Sobieraj

Sarah Sobieraj

Associate Professor of Sociology, Tufts University
Areas of Expertise:
  • Civic Engagement
  • Media & Public Opinion
  • Women

About Sarah

Sobieraj is an expert in American political discourse whose body of research focuses on political voice and visibility in the United States. She has conducted extensive research on marginalized voices, such as those of activists during presidential campaigns, as well as on voices that are amplified, such as those of inflammatory political opinion hosts on talk radio and cable news analysis programs. Her current work examines attacks against women online and the ways this harassment shapes their involvement in public political discourse. She is a member of the research network for the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

Briefs

Publications

"Reporting Conventions: Activists, Journalists, and the Thorny Struggle for Political Visibility" Social Problems 57, no. 4 (2010): 505-528.
Challenges Gitlin’s (1980) classic work that argues that activists can become news only by submitting to the “implicit rules of news-making,” by arguing that when doing so, activists fail to see a second set of rules that journalists use when covering political outsiders; examines how activist attempts to conform to the rules in place for routine political reporting regularly sabotage their success with news workers by inadvertently violating the rules in place for activists.
Soundbitten: The Perils of Media-Centered Political Activism (New York University Press, 2011).
Shows that a broad array of activism emerges in the wake of presidential campaigns, most of which focuses on shaping political discourse via the mainstream new media; argues that media-centered mobilizations prove largely ineffective, generate considerable organizational costs, and come at the expense of other political activities.
The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility (with Jeffrey M. Berry) (Oxford University Press, 2014).
Scrutinizes political speech that attempts to provoke emotional responses from the audience (e.g., anger, fear, and moral indignation) via rhetorical tactics such as ad hominem attacks, slippery slope argumentation, and misrepresentative exaggeration; explores the dramatic increase in outrage-based political content across multiple media platforms, most prominently television, talk radio, and political blogs.

In the News

Sarah Sobieraj quoted on the sociology behind true crime programming in Jordan Lauf, "Why True Crime Series like 'The Staircase' & 'Serial' are so Addictive" Bustle, April 18, 2018.
Sarah Sobieraj quoted on norms around racial equality in Emily Bader, "The Showdown over How We Define Fringe Views in America" New York Times, August 21, 2017.
Guest to discuss political activism on National Public Radio, Sarah Sobieraj (with Dana R. Fisher), March 3, 2017.
"With a Snarl, Trump Ratifies His Supporters’ Rage," Sarah Sobieraj, New York Times, August 9, 2016.
Jeffrey M. Berry's research on angry political rhetoric discussed in Maddie OrzeskeJeffrey M. Berry (with Sarah Sobieraj), "Professors Examine Outrageous Political Speech in Current Election Cycle," Tufts Daily, February 19, 2016.
Guest to discuss Occupy Wall Street on Fox Boston, Sarah Sobieraj, October 21, 2011.
Sarah Sobieraj quoted on the Occupy movement in Gloria Goodale, "How Occupy Wall Street is Testing the Next U.S. President" Christian Science Monitor, October 24, 2011.
Sarah Sobieraj quoted on Occupy Wall Street in Noah Bierman, "Warren Walks Fine Line on Occupy Movement" Boston Globe, October 26, 2011.
Guest to discuss protests around the Republic National Convention on NECN’s Broadside, Sarah Sobieraj, August 28, 2012.
Sarah Sobieraj's research on media outrage discussed in Tom JacobSarah Sobieraj, "What’s the Appeal of Angry, Polarized Media?," Pacific Standard, October 1, 2013.
"Our Outrageous Media Created the Tea Party," Sarah Sobieraj (with Jeffrey M. Berry), Salon, December 7, 2013.
"Are Americans Addicted to Outrage?," Sarah Sobieraj (with Jeffrey M. Berry), Politico, January 3, 2014.
Guest to discuss the growth of "outrage" programming on cable news, talk radio and political blogs on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Sarah Sobieraj, January 12, 2014.
"Wrath of the Talking Heads: How the ‘Outrage Industry’ Affects Politics," Sarah Sobieraj, Interview with Ruth Tam, PBS News Hour, February 28, 2014.
Sarah Sobieraj quoted on media outrage in Jesse Singal, "Why We Hate Read" New York Magazine, September 26, 2014.