Article written with UA Professor Dr. Wilson Lowrey, “The impact of web metrics on community. news decisions: A resource dependence perspective,” was published online by Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly on September 21, 2018 (print publication pending). CLICK HERE to see a summary. (Full access requires payment, as required by the publisher. Sorry.) This article was based on research done for my master’s thesis, in which I embedded with two contrasting community news organizations.


What we learned

Comparing two community news organizations, we found that the one that gave higher priority to web metrics (page views, in particular) produced a lower percentage of stories about important issues, put fewer sources in its stories, and let numbers play a greater role in news judgment. But journalists' sense of obligation to their communities led both organizations to sometimes tackle impactful civic stories even though they anticipated a low click total.

Why it matters

Journalists need to be aware how excessive attention to audience popularity numbers -- an understandable reaction to big economic problems in the industry today -- potentially leads to lower quality journalism, so they can make a conscious effort to resist if they wish.


“The impact of web metrics on community news decisions: A resource dependence perspective” presented to Community Journalism Interest Group, AEJMC National Convention, Chicago, Ill. (August 2017).

“Impact of web metrics on news decisions” (master’s thesis) presented at Media and the Public Sphere 2016, Athens, Ga. (October 22, 2016).

“Media criticism of revered sports figures in Alabama: Case studies of Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant and Gene Stallings” presented at AEJMC Southeast Colloquium panel, Knoxville, Tenn. (March 28, 2015) and Alabama Program in Sports Communication Symposium, Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Feb. 5, 2016). 

“Hit in the head: Media coverage of the football concussion controversy” presented to Alabama Sports Writers Association annual convention, Birmingham, Ala. (June 12, 2016).

“Legal thievery: Aggregation and copyright law” presented to Alabama Sports Writers Association annual convention, Mobile, Ala. (June 14, 2015).


Top Faculty Paper (with Dr. Wilson Lowrey as 2nd author), Community Journalism Interest Group, AEJMC National Convention, Chicago, August 2017 (Title: “The impact of web metrics on community news decisions: A resource dependence perspective”)

Top Graduate Student Award/KTA Inductee, University of Alabama (April 2016).


JCM 180 Journalistic Principles and Practices — We get acquainted with the purposes and skills of different kinds of journalism in this intro-level class. Ultimate mission: Get the students excited about journalism, which is worth getting excited about.

JCM 303 News Writing and Reporting — Hear a lecture, do a lab, then go tackle a real news story. Students do that most weeks as they learn to report and write for different platforms. We mix it up with sessions on feature writing, data journalism, social media, ethics, law, diversity and public relations. I like this one especially because it merges News Media and Public Relations students.

JCM 325 Sports Writing and Reporting — More practice at being a good journalist. The topics just happen to be about sports (where the storylines are better!). Students run beats, cover games, write a variety of stories and critique professional work. And I’ll say this for UA’s increased geographic diversity: We spend more time talking about ice hockey than you’d ever imagine. I also get on my soapbox about sports writers who are homers and the dangers of football concussions.

JCM 493 Ethics and Diversity — We wrangle (civilly!) over current ethical controversies in media (journalism, public relations, advertising and entertainment). If I’m able to cut off the conversation, then we learn the skill of using a justification model to resolve ethical conflicts in media through moral reasoning. That is, of course, a foundation of respected media practice. It helps in life too.

JCM 511 In-Depth Reporting — This graduate-level course, part of UA’s professional track Community Journalism program, teaches students how to plan, report and write in-depth issue stories. We do a real enterprise story that is offered to our friends at The Anniston Star for publication.


Coordinator, Media Writing Center, CIS Commons, Reese Phifer Hall. Students: The MWC offers free writing advice from peer mentors to any CIS student working on a class writing assignment. For the semester schedule of walk-in hours, look for fliers posted in numerous locations in the JCM Department or CLICK HERE.

Faculty adviser, student chapter of Associated Press Sports Editors. Students: This student organization, which is officially recognized by the university and the national APSE, offers educational and networking opportunities, and is open to any CIS student, not just sports journalism students. Cost is $25 (paid to the national organization). FIND MORE INFORMATION HERE. APPLY HERE.

Coordinator, Dow Jones summer internship applications. Students: CLICK HERE to learn more about this valuable, competitive program in which students work for news organizations around the country. Watch for an early fall email from me with application information.