journalism Center awards annual faculty fellowships to support SOJC faculty in:

  • Pursuing innovative, high-impact research and creative projects that will advance journalism, communication, and civic engagement.
  • Enhance our students’ learning experiences.
  • Increase the SOJC’s contributions to the significant body of knowledge created by the University of Oregon and shared with the world.

2016 Faculty Fellows

2016 Agora Faculty Fellows

The 2016-17 Agora Journalism Center Faculty Fellows are:

Torsten Kjellstrand, assistant professor of practice
Kjellstrand’s project, “Unvanished: Seeing American Indians in the 21st Century,” will be a traveling photojournalism exhibit featuring portraits of Native people working, raising families, playing and inhabiting diverse places throughout the country. Kjellstrand and SOJC students will work with contemporary Native photographers to push back against the perception of American Indians as people of the past. Unvanished will test new ways for visual storytellers to enter and engage with underrepresented and inaccurately represented communities, whose stories have too often been ignored or distorted.

Damian Radcliffe, Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism
Radcliffe’s study, “Understanding Media Innovation and Civic Engagement in Local Journalism,” will investigate how media operators in the Pacific Northwest and beyond are innovating to enhance civic engagement in their local communities. Detailed case studies will identify the building blocks and potential barriers to success and identify viable solutions that can help elevate the level of civic engagement and journalistic innovation in the local arena.

Lori Shontz, journalism instructor
Shontz’s initiative, “Reporting Roseburg and Beyond: An Exploration of the Relationship Between Journalists and Communities During Mass Shootings — and Ways to Improve Coverage,” will build on her work with SOJC Assistant Professor Nicole Dahmen of interviewing the Oregon journalists who covered the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. The interviews will inform a multimedia website, Reporting Roseburg, which will serve as an educational resource for journalism schools and professional newsrooms that can spark important conversations about how the U.S. media cover mass shootings and other tragedies.

The Agora Journalism Center also awarded a seed grant to SOJC faculty members Donna Davis, Heather Shoenberger, and Wes Pope to conduct the study “Does 360 Video Impact Audience Behavior? A Study of Virtual Reality in Communication Strategy.” The project will develop both traditional and VR video productions and use them to test whether the higher emotional arousal linked to immersive media will lead to greater prosocial behavior than traditional public service videos.

2015 Faculty Fellows

2015 Agora Faculty FellowsThis second class of faculty fellows, supported by the Agora Journalism Center, is focused on innovation and solutions. Results, in the form of strategies, products or services, will be shared with news and news-related organizations.

The award selection committee noted that the applications covered very important issues that needed to be addressed, including exploring a new form of journalism and a potentially new line of research that will engage the broader civic culture.

The 2015-16 Agora Journalism Center Faculty Fellows are:

Nicole Dahmenassistant professor
Dahmen’s project, “Restorative Narratives: Building Community in the Wake of Tragedy,” will focus on an emerging genre of journalistic storytelling that seeks to help communities move forward after large-impact events.

Deborah MorrisonCarolyn S. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising and advertising area director
Morrison’s initiative “EPOCH: A New Era for Ideas & Idea People Built with Courage and Conscience,” will create a “digital hub of information and inspiration…and creative momentum for strategic writers and designers dedicated to doing work of meaning on climate change.”

Kim Sheehanprofessor and SOJC honors program coordinator
Sheehan’s in-depth study, “The Ethics of Crowdsourcing,” will use the ethics of care and virtue ethics theories to evaluate practices of citizens and consumers supplying information to professional media in journalism, advertising and public relations and to identify solutions to potential ethical problems in crowdsourcing.

2014 Faculty Fellows

During summer 2014, The inaugural Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement Faculty Fellows were selected to pursue fully funded research and creative projects. The fellows conducted research and worked on projects that will make major contributions to the conversation around journalism, communication, democracy and civic engagement in the digital age.

The Agora Journalism Center Faculty Innovation Fellowship advanced Donna Davis’s research, development and testing of a “gamification” element being introduced to extend an existing study of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) who use virtual worlds (VWs) to improve their quality of life. Gamification, in this case, involves adding game-like elements to the study to encourage participation among new participants.

