HORNING DEFENDS DISSERTATION ABOUT HYPERLOCAL NEWS
The newest faculty member of the Department and Journalism and Public Relations successfully defended his dissertation in March at The Pennsylvania State University.
Michael Horning was hired as a new tenure track professor in the department last August.
Horning’s dissertation examined the growth of local independent online news sites, often referred to as hyperlocal news.
“I first became interested in this research because I saw so many people talking about its potential to provide new jobs for journalists,” Horning said.
Horning’s research examined over 300 hyperlocal sites across the country, assessing the basic demographic characteristics of the sites, the extent of their local news coverage, and their uses of online technologies.
“There is a lot be excited about in media right now,” said Horning. “There are many online news start-ups across the country that are covering a wide variety of news in their communities and using social media and other online tools to connect in new ways with readers.”
Horning also said that it really is too soon to tell whether hyperlocal news sites will make up the difference in jobs lost in recent years with the closing of a number of national papers. Most sites still only employ a few people and operate on small budgets, though Horning said that some sites like Patch.com have been hiring several journalists over the last few years.
“Patch is still fairly new though, and it’s still difficult to say if it has a successful long term-business model,” Horning said.
Horning’s research also discovered that some of the more exciting developments in online news are coming from unlikely places. His research found that both smaller online news sites and non-profit sites were often more innovative in their uses of Web 2.0 technologies and more likely to cover a wider variety of news topics.
“It suggests to me that you don’t have to be a big site with a huge operating budget to be competitive and to produce quality news anymore, and that’s pretty exciting,” Horning said.
Prior to attending Penn State, Horning earned a Master of Science in Communication and Media Technologies at Rochester Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in English Education at Liberty University.
In his professional career he worked as a reporter and assistant editor for The Nelson County Times in Lovingston, Va. and as a high school journalism and English teacher.