Michael Davis

As a journalist-turned-graduate student, Michael Davis has taken a deep dive into what happens when journalists take non-journalistic jobs. Davis is documenting how former journalists use their skills in a communication field outside of journalism, which is seeing many jobs disappear. By doing this, he aims to shine light on alternate positions available to individuals with journalism experience.

Davis, a doctoral student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is conducting his research with the support of a Post-Comprehensive Research Award from the Graduate College.  

Q: Why did you pursue graduate school / become a researcher?

A: After working as a journalist, I wanted to examine the “why” questions surrounding journalism. As journalists, why do we produce the news the way we do? What informs our practices and routines? The best way I knew how to do that was to enter a graduate program that would offer me the chance to unpack those questions for myself, which I am happy to say the School of Journalism and Mass Communication has given me that opportunity. In addition, I have always had the strong desire to teach, motivated by the belief that helping young people communicate and write effectively was a role that would give me fulfilment. As a graduate instructor at Iowa, I have found that happiness, and then some.

Q: Describe your research in non-expert language?

A: The journalism field has undergone massive changes in the last few years. The reasons are vast and powerful, but the consequences are clear. There are fewer newspapers, and fewer journalists working today as well. When the journalism field is crumbling, where do they go to work? Where can they use the skills they have learned and cultivated in new ways? Beyond my journalism background, I have significant experience working with nonprofits. Many of the marketing or communications professionals I worked with had a least some past journalism experience. In the case of these nonprofits, I want to observe and document how these former journalists balance using previous skills. I hope to amplify alternative jobs potentially open to individuals with journalism experience.

Q: What impact has your work had on the field/world? What impact do you hope to have on your field/world?

A: With my research, I hope to add to the current body of knowledge over why journalists behave and act the way they do. In the process, I hope that that information makes its way in front of practicing journalists, allowing them the opportunity to learn and grow in their understanding of their life’s work. As for my teaching, my goal will always be to empower my students to think critically and find ways to tell stories that matter to them. If I can do that, I think I will have made some impact on the world. 

Q: What programs or resources (on or off campus) have influenced or supported your academic goals?

A: The School of Journalism and Mass Communication has always been enormously helpful in giving me the resources, both financial and otherwise, to reach my goals. The faculty and staff in the SJMC are some of the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet. I am lucky to be able to work and teach alongside them.

Q: Do you have any role models, mentors, or inspirational people who have encouraged you to pursue your work?

A: My parents have always been an encouraging force in my life, especially during my graduate school tenure. There have certainly been peaks and valleys in pursuing this PhD, but they have remained a constant source of love and support for me as I realize this dream of mine. I can say for certain that I would not be on the path toward graduating without them.

Q: How has your graduate experience shaped your career goals?

A: I have come to realize that while the work, whether research or teaching, is certainly a motivating factor for my career goals, the most important factor is the community I am surrounded by going forward. Passionate people doing work they believe in is what I need to be around. If I have that as my guide, I think I will be fulfilled career-wise.

Q: If you could go back to a time at the beginning of your graduate career, what advice would you give yourself?

A: Prioritize yourself most of all. What you are trying to accomplish is difficult on the best of the days. Meaningful work often is. Know when you need to give yourself grace and time to self-reflect. Creating a schedule that emphasizes these things will keep you motivated and passionate about your research and teaching.

Michael Davis
Program: Mass Communications