Alumni Spotlight: Natalie Martinez, AMCS '17

Hi, I’m Natalie and I’m a media researcher. Since graduation, I have been working for Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog nonprofit. The organization monitors and researches a range of media outlets, from mainstream to right wing media to fringe and Alt-right websites. My work primarily focuses on fake news and misinformation and propaganda campaigns on social media tied to conservative movements and conspiracy theory outlets. Before I began this job, I did basically the same thing, except with Sharknado.

As an AMCS student, I did a two semester capstone that looked at Sharknado as political, trans-media, and pop culture text in order to ascribe a cultural significance to the franchise and it’s popularity as a product of a white national identity crisis in the US. As you can imagine, the transition from researching Sharknado to researching conspiracy theories was incredibly smooth. My job is basically to take ridiculous things seriously — because, like Sharknado, they are products of American culture and are in critically altering our media landscapes.

Besides feeding my love for bad and weird things, the capstone project gave me the chance to develop research skills that are vital to my day to day work. A large part of my Sharknado work entailed documenting news and entertainment media impressions of Sharknado, coding tweets and stockpiling Sharknado memes. These media and social media research skills have been invaluable in going about the work I do now. Beyond skills and Sharknado, the fan studies and transmedia coursework I took through AMCS has informed my approach to contextualizing misinformation beyond the election or a political figure, and research the spread and effect of fake news as a cultural issue centered on promoting white supremacy. I’m really grateful that AMCS taught me the ability to look at issues that have been isolated to a specific field (in the case of fake news, political science) as an interdisciplinary problem. I wouldn’t have the job I have today if it wasn't for that. And if it wasn’t for Sharknado.