Johanna Dunaway Named Research Director for the Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship

Johanna Dunaway was among a trio of researchers who looked at voting patterns in communities of shuttered newspapers in 2018 and found evidence that the decline in local print media has contributed to political polarization in the United States.

Johanna Dunaway

Published in the Journal of Communication, their work caught the attention of a Florida daily newspaper, resulting in its decision to take a break from publishing national politics on its editorial pages. The aftermath of the paper’s decision created additional data for Dunaway and her counterparts to explore, ultimately fueling their co-authored book, “Home Style Opinion: How Local Newspapers Can Slow Polarization” (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

“The newspaper experiment we conducted in Palm Springs was fascinating,” says Dunaway, who was interviewed about her research for an episode of PBS Newshour that aired in early August. “Our findings added to the list of important societal consequences from declining local journalism. There is so much more research to be done on the democratic consequences emerging from changes in the digital media landscape; we need to better understand the effects of declining local news as well as how people get their information and decide what’s credible, and the impact on discourse and democracy more generally.”

This fall, Dunaway joins the University’s Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship (IDJC) as the research director, a role that will empower her to expand on her work, guide student research and mentor the next generation of journalists and policy makers.

IDJC is a joint initiative of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.