Elina Erzikova.jpg   jh-simpsonmug.jpg  JohnnySparksMG_94632.jpg
                  Erzikova                           Simpson                            Sparks
Three Department of Journalism professors were chosen by their peers to present research papers at international conferences this past summer.

Dr. Elina Erzikova, Dr. Ed Simpson and Dr. Johnny Sparks traveled to Washington, D.C., and abroad to share their work.

Erzikova, an associate professor of public relations, presented two papers at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in Washington, D.C., in August.

Her paper, “Russia versus the World: Are Public Relations Leadership Priorities More Similar than Different?,” was a global study that involved 4,500 public relations practitioners from 23 countries. She found public relations professionals in Russia face the same problems as those in the other nations. All were concerned with finding talented workers and how to deal with crises in the public relations world.

Erzikova’s other paper, “Taking on the Bear: Public Relations Leaders Discuss Russian Challenges,” was based on interviews with Russian public relations professionals. 

“There is a misconception of PR people in Russia,” she said. “They think it is propaganda.”

She said the lack of quality public relations education in Russia is a concern because it leads to a low level of professionalism in the field.

Erzikova also traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to present at the International Association for Media and Communication Research conference in June. She presented her paper, “Shifting institutional orders and responses to technological disruption among local journalists in Russia and the U.S.,” which she co-authored with Wilson Lowery from the University of Alabama.

This paper explored how media organizations respond to challenges in developing an online and social media presence. U.S. journalists have made progress, but Russian journalists don’t show much interest in developing an online presence, she said.

Erzikova spent two years gathering information for all three papers. She conducted interviews, focus groups and online surveys to gather the data. 

“One method of gathering data does not work anymore,” she said. “I am trying my best to use two methods as a means of validating results.”

Simpson, an assistant professor of journalism, presented his paper, “Eggnog and Community: A case study on the increasing role of television Websites in news commentary” at the International Communication Association (ICA) conference, which was held in London in June. 

The paper, one of the top four selected in a “themed session” to highlight innovative research methods or theory, explored the rising use of local television websites by online commentators.

He also presented at the AEJMC conference. His paper, “An offense to conventional wisdom: Press independence and W.E. Chilton III, 1960 to 1987,” was chosen as the top faculty paper in the History Division. 

“Ned Chilton was the owner/publisher of the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, the state’s largest newspaper,” Simpson said. “The paper explored his unusually vigorous efforts to employ First Amendment principles within the context of defining a free vs. independent press.”
Simpson said he spent at least 100 hours on the research, writing and revision stages for each paper. He is now preparing both for submission to journals for possible publication.

“It was just a real pleasure to talk about these issues that I think are so important to journalism and, ultimately, to our students,” he said. “When it comes right down to it, the role of the audience in our journalism is an essential question, as is, what does an independent press look like.”

Sparks, an assistant professor of advertising, presented his paper, “Motivated Cognitive Processing of In-Game Advertising,” in the Information Systems Division at the ICA conference. The paper, co-authored with Dr. Sungwon Chung, of Texas Tech University, was honored as the second best in the top paper category.

“It was about how our human biological emotional systems activate during first-person shooter video games,” Sparks said.

The research explored how people feel and how they process peripheral advertising information while playing these types of games. It took about two years to gather data, write and revise the paper. It is under review for publication at a leading journal.

Sparks said it was really hard to present all of his research in the 15 minutes he was given at the conference, but he felt it was very well-received.

“People approached me two days later at the conference and wished I had had more time to talk about it,” he said.​