The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s (SOJC) Agora Journalism Center has awarded three faculty fellowships for the 2016-17 school year to SOJC faculty members Torsten Kjellstrand, Damian Radcliffe and Lori Shontz. This year, the center also granted seed money to a research team of three other SOJC faculty members, Donna Davis, Heather Shoenberger and Wes Pope.

This is the third class of faculty fellowships supported by the Agora Journalism Center since it opened in 2014. Results of the funded projects, in the form of creative content, research insights, strategies and training materials, will be shared with news and news-related organizations.

“The Agora Journalism Center’s mission is to serve as an incubator for initiatives that can find innovative solutions to local, national and global issues within the media industry,” said Regina Lawrence, executive director of the Agora Journalism Center. “These projects promise to do just that. And in the process, they will have a significant impact on the SOJC, its students and communities both near and far.”

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, Oregon. Shontz plans to use the grant to develop curriculum modules to help journalists improve how they cover mass shootings and other tragedies. The curriculum, which will be aimed at both journalism schools and professional newsrooms, will be informed by discussions with journalists and with their sources and subjects. Shontz will also interview journalists who covered, and community members who were affected by, the 1998 Thurston High School shooting.

This year, the Agora Journalism Center has 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.

“As the Agora Journalism Center grows, we are committed to supporting research, education and practice that advances media innovation in service to civic engagement,” said Lawrence.These projects will not only find real solutions to the new challenges facing media professionals, educators and students, they will also set an example for what is possible when we integrate theory and practice in the spirit of collaboration and social responsibility that is central to the SOJC’s mission.”

The SOJC’s Agora Journalism Center, known as “the gathering place for innovation in communication and civic engagement,” fosters a culture of innovation and diverse collaboration, energizing research, teaching and learning to serve the public good. Funding for the center and its programs are made possible by generous donor support.

Story by Andra Brichacek