Showing posts with label media theory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media theory. Show all posts

The Bitch is (not) Back

Gov.-elect Nikki Haley won’t grant Oprah Winfrey an interview with Susan Smith, the Union mother convicted of killing her two sons in 1994.

Winfrey said on her show that aired Wednesday that she wanted to interview Smith for her final season. Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the new governor won’t allow it.

“While Gov.-elect Haley has great respect for Oprah, let’s be clear: Ms. Smith got enough press when she killed her two children and lied about it to the country,” Godfrey said. “South Carolina suffered enough from this tragedy, and we are now focused on the positives in our great state.”

What we don't get is why Oprah was so desperate and cold-hearted as to consider the idea in the first place. It's petty and self-centered moments like this that make sure we won't miss her when her TV show goes off the air. But it's no more self-centered than Smith, who has continued to generate headlines since her incarceration.

In that regard, Winfrey and Smith probably have enough in common to fill at least an entire episode with the kind of fawning and whining that her show is well known for. Some people have no class. In this instance, this applies to Smith and Winfrey equally.

Getting personal: Why the Blogland won't go there

The Blogland's mission is simple: to engage in thoughtful discussion, sharing information that we think readers will want to read to inform, advocate and sometimes entertain. To keep the pot stirred with a growing audience and increased level of influence, it's not easy. One of the most important challenges for the Blogland is to keep it factual, fair, and respectful.

Part of this effort means avoiding engaging in the ongoing personal slimefest that seems to be all the rage in South Carolina media circles. In recent weeks, news media - both new and traditional - have focused on personal missteps by family members of South Carolina politicos. Over the last two years, what's personal has become the stuff of headlines all too often.

My opinion of the approach can be expressed in a comment which I shared with a so-called reporter last summer: "What part of my life is nobody's business don't you understand?"

It must have been a slow news day at WIS

Bloggers are accused of being one-sided, unprofessional, and not living up to journalistic standards. So when we find sloppy and unprofessional reporting by traditional news media outlets who are supposed to be setting the standards for journalism, we find such claims amusing.

Last week, WIS TV reporter Jack Kuenzie decided to grant a disgruntled former employee a forum to air his grievances against his former employer. In this story, Victor Harris, a Midlands resident, alleged he was fired from an unnamed Midlands trucking company. In the story, Harris claimed, without presenting any evidence, that he was fired for refusing to drive more than the permitted number of hours. He also alleged that safe practices were regularly ignored by his former employer.

So where did the story go wrong? Lack of fairness, lack of evidence and a clear lack of understanding of the trucking workforce demand:

Leading Ladies of State Politics in Columbia, Part 2

Part two of today's conference included a panel discussion on blogging and it's impact upon news and politics, featuring yours truly, SC blog pioneer and Democratic new media strategist Laurin Manning and the Mack Daddy of state political blogs - Will Folks.

In a freewheeling discussion, we shared our insights and experiences with the audience. Some of the most notable points raised were:

  • Three things not to do: Waste our time with non-news, be a hypocrite, or lie to us.
  • Agreed that bloggers are the news, but maybe not journalists.
  • Encouraged the audience that if they get into blogging, to find a niche and write about their passions.
  • Cautioned that anonymous blogs don't have much credibility, nor should candidates and campaigns respond to every post and comment on a blogsite.
  • If you or your candidate is getting attacked by bloggers, you must be a threat.
  • Don't sell yourself as a "great woman candidate", but rather qualify yourself as the best candidate without regard for gender.

As always, it's an honor and a great learning experience to share the stage with such great talent with such extensive background, as well as to engage in discussions with those attending the event. It was also an honor to get to speak to such a passionate audience and share ideas and experiences. Thanks to Deb Sofield and Barbara Rackes, as well as the rest of the Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics for their hospitality and a well-organized event.

Kevin DuBrow: Thanks for the rock and roll

It's a sad day in Headbanger Land with the news breaking that Quiet Riot frontman Kevin Dubrow was found dead at his home in Las Vegas yesterday.

I got turned on to Quiet Riot back in middle school. They were loud, agressive, and Dubrow was full of attitude. Riding MTV's rock and roll wave, their major label release, Metal Health, sold over six million copies and became one of the most noted metal albums of the 80s.

The crazy masked and straight-jacketed dude was one of the most-recognized metal mascots, right up there with Iron Maiden's Crazy Eddie and Megadeth's Vic.

After their second album, the underappreciated Condition Critical, they began to stumble and never seemed to really get their footing again, even as other bands pulled back together and started hitting the roads, albeit to much-smaller audiences than their heyday. When I started getting back out to the concert scene the last 3-4 years, they were one of the few bands I never got to catch up with, and I'm sorry I didn't.

