Dr Helen Sissons

Senior Lecturer

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 ext 7859

Email: helen.sissons@aut.ac.nz

Physical Address:
Level 12, WG Precinct
Gate 4, Governor Fitzroy Place
Auckland University of Technology

Postal Address:
AUT City Campus
Private Bag 92006
Auckland 1142, NZ


Ph.D. Auckland University of Technology (Communications - Dean's list for Best Doctoral Award)

MA. Columbia University, USA (History - Fulbright Scholar)

BSc. (Hons) University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (International Politics)

Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of Leeds, UK

BBC Bi-Media Journalist Training Scheme, Bristol, UK

National Certificate in Newspaper Journalism, National Council for the Training of Journalists, Highbury College, Portsmouth, UK, 1990

Memberships and Affiliations:

Journalism Education Association of NZ (JEANZ)

Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE)

Journalism Education Association of Australia


Helen spent 17 years as a journalist in the US and the UK, the last ten with the BBC as a television journalist and reporter. She is the author of Practical Journalism: How to write news.

Before coming to New Zealand, Helen also spent six years teaching journalism at the University of Leeds, UK.

Her current research interests are the future of journalism, ethnography and news production, ethnography and public relations practice and the relationship between public relations and journalism.

Teaching Areas:

Undergraduate Teaching

JOUR600 Journalism I: Structure, Form and Content
JOUR601 Journalism II: Context, Audience and Reach
JOUR700 Journalism III: Depth, Speciality and Data
JOUR701 Journalism IV: Features, Profiles and Investigation

Postgraduate Teaching
COMM807 Media Communication Research Methods
JOUR803 Journalism Law and Ethics
JOUR804 Journalism Theory and Practice
PUBL802 Journalism and Media Relations

Recent completed supervisions include:

Deaf and television news: Finding a better path to knowledge.

The New Zealand media's reporting of suicide: A critical discourse perspective

Business and executive coaching: Using multimodal interaction analysis to study power and collaboration

Dying in print and despised online: Is the web killing or saving longform journalism?

Cover to cover: The changing identity of the magazine journalist as the medium goes from print to digital

Paywalls in New Zealand: Revenue that can reinstate newspaper journalism as a public good?


Research Areas:

Research Interests

The future of journalism

The effect of new technologies on newsgathering and news production

The relationship between journalism and public relations

Ethics and media accountability

Ethnography and news production

Ethnography and public relations 

News discourse

Public relations discourse


Authored books


Theunissen, P. & Sissons, H. (forthcoming, 2017). Relationship building and public relations. London: Routledge 


Sissons, H. (2006). Practical Journalism: how to write news. London: Sage


Book chapers and journal articles


Sissons, H. Smith, P. (forthcoming 2017). Sounding off or a sounding board: Comments sections of news websites as interactive spaces. In: Burger, M., Fitzgerald, R., & Thornborrow, J (Eds.). Places, spaces and discursive actions in social media and real communicative environments. Brussels: De Boeck.


Cochrane, T., Sissons, H., & Mulrennan, D. (forthcoming 2017). Mainstreaming mobile learning in journalism education. In Crompton, H., & Traxler, J. (Eds.). Mobile learning in higher education: Challenges in context. London/New York: Routledge.


Smith, P., & Sissons, H. (2016). Social media and a case of mistaken identity: A newspaper's response to journalistic error. Journalism. DOI: 10.1177/1464884916683551. 


Sissons, H. (2016). Journalists and public relations practitioners: Power and agency at a media conference. Australian Journalism Review 38(2), 31-45.


Cochrane, T., Sissons, H., Rive, V., Mulrennan, D. (2016) Journalism and Law 2.0: Collaborative curriculum redesign. In: Parsons, D. (Ed.). Mobile and blended learning innovations for improved learning outcomes. IGI Global. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0359-0.


Sissons, H. (2015). Lifting the veil on the client-PRP relationship, Public Relations Inquiry 4(3), 263-286. DOI: 10.1177/2046147X15614686.


Sissons, H. (2014). Negotiating the News: Interactions behind the curtain of the journalism-public relations relationship. Journalism Studies, 17(2), 177-198. DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2014.973147.


Sissons, H. (2012). Journalism and public relations? A tale of two discourses. Discourse & Communication, 6(3), 273-294.


Sissons, H. (2012). Multimodal exchanges and power relations in a public relations department. In S. Norris (Ed.), Multimodality in practice: Investigating theory in practice. London, England & New York, United States: Routledge.


Cochrane, T., Sissons, H., Mulrennan, D., & Pamatatau, R. (2012). Journalism 2.0: Exploring the impact of Mobile and Social Media on Journalism Education.International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning.


Cochrane, T., Antonczak, L., Gordon, A., Sissons, H., & Withell, A. (2012). Heutagogy and mobile social media: post web 2.0 pedagogy. In M. Brown (Ed.), Ascilite 2012: Future challenges, sustainable futures (pp. in pre-print). Wellington, New Zealand.


