Medill News

Stephanie Edgerly receives University’s annual Walder Award

By Lila Reynolds (BSJ19)

Stephanie Edgerly, associate professor of journalism, has been named the 19th recipient of the Martin E. and Gertrude G. Walder Award for Research Excellence. Edgerly is a pioneer within her field, conducting research on how features of new media alter the way audiences consume news and impact political engagement.

The award, which recognizes excellence in research at Northwestern, was established in 2002 by alumnus Dr. Joseph A. Walder and is gifted annually by the University provost.

“The Walder Award recognizes the excellent research of Stephanie Edgerly,” said Provost Kathleen Hagerty. “I am pleased to present this award to such an outstanding faculty member.”

Edgerly is the second faculty member from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications to receive the Walder Award, and the first from the journalism department.

“To be included among the impressive researchers who have won the Walder Award is truly an honor,” Edgerly said. “It’s additionally meaningful to be the first journalism professor to receive the award.”

In addition to her appointment in Medill, Edgerly is a faculty associate at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research.

Edgerly’s current research focuses on how people make decisions about what is news and their strategies for verifying information on social media. Working with the U.S. Department of State, she has presented her research to government officials, journalism organizations and the public through six speaking opportunities across the world.

In past research, Edgerly has identified and made sense of “news avoiders,” a group that largely engages with alternate forms of new media, in an effort to implement strategies to engage different individuals and help them better understand the news landscape. Her findings shed light on political and civic participation among U.S. adults.

Past projects have examined the impact of funny news talk shows (like “The Daily Show”), YouTube video activism in political movements (i.e., the Occupy movement) and online news searching behavior.

Edgerly earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She received a B.A. in communication and political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Edgerly identifies the urgency to stay current and actionable as an advantage to researching media in Medill.

“What I love about being a media researcher is being able to observe a contemporary trend or behavior and saying, ‘I want to know more about that, how can I design a study about that trend?’” Edgerly said.

Edgerly is a speaker in the U.S. State Department’s International Information Program and a fellow in the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication. She also is a member of several professional associations including the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications and the International Communication Association.

Joseph Walder earned his master’s degree in chemistry from Northwestern in 1972, as well as a doctoral degree in 1975. He also has established a permanently endowed professorship at Northwestern, the Irving M. Klotz Research Professorship. The complete list of award recipients can be found on the Office of the Provost website.

Originally published on Northwestern Now.

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Medill Board of Advisers adds four new members

Four leaders in the fields of journalism and marketing have joined the Medill BOA 

“Our board members are a tremendous resource for the school and its leadership,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “I look forward to working with these new members in the years ahead and to the contributions they will make to Medill.”

New Board of Advisers members include:

bradley-akubuiro125x156.jpgBradley Akubuiro (BSJ11) is the chief spokesperson and senior director of global media relations for The Boeing Company, the largest aerospace manufacturer in the world. In this role, he is responsible for leading Boeing’s team of company spokespeople enterprise wide in their efforts to advance and protect the company’s interests around the globe. Akubuiro has provided leadership and counsel through the company’s response to COVID-19, the national conversation around race and several news making challenges and milestones in its effort to return the grounded 737 MAX to commercial service.

Prior to joining Boeing, Akubuiro served as director of corporate communications and public affairs for United Technologies Corporation (UTC) where he led the global corporate media relations and public affairs functions for the $77B Fortune 50 company. In an earlier role, he was deputy communications leader for the global military jet engines business at Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies.

marcia-davis125x156.jpgMarcia Davis is the supervising editor of race and identity at National Public Radio. She joined NPR in June 2020. A native of St. Louis, she spent more than 20 years as an editor and writer at The Washington Post.

At The Washington Post, Davis edited for Metro, Style, National and The Washington Post magazine. On the National Desk, she led coverage of the federal government, including breaking stories on mismanagement at the General Services Administration and stories on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She edited several columns, including the Federal Eye, In the Loop and the Federal Diary.