There are few who did more to make me metal than Kevin Dubrow and the boys from Quiet Riot. There are more than a few of us out there from those days who might've turned out perfectly average and normal, but thanks to Kevin and company, we're all crazee now.

May his memory be eternal.

Breaking news/Cultivation update #4

My paper on my recent research on Cultivation Theory , which examined how television advertising influenced the beliefs and behaviors of audiences, was accepted for presentation at an upcoming academic conference:

I'm pleased to inform you that your Political Communication paper has been accepted for presentation at the Southern States Communication Association's 78th Annual Convention in Savannah, Ga. The convention will be held April 2 - 6, 2008, at the Hyatt Regency Savannah.

Registration and attendance is expected for all presenting authors and panelists. For more information about registration, membership, hotel rates, and other convention information, please visit the SSCA Web site at

A tentative convention schedule should be available at the upcoming NCA convention.

Thanks for your participation.

We look forward to seeing you in Savannah!

This makes my Monday a rather good day!

Cultivating relationships between risk communicators and news media

For something different, here is an excerpt from a paper I wrote which examined the ability of news media to disseminate messages related to risks and hazards ...

By allowing communication professionals to disseminate their messages to large audiences with a minimum of effort, news media can play a vital and indispensable role in the process of risk and hazard communication. The relatively high levels of credibility of news media, compared to those of communication professionals and corporate executives (Budd, 2000), suggest the presentation of risk communication messages by news media would also add a degree of increased credibility to those messages. While this would suggest there is considerable value in the development and maintenance of close relationships between communicators and those who work in news media, this does not guarantee that those relationships are easy to develop.

The Public Relations Society of America’s National Credibility Index assesses the levels of credibility of various public figures (Budd, 2000). This index showed notable differences in the levels of credibility between key figures in news media and those who may be responsible for communicating messages related to risks or hazards on behalf of corporate or governmental organizations:

Official Rating (out of 100)
Network TV News Anchor 69.2
Local TV/Newspaper reporter 65.8
Head of State Dep’t/Agency 63.1
Head of Local Dep’t/Agency 62.9
Corporate President 61.6
Wall Street Executive 57.9
Public Relations Specialist 47.6

These findings are consistent with research which shows that people will turn to alternative information sources, such as news media, when they do not trust official messages which originate from risk communicators (Fessenden-Raden, et al, 1987; Fischoff, 1987). The need to rely on other parties with higher levels of credibility, such as the news media, is even greater in situations when an organization may already be viewed in a bad light by the public and audiences (Frewer, 2000).

Budd, J. (2000). The Incredible Credibility Dilemma. Public Relations Quarterly, 45(3), 22-26.
Fessenden-Raden, J., Fitchen, J., & Heath, J. (1987). Providing Risk Information in Communities: Factors Influencing What Is Heard and Accepted. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 12(3 & 4), 94-101.
Frewer, L. (2000). Risk perception and risk communication about food safety issues. British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin, 25, 31-33.
Lundgren, R., & McMakin, A. (2004). Understanding Risk Communication. In Risk Communication: A Handbook for Communicating Environmental Safety, and Health Risks (pp. 13-28). Columbus, OH: Batelle Press.
Young, S. (1990). Combatting NIMBY with Risk Communication. Public Relations Quarterly.

Feminists for Colbert?

Recently, I put up a comment on the blogsite for Feminists for Colbert that I thought was harmless, and intended as a compliment, but apparently they disagreed. Well, I'm big enough to respect different points of view ... and to show I'm a good sport, I've added them to my blogroll.

So you might wonder ... "who are Feminists for Colbert?" Well, they're students involved with the Center for Women's and Gender Studies at my beloved College of Charleston (which makes them cooler than any other such students at any college in the entire universe).

They've got some cool "Full Frontal Feminism" T-shirts that I'd order one of, but shoot, they don't have a 2X size. I think the shirts are cool, so go buy one or two ... or even six.

In any event, they're on my blogroll, because I'm betting we'll see some serious discussion of new media vs. traditional print-and-broadcast media. Also, because as a parent of daughters, I think it's great to see bold and assertive women who are willing to stand up for themselves and take charge of their lives.

Take a few minutes to check them out.

Cultivation update #3: The analysis

For those of you who are interested ... here is the conclusion of my research into Cultivation Theory and its potential applications to understanding the persuasive power of political television advertising ...

