Ohio Journalist

Instrumental Mentor

BY Rachel Sheehy | Photos by Eli Hiller

(December 1, 2015) — From farmer’s daughter to renowned scholar, Pam Shoemaker’s story is an academic’s rags-to-riches tale.

Shoemaker was the first recipient of the Guido H. Stempel III Award for Research in Journalism and Mass Communication. The award was named in honor of Stempel, a beloved Ohio University professor under whom Shoemaker herself studied and looked to for guidance, even after her graduation from Ohio University in 1972.

“Guido has been instrumental in my career, and he has been giving me advice all along,” Shoemaker said. “He is the main mentor for me in my career and brought me from the farm to here.”

The award was created to recognize research that has benefited journalism and mass communication professions. Shoemaker, an expert on gatekeeping theory, received the award on Jan. 30, 2014, for the role her research has played in both fields.

Shoemaker received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in journalism at Ohio University. Stempel told her that it would be possible for her to graduate with both degrees at the same time, and she thought it sounded like a good idea.

“I was the first person on either side of my family to go to college, so I didn’t know what a master’s degree was,” Shoemaker said. “But I was advised to do it, so I did it.”

She started her undergraduate studies at OU’s Chillicothe campus before transferring to the Athens campus.

“It was a good experience because two faculty members from the Athens campus made the drive once a week to Chillicothe, and I took news reporting and graphics while I was there,” Shoemaker said. “So when I came here, I was a junior on a strange campus and I didn’t know how anything worked. My first class was with Stempel — copy editing — and he scared me to death.”

Shoemaker’s passion for research began after another class with Stempel. She asked him a question about using statistics to answer a yes or no question, and the realization that she could answer questions using statistics for a simple yes or no question inspired her.

“That made me a quantitative researcher at that moment because I liked the idea of getting a more objective answer to a question or an idea than just writing what other people knew,” Shoemaker said.

Before receiving the Stempel Award, Shoemaker in 2006 had been named the L.J. Hortin Distinguished Alumna.

Shoemaker is the John Ben Snow Professor, an endowed research chair in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She is also coeditor of the Sage journal Communication Research, a position she’s held since 1997; co-author of Gatekeeping Theory (2009) and Mediating the Message in the 21st Century (2014).

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