Brendan Watson, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Brendan’s research explores the relationship between communication about local public affairs issues and community composition and community structure. His current research is focusing on communities’ information needs, disparities in access to public affairs information, and the disparate effects that cuts to local public affairs news reporting has had on communities. He’s also exploring new technologies and different local institutions that have the potential to fill gaps in communities’ information needs left by the under performance of local journalism organizations.
In the past, his research has explored how community structure restricted coverage of public affairs issues involving conflict. His dissertation examined how variables such as Gulf Coast communities’ economic reliance on the oil industry shaped coverage of the BP oil spill. The dissertation compared newspaper coverage and Tweets about the oil spill, addressing, among other questions, whether Twitter represents an alternative medium, or is shaped by similar social, political, and economic pressures as mainstream journalism. Brendan found that in the context of the BP oil spill, Twitter did not represent an alternative medium; Twitter coverage of the crisis was very similar to local newspapers’ and was shaped by the same individual and community-level factors.
Brendan’s research has been published in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Mass Communication & Society, Newspaper Research Journal, and the Howard Journal of Communication, among other outlets. His research has won multiple top paper awards at national conferences.
Previously, Brendan was a multimedia journalist at the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times). He led many of the paper’s early experiments in multimedia reporting, including video reporting, podcasting and live-blogging major news events. He also trained the paper’s reporters and photographers, and has taught multimedia reporting seminars at Michigan State University, University of Maryland, and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
Brendan holds a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2012), a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia (2007), and a bachelor’s in English literature and American culture studies from Washington University in St. Louis (2004).