DeFleur Distinguished Lectures

The College of Communication annually invites two distinguished scholars from outside to share their outstanding scholarship, expertise, and experience with the BU community. In recognition of the pioneering and inspirational contributions of Dr. Melvin L. DeFleur to the field of mass communication research and his service as a venerable and inexhaustible member of COM’s Communication Research Center (CRC), the faculty members of the CRC have named this series in his honor.

Upcoming Lectures

American Extremes: How the News Media Defines the Political Mainstream

Dr. Deen Freelon
Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
School of Media and Journalism

Thursday, March 19
3:30-4:30 pm
BU Morse Auditorium

Extreme views and the people and organizations that espouse them have become increasingly visible in American politics recently. On the right, the so-called alt-right and other ultraconservative voices have succeeded in spreading their messages via their own outlets, traditional media, and occasionally the President’s Twitter account. On the left, we see a growing number of prominent politicians who unapologetically identify as socialist, from Bernie Sanders to Cynthia Nixon to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For better or worse, these two factions have both traveled long journeys from the political fringes toward a degree of heightened legitimacy. Currently, very little research has explored how this process occurs and what factors influence its speed and magnitude.

Dr. Deen Freelon‘s research seeks to answer these questions. His overarching thesis is that the mainstream news media tells the rest of us which individuals, groups, and ideas are politically “legitimate” (meaning holding views worthy of consideration and discussion) and “deviant” (the opposite). Building upon the theoretical work of communication scholar Daniel Hallin and others, Dr. Freelon will present preliminary findings from a computational analysis of the changing journalistic portrayals of three extreme ideologies: white nationalism, anti-capitalism, and Islamic fundamentalism. The goal of this analysis is to better understand the extent to which the news media has portrayed these ideologies as acceptable or unacceptable, and how these portrayals have changed over the past 25 years.

Past Lectures

Trust but Verify: The Role of Cognitive Skills & the Media Environment

Dr. Pippa Norris
Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

When citizens trust or mistrust government actors, under what circumstances do they make rational or erroneous judgments? In this talk, Dr. Pippa Norris presents a study (co-led by researchers from the University of Southampton and Canberra University) that focuses on several factors that potentially explain such errors, including a lack of cognitive capacity at an individual level and limits to the information environment, measured by macro-level indices of press freedom and mass communications in societies. This work draws on new cross-national time-series data from over 40 diverse societies contained in the World Values Surveys/European Values Surveys to explore how far—and under what conditions—subjective perceptions of institutional trust are related to the trustworthiness of national governments. Conclusions and implications are discussed.

More information about this research can be found at

The Resignation Industry and the Future of Media Studies

Dr. Joseph Turow
Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication, University of Pennsylvania
April 2019

In this presentation, Dr. Joseph Turow discusses the “resignation industry” that is developing in tandem with—and overlapping with—the growth of the digital interactive media system. The resignation industry carries out pervasive and purposeful corporate undertakings to encourage people to give up thinking they can change data collection by businesses. These activities have the potential of corroding political and cultural democracy. We need a sociology of digital resignation to understand the industry. Research in this area is best carried out with a new understanding of the meaning and nature of “media research.”


Lessons from Pelicans: Multilevel Theorizing for the Expertise Economy

Dr. Janet Fulk
Professor of Communication and Professor of Management & Organization, University of Southern California
October 2018

The recent proliferation of multilevel models and research in management-related fields provides a stimulus for enriching our understanding of organizational phenomena that have not previously been conceptualized as primarily multilevel in nature. One such concept is expertise. In an “expertise economy” where crowds are wise and organizational technology such as enterprise social media offer glimpses into how collective knowledge can be a harnessed, what is multilevel expertise? Drawing on evolutionary theory, Dr. Janet Fulk builds a model of multilevel expertise and suggests how research can address the cross-level and multilevel processes involved in the communication and practice of multilevel expertise in organizations.