Hypothesis 1, which predicted those who watch more television would have a higher level of willingness to rely on television advertising in making voting decisions, was not supported by these findings. As the highest hourly mean score (2.423) was for those who watched an average of two hours of television daily, increased exposure to television did not increase the overall willingness to rely on political television advertising.

Hypothesis 2, which predicted that the willingness to believe positive claims about candidates made in political television advertising would generally increase along with viewing time, was supported. As the highest mean score (3.122) was for those who watched five hours of television daily, there was a general upward trend in the willingness of respondents to believe these advertisements.

Hypothesis 3, which predicted that the willingness to believe negative claims about candidates made in political television advertising would generally increase along with viewing time, was not supported. As with Hypothesis 1, the highest mean score was for two-hour viewers (2.08), followed by an overall decline in believability. Therefore, the willingness to believe negative political advertising did not increase with viewing time.

Overall, the research findings presented here did not show a significant cultivation effect to be present with regard to political advertising. However, as there is much research which shows that television programming, including advertising, can have cultivation effects upon viewers, these findings alone cannot be assumed to deny that such an effect exists.

There are a number of factors which were not examined in the course of this research that could affect willingness of voters to consider the claims made in political television advertising. These factors include personal viewing interests and motives, as well as the amount of political advertising in programming that viewers watched. For example, a voter who views television for purely entertainment motives may largely disregard political advertising (as well as other forms of advertising), while one who watches news programming regularly might pay closer attention to such advertising.

Another point worth considering is that while voters may claim to have a low level of willingness to rely upon political advertising, research indicated that there may be subliminal processes at work which allow messages to be processed and stored in the minds of viewers without conscious thought (Posner & Snyder, 1975; Jamieson, 1992). Further research into what takes place in the minds of television viewers who are exposed to political television advertising can help determine if these findings are an aberration, or an indication of the shortcomings of cultivation theory in this area.

There exists considerable research which shows that political advertising has a significant influence upon voters who are exposed to it, even if such effects may not be fully understood. While this alone presents sufficient justification for further research, the knowledge that campaign tactics used in American political campaigns may later be used in political campaigns in other nations should serve as caution that these methods of political communication can have effects on a global scale. Given the potential global reach of these effects, the need to better understand this form of political communication presents a challenge which should not be taken lightly.

With many of the survey participants having indicated a willingness to participate in future research, as well as the number of questions which my research raised, this project may well end up becoming the subject of my thesis project, to begin next summer.

As always, your thoughts on this subject are welcome ...

Cultivation update #2: Surveying completed

At long last, surveying is completed. What agony!

Of the 441 responses, 428 watched 1 to 5 hours of television daily, so I excluded the outliers, which gets this survey down to a 4.7% margin of error. Good enough for academic work, and as good as any major polling firm.

How much did the numbers change since the first polling summary? Not much - take a look:

The paper is nearly complete, but the numbers suggest cultivation theory may have limitations as to how applicable it can be with understanding the persuasive power of political tv ads.

Stay tuned for upcoming discussion of my paper and the conclusions I reached ...

Cultivation update #1

For those of you who are following my research into the cultivation effect of political advertisting, here's an update (yeah, this is what I've been doing with my time off from work and school for Thanksgiving - i'm quite the party animal).

As originally discussed, there is a notable cultivation effect in many areas affected by television programming, news, and advertising. Is my research showing this effect present with political advertising?

So far ... the answer is "kinda", but not exactly.

Sometimes, research won't confirm a particular point of view or validate a theory (though it is nice if it does). Research findings which show the limitations of theories aren't always a bad thing, and can help lay the foundation for more informed research on a given topic.

What am I asking?
1) As an average, how many hours of television do you watch a day?

Next, rate these questions, on a scale of 1 being the lowest, and 5 being the highest.

2) On a scale of 1 to 5, how influential is television advertising in helping you decide who to vote for?

3) On a scale of 1 to 5, how believable do you find positive political TV ads, which are those that make positive statements about the candidate?

4) On a scale of 1 to 5, how believable do you find negative political ads, which are those that make negative statements about a candidate?
What are the results so far?

To a point, believability increases along with daily average viewing time, but it tends to level off, and overall influence and credibility of negative advertising numbers begin to drop off as viewing time increases. This suggests the culivation theory may not perfectly apply to understanding political advertising. Understanding why this is so is certainly a question worth asking, especially if I decide to expand upon this research for my yet-undecided thesis project.

I still have more calls to make, but as the total number of completed calls increases, the daily swing in the running totals shrinks, so I'm pretty confident that the final scores won't change much from where they are now.

While I'm presenting the totals of my ongoing results, I will hold off on offering any analysis or claims about the data I'm gathering until I've completed my calling this weekend. Stay tuned ... and feel free to share any thoughts you may have.

