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 how community composition and structure affects communities' public affairs news and information needs, disparities in access to public affairs information, and disparate effects that cuts to local public affairs reporting has had on communities. He also examines how newer communication technologies, including social media, and diverse insitutions outside journalism -- local governments, community foundations, schools, libraries, medical clinics, churches, etc. -- may help fill gaps in communities’ information needs left by the under performance of traditional news media organizations. He'a also interested in how fulfilling communities public affairs information needs helps encourage and sustain local civic engagement.
Brendan's research has won multiple top paper awards at regional and national conferences, and his dissertaion that examined how community structure affected coverage of the BP oil spill in both local newspapers and Tweets along the Gulf Coast was the winner of the 2013 Nafziger-White-Salwen Dissertation Award given by the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication for the top mass communication dissertation the previous year. Among the issues the dissertation addressed was whether Twitter represents an alternative medium, or is shaped by similar social, political, and economic pressures as mainstream journalism. (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).
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.