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  • Sincerely, Southern

Two GS professors win national award

By Ajayla Shaw

The Broadcast Education Award is an annual convention in Las Vegas for researchers who have a background in different divisions. It was given to the authors Ginger Blackstone, Jeffery Riley, and Holly Cowart.

The specific award given to them was for diversity and inclusion after submitting their research article, “Picture A Protest: Analyzing Media Images in the Online News.” It takes a look at the online images of the Black Lives Matter Movement protests and how social media reacts to them.

Cowart and Riley are both communications professors at Georgia Southern University and Blackstone is a communications professor at Harding University, which is a private school in Arkansas.

The three authors met in graduate school while pursuing their Ph.D at The University of Florida in 2014.

The idea was originally Cowart’s after she authored a research article about the protest after the death of Micheal Brown in 2016, an African American male that was wrongfully murdered by a police officer. This then caused protest by the Black Lives Matter Movement protesters. The article really focuses on the reaction from people worldwide and takes a look at how people were portrayed in the protests in the media.

This where the idea came to do a follow up story to see if there was progress made.

“Let's do this again, we need to take a look at what's happening now,” said Blackstone.

This past summer during COVID-19, the three professors thought to get together and compare protests in Ferguson to the ones in Minneapolis to see if there had been a chance.

“We weren't out there protesting, but we wanted to do something to capture what was happening,” Cowart said. “We were angry at the senseless death occurring like I think most people were.”

Cowart was the first author, and Blackstone helped with the literature review and all three authors went through and coded the research. They each coded three news agencies and looked through hundreds of tweets.

“It gave us something to do during the pandemic and wanting to feel useful and do something involving George Floyd,” said Blackstone.

This was the first time that Riley had ever submitted anything to that specific conference, but not the first time for Blackstone and Cowart. Riley participated in the recent study, which is what won him the award.

“It was important research that needed to be done, so I thought it would be a good decision to contribute, to help out,” Riley said. “I wanted to know the answer to it as well.”.

“I think the research we were doing was very timely, it had to do with a protest that happened last summer and what followed,” Cowart said. “In terms of social movements.”

The three authors are very passionate about the way the media portrays protestors and the wrongful death of black men in recent years. They are all grateful for the opportunity to be recognized for the work that they genuinely care about. The full text article can be found at

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