Vogts wins ISWNE/Huck Boyd research paper competition

Following his 2023 publication of “U.S. Student Media Associations’ Mission Statements Provide Discursive Leadership in Support of Civic Culture” in Journalism & Mass Communication Educator (JMCE), Todd R. Vogts, Ph.D., added another line to his scholarly credentials.

On April 20, Vogts was notified that he had won the ISWNE/Huck Boyd Center research paper competition

As a result, he will present his paper, “Prioritizing Print and Marginalizing Misinformation: Exploring Why Rural Weeklies Avoid Serving Communities with Reliable News Online,” at the 2024 ISWNE Conference in Toronto on June 21.

Additionally, his paper will be published in the Fall issue of Grassroots Editor, the ISWNE’s biannual journal.

“I’m incredibly excited and honored to win this competition and be allowed to present my research to journalists from around the globe,” Vogts said.

Vogts’s research investigated why print remains so important for small-town, rural media outlets despite increases in technological access and capabilities for producing, paying attention to the implications of misinformation in communities served by print-focused news organizations.

He interviewed 16 weekly, rural news editors in Kansas. To be included in the study, these journalists had to work for weekly newspapers with small staffs and circulations under 5,000 readers.

Kansas was selected for this project due to its largely rural and small-town composition. Also, Kansas received $451 million as part of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which is part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda, provides $42.45 billion in grant monies to U.S. states and territories to “deploy affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service to everyone in America.”

Combined, the interviews took more than 21 hours to complete. Individual interviews averaged 71 minutes long and were recorded using video and/or audio recording devices. 

The recordings were used to develop transcripts of the interviews that were coded and analyzed. In total, the transcripts amounted to 181,791 words for analysis. This means the combined transcripts are nearly as long as Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, which checks in at 183,349 words

Interviewing working journalists garnered praise from the reviewers who evaluated submissions to determine if entries upheld scholarly standards and were worthy of winning the competition.

“Great to see the paper’s research focused on real-world experiences/interviews with journalists who are boots-on-the-ground,” one reviewer wrote. “Those interviews and quotes from the subjects make this research more ‘real’ to the industry. If it’s more relatable, it’s more likely to have a substantive impact.”

Another reviewer agreed.

“I’ve read numerous Huck Boyd entries over the years and have become discouraged at the researchers being content with using online surveys only or just screenshots of web pages as the basis for their study,” they wrote. “It was great to have a researcher actually willing to interview multiple subjects – and for more than an hour each – as part of this project.”

One reviewer’s comment summarized the consensus succinctly: “This is one of the better submissions to the Huck Boyd contest I have seen in many years.”

Through his investigation, Vogts found three overarching themes that explained why print remains so important for small-town news operations: Clinging to Tradition, Lacking Resources, and Rationalizing Rumors.

“I truly hope my work helps rural, community journalists continue to survive and thrive,” he said. “Ideally, by seeing how their peers approach the industry, others can reflect on their practices and mindsets to consider if a change is needed. So much of the news industry is in upheaval as misinformation and economic factors rock the proverbial boat. Simply hoping for calmer waters isn’t enough. Action must be taken to keep the communities and their news outlets afloat.”

Vogts said he is interested to see how attendees at the conference receive his research.

“I can’t wait to get feedback from those who come to listen to my presentation. Not only will it help me fine-tune my paper before publication, but it will also give me insight into whether I’m doing beneficial work,” he said.

More than anything, though, Vogts expressed gratitude.

“I am so thankful to the ISWNE and the Huck Boyd Center for not only selecting my paper as the winner of this distinguished research competition but also allowing me to present the information at an international conference,” he said. “Also, I am indebted to the rural, community journalists who graciously gave of their time and let me interview them. Outside of my wife’s grace and understanding, this project would not have been possible without them.”

ISWNE is the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. Led by Executive Director Chad Stebbins, the organization’s “purpose is to help those involved in the weekly press to improve standards of editorial writing and news reporting and to encourage strong, independent editorial voices.”

The Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media, housed at Kansas State University, aims “to serve and strengthen the local newspapers, broadcast stations and other media that play a key role in the survival and revitalization of America’s small towns and rural communities.” Sam Mwangi serves as the Huck Boyd Center director.

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About toddvogts 843 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Journalism Education Association (JEA), and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), among others. He earned his Master Journalism Educator (MJE) certification from JEA in 2022. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at twitter.com/toddvogts or via his website at www.toddvogts.com.