Dr. Danielle Deavours, a College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) alumna, was awarded the 2022 Kenneth Harwood Outstanding Dissertation Award for her dissertation titled, “Not just what you say, but how you say: neutrality of nonverbal behavior of journalists during crisis coverage.” The award is given each year by the Broadcast Education Association for the best doctoral dissertation in broadcasting and electronic media.
After working as a broadcast journalist for over a decade, Deavours reflected on how she had to remain unemotional and neutral during crisis coverage. This level of professionalism is required of journalists, and it led her to question how journalists work to conceal their nonverbal behaviors during crisis coverage in order to maintain professional norms of neutrality. With her dissertation, Deavours also sought to understand the effects of these behaviors on credibility, bias and the wellbeing of journalists.
After completing her dissertation, Deavours has taken her research findings to educational associations including the Broadcast Education Association and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, among others. Deavours hopes that her findings will help journalists and news organizations improve the industry’s standards and practices.
“I hope researchers will continue to explore nonverbal behavior of journalists, an area that has the potential to impact a lot of areas of media research,” Deavours said. “And I hope educators will consider the ways we can better prepare future storytellers for crises in terms of nonverbal behavior and vicarious traumatization.”
Deavours received her bachelor’s degree in telecommunication and film and political science from The University of Alabama in 2008. After she earned her master’s degree in communication management from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she returned to UA and completed her Ph.D. in communication and information sciences. She has served as an assistant professor of multimedia journalism at the University of Montevallo for the past two years. This fall, Deavours will join the faculty at Samford University as an assistant professor of broadcast journalism.
Deavours said winning the award would not have been possible without the support of C&IS faculty including Drs. Wilson Lowrey, Michael Bruce, Scott Parrot and Darrin Griffin, and the University of Texas professor Renita Coleman.
“I am so grateful to my dissertation committee and their commitment to my research,” Deavours said. “I want to dedicate this award to every student that is told that they can’t. You can, and you should. Your voice matters. You just have to find the people who are willing to recognize your voice and celebrate how special it is.”
The Kenneth Harwood Outstanding Dissertation Award is an academic prize awarded each year by the Broadcast Education Association for the best doctoral dissertation in broadcasting and electronic media. Learn more about the award and past recipients here.