Whistleblowers and their faith in journalism

Karin Assmann. “Whistleblowers and their faith in journalism” has been published (online first) in Journalism Practice and was featured in Mark Coddington and Seth Lewis’ column RQ1 and in the Nieman Lab newsletter.

Abstract: This study explores whistleblowers’ perceptions of the news media as they recall crossing over from the employer’s to journalism’s institutional logic. In-depth interviews conducted with 16 U.S. whistleblowers who contacted journalists from the 1970s through the 2010s, find that trust in individual journalists is a consistent theme. Of all norms, participants most valued source protection and accuracy, followed by a reporter’s expertise and willingness to listen.

Making nuance noticeable: Efficacy of intersectional representations on US immigration attitudes in news media exemplars

Partain, L., & Read, G. L.  “Making nuance noticeable: Efficacy of intersectional representations on US immigration attitudes in news media exemplars,” paper to be presented at International Communication Association. Toronto, Canada.
Abstract: We investigated how media exemplars affect immigration attitudes in a series of studies. In Study 1 we assessed perceptions of warmth and competence for 70 social groups using the stereotype content model (SCM). Based on these results, participants in Study 2 read a news story about an immigrant that varied in descriptions of their nationality and warmth and competence. Results reveal that prosocial behavioral intentions towards immigrants differ according to nationality and that nationality is the biggest factor affecting out-group beliefs and behaviors. Participants responded more negatively to the group versus individual, when they received the Iraqi rather than the British exemplar. These findings demonstrate that positive person perception reactions from the individual do not uniformly translate to the group and are rooted in extant beliefs of respectability politics. We discuss these findings as they relate to theory and practice.

Violent Incongruencies: Analyzing The New York Times’s Discourse on George Floyd Demonstrations and the Capitol Riot

Brown James (Ph.D. student), “Violent Incongruencies: Analyzing The New York Times’s Discourse on George Floyd Demonstrations and the Capitol Riot,” paper to be presented AEJMC Southeastern Colloquium, Middle Tennessee State University, March 2–4.

Abstract: American news media has a storied past of delegitimizing protest movements, especially with violence. However, recent literature has suggested news media in America is slowly beginning to pull away from this trend. Moreover, recent protest history has several memorable examples of this attempted course correction, such as CNN’s viral “fiery but mostly peaceful” headline during the demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd. Along with this series of protest demonstrations, one of the most historically significant demonstrations of protest in the 2020s was the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021. This study utilized a discourse analysis methodology to explore textual and visual framing incongruencies of participant violence in The New York Times’s coverage of these historic demonstrations. As it pertains to these two events, findings point toward participant violence being a near constant throughout the NYT’s coverage, but it was not the determining factor for the NYT’s labeling of demonstration participants as“protesters” or “rioters”. Differences and discrepancies in textual and visual framings of both events are discussed.

Whistleblowers and their faith in journalism: The (d)evolution of trust among the sources that journalists need most

Abstract: Using in-depth interviews conducted with 12 U.S. whistleblowers  who contacted the press in the 1970s through the 2010s, this paper examines changing perceptions of the news media and journalists among those who have confided in them and how these views have evolved. I find that trust in individual journalists, more so than in the news organizations they work for, is a consistent theme among all participants. Of all norms, source protection is most valued, followed closely by diligence and the willingness to listen and accept the whistleblower as subject matter expert. While all interviewees believed in the news media as an institution with impact when they blew the whistle, almost all of them expressed a profound lack of faith in today’s press to bring about change, some blaming this on the corporatization of the industry along with a rise in what they call agenda-driven reporting. As austerity measures take hold in newsrooms across the country, this study shines a light on what we stand to lose when newsrooms neglect specialization and beat reporting.

Telling the Tale: The Role of Narratives in Helping People Respond to Crises.

Brooke Liu, Lucinda Austin, Yen-I Lee, Yan Jin, and Seoyeon Kim. (Forthcoming). “Telling the Tale: The Role of Narratives in Helping People Respond to Crises.” Journal of Applied Communication Research.

