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Rachel Mersey

Rachel Davis Mersey

Associate Dean of Research and Professor

Rachel Davis Mersey joined the Medill faculty in 2008 with a specialization in audience understanding. The focus of her work is on the craft of journalism. She is intrigued, in particular, by journalism’s impact on identity, sense of community, and social capital. She believes that these relationships deserve to be understood in a manner that can enhance professional decision-making when it comes to new product development and ongoing news management. Her aim is to improve the practice of journalism in a manner that enhances news operations’ connections with individuals.

Mersey serves as the senior director of research for the Media Management Center, which is affiliated with the Kellogg School of Management and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. In this role, she is responsible for the vision, strategy and oversight of the Center's current and future research. She is also a Fellow at Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research.

Before coming to Medill, Mersey was on the faculty at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she was an affiliate faculty member of political psychology. She also worked at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix where she was part of the news team that launched the newspaper’s weekly tabloid targeting women 18 to 34. In addition, Mersey worked across platforms with and the local NBC-affiliate.

Teaching Philosophy

Mersey teaches courses at the undergraduate (Introduction to 21st Century Media) and graduate level (Audience Understanding). Her teaching philosophy prizes mutual respect, independent thinking and real-world application.


Mersey earned her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2007. Her advisers were Philip Meyer and Rhonda Gibson, Ph.D.

Areas of Research

Mersey's broad areas of research are (1) the influence of digital media on newspapers’ community-building function, (2) identity salience and news media use, and (3) understanding news audiences and information needs. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications and been presented internationally. 

Mersey's research has been published in journals across a variety of disciplines and presented at academic and industry conferences including those for the Paley Center for Media in New York and the American Society of News Editors. Research she presented at the 2007 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference was awarded “top paper” by the International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA). In addition, she has done work for the Newspaper Association of America on young adults and newspapers, and the Chicago Community Trust on local information needs. Rachel also served as an advisory member to the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, jointly organized by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute. Her first book, Can Journalism Be Saved? Rediscovering America’s Appetite for News, was published by Praeger in August 2010.