Dr Helen Sissons

profile image

Senior Lecturer

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 ext 7859

Email: helen.sissons@aut.ac.nz

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


  • Ph.D. (AUT) Dean's Award for Outstanding Thesis
  • MA. (Columbia University, USA) Fulbright Scholar
  • BSc.(Hons.) University College of Wales, Aberystwyth
  • Postgraduate 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

Memberships and Affiliations:

  • Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • Journalism Education Association of NZ (JEANZ)
  • Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE)
  • Journalism Education and Research 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 two books as well as book chapters and journal articles on journalism, public relations and communications.

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 Investigations

Postgraduate Teaching
COMM807 Media Communication Research Methods
PUBL802 Journalism and Media Relations
JOUR803 Journalism Law and Ethics
JOUR804 Journalism Theory and Practice                                             
JOUR807 News Reporting
JOUR809 Newsroom Production

Recent completed supervisions include:

  • Rowden, C. (2018). Progressive representati on of LGBTQ on the show “Transparent”. Master of Communication Studies.
  • Kundalkar, A. (2015). Cover to cover: The changing identity of the magazine journalist asthe medium goes from print to digital. Master of Communication Studies.
  • Yeoman, S. (2015). Paywalls in New Zealand: Revenue that can reinstate newspaper journalism as a public good? Bachelor of Communication Studies. Received a Dean’s Award for Outstanding Dissertation.
  • Beston, A. (2013). Dying in print and despised online: th e place of long-form journalism in a new media age. Master of Communication Studies.
  • Lowery, S. (2011). The New Zealand media’s reporting of suicide: A  critical discourse perspective. Bachelor of Communication Studies (Honours).
  • Pirini, J. (2011). Business and Executive Coaching: Using Multimodal Interaction Analysis toStudy Power and Collaboration. Bachelor of Communication Studies (Honours).
  • Mulrennan, D. (2011). Deaf and television news: Finding a better path to knowledge. Bachelor of Communication Studies (Honours).
  • Gray, R. (2010). The mature woman. Master of Arts.


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. (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. (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. (2017). Mainstreaming Mobile Learning in Journalism Education. In: Crompton, H., & Traxler, J. (Eds.). Mobile learning and higher education: Challenges in context. London/New York: Routledge.
  • Smith, P., & Sissons, H. (2016 online). Social media and a case of mistaken identity: A newspaper’s response to journalistic error. Journalism.
  • Sissons, H. (2016). Journalists versus public relations practitioners: Power and agency at a media conference. Australian Journalism Review, 38(2), 31-45.
  • Sissons, H. (2016). 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
  • 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 PRP-client relationship. Public Relations Inquiry,  4(3) 263-286.doi: 10.1177/2046147X15614686.
  • Sissons, H. (2014). Using social media. In Grant Hannis (ed). Intro: A beginner’s guide to journalism in 21st-century Aotearoa/New Zealand. Lower Hutt: New Zealand Journalist Training Organisation.
  • Sissons, H. & Mulrennan, D. (2014). Writing for news websites. In Grant Hannis (ed). Intro: A beginner’s guide to journalism in 21st-century Aotearoa/New Zealand. Lower Hutt: New Zealand Journalist Training Organisation.
  • Cochrane, T., Sissons, H., Mulrennan, D. & Pamatatau, R. (2013). Journalism 2.0: Exploring the impact of Mobile and Social Media on Journalism Education. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 5(2).
  • Sissons, H. (2012). Multimodal exchanges and power relations in a public relations department. In Sigrid Norris (ed.). Multimodality in practice: Investigating theory-in-practice-through-methodology. London:Routledge. ISBN 0415880378
  • Sissons, H. (2012). Multimodal Communication: Transcribing Multimodal Interaction. In Carol. A. Chapelle. (ed). The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Sissons, H. (2012). Journalism and public relations: A tale of two discourses. Discourse & Communication, 6 (3) pp. 273-294.


  • Sissons, H (2015). Ph.D. Auckland University of Technology. (Category one, no changes.) [Received AUT Vice-Chancellor's Academic Staff Doctoral Award Study Award and Dean's Award for Outstanding Thesis]. Title: Whose news: Investigating interactions between journalists and public relations practitioners.

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.

Conference papers delivered

  • 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 Award for Outstanding Thesis
  • 2014 - Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching and Finalist (Commended) Vice Chancellor's Academic Excellence in Teaching Awards.
  • 2013 - Vice-Chancellor's Academic Staff Doctoral Study Award.
  • 2012 - Faculty Research Award For Excellence in Research Outcomes (Enhancing Journalism Education Team)
  • 2012 - Vice Chancellor's Doctoral Study Award
  • 2011, 2012, 2015 - Faculty Learning and Teaching Awards ($50,000). Funded an ongoing project into how social media has affected journalism practice and how the teaching of journalism should reflect these changes.
Website search