What inspired you to pursue a career in education and journalism studies?
This wasn’t a career that was on my radar growing up. I’m from a small town in South Wales and the first in my family to go to university. My undergraduate degree is in American Studies, which I basically chose because a year abroad in the USA was part of the program. I was, to be honest, not a very good student! In my junior year, I came to Washington State University, and this pretty much changed the course of my life as it was here that I met my future wife, Lexi. I returned home to Wales for two years before coming back out to WSU as a Masters student so that I could be with Lexi. I knew that I wanted to do something in journalism but wasn’t sure what. I’d done some freelance music writing – mostly reviews and features – and expected to graduate in 2008 and pursue a career in journalism full-time. However, two things happened. First, the economy tanked. And second, I came to really enjoy teaching and research during my MA program, so decided I would pursue a PhD. And I’ve remained in academia since then – I graduated with my PhD in 2012, worked at the University of Missouri for ten years, and returned to WSU as an Associate Professor in 2022.
What is the greatest contribution you have made to journalism studies that is most meaningful to you?
I think my biggest contribution is supporting the work of others. I have particularly enjoyed collaborating with graduate students and helping them realize their research ideas from conception to publication. That has been very meaningful to me. With undergraduate students, encouraging their passion for journalism and helping them celebrate the institution’s virtues while being mindful of its vices has been a joy. In terms of my own research, I have tried to go against the grain a bit in my field of journalism studies, by arguing that scholars are too hasty in celebrating technological innovation and too dismissive of the concerns of journalists. When we think about changes from citizen journalism to comment sections to social media to AI, I think that – in general – the concerns of journalists have been validated. Some of my work has questioned the pace at which we in journalism studies have celebrated changes that perhaps ought to have been interrogated more closely.
Though there are obstacles in most aspects of life and impactful careers, what would you say is the biggest challenge that you have faced in journalism research and studies and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges most academics face is the pressure to constantly be publishing, which can lead to feelings of fatigue and burnout, as well as concerns of putting quantity over quality. I’ve tried really hard the past few years to have a healthy work/life balance and make sure I have time for family and to do the things that I enjoy, like running and spending time with my wife and my dogs. I’d like to think I’ve become better at my job as a result, because I can be more diligent with my time.
Understanding the premise that this award is extremely prestigious on its own, but looking ahead, how do you plan on building upon this accomplishment? What are your future goals and aspirations?
I’ve recently been appointed Director of Graduate Studies in the Murrow College and I’m excited about the opportunities this provides. I really enjoy things like developing policy, strategic planning, and revising curriculum, and this role gives me the opportunity to create an infrastructure that allows others to succeed and do their best work. This role is an opportunity to build on the strong work of my predecessor, Dr. Paul Bolls , and further enhance the college’s graduate teaching and research missions. I’m extremely grateful to be appointed and have high aspirations for the future!
Lastly, are there any individuals or mentors who played a significant role in your career or journey towards winning this award? And how did they support you?
So many people! My graduate advisor, Dr. Beth Hindman , showed me how you can lead with empathy and kindness without sacrificing rigor. I was very lucky to be part of an amazing and supportive cohort of graduate students at the Murrow College and took classes from so many great professors, many of whom are now my colleagues. I’ve had fantastic mentors as my faculty colleagues at the University of Missouri and now back at WSU. But most of all, I must credit my parents for teaching me the importance of reading books and having a strong work ethic, and my wife for making all this possible with her love and support.