New AdPR faculty spotlight: Michael Cacciatore

Michael Cacciatore

Michael Cacciatore, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Life Sciences Communication, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be joining the AdPR faculty this fall as an assistant professor of public relations.

What classes (if any) are you teaching this year?
I just finished teaching a course in data analyses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In the Fall I will be teaching “Public Relations Research” at the UGA. The course will touch upon virtually all areas of research, from the development of hypotheses and research questions to the analysis, interpretation, and preparation of data for publication and report writing.

Past academic positions:
This is my first faculty position. I’ll be graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison this summer with a PhD in Mass Communications from the Department of Life Sciences Communication. While at Wisconsin I worked as a teaching assistant, lecturer, and project assistant on a pair of NSF-funded research projects.

What are your research interests and why?
My research focuses on the intersection of media, risk and public opinion, with a more specific emphasis on strategic risk communication for science, health and environmental topics. I have always had an interest in controversial risk topics and in understanding the factors that drive certain risk issues to garner so much more attention than others. These interests naturally pushed me toward the risk communication literature and my current research focal area.

My work looks at risk from a number of different, but ultimately related angles. Some of my work has tracked media coverage of risk topics. For instance, I’ve compared depictions of risky scientific issues in traditional and online media, exploring how the new media environment is changing the way in which audiences consume and share risk information. Related to this research, I have investigated audience perceptions of risk. My work in this area focuses on the opinion formation process related to risk, including the role played by value predispositions, media, and knowledge, among others, in this process.

Are there any projects/publications you're working on that you can share a little about at this time?
I co-wrote a grant last year that was recently accepted for funding. The project looks at public risk perceptions toward lean finely textured ground beef, or as it is more widely known, ‘pink slime.’ We’re interested in understanding the varied public response toward ‘pink slime,’ as well as the impacts that the controversy has had on the meat industry, and food safety in the United States, more broadly. As part of this project we are also putting together a workshop for industry leaders that focuses on crisis communication.

Currently, I am wrapping up my doctoral dissertation. This project blends content analysis data, experimental techniques, and survey research to clarify conceptualizations of frames and framing effects. It also builds from my recent work on public risk assessments by examining how different audiences interpret risk information frames based on their underlying cognitive schema and value predispositions.

What are you most looking forward to while you're at Grady/UGA?
It’s difficult to pinpoint just one thing I’m most looking forward to. For instance, I am really excited about having the opportunity to work with such an accomplished group of scholars within the College. This means picking their brains about teaching and the research they do, finding where our interests overlap, and developing collaborative projects based on those interests. I’m excited to begin teaching as well. I’ve heard wonderful things about the students in Grady, so I am looking forward to meeting and working with them. Outside of academics, my family and I are excited about experiencing all that Athens has to offer. Taking in a football Saturday and visiting some of the famed Athens music venues are definitely at the top of our list of things to do.

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