Brendan R. Watson

Assistant Professor, Michigan State University School of Journalism

2017 Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication (AEJMC) Presentations

Watson, B.R.(2017). Won’t you be my (Facebook) neighbor? Community communication effects and neighborhood social networks. Paper accepted for presentation at the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication, Chicago, IL.

This paper examines the effect of neighborhood social context, specifically the degree of racial pluralism, on the number of residents who use Facebook to connect with their local neighborhood association to follow issues affecting their community. Analysis is based on a new “community communication effects” approach, replacing the city-wide analysis of prior studies with an analysis of neighborhood data more likely to influence users of newer, participatory communication platforms. Results suggest more complicated, non-linear effects than theorized by the existing literature. Some degree of neighborhood heterogeneity is necessary to create interest in neighborhood issues and spur mediated as opposed to interpersonal communication among neighbors. But too much heterogeneity is associated with a decline in following neighborhood associations on Facebook. The paper identifies where that tipping point occurs and discusses practical and theoretical implications.


  • 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
College of Commmunication Arts & Sciences, Michigan State University
404 Wilson Road, Room 302
East Lansing, MI 48824
(517) 884-4487