She also helped to lead the coverage of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in St. Louis. That death was a significant point in the history of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
As the District of Columbia political editor, she supervised reporters who covered Mayor Adrian Fenty. And while editing for Style, she helped lead the award-winning series “Being a Black Man.”

Davis attended Medill in the 1980s before finishing her degree at Roosevelt University.

matt-murray125x156.jpgMatt Murray (BSJ87, MSJ88) is editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, responsible for all global newsgathering and editorial operations.

Murray previously served as executive editor since 2017, and had been deputy editor in chief since 2013. He joined Dow Jones & Company in 1994 as a reporter for the Pittsburgh bureau.

He is the author of “The Father and the Son” and collaborated on memoirs by former New York City fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen.

emily-ramshaw125x156.jpgEmily Ramshaw (BSJ03), is co-founder and CEO of The 19th, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy. Most recently, Ramshaw was the editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, a Peabody Award-winning, 10-year-old news startup that boasts the largest statehouse bureau in the nation, powers the pages of newspapers across Texas and the nation, and is considered the gold standard for sustainability in local news. She is also the youngest person ever to be named to the board of the Pulitzer Prize, where she is serving a nine-year term.

Before helping to found the Texas Tribune a decade ago, Ramshaw was an award-winning investigative reporter at The Dallas Morning News, where she broke national stories about sexual abuse inside Texas’ youth lock-ups, reported from inside a West Texas polygamist compound and uncovered “fight clubs” at state institutions for people with disabilities.

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Penny Abernathy, nation’s foremost researcher and expert on local news deserts, joins Medill as visiting professor

Medill welcomes Penelope “Penny” Muse Abernathy as a visiting professor. Abernathy recently retired from the University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media, where she served as the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics.

“Penny is the nation’s foremost authority on the worsening crisis of local news deserts across the U.S.,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “Her research has chronicled the growing number of communities with no local news source, and it has brought attention to this critical problem and what it means in a self-governed democracy where citizens need news and information to make informed decisions. Medill is committed to providing news outlets with the tools and insights they need to thrive in their communities, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Penny.”

As a journalism professional with more than 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and senior media business executive, Abernathy specializes in preserving quality journalism by helping news organizations succeed economically in the digital environment. Her research focuses on the implications of the digital revolution for news organizations, the information needs of communities and the emergence of news deserts in the United States.

“Penny’s arrival will help make Medill the nation’s epicenter for local news research and thought leadership at this critical time for the industry,” says Tim Franklin, Medill senior associate dean, professor and the inaugural John M. Mutz Chair in Local News—a first of its kind chair in the nation. “Penny and her research are constantly quoted by national news outlets and cited by scholars studying the challenge of local news deserts and the implications for society.”

The Medill Local News Initiative launched in 2018 to help bolster the sustainability of local news and foster new business models. Since then, the Medill Spiegel Research Center has mined local news audience data in more than 20 markets, and it’s now creating a new Subscriber Engagement Index to help local news organizations grow reader revenue. In addition, Medill’s Knight Lab has conducted field research of local news readers and non-readers to help inform experiments with new tools and approaches to improve reader engagement. Medill also is starting a new Metro Media Lab to help strengthen local news and high school journalism in Chicago.

“I’m delighted to be joining the critically important Local News Initiative and collaborating with Medill colleagues in their efforts to save local journalism,” said Abernathy. While at Medill, she plans to collaborate with the Local News Initiative and Spiegel Research Center on local news-related projects and research. She’ll deliver presentations and talks at national conferences and at the school. And, she’ll write articles for news outlets and scholarly journals that provide new knowledge on the state of local news.

Abernathy is the author of “News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?” — a major 2020 report that documents the state of local journalism, what is as stake for our democracy, and the possibility of reviving the local news landscape, and she is the lead co-author of “The Strategic Digital Media Entrepreneur,” which explores in-depth the emerging business models of successful media enterprises.

Her first book, “Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability,” is based on five years of research, involving more than two dozen newspapers around the country. She is also author of two other major reports: “The Expanding News Deserts,” published in 2018, and “The Rise of a New Media Baron and the Emerging Threat of News Deserts,” published in 2016.