Gina Masullo Chen is the Assistant Director of the Center for Media Engagement at UT Austin. The granted-funded center conducts original research to help news organizations engage more meaningfully with the news audience.
Before entering academia Dr. Chen spent 20 years as a newspaper and online reporter and editor, with most of her professional experience at The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY.
During her tenure as a journalist, she covered crime, courts, prisons, and state and local government, as well as served as an assistant city editor, bureau chief, and copy editor. Near the end of her journalistic career, she wrote and blogged about parenting and young children for the newspaper.
Her experience promoting her parenting blog introduced her to the power of social media as a source-building and engagement tool for journalists. This experience also forged her teaching interest in using multiple platforms to tell journalistic stories and laid the foundation for her research interest in online interaction.
She holds a B.A. in communication from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and a M.A. and a Ph.D. in mass communication from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Before coming to UT, she spent two years as an assistant professor at The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism.
Dr. Chen’s research focuses on the online conversation around the news and how it contributes to the larger public discourse. She is particularly interested in the emotional responses people have to online interaction -- through social media or online commenting – and the process by which these emotional responses influence their social, civic, and political engagement. Methodologically, Dr. Chen mainly conducts experimental research, although she also has used in-depth interviews, textual analysis, content analysis, and surveys.
In her latest book, Online Incivility and Public Debate: Nasty Talk (2017/Palgrave Macmillan), Dr. Chen investigates what influence online incivility has on public deliberation. She is also co-editor of Scandal in a Digital Age (with Hinda Mandell, 2016/Palgrave Macmillan). This book explores how social media and today’s always-on media culture have changed the calculus of the conversation regarding news and blurred the lines between public and private.
Currently, Dr. Chen is working on her third book, The New Town Hall: Why We Engage Personally with Politicians. Through in-depth interviews, this book examines the “relationships” members of the electorate forge with elected officials through in-person and online interactions and the personal and democratic goals these relationships achieve. It is due out from Praeger before the 2020 presidential election.
Dr. Chen teaches a variety of undergraduate courses, including Gender and the News, Social Media Journalism, Reporting Words, Journalism Portfolio, and Online Incivility and Public Debate. She also teaches the graduate-level Introduction to Research Methods.