Studies have identified primary motivations that engage individuals in the virtual world. For example, these motivations include events that involve people socially that align with the activities individuals enjoy (or enjoyed but can no longer do as a result of their Parkinson’s) in the physical world, such as ice skating or horseback riding.

Davis focused on developing and testing methods to overcome the challenges and build on the motivations that new study participants likely will experience. These methods include a new virtual “wearable” technology or heads-up display (HUD) for avatars.

The HUD functions as a training tool, providing step-by-step instruction in a game format. It teaches people who are new to the virtual world how to use the technology and its features in a fun and rewarding way. Davis’s summer research explored the format and structure of successful “gamification” platforms to identify strategies most likely to work well in developing the game component.

Working closely with an expert in scripting (coding) HUDs in virtual reality environments to incorporate those strategies in the HUD design. Davis also worked with the virtual worlds coordinator of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service eXtension to design the HUD in a way that would engage study participants at higher levels in the virtual world.

Donna Davis is an assistant professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) and the Area Director of the SOJC – Portland Professional Master’s Program in Strategic Communication.

Ed Madison, PhD ’12, used his fellowship to create “Northwest Stories” which was inspired by the Showtime adaptation of “This American Life” created by host Ira Glass. That groundbreaking series ventured beyond the boundaries of conventional documentary storytelling, and – along with the radio franchise – proved there is a broad appeal among audiences for fresh approaches to broadcast journalism.

As a 27-year veteran of film and broadcast television, Madison recognized that the way information is delivered has evolved over time. “Northwest Stories” used a cohort of SOJC multimedia students who challenged broadcast conventions by producing a collection of experimental multimedia stories suited for multiple platforms of delivery.Madison’s approach was to find and profile six fascinating people who represent the ethos and eccentricities of the Pacific Northwest. The subjects include:

  • Josephine County’s Sheriff Gil Gilbertson, who struggles to protect a community that voted down measures supporting law enforcement.
  • Elaine Davison, leader of a ghost hunting group.
  • Tim Lewis, a rebel documentary filmmaker who fights for environmental causes.
  • Jeff Manthos, a violin maker who found comfort in his craft during a bout with cancer.
  • Jessie Wharton, a motocross racer who stayed in the sport after surviving several life-threatening injuries, and
  • The winners of an epic Tillamook County relay road race, in which contestants carry pigs while driving Model T Fords.

The stories were shared through social media and with the SOJC’s growing network of legacy media partners, and the completed stories were bundled as a television special on Oregon Public Broadcasting. Additionally, the stories were offered through OPB’s Northwest News Partnerships, which comprises more than two-dozen media organizations.

Wes Pope draws on more than 15 years of experience as a newspaper journalist and multimedia professional to develop a new video brand strategy for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate web sites in conjunction with Winter Creative.

The San Francisco Chronicle has two working websites: SFGate.com, and SFchronicle.com, a newly-launched “premium” web site designed to appeal to local readers as a “quality brand.” As Pope and his SOJC student cohort focused on developing a quality video brand, they focused their work around the SFChronicle.com website, working closely with Assistant Managing Editor Frank Mina and Director of Photography Judy Walgren to implement their video projects. Throughout the project some of their video content was also featured on the SF Gate via the Hearst News Distribution Network (NDN) player located there.

In total, the team has produced 62 videos to date for the SFchronicle.com web site. Out of a dozen efforts, we successfully applied A/B testing five times, most notably during the Napa Earthquake and the 2014 World Series.

Their goal was to create a journalism lab in the style of a teaching hospital, bringing researchers, professionals and students to work together in the same space. On that front, they were quite successful. One secondary goal was to test the model of “the watchability curve,” which weighs quick-turn news value against high-end production values. The team is still analyzing the results and built some powerful new tools to pursue the topic further and they hope to begin working with additional news outlets soon.

Researchers, experts and students worked together to test the power of video-storytelling techniques by proactively engaging viewers and evaluating viewership behavior. Results will be used to adapt video-storytelling approaches to content creation as the test period closes in June 2015.