OU alumnus recognized with 2018 Tankard Award at AEJMC
By Natascha Toft Roelsgaard
E.W. Scripps School of Journalism alumnus Dr. Michael Clay Carey won the Tankard Prize for his book The News Untold: Community Journalism and the Failure to Confront Poverty in Appalachia. The Tankard is awarded in recognition of outstanding work in the field of journalism and mass communication, and honors excellence in research and writing at the annual Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC) conference, this year in Washington, D.C.
Before his academic career, Carey worked as a reporter and editor at various newspapers in Tennessee, including The Tennessean in Nashville and as a state news correspondent for USA Today. With many years of experience in community journalism, he knew he wanted his dissertation to center on social issues on a community level.
“Being in Athens, in southeastern Ohio, a lot of poverty is a central social issue in many of the surrounding areas,” Carey said. “I was in a place where [the research] was really important, and I knew this was an important issue in other places too.”
During his research in the Appalachian region, Carey visited several local communities to conduct interviews and collect data in the fall of 2013 into early summer of 2014. Three years later, the dissertation had turned into the book, The News Untold, published by the West Virginia University Press.
“You pour a lot of work and a lot of yourself into a project like this, and I was proud of how it came out,” Carey said. “I was really surprised about winning the Tankard award. I was proud to have a book with my name on the cover and to win the award was pretty incredible.”
The News Untold studies media narratives about poverty in Appalachia, examining how small-town reporters and editors in some of the poorest communities in the region decide what aspects of poverty are newsworthy. Centering on media creation and news consumption, Carey explores the news media coverage of poverty in small communities, the audience’s response to those decisions and how the two processes affect broader understandings of social responsibility and economic need in local communities. The book offers insight into how the absence of proper news coverage of economic need can make it harder for poor communities to voice their concerns.
Associate Professor and Graduate Director at E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Dr. Aimee Edmondson served as the chair for Carey’s dissertation committee.
“Clay’s work crosses over to not only scholarly and academic literature of interest but I also think it’s important work for journalists to study,” Edmondson said. “We can do a better job covering poverty, whether it’s in the inner city or rural Appalachia.”
Carey is an assistant professor at the Howard College of Arts and Sciences at Samford University, in Birmingham, Ala., teaching courses in print and online journalism, including advanced writing classes and visual storytelling. His research focuses on cultural studies of media, and the formation and maintenance of both individual and group identity. He is currently researching the role of community journalists in smaller communities, encouraging “a broader discussion of what journalism is supposed to be,” Carey said.