UND Today

University of North Dakota's Official News Source

Ten thousand readers in nearly 150 countries

And it was published only last week, says UND’s Rebecca Rozelle-Stone about her article in The Conversation

UND Professor Rebecca Rozelle-Stone’s web page at The Conversation links to her article, “When tragedy becomes banal: Why news consumers experience crisis fatigue.” Web screenshot.

Editor’s note: On Sept. 6, The Conversation published an article by Rebecca Rozelle-Stone, professor of philosophy and religion at UND. UND Today reprinted the article here, and an interview with Professor Rozelle-Stone about her experience with The Conversation is below. 

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UND Today: Congratulations on being the first academic from UND to write for The Conversation since the University became a supporting member of the organization in July!

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone: Thank you! Yes, I’m glad that UND’s Communications team introduced me to The Conversation over the summer, because before that, I had no idea the organization even existed. But now I get their newsletter and read the articles, and it’s great.

UND Today: Can you tell us how you decided to write an article for The Conversation?

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone: Sure. Initially, I wasn’t sure that I would have time to do it; but after looking into the potential benefits of writing an article, I was convinced, especially when I saw that they want a short-form article – something that was about 800 to 1,000 words.

I thought, ‘Well, that’s doable.’ After all, it’s not like writing a typical journal article in philosophy, which is usually around 20 pages.

And I liked the prospect of addressing contemporary issues that people would be interested in and perhaps affected by, but that also related to my research.

So, I had a couple of ideas initially for them to consider. I talked to Kalpana Jain, who is their senior religion and ethics editor, and I pitched my ideas. One she thought was pretty complex; but the other one, which ended up being the one that got published, was on crisis fatigue. And that’s a topic that has come out of my own research into moral attention.

I took her up on that suggestion, I started writing down my ideas and then drafted my initial article, which was probably around 1,300 words. I sent that off, and then, pretty quickly – and this is another reason why I’ve enjoyed writing for them; they get back to you right away – she got back to me.

I think the article went through about six different drafts. Again, a lot of that was new to me, because of the types of edits they wanted, and their requirement that I put in a hyperlink for every claim that I made. I wasn’t used to doing that latter task, but I thought it was really helpful to make sure the article offered the data and information to back up my arguments.

As for the edits, many were to make the language more accessible for general audiences, which I appreciated. Plus, they wanted to bring down the length of the article to be closer to their usual standard, which is, again, around 1,000 words.

And we went through those six or so drafts over the course of about two weeks. To me, that was really quick, given the time it usually takes to get any feedback on traditional journal articles.

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone

UND Today: Is that journal-article feedback a matter of weeks or months?

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone: So, I have sent out a chapter to be published in a book, and that was two years ago now. And I’m still waiting! (laughs)

It’s usually not that long. But for journal articles, it often will take maybe nine months or so, and sometimes it’s even longer.

So this quick turnaround was really motivating to me, especially because I wanted to publish the article soon, given that it was a timely issue. It gave me the incentive to keep writing and get it done.

I also loved seeing it come out so quickly, once it was completed! You know, there’s something rewarding about that.

UND Today: How has the response been?

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone: Since the publication – and it’s only been a little over a week – it has been read by more than 10,000 people in a total of nearly 150 countries, including Mongolia and Botswana and 122 people in Norway. It has been republished on some two dozen news sites, ranging from Fast Company and the Houston Chronicle and KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities to the Huron Daily Tribune and Laredo Morning Times.

It has been translated into Ukrainian already. I just got a request to have it translated into Japanese.

I was invited to give a short audio recording on the topic for The Academic Minute series, and I’ve been asked to give a lecture to a college in Minnesota. Those are the kind of opportunities that very seldom would arise from publishing more traditional articles, so I think it has been a really good experience.

The Conversation also lets you access metrics via a dashboard on its website. It’s been fascinating to track things like how many views or reads the article is getting, how many tweets have been about it and things like that, which is feedback I’ve never gotten with anything else that I’ve published. So it’s terrific to have that insight.

UND Today: Here in the UND Communications office, we got an email about your article just the other day. It noted that your article was the lead story at NiemanLab.org, a website run by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone: Wow, I hadn’t heard about that! That’s wonderful.

You know, one other reason why I’m happy that I could write this kind of piece is that I could send it to my parents after it was published, and it’s something they can read and understand. The other stuff that I do is much more academic, but it’s been great to have something that lets family members know what I’ve been working on.

UND Today: We were especially impressed with the way you incorporated the thoughts and experiences of Simone Weil – the philosopher whom you’ve studied and written extensively on – into your article.

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone: Thank you! It was apropos, I think, because while Simone Weil was a fairly obscure French philosopher, her work was all about trying to reach out to and work with the impoverished and marginalized classes and make a difference in ordinary people’s lives. And so I think she would be really excited about this kind of venue, because it’s the kind of work she did herself.

I mean, she quit her philosophy teaching job to go into factories and learn how factory workers lived. She taught ancient Greek texts to farmers working in a vineyard, for example. So that’s the kind of spirit that I think The Conversation embodies.

UND Today: Were the editors at The Conversation good to work with?

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone: Absolutely, yes. I had about three different people on the staff of The Conversation working with me at different points in the process, and each one was terrific. They gave really thoughtful and good feedback, none of it being too cumbersome; you know, it was, “Can you find a hyperlink that will support this claim?”, or, “Could we reword this in a different way, so that it’s less technical?”

It worked just the way it was supposed to, from what I could see.

UND Today: That’s wonderful. So to sum up, would you recommend to your colleagues that they consider writing an article for The Conversation?

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone: I would. If they have ideas about how their research could be applied to popular topics or current issues that people are interested in, I would definitely recommend that they consider pitching their ideas to The Conversation. I think writing for them helps promote our own research, and it certainly helps the general public to learn about what we’re doing and what kind of great work UND is doing here.