Nicole Dahmen, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) at the University of Oregon, has won an award for her research on restorative narrative. Dahmen will be presenting her research at the International Communication Association conference in Fukuoka, Japan, in June. The paper was awarded the honor of “Top Paper” in the Visual Communication Studies division.
Restorative narrative is a recently coined term for a journalistic form that aims to cover stories beyond the immediacy of the breaking news and, in doing so, help individuals and communities move forward in the wake of large-impact events.
Through photographic analysis and in-depth interviews with visual journalists, Dahmen examined photojournalism through the lens of restorative narrative. She interviewed and studied the work of Barbara Davidson of The Los Angeles Times and Ruth Fremson and Josh Haner of The New York Times.
“Through the ability to truly see, photographs can transcend the two-dimensional plane to create human connection through illustrations of resilience and hope,” says Dahmen.
Her work also has implications for journalism as a business. “In a time of great change, journalism must adapt to survive,” she says. “And for visual journalism, that change could be positive.
“While we certainly still need breaking news images, we also need images that show the long-term effects and meaningful progression in the aftermath of tragedy,” Dahmen says. “The photographs discussed in my research embody efficacy of depth in visual reporting.”
Dahmen concludes, “If news organizations can focus resources on depth reporting that captures resilience through authentic, meaningful progress, visual restorative narrative can indeed be a future — and thus a sustaining value — of visual journalism.”
Dahmen’s research was funded by a grant from the Agora Journalism Center.
“We are thrilled for the opportunity to support Professor Dahmen’s research as the Agora Journalism Center is re-imagining communication for the social good,” says Andrew DeVigal, chair in journalism innovation and civic engagement in the SOJC. “We believe that the future of journalism and the future of democracy are intertwined. Restorative narrative’s approach in covering a community while emphasizing strength and perseverance rather than bleak despair is a part of that future.”
The research paper is titled “Images of resilience: The case for visual restorative narrative.” Undergraduate journalism student Erin Hampton and media studies doctoral student David Morris, who is second author on the paper, also assisted with the research. Following her conference presentation, Dahmen will submit the study to an academic journal.