Communications faculty members, alumnus earn national recognition

July 06, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two Penn State College of Communications faculty members and a recent graduate earned awards from the Mass Communication & Society Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) and will be honored at the annual AEJMC Conference in early August in Minneapolis.

Each of the awards spotlight an important characteristic of the mass communication field, including integrity, innovation and identifying pressing issues within the discipline. The recipients, Bu Zhong, professor of journalism; Michael Schmierbach, associate professor of media studies; and Brett Sherrick, a recent doctoral graduate and instructor in journalism at the University of Alabama, will receive their awards at the MC&S awards luncheon Aug. 6 as part of the overall conference.

Research Award
Michael Schmierbach
MC&S annually honors two outstanding projects that focus on important aspects of mass communication research. This year one of the awards went to Schmierbach and collaborator Michael Boyle of West Chester University for their research targeting a central question in the field: What can communications researchers do with project results once they have them?

“We know a lot about the effects of media, but persuading the general public that they should care about that information or use it in their lives is not always easy,” Schmierbach said. “We’re trying to figure out how to make people think media literacy training is a good idea, and how to persuade them to actually use media literacy in their own lives.”

The researchers chose two topics recently in the news (anti-vaccination and “revenge porn”) that they hope can get people to think critically about. Schmierbach said that by giving people concrete examples of the influence this content has and encouraging people to empathize with those affected, the results can increase the likelihood people will want to take part in media literacy efforts.

"There are many ethical questions about how to respond to these materials,” Schmierbach said. “The challenge is finding a balance between permitting free speech and protecting the public.” 

The Research Award provides $10,000 in funding to researchers to continue work on their research topics.

Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award
Bu Zhong
To reward excellence in research, teaching and service in the mass communication field, MC&S awards its Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award to a faculty member that personifies AEJMC’s professional freedom and responsibility principles.

Zhong teaches news media ethics, television reporting and social media research. In his research, he focuses on social media, information and communication technologies for development, information technology and psychology and health communication. He is a faculty affiliate at the Center for Advanced Data Assimilation and Predictability, the Media Effects Research Lab and the ICT4D Consortium. He is also a senior research fellow in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.

Zhong’s work has been published in many top communications journals. His research applies decision-making theories to examine how judgment and decisions may be altered by information use. This includes information in news, sports information and social media.

Dissertation Award
Brett Sherrick
The MC&S Dissertation Award provides a doctoral student with $3,000 in funding and an opportunity to publish in its journal, Mass Communication and Society. The award honors dissertations that advance mass communication research at the societal and macro-social levels and emphasize interaction with society, according to the MC&S website.

Sherrick, who received his doctorate from Penn State last year, said his dissertation represents “a lot of hard work and a lot of help” from others. He said he is honored that this hard work is warranting recognition from a distinguished organization like AEJMC.

Sherrick’s research interests include media effects and video games. In his dissertation he examined video games’ role in persuasion. Using two studies, he examined the persuasive effectiveness of video games that involved nutrition.

“I am passionate about understanding how people view and use new media in their daily lives,” he said. “This award validates the techniques and methods that I used. I am excited to work again with the theories and concepts from my dissertation.”

Last Updated June 14, 2021