This summer, Dr. Sue Robinson, the Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism, received the 2019 Tankard Book Award for outstanding research in journalism.
Her book, Networked News, Racial Divides: How Power & Privilege Shape Public Discourse in Progressive Communities (Cambridge University Press, 2018), was selected for the award given by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). The award recognizes the most outstanding book in the field of journalism and communication and honors authors whose work embodies excellence in research, writing and creativity.
After an eight-year process that changed her life and culminated in a book that brings to light the disparities of media coverage between races, Robinson was thrilled to see her work recognized as the best book in journalism for 2019 by AEJMC.
“I mean, I was just hoping to be a finalist,” Robinson said. “I am honored beyond words.”
In order to be considered for this award, authors must explain why their research is important for journalists and communicators and then an AEJMC committee chooses a winner. For Robinson, the importance of her book centered on its applicability to the “real world.”
Within social-science research fields, Robinson’s book is seen as a rarity because of the self-reflection she weaves into the greater narrative. As a white woman, Robinson talks about how she takes time to discuss her own racial journey and how being aware of race is at the forefront of her mind in her everyday life.
“Researchers often refrain from talking about the back-end work of the book or even themselves,” she explained. “But in this case, it was important for me to acknowledge my racial journey and how I got past barriers to build relationships with the people I was trying to talk about.”
When presented with the award at the 2019 AEJMC annual conference in Toronto, Robinson’s 79-year-old mother was able to join her to celebrate the landmark accomplishment. Since she dedicated the book to her mom, Robinson took the event as an opportunity to thank her publicly for teaching her about curiosity, perseverance and the need to self-educate.
Robinson is currently working on two books that take unique stances about media trust and information authority in the midst of a growing, global anti-journalism sentiment and movement.
The first of the books — a longer-term, multi-phased project — addresses the public’s trust in journalism, examining how journalists as individuals build relationships with their audiences instead of focusing on how people do or do not lose trust in the profession.
“Journalists are looked at as all the same, and that’s not the case,” Robinson explains. “As unique individuals, we all establish different kinds of relationships with different kinds of people in different ways. I want to explore that idea in the hopes of understanding more about the information-based trusting relationships between reporters and their communities.”
Her second book will be a collaborative work (Robinson as second author with Matthew Carlson of the University of Minnesota and Seth C. Lewis of the University of Oregon) discussing the current president as a symbol of the anti-journalism movement. Without giving away too much of her book, Robinson says it will argue that President Trump has been able to capitalize on a movement that had been in progress for years. Both books will offer recommendations for journalists, media watchers, and anyone who cares about having a vibrant, (accurate) information-rich democracy.
“I think it’s so important that researchers apply their scholarship in some way to the real world,” Robinson added. “We spend so much time on these projects as academics; the real value is in how we can use this knowledge to improve society and make the world a better place.”
Interested in reading her full book? Order your own copy today.