Abstract: During public health crises like infectious disease outbreaks, news media and governments are responsible for informing the public about how to protect themselves. A large body of health communication research finds that persuasive narratives motivate protective behaviors, such as intentions to vaccinate. In their seminal book on crisis narratives, Seeger and Sellnow (2016) theorized five narrative types: blame, renewal, victim, hero, and memorial. In this study, we tested how the public responds to crisis narratives about a hypothetical infectious disease crisis, modelled after narratives emerging from the 2014-2016 Ebola pandemic, through an online experiment with a U.S. adult sample (N = 1,050). Findings showcase which crisis narratives positively affect public protective behaviors as well as emotional responses, assessments of information credibility, and attributions of crisis responsibility.

Lügenpresse: The lying press and German journalists’ responses to a stigma.

Abstract: The term Lügenpresse, ‘lying press’, was used by the German National Socialist Party before and during the Third Reich to discredit the news media and to undermine public trust. By 2014, reports of verbal and physical attacks on journalists and news organizations by individuals calling them Lügenpresse, had again become a frequent feature of the public discourse in Germany. While the term ‘fake news’ is used to similar effect and intent in the United States, Lügenpresse is a historically and politically charged expression of distrust in news media on an institutional level. This research examines the responses and institutional strategies of 27 news editors and executive editors in Germany’s leading broadcast, print and online news organizations to the accusations that they are lying to their audiences. Findings indicate that the reemergence of the term Lügenpresse, has led to considerable self-reflection within institutions, in an effort to counter the lack of trust and to demonstratively better serve the public. The main focus across newsrooms is on improving established processes and on making professional standards and practices more visible to the audience.

Image Repair in the Aftermath of Inaccurate Polling: How the News Media Responded to Getting It Wrong in 1948 and 2016

Abstract: The US presidential elections of 1948 and 2016 produced surprise outcomes when the predicted winners ended up losing the election. Using image repair theory, this article explains the strategies the media used to repair their image in light of predicting the wrong winner. Using a qualitative analysis of news coverage that immediately followed the 1948 and 2016 presidential elections, this study finds that the media utilized similar image repair strategies of offering explanations for poor information, highlighting the media’s good reporting, diminishing the harm caused by the inaccurate predictions, and justifying the inaccurate predictions of both elections. However, the media responses in 1948 and 2016 differed greatly in tone and in the utilization of a new attack strategy to deflect criticism of the media itself. These strategies suggest that media use of image restoration is limited because of the unique societal expectations placed on the press, and that the media’s inaccurate 2016 predictions and subsequent attack strategies may have been contributed to the heightened criticism of mainstream news.

Media Science and Practice

Abstract: Given their influence and visibility, understanding how news media cover topics involving medicines and how they provide information to their target audiences is essential when it comes to medicinal product risk communication research. While information about health and medicine are found in entertainment and social media, this chapter introduces media science with a focus, albeit not exclusively, on journalist-based news media.  It presents an overview of relevant theories as well as methods that academics, government agencies, professional societies and pharmaceutical companies can use to understand communication flows in the media and their potential effects. Particularly, it reviews in more depth, the methodological aspects of content analyses as well as discusses research approaches, including those involving journalists, which could be used to guide or strengthen medicinal product risk communication. Media science-based research can inform the preparations of communication strategies and materials; and studying what is actually happening in the news media is relevant to establishing communication models and evaluating communication interventions in a rapidly changing media landscape.

Otherization of Africa: How American media framed people with HIV/AIDS in Africa from 1987 to 2017.

Abstract: This study examined otherization framing of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa in American print news from 1987-2007. The results of a content analysis of a representative sample of news articles from three outlets (N=421) show that American media overwhelmingly used otherization frames throughout the 20-year period, resulting in a large percentage of negatively toned coverage in American newspaper reporting of the topic on the African continent. The study represents the first attempt to quantify otherization framing of Africa in HIV/AIDS context. The implications for international reporting and theory are discussed.