• Gregory Perreault

Preparing for Fulbright Austria

In spring 2019, I listened in on Appalachian State's annual "Fulbright Week" when I conceived of an idea: to apply for a grant to teach and research at one of the most prestigious worldwide programs in journalism--The University of Vienna Journalism Studies Center--in service as a Fulbright ambassador for Appalachian. The journey from conception to reality required months of painstaking preparation, troubling over adjectives in my applications, and many email exchanges with the ever kind and brilliant Folker Hanusch at University of Vienna.

The elephant in the room in the coronavirus pandemic. For months, the Fulbright crew and state departments worked to figure out whether a spring 2021 program would be possible, while I troubled over an issue that I had no earthly ability to do anything about.

And so here I am now, writing in the weeks before my trip, on the year of the 70th anniversary of Fulbright Austria and the 75th year of the Fulbright program. I could not be more excited for the experience. In Austria, Folker and I will be co-teaching the research methods seminar in the masters of communication science program and working on a research project comparing the lifestyle journalists in the United States in Austria.

Why Austria?

Austria offers many opportunities for the study of digital journalism given the vitality of the news environment, the consolidation of news organizations and the development of digital outlets—similar developments to those in America, which operates from a different cultural and political context. Digital news has progressed less quickly in Austria than in the US, resulting in a more vibrant newspaper culture.

The 2019 Reuters Digital News Report indicates that the Austrian government reviewed the media landscape in 2018 and is actively working to counter the effects of digital media on local news. Yet the report highlights that Austria’s conservative government has been on a collision course with independent journalism as it attempts to control the agenda and reform public service news media. By contrast, in the United States an increasing number of local communities have lost news coverage (1300 since 2004) and revenue for digital news is more elusive.

All of this together indicates that although many of the same circumstances have affected both Austrian and American news, the shape of the digital news environment is different in valuable ways.

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