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Communication Studies Students Re-Triumph with Winning Human Rights and Health Communication Coverage Presentations at National, State Levels

By Emily Marr, Brooke Buonauro, Cleo Kordomenos, and John C. Pollock

Ewing, NJ: In spring, 2016, talented Communication Studies students continued the winning paper tradition established by previous student generations, earning national and statewide recognition for their department and for TCNJ by presenting papers on coverage of human rights and health communication.


Cleo Kordomenos presents her poster.

Cleo Kordomenos presenting her poster on Cross-national Coverage of Coastal Contamination: A Community Structure Approach.


TCNJ Communication Studies Department juniors Cleo Kordomenos and Brooke Buonauro (both ’17), whose co-authored poster presentations were the only undergraduate contributions accepted nationwide, ventured to the land of horse-racing and bluegrass music to present posters at the 14th Biennial University of Kentucky Conference on Health Communication held in Lexington on April 15th-16th, 2016.  The paper topics and student authors included: Cross-national Coverage of Coastal Contamination: A Community Structure Approach by Cleo Kordomenos, Marc Trotochaud, Theresa Soya, Rebecca Mamrosh, and Lauren Longo; and US Nationwide Newspaper Coverage of Transgender Rights: A Community Structure Approach by Brooke Buonauro, Colleen Phelan, Abby Hosonitz,    Melanie Salmon, and Cleo Kordomenos.

Brooke Buonauro presenting her poster.

Brooke Buonauro presenting her poster on US Nationwide Newspaper Coverage of Transgender Rights: A Community Structure Approach.


Both research projects utilized the Community Structure Approach, a theory elaborated over several decades by Dr. John Pollock, which studies the impact of society on media: how different city or national characteristics are linked systematically to variations in newspaper coverage of critical issues. Consistently, the paper on cross-national coverage of coastal water contamination found that countries relying more heavily on the coasts for economic “vulnerability” reasons (e.g., aquaculture, fishing, etc.) demonstrated more media coverage calling for government responsibility to fix the problem of coastal contamination. Similarly, the paper on US multi-city coverage of transgender rights found that metropolitan areas with higher proportions of “vulnerable” citizens (high levels of homicide, female heads of household, single-parent households) and relatively economically “vulnerable” young adults 18-24 were more likely to manifest favorable coverage of transgender rights.

Another TCNJ paper winning national recognition was Cross-National Newspaper Coverage of Transit Migration co-authored by Kevin O’Brien, Madison Ouelette, Maria Gottfried, Petra Kovacs, and Lauren Longo accepted for presentation at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), August, 2016, Minneapolis.  The transit migration paper revealed fascinating findings linking “economic” vulnerability (a nation’s crop production index) to cross-national newspaper coverage emphasizing government responsibility for addressing transit migration; and linking “political” vulnerability (a nation’s ranking on a global instability index) to coverage emphasizing society responsibility.

At the 20th annual conference of the New Jersey Communication Association (NJCA) held at Caldwell University, two student papers authored by TCNJ students tied for the award for “Best Undergraduate Paper in the State”, proving that not even an unexpected spring snow flurry could stop the TCNJ Communication Studies department from continuing to shine. Different versions of both winning student papers — Cross-National Newspaper Coverage of Transit Migration, as well as Cross-National Newspaper Coverage of Coastal Water Contamination — were co-presented at the 2016 (annual) AEJMC and (biannual) Kentucky national health communication conferences.  The two 2016 NJCA awards for “best student paper” mark the fourth year in a row those awards have been given to student teams from TCNJ.

From left to right; Jenna Kirby, Marc Trotochaud, Kevin O'Brien, Perry Goldman, Dr. Pollock, Mcaire Machado, and Emily Marr.

TCNJ presenters at the 2016 New Jersey Communication Association (NJCA) conference, from left to right: Jenna Kirby, Marc Trotochaud, Kevin O’Brien, Perry Goldman, Dr. John Pollock, Mcaire Machado, and Emily Marr.

In addition to the papers on transit migration and coastal water contamination, five other student co-authored papers were presented by Kevin O’Brien, Marc Trotochaud, Emily Marr, Jenna Kirby, Macaire Machado, and Perry Goldman. These paper topics included: Cross-National Newspaper Coverage of  Child Brides (Kristen DiRenna,  Ingrid Nunn, Daniella Parisi, Marc Trotochaud, and Lauren Longo); Nationwide Newspaper Coverage of  Animal Cruelty (Macaire Machado, Erin Perna, Mannish Banamede, Lena Campbell, and Cleo Kordomonos), Nationwide Newspaper Coverage of Rape Adjudication in the Military (Emily Marr, Jenna Kirby, Alex Kooistra, Juliet Muldoon, and Stephanie Agresti), Nationwide Newspaper Coverage of  Suicide Prevention in Educational Institutions (Sydney Swartz, Olympia Lagonikos, Connor Meany, Madison Ouellette, and Theresa Soya), and Nationwide Newspaper Coverage of PTSD (Perry Goldman, Lucy Obozintsev, Maria Pacenza, Gail Schulman, and Stephanie Agresti).

All of the human rights papers accepted, presented, and awarded at the University of Kentucky or NJCA conferences were written for the Dept. of Communication Studies in either communication research methods (COM 390) or international communication (COM 415) courses using the Community Structure Approach. The latest publication from that scholarly tradition is a 2015 book Dr. Pollock co-authored with 28 TCNJ students, titled: Journalism and Human Rights: How Demographics Drive Media Coverage (Routledge).

Reacting to the Kentucky national health communication conference, Cleo Kordomenos commented, “Overall, the experience solidified my interest in health communication and scholarly research. It was a wonderful networking opportunity and despite being undergraduates, Brooke and I felt extremely welcomed and connected by our shared passions for health communication.” Brooke Buonauro added, “My favorite part of the (Kentucky) conference was the strong interdisciplinary effort on behalf of every professional there to produce work with practical applications for building a culture of health.” For the New Jersey conference, Kevin O’Brien, senior author of an award winning paper on transit contamination, stated, “Although presenting my group’s paper was valuable, seeing other TCNJ papers also presented at NJCA demonstrated the value of the Communication Studies Department and the success the faculty help us achieve.” Ultimately, TCNJ’s strong, annual presence at both conferences further reinforces the state and national reputation of the Communication Studies Department as a driving leader in the field of student-faculty communication research.