Gregory P. Perreault
The below reflects a recent sample of public scholarship through both submitted pieces, interviews and podcasts. Links to full pieces are in the titles
In the News
Is the Newspaper Endorsement dying?, Vanity Fair
Digital journalism professors Gregory Perreault and Volha Kananovich highlighted the ongoing debate around editorial endorsements... pointing to their research findings that journalists see the practice as “somewhat archaic” and a “liability.” Back in 2020, one journalist told them, “Every four years we shoot ourselves in the foot.” Another noted that “political parties like to bash some news organizations, leading to viewers believing a news organization is biased,” and endorsements “can exacerbate those preconceived notions.”
“Every four years we shoot ourselves in the foot”: Should news outlets still endorse political candidates?, NiemanLab
As we recently found, in a study published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, many journalists themselves have come to see editorial endorsements as a liability. In 2020, we interviewed 64 political journalists with affiliations ranging from digital-only news outlets to national magazines to local and national newspapers. Most of the journalists we interviewed didn’t question their newsrooms’ ability to uphold the metaphorical wall between the editorial and reporting sides, with one reporter referring to it as “a pretty strict firewall.”
RQ 1: Research Roundup- “‘It’s not hate but…’: Marginal categories in rural journalism,” NiemanLab
Being more closely connected to their audiences, rural journalists were more reluctant to label such people and activities in their communities as hate — at least in part because of the fear of repercussion that would arise from such declarations in coverage. Indeed, as the authors note, “Journalists in some cases felt pressure from their audience to apply false balance in their work through labeling groups like Black Lives Matter as a hate group.”
App State professor publishes research on rural journalists reporting on hate, Watauga Democrat
“A lot of the work I do is motivated by a concern for hate in society, which is a growing problem. Journalists end up being on the front lines of it, simply by nature of being at events,” Perreault said.
Journalists in these rural communities feel a sense of responsibility to report on issues of hate but fear alienating their audiences in doing so, according to the study. Regardless of fear, Perreault said that many respondents in the study were defensive over the communities they serve and their ability to educate and inform them. He said one respondent who was a minority found herself reporting in a rural area and was concerned about how she would be perceived. However, once she began talking to people and explaining her point of view, a connection and trust was built.
Study looks at journalists' approach to COVID-19, Johnson City Press
Through analyzing interviews with journalists and discourse from U.S. journalism trade press, they “discovered that during COVID 19 journalists discursively placed themselves in a responsible but vulnerable position within the communication ecology – not solely as a result of the pandemic but also from environmental conditions that long preceded it. Journalists found their reporting difficult during the pandemic and sought to mitigate the forces challenging their work as they sought to reverse the flow of misinformation.”
RQ 1: Research Roundup-Journalists on COVID-19 Journalism, NiemanLab
Taking this ecological approach, the authors emphasize the multi-faceted nature of journalists' path through the pandemic -- from the personal vulnerability and fear they experienced to shifts in how they managed sources to the heightened struggles to combat misinformation. For example, the study found that journalists "saw the pandemic as laying bare the endangered nature of journalism, which was a result of pressure from access to sources as well as market forces. This jeopardized journalists' ability to fulfill their responsibility to society."
Secrets of Social Media Sourcing, "The J Word: A Podcast of Journalism Practice"
This is the thing that really puzzles journalists: they go into these stories [on hate groups] thinking through a very All the President's Men, watchdog journalism approach, thinking, "I'm going to protect the powerless here." But when they arrive at the scene of these rallies, it's the white nationalists who say "well, we're powerless." And who's the powerful? It's the journalists. They say "it's you, you're the powerful ones who are oppressing us and not letting our voice be heard." This puts the journalist in very odd position where they're genuinely torn about the best place to approach this. So they had to find another way to approach these stories and they embraced the storyteller role in particular, just as a way to provide some context. They argued that journalists should be not looking at these as the day's event story but instead put it in the context of a symptomatic ill of something else happening in society and this is just a symptom of it."
RQ 1: Research Roundup-Covering Hate, NiemanLab
For this study, Perreault and colleagues interviewed 18 journalists who have covered white nationalist rallies, and conclude with some best practices for reporters tasked with covering these issues. Overall, they found that journalists worried about walking into an “objectivity trap” and giving too much legitimacy to white nationalists simply by virtue of covering their rallies, particularly given that such hate groups take advantage of journalists’ professional predilections toward fairness and neutrality to convey and mainstream their message.
“To avoid that outcome,” the authors argue, “journalists should seek to resist the tendency to cover [white nationalist] rallies episodically (with conflict as the driving force of the story) and instead look to cover rallies more thematically by placing them in broader social and political contexts.”
"There is a lot to be said for the old-fashioned press conference": Falter (Austria)
In the Fulbright research study, "we interviewed Austrian and American journalists. Most use the photo platform to reach their audience. In some niches - for example in travel or lifestyle journalism - this is of course more common than elsewhere. We are also currently looking at whether influencers are seen as competition. Our results show that influencers are actually perceived as advertisers, and that media and advertising can traditionally live well together. Journalists have always needed advertisers so that their stories reach an audience."
"The academic quarter hour, rhythm games, mutants and web dragons," Games Podcast/ ORF (Austria)"
"As a subfield of journalism, [gaming journalism] is an incredibly valuable arena of expression, of experience that for years was sort of just the thing happening in the basement with your teenage son. But gaming is truly a ubiquitous gaming activity. If you look at the numbers, a third of all human beings play video games, to one extent or another, so the fact that there would be a dearth of coverage--and I would define it as that for many years--is actually really frustrating, in the sense that there's so much happening there. As a matter of fact, as my studies have shown, even journalists who are not gaming specialists can look at the activities happening within gaming, and certainly GamerGate was one of those moments, and say "there's a lot happening here. This isn't just a storytelling platform, it's also a platform for social activity"...there's a whole host of stories to be told through and around gaming. So I find it incredibly fascinating as a form of journalism to see how people are leveraging this interactive to tell new stories."