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Images & Voices of Hope | December 2, 2020

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University of Oregon professor wins award for her research on restorative narrative

University of Oregon professor wins award for her research on restorative narrative

Nicole Dahmen presenting at The Experience Engagement un-conference in Portland, Oregon. Photo by and courtesy of Emmalee McDonald.


Nicole Dahmen, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, has won an award for her research on Restorative Narrative. Dahmen will be presenting her research at the International Communication Association conference in Fukuoka, Japan in June. The paper was awarded “Top Paper” in the Visual Communication Studies division.

Restorative Narrative is a term ivoh coined to describe a genre of stories that move beyond the immediacy of the breaking news, and in doing so, help individuals and communities move forward in the wake of large-impact events.

Nicole Dahmen

Nicole Dahmen

Through photographic analysis and in-depth interviews with visual journalists, Dahmen examined photojournalism through the lens of Restorative Narrative. She interviewed and studied the work of Barbara Davidson, of The Los Angeles Times, and Ruth Fremson and Josh Haner, both of The New York Times.

“Through the ability to truly see, photographs can transcend the two-dimensional plane to create human connection through illustrations of resilience and hope,” Dahmen said.

Her work also has implications for journalism as a business.

“In a time of great change, journalism must adapt to survive,” Dahmen said. “And for visual journalism, that change could be positive.”

“While we certainly still need breaking news images, we also need images that show the long-term effects and meaningful progression in the aftermath of tragedy,” she said. “The photographs discussed in my research embodied efficacy of depth visual reporting.”

Dahmen concludes: “If news organizations could re-focus resources on in-depth reporting that captures resilience through authentic, meaningful progress, visual restorative narrative could indeed be a future—and thus a sustaining value—of visual journalism.”

Dahmen’s research was funded by a grant from the Agora Journalism Center.

“We are thrilled for the opportunity to support professor Dahmen’s research as the Agora Journalism Center is re-imagining communication for the social good,” said Andrew DeVigal, Chair in Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement at the University of Oregon. “We believe that the future of journalism and the future of democracy are intertwined. Restorative Narrative’s approach in covering a community while emphasizing strength and perseverance rather than bleak despair is a part of that future.”

Undergraduate journalism student Erin Hampton and media studies doctoral student David Morris assisted Dahmen with her research. Following the conference presentation, Dahmen will submit her research study to an academic journal.


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