My survey sample is 374 voters (I'm completing 20-25 responses on weeknights and more on Saturdays). This is estimated to give an accurate response with a 5% margin of error for 22,0o0 voters who have voted at least twice in the last four general elections (i.e. - regular, reliable voters).

Cultivation effect and political tv ads

In the field of communication research, a very popular theory known as Cultivation Theory , originally proposed by George Gerbner, argues that television can create and reinforce alternate views of the outside world which can be contrary to reality. When this is applied to topics such as fear of crime, negative perceptions of certain cities and regions, food/beverage and fashion advertising, and cultural and racial stereotypes, television programming does indeed have a cultivation effect.

In other words, many people, to some degree, believe what they see on television, when they have no other frame of reference which they can turn to for more informed insights about that topic.

I am working on a research project this semester in which examines if political tv ads have a cultivation effect. If there is a strong cultivation effect, then the more television one watches, the more they'll rely upon it as a major source of information, and will believe what they see.

This research includes a rather extensive telephone survey of Dorchester County voting households, doing a random sample of those voters who have voted at least twice in the four general elections 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004.

Stay tuned for updates on my research ...

Agenda-Setting, Gatekeepers, and Convergence

Tonight, I’ll be presenting a lecture to an undergraduate class in Media Criticism, which will discuss the contemporary roles played by mass media in setting public agendas, with a special focus on political communication. I’ll be presenting it to three classes this semester, adding to the other lectures in my little bag of tricks.

A couple of ideas that have emerged in my research in this area, which will be included in this lecture, are:

The “End of the Gatekeeper”. It is believed by some that media, before the broadening of media with cable networks, blogs, talk shows, the web, and other outlets, the limited number of outlets, and figures such as Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather, who were well-known celebrities, had the ability and motive to act as “gatekeepers” of news. In this model of operation, news was vetted carefully for accuracy (and some would argue screened to suit political agendas as well). With the broadening of media into a 24-hour news cycle, the emphasis is now believed to be on quantity and speed instead of quality and accuracy, and may be behind a number of recent highly-publicized goof-ups.

Convergence effect. This effect takes place when a combination of messages from political campaigns, independent groups, and media has a mutually reinforcing effect which can be far more effective than the positive or negative effects created by the direct strategies of political campaigns alone. With the growing amount of influence upon campaigns by independent groups, who work independently to develop their own messages and dissemination processes, it is believed to be an effect worth studying.

For those of you who may be curious, I have posted a PDF of my lecture. Feel free to download it, read it, and make any comments, criticisms, or suggestions that you’d like.

Website campaigning and Agenda Setting

Recently, I revisited a topic in a grad school class that I'd first touched on in my undergraduate senior paper, which I wrote back in the fall of 2003: Media agenda setting and the use of the Internet.

In the class, I wrote a journal article review of The impact of web site campaigning on traditional news media and public information processing, written by Kaid, Ku, and Pfau, and published in 2003 in the Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly journal. They argue that the attention given to the usage of the Internet in setting public agendas, both by providing information to media outlets and directly through the voters, has lagged behind its growth and has provided far less critical understanding of how the Internet influences the media and public than more traditional methods of communication, such as television advertising and media relations.

Nearly ten years after the take-off of the Internet, its ability to influence the public is still poorly understood. This is one reason why as recently as 2004, we see campaigns learning how to best utilize the Internet via trial-and-error processes that have resulted in both amazing innovation as well as brilliant failures, with the best example of both to be found in the high-flying crash of Howard Dean's short-lived Presidential campaign.

Unlike most campaigns who fail to ever effectively utilize the Internet, Dean's campaign managed to do some groundbreaking work, such as revolutionizing fundraising and organizing activists via their campaign website. However, these amazing steps forward were for naught, as Dean's campaign quickly crashed with the initial Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, squandered a tremendous war-chest, and capitalize on a tremendous volunteer base. In spite of their many advantages, many of which can be attributed to their pionnering use of the Internet, Dean's campaign vanished while the Democratic contest for the 2004 Presidential nomination continued for several weeks between Clark, Edwards and Kerry.

From the failure of Dean's campaign, we find valuable lessons to be learned. Their innovative use of the Internet is well worth studying and duplicating. However, I believe that understanding how to more consistently and effectively integrate a campaign's Internet efforts with more traditional aspects of campaigns, while avoiding the duplication of their failures, is just as important.

For those of you who want to read what I wrote, here's the link.

Media losing credibility with the public?

