Brendan R. Watson

Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota | School of Journalism and Mass Communication

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 community information needs; how emerging digital and participatory communication technologies, including social media, are/are not changing the content and availability of public affairs news and information; how community information needs and communication about public affairs issues are shaped by community structure; and quantitative research methods.

Brendan's research has won multiple top paper awards at regional and national conferences and the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication awarded his dissertation, which compared local newspaper and Twitter coverage of the 2010 BP oil spill, the 2013 Nafziger-White-Salwen Dissertation Award. The award recognizes the best dissertation in mass communication completed 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.

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.

In the summer of 2014, Brendan worked at Minnesota Public Radio, embedded in their digital news team. As part of the "professional reimmersion," Brendan helped manage MPR's phone and tablet apps and social media accounts, with a particular focus "social photography."


  • Ph.D., Mass Communication, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • M.A., Journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia
  • B.A., English Literature & American Culture Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

Research Interests

  • Community information needs
  • Public affairs news/information
  • Social and participatory media
  • Community composition/structure
  • Public opinion
  • Digital research methods
>>Published research


Watson, B.R. and Cavanah, S. (2015).Community information needs: A theory and methodological framework. Mass Communication & Society, 18, 651-673. doi: 10.1080/15205436.2015.1059948



School of Journalism & Mass Communication
111 Murphy Hall
206 Church St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
(612) 625-0576