Dr. Emily Erickson: A Conversation About the Press

Desiree Arevalo, Jamie Richardson, Emily Bell, Jessica Ryan

In order to further analyze and bring awareness to the published study, The Watchdog Joins the Fray: The Press, Records Audits, and State Access Reform, conducted by Emily Erickson, we have written this blog post to allow our readers to learn more about the scholar, her published study, and her contributions to the field of journalism and government transparency. As the press plays an important role in holding governments accountable, this study sheds light on the effectiveness of public records audits in promoting transparency and accountability in government agencies. Through our blog post, we hope to provide readers with a deeper understanding of the importance of public records audits and the role that journalists and the press play in advocating for government transparency and accountability.

Introducing Emily Erickson

Emily Erickson, courtesy of CSUF

The communication scholar we chose to interview is associate professor Emily Erickson of California State University, Fullerton. Erickson teaches Communication Law and Media & Society, and her research focuses on media law.  Erickson is a native Californian but has lived, studied, and taught across the nation — including Seattle, McMinnville, Syracuse, Tuscaloosa, and Baton Rouge. Her published works involve research from 12 different states in relation to journalists discovering an effective vehicle to highlight systematic failures of government transparency. In addition, she is currently working on a new study to add to her four already published studies. 

An associate communications professor, Erickson is a doctoral graduate of the University of Alabama and a prize-winning instructor. Her research mainly focuses on media law, including First Amendment jurisprudence, the function of journalists in FOIA policymaking, and pedagogical methods in Comm Law classes. Her prior professional experience involves both graphic design and public relations.

The Watchdog Joins the Fray: The Press, Records Audits, and State Access Reform

The research publication, The Watchdog Joins the Fray: The Press, Records Audits, and State Access Reform, discusses the role of the press and watchdog groups in promoting state access reform through records audits. Erickson argues that watchdogs can play a critical role in identifying and addressing gaps in state access laws and that journalists can use records audits to uncover information that is critical to public accountability. The published study highlights several successful examples of journalist watchdog groups using records audits to improve state access laws and argues that continued engagement by the press and watchdogs is necessary to ensure that state governments remain accountable to the public.

Erickson’s study has significantly advanced our knowledge of the intricate relationships between employment, labor, and migration in the modern global economy. Her work provides fresh theoretical frameworks for comprehending the difficulties of work and labor in the twenty-first century. She throws light on the realities of sometimes ignored groups of employees.

The Interview

Watchdog Journalism

During our 20-minute interview with her, Erickson recalled collecting 15 years worth of data while utilizing longitudinal research. Throughout those 15 years, she used multiple research methods to demonstrate her work, such as statutory analysis, organizational analysis, and telephone interviews. Through these methods, she accomplished comparative work done on different statutes, was able to analyze the shape of freedom of information organizations, and made around 100-hour-long phone calls. To collect the data, Erickson transcribed audio cassettes in order to get the full transcripts of these conversations. Along with the audio cassettes, she had massive binders and notebooks full of information, even showing us the multiple large compartments she had stored in her office of all her findings.

Press investigations and records audits can be useful tools for encouraging government accountability and transparency. The research discovered that when the press exposed instances of misbehavior or corruption in the government, it frequently sparked public outrage and increased pressure for reform. State access laws can be useful, but enforcing them can be challenging. The study discovered that adhering to regulations can be difficult even in states with strong access laws, especially when agencies are unwilling to disclose information or when there is a lack of resources for enforcement. Press and government organizations working together can help to advance access reform. 

The research discovered that when government agencies and the press have mutually beneficial relations, they are often more willing to share information. Overall, the research emphasizes the crucial role that the media can play in advocating for access reform and government openness. It suggests that collaboration between the press and government agencies may effectively achieve these goals. 

Scholar’s Advice for Aspiring Researchers

When asked for advice for upcoming researchers, Erickson happily discussed her passion for teaching. She said, “[I love] empowering my students to make them feel as capable as possible.” Her goal as an educator is to prepare every student to understand and feel less intimidated by any publications they come across. She mentioned how she hopes all of her students can remember what she teaches in her classroom and apply it to their future careers.

Erickson gives her students the tools and self-assurance they need to thrive in her class and in their future careers by empowering them. This is significant because it fosters in students the independence and resiliency that are necessary for success in any field of study. In regards to her research, Erickson promotes self-involvement in public accountability by displaying similar motivations watchdog groups possess. Moreover, engaging students to embody the watchdog lookout dominance towards one’s own participation in our democracy.


Erickson’s analysis of watchdog groups concluded private research with the use of exploratory research for activism in politics. The data involved a longitudinal study, collecting 15 years of recordings, telephone interviews, and precedents regarding state access law reform. Political actors have become disillusioned with their authority of government record audits as descriptions of public accountability. Desiring accountability and transparency from our government’s public records depicts Erickson’s passion for watchdog groups. 

The scholar closed the interview with an emphasis on eliminating objectivity in the journalism field. The scholar defined objectivity as over-ruling bias that profits from deception and fabrication in America’s bureaucracy. In addition, the outcomes of the statutes conclude Erickson’s main motivation for watchdog groups. By leading by example and becoming involved in our democracy of rulings is exemplary of her students’ government participation.

Erickson’s overall call to action is self-education to the individual constituted rights we all possess. This practice is demonstrated by empowering her students with the knowledge of individual rights and the Constitution. The scholar enriches her students with influential sources of law to progress confidence towards her student knowledge of the law. Erickson concludes this example by stating her work as a ‘little power pill.’

Video of interview


Atske, S. (2020, August 18). Most say journalists should be watchdogs, but views of how well they fill this role vary by party, media diet. Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.pewresearch.org/journalism/2020/02/26/most-say-journalists-should-be-watchdogs-but-views-of-how-well-they-fill-this-role-vary-by-party-media-diet/

Emily Erickson: Department of Communications: Cal state fullerton – department of communications: CSUF. Emily Erickson | Department of Communications | Cal State Fullerton – Department of Communications | CSUF. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2023, from http://communications.fullerton.edu/comm/faculty/erickson_emily/erickson_emily.php

Platform, E. L. (n.d.). What is watchdog journalism: Libertieseu. Liberties.eu. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.liberties.eu/en/stories/watchdog-journalism/43959

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