More thoughts on media and its ability to set public agendas … as previously discussed in other postings (12/23/05 & 1/5/06)

I recently came across a Public Relations Quarterly article by John J. Budd, Jr. entitled “The Incredible Credibility Dilemma”. While a lot of the article dealt with the credibility (or lack thereof) of public relations professionals and corporate CEOs, there was a survey which dealt with the credibility of various public figures that I found interesting.

In his journal article, Budd discussed the
National Credibility Index, which was the result of a study sponsored jointly by the PRSA and Rockefeller Foundations. This index was the result of a survey of 2,500 people as to how they viewed the credibility of 44 different types of leaders, officials, and other public figures.

The survey put Supreme Court judges at the top, with a score of 81.3, followed by teachers, national experts and members of the military. Talk show hosts (anyone surprised?), with a score of 46.6, were at the bottom, joined by famous entertainers, PR specialists, and political party leaders. The median score for all figures was 61.5.

No wonder political campaign operatives are so cavalier – the public hates them already.

In any event, media figures generally rated better than average in the survey, but not much. National anchors got 66.8, and local newspaper and TV reporters received 65.8. Reporters for major newspapers and magazines barely came above the median score, with a 62.4 score, just ahead of congressmen and corporate CEOs.

For media whose role as gatekeepers and agenda-setters is declining, this survey is a sign their credibility needs some serious repairs.

Quantity or Quality: Which is the better approach for contemporary media?

Recently, I posted some thoughts on the transformation of the media from a "gatekeeper" role in which a limited number of outlets and time allowed media to screen what was put out for public consumption, into a wide range of outlets, each now competing for who can get the most news out in the least time, to keep from being scooped by all the other outlets.

A prime example is discussed by a mea culpa story that ran in today's online edition of USA Today. The news media outlet published nearly half its papers with reports that the West Virginia miners were found alive. Instead of all but one alive, it turned out that all but one were found DEAD.

A finding of the research of Michael Delli Carpini and Bruce Williams was that the media will often rush stories out to their audiences without vetting them. This is also a criticism which has been made of the now-famous Dan Rather "Memogate" (why do scandals now have to end in "gate" anyway?), in which a big story was rushed to the public, only to have it quickly debunked. In the past, when media was under more control by these "gatekeepers", these stories had time to be vetted before the evening news or morning paper ran, but in the 24-hour news cycle, it seems to be more about getting the story out first before getting it right.

As Dan Rather found out last year, USA Today found out that you can take a major story, rush it to the public, and really blow it in doing so.

While there are benefits from the "democratization" of news coverage, the lack of professional filtering and vetting certainly has its drawbacks, which have the potential to be rather harmful indeed.

End of Media as gatekeepers?

There are those of you who remember a time when the news media mix consisted of three national network news broadcasts, preceeded by local news, a local newspaper and several weekly news magazines, such as Time and Newsweek.

As I point out in lectures I present on Media and Political Communication, we've seen tremendous changes in what is news media in the last twenty years. CNN proved its viability in the early 80s, joined by several other news networks. Talk radio rose in the late 80s, then the Internet in the mid 90s, and the rise of bloggers in the early years of the 21 century. Where the average person of a generation ago have four or five news sources, they now have a dozen or more convenient to them, with many more out there.

Unlike the "good old days" where the news was vetted and screened in plenty of time for the daily paper or evening news, we now live in a 24-hour world, with news websites, all-day/all-night cable news channels, and front-line combat journalists with satellite video phones. News outlets that hold a story to make sure its newsworthy or edit it for better clarity, or get time to present both sides of a breaking story, will often get left behind in a "first strike" new reality of news media.

Where media once had the benefit of time and market position to act as "gatekeepers", screening and developing raw news for what they felt was the way the story should appear to audiences, now they have become a jumble of "conduits", in which everyone is seeking to get the news quicker than the other guy.

The media "gatekeepers" are dead, victims of the reality of an instant, always-on, global village.

This is a point of view which is shared by Michael Delli Carpini and Bruce Williams in their 2004 paper entitled "Monica and Bill All the Time and Everywhere", which looked at how the media evolution made it increasingly difficult for the Clinton administration to shut stories up, as well as for the media and politicians to put their spins on what did make it out for public consumption. As media competed to get stories out with growing speed and less message-shaping, it gave audiences more information and less opinion with which to form their opinions.

In their groundbreaking work in the field of Agenda Setting theory, conducted in 1972, Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw found that media was far more effective at telling people what to think about than what to think about that subject. Delli Carpini and William's findings that people make up their own minds when given enough unfiltered information is certainly consistent with McCombs and Shaw's findings.