Amanda Sturgill, Mattie Gainer '15 present at AEJMC Midwinter Conference

The communications professor and strategic communications major shared their joint research paper, “Tweeps as sources: A comparison of legacy and new news outlets,” at a March 6-7 conference held at the University of Oklahoma.

School of Communications associate professor Amanda Sturgill (left) and strategic communications major Mattie Gainer ’15 presented at the AEJMC Midwinter Conference March 6-7.[/caption]​Over the past four years, School of Communications Associate Professor Amanda Sturgill and strategic communications major Mattie Gainer ’15 have shared a classroom on more than a few occasions.

The duo this month also shared the presentation floor at the AEJMC Midwinter Conference held at the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Sturgill and Gainer recently co-authored a research paper titled “Tweeps as sources: A comparison of legacy and new news outlets,” and they presented their findings March 7 to the Communication Technology Division of AEJMC. This division, which is headed by Sturgill, brings together researchers, teachers and professionals who are interested in how new communication technologies are changing media and society.

The research paper compared traditional and new media news outlets and their respective journalists’ patterns of following people on Twitter. The researchers sought insight into the similarities and differences in the journalists’ “potential sourcing strategies,” explained Gainer. 

The topic for the paper came from a conversation Sturgill and Gainer engaged in following the rise of news stories first published by BuzzFeed, Mashable and other digital platforms.

“We wanted to see why these new news sites broke the stories faster than venerable legacy news outlets,” Gainer said. “Our first thought was Twitter as a news source and we felt that looking at who journalists follow on Twitter would reveal information about their potential sourcing habits. As part of the generation that is changing the face of mainstream news, it was fascinating for me to explore how news content from these alternative outlets compares to content from legacy media.”

As one of only a few undergraduates on hand in Oklahoma, Gainer admitted being nervous before her presentation, but she was comforted having her mentor Sturgill nearby. The faculty and student’s rapport dates back to Gainer’s first semester on campus, when she enrolled in Sturgill’s “Global Citizen” class.

“Mattie has always had a strong intellectual curiosity, so undergraduate research was a great option for her,” said Sturgill, noting their presentation received positive reviews. “It’s rare to see undergraduates at AEJMC-sponsored research conferences. And if you do, there’s a good chance they are from Elon.” 

The professor added Elon maintains a strong reputation through its compelling research topics and participation in national conferences. “In addition to conducting a lot of interesting investigations, undergraduate researchers in the School of Communications have had good success getting their work seen on a larger scale at conferences where almost all of the other participants are doctoral students and faculty,” she explained.

Gainer found her audience in Oklahoma to be genuinely interested in her research, which led to a barrage of questions afterward. This level of curiosity flattered Gainer, and she admitted it was the highlight of her trip. Furthermore, attending the conference led the undergraduate to begin considering what other research topics she might tackle next.

“People presented research on so many different topics. It really opened my eyes to the innumerable possibilities to explore and gain knowledge in the rapidly changing industry of communications and journalism,” Gainer said.

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