Sissons, H. (2012). Multimodal Communication: Transcribing Multimodal Interaction. In Carol. A. Chapelle. (ed). The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Wiley-Blackwell.


Sissons, H. (2012). Srikant, Sarangi. In Carol A. Chapelle (ed). The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Wiley-Blackwell.


Book reviews


Sissons, H. (2017). Book Review. [Review of Photojournalism: A social semiotic approach by Helen Capel, Pagrave Macmillion, 2013]. Communication Research and Practice. DOI: 10.1080/22041451.2017.1284441. 


Sissons, H. (2011). Book Review [Review of the book Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations II (2nd ed.) by Robert L. Heath, Elizabeth L. Toth, Damion Waymer (Eds.)]. Discourse & Communication Vol 5: 3.


Sissons, H. (2008). Meet the press. [Review of the book Flat Earth News by Nick Davies]. The Listener, August 2, pp. 40-41.



Sissons, H., & Smith, P., (2017, May). Shame on the Times! Moral indignation and the construction of an online community of news readers. Paper to be presented at the 67th annual conference of the International Communication Association, San Diego, CA, USA.


Sissons, H., & Varoli Piazza, C. (2016, July). Hidden Truth: Improving verification skills in the classroom and the newsroom. World Journalism Education Congress, Auckland, NZ. 


Sissons, H. (1016, June). Ethnographic multimodal discourse analysis. Paper presented at the pre-conference Communication Research Methods. 66th annual conference of the International Communication Association, Fukuoka, Japan.


Theunissen, P. & Sissons, H. (June, 2016). Ambient power and relationships in public relations. Paper presented to 66th annual conference of the International Communication Association, Fukuoka, Japan.


Smith, P., & Sissons, H. (July 2015). Correcting the error: A newspaper's response in the digital age. Paper presented at the Australian/New Zealand Communication Association Conference, Queenstown, NZ.


Sissons, H. & Smith, P. (June, 2015). Mistaken identity: The consequences of journalistic transparency in online news. Paper was part of a panel on online news convened by Prof. Allen Bell, with Prof. Stuart Allan, Dr. Scott Eldridge, Dr. Colleen Cotter. The Sociolinguistics of Globalisation Conference, Hong Kong.


Cochrane, T., Mulrennan, D., Sissons, H., Pamatataua, R., & Barnes, L. (July, 2013). Mobilising journalism education. ICITE International Conference on Information Communication Technologies in Education, Crete. Full paper in the proceedings. 


Cochrane, T., Antonczak, L., Gordon, A., Sissons, H., Withell, A., Buchem, I., (2012, December). Post Web 2.0 Pedagogy: Mobile social media. In M. Brown (Ed.), Ascilite 2012: Future challenges, sustainable futures (Vol. Symposium). Wellington, New Zealand: ascilite.


Cochrane, T., Sissons, H., & Mulrennan, D. (2012, July). Journalism 2.0: Exploring the impact of Mobile and Social Media on Journalism Education. In I. A. Sánchez & P. Isaias (Eds.), Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference on Mobile Learning 2012 (pp. 165-172). Berlin, Germany: IADIS International Association for Development of the Information Society.


Sissons, H. (2011, July). Journalist-source interactions at a press conference: A multimodal analysis. Paper presented at the First Interdisciplinary Conference, Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, Cardiff, Wales.


Sissons, H. (2010, December). Interactions between journalists and public relations officers: A multimodal analysis. Paper presented at the Creative Industries Conference, AUT, Auckland.


Sissons, H. (2010, December). Multimodal exchanges and identity construction in a public relations department. Paper presented at the Fifth International Conference on Multimodality, Sydney, (5ICOM).


Sissons, H. (2009, July). Traversing Discourses. Paper presented to the 2nd International Discourses and Cultural Practices Conference, Sydney.


Sissons, H. (2009, January). Journalism and Public Relations: who is now the gatekeeper? Paper presented to the Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, Honolulu.


Sissons, H. (2007, December). Multi-platform, multi-skilled: The convergence conversation in the newsroom and academia. New Zealand Discourse Conference.


Sissons, H. & VanSlyke Turk, J. (2007, July). The status of journalism in the academy. A report given to the conference from one of eight syndicates held at the First World Journalism Education Conference in Singapore.


2015 - Dean's list for Best Doctoral Award, School of Communication Studies
2012 - Faculty Research Award - for excellence in research (Enhancing Journalism Education Team)

2012 - Vice Chancellor's Doctoral Study Award

2011 - Faculty Learning and Teaching Award. Funded a project looking at how social media has affected the practice of journalism and to consider how the teaching of journalism should reflect these changes

Last updated: 08-Aug-2017 9.15am

The information on this page was correct at time of publication. For a comprehensive overview of AUT qualifications, please refer to the Academic Calendar.