The Distinguished Series Honors a Prominent Mass Communication Research Scholar
By Rebecca Dell
Columbia, Mo. (Nov. 4, 2014) — Esther Thorson presented the fall 2014 Dr. Melvin L. DeFleur Distinguished Lecture in the College of Communication at Boston University. Thorson serves as associate dean of graduate studies and director of research for the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.
The lecture honors DeFleur, a scholar who authored more than a dozen books during his 40-year academic career. His “Milestones in Mass Communication Research” was selected in 1999 as one of the 10 most significant books of the 20th century in the field of mass communication by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. In 2003, the AEJMC presented DeFleur with its Paul J. Deutschmann Award for Excellence in Research. DeFleur continues his contributions to the field of mass communication as professor emeritus at Louisiana State University.
Thorson’s topic, “Processing Ethically Strong and Problematic Television Commercials,” explored how adults respond to ads that use sexualized models and examples of extremely dangerous behavior to sell products such as fast food, soft drinks or jeans. Thorson used research findings to compare these responses to public service announcements with a high standard of ethical value. The research is distinct in that it combines asking people to talk about their unique interpretations of television commercials with more typical quantitative measures. The result is an expanded understanding of how people today deal with the flood of commercials they watch every day.
Thorson has published more than 100 scholarly pieces on news effects, advertising, media economics, and health communication, and she has edited six books. Thorson has headed grant and research contracts totaling nearly $3 million. She is just completing her 11th and 12th edited books. Thorson applies research, both hers and that of her colleagues, in newsrooms and advertising agencies across the United States and abroad.
Thorson has advised 45 doctoral dissertations, and her former students hold prestigious professorships throughout the United States and Asia. She is the recipient of the American Advertising Federation‘s Distinguished Advertising Education Award, the American Academy of Advertising‘s Outstanding Contribution to Research Award, a Mizzou Alumni Association Faculty Award and the Missouri Curator’s Award for Scholarly Excellence. She is the only female Fellow of the American Academy of Advertising.