Connecting Journalism Research with Practice

Assistant Professor Belair-Gagnon talks about her latest book.

It is now well-established that the long-time economic model on which the news industry has relied is no longer sustainable. Facebook, Google, and declining levels of popular trust in the media have been major contributors to this situation. Simultaneously, the closure of local media outlets across the country has left many areas without access to regional news, compounded the distance between media and publics, and further eroded civic engagement. Despite the looming crisis in journalism, a research-practice gap plagues the news industry.

This Q&A event launches the book Journalism Research that Matters by Valérie Bélair-Gagnon and Nikki Usher (eds.). Among other things, it will discuss how scholars must think about their work in a public context, and journalists, too, need to listen to media scholars and take the research that they do seriously.

Presented by the Minnesota Journalism Center

Moderator: Dr. Cindy Royal
Cindy Royal is a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the founding director of the Media Innovation Lab. She specializes in teaching the practical and theoretical concepts of digital media. Dr. Royal completed Ph.D. studies in Journalism and Mass Communication at The University of Texas at Austin in May 2005. At UT, she focused on the effects of the Internet on communication and culture. Her dissertation, entitled Gendered Spaces and Digital Discourse: Framing Women's Relationship with the Internet, dealt with the ways women's media and Web sites represent women's usage of the Internet. Dr. Royal teaches Web development and other courses dealing with communication and technology. Dr. Royal is the 2013 Charles E. Scripps Journalism and Mass Communication Teacher of the Year, presented by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Scripps Howard Foundation. She received the 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching from Texas State. During the 2013-2014 academic year, Royal was selected for the prestigious Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, the first full-time academic to be accepted in the program in its 50-year history. She developed a platform to teach programming skills to journalists and journalism students called CodeActually. Prior to doctoral studies, Dr. Royal had a career in Marketing at Compaq Computer (now part of Hewlett Packard) in Houston, TX and NCR Corporation in Dayton, OH. She has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Richmond and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Additional detail regarding her research, education and experience can be found at

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon
Valérie Bélair-Gagnon is Assistant Professor at the Hubbard School of Journalism & Mass Communication and Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. She is an Affiliated Fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project. Previously, she was Executive Director and Research Scholar as well as Postdoctoral Fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. She has been a fellow at Oslo Metropolitan University Digital Journalism Research Group and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. Born in Montréal (Québec, Canada), she earned a BA in Sociology (honors) from McGill University, an MSc in Sociology from Université de Montréal, and a PhD in Sociology from City, University of London. 

Nikki Usher
Dr. Usher's research focuses on news production in the changing digital environment, blending insights from media sociology and political communication. Her first book, Making News at The New York Times (University of Michigan Press, 2014) was the first book-length study of the US’s foremost newspaper in the Internet era and won the Tankard Award, a national book award from the Association for Education and Mass Communication in Journalism. Her second book, Interactive Journalism: Hackers, Data, and Code (University of Illinois Press, 2016), focused on the rise of programming and data journalism, and was a finalist for the Tankard Award, making Usher the first solo author to be a two-time finalist. She has been a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, a fellow at the Reynold's Institute at the University of Missouri, and a Digital Journalism Fellow at Norway's OsloMet. She is the winner of the AEJMC Emerging Scholar Award and was named the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Outstanding Junior Scholar, in addition to joining the Kopenhaver Center as a leadership fellow. Prior to joining the Illinois faculty, she was an associate professor at George Washington University in the School of Media and Public Affairs. She is a frequent commentator on the evolving news media landscape, serving as an expert source for journalists, and, on occasion, writes commentary for industry-facing and popular press outlets. Dr. Usher enjoys contributing to wide-ranging policy conversations about the future of the media landscape in an era of big tech.


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