Assistant Professor, Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University
2013 members of PCRG, a collaborative research group I started in my first year at LSU.
Increasingly often, people encounter news via social media links to news stories from sources they wouldn't have sought out directly, with accompanying commentary from friends that may serve to frame the article before reading it. My research has found that this prior framing can affect how much people learn from subsequently reading a news story. In another study, we found that a friend linking to a story from a particular source can affect trust in that source and willingness to seek information from it in the future (either positively or negatively, depending on trust in the friend).
A new area of research for me is news portal panel experiments. This is a new way of conducting news effects experiments in which we are able to study whether effects of certain types of news accumulate over time by randomly assigning a certain amount of that type of news within a news portal that study participants are asked to use as their main news source for a week. Nearly all past news effects experiments are based on a brief exposure to one potentially idiosyncratic example of a type of news content. The software I have developed for these experiments automatically captures news stories from Google News, automatically assigns them to be categorized by human workers using the Amazon Mechanical Turk API, and then delivers them as timely news stories to study participants. The first portal panel experiment using this software was successfully conducted in the summer of 2016 by PCRG, my collaborative research group, and several interesting papers are in the works. I look forward to many follow up studies using this same software to address different questions about accumulating effects of online news use.
Media agenda setting includes two very different kinds of effects: agenda reasoning, which is the influence of good reasons for issue importance learned from news coverage, and agenda cueing, which is the influence of the mere fact of news coverage of an issue regardless of its content. We found that agenda cueing depends on a naive form of media trust called gatekeeping trust, in which people believe that news workers are choosing what to cover based on how important they think underlying social problems are, instead of the "news values" (conflict, drama, novelty, etc) that research has shown strongly influences which events are covered. Two experiments on this were published in Journal of Communication, here and here. Three additional experiments pending publication have found that agenda cueing effects are not unique to traditional news, and can also occur when the cue comes from social media (specifically Twitter) or from public opinion polls.
The following figure (from the second study) illustrates the difference between our dual process model during the moment of agenda response and other dual process models of agenda setting, including an on-line model during each moment of news reception.
Overly passive, "he said / she said" news coverage can make audiences lose confidence in the knowability of political facts, which may in turn lead some to tune out of politics and others to tune in in ways that disregard truth. See this piece in Journal of Communication, or read media coverage of it in The American Prospect, Science Daily, Grist, Discover Magazine, and Media Digest. Also see the follow-up study in Communication Research showing these effects are different from framing effects on political cynicism. A third study (from data actually collected first) is currently under review.
Even a brief exposure to game-framed post-debate coverage can make audience members less likely to even try to reason about the substantive policy questions discussed in the debate itself. See this study in Journal of Communication, read news coverage of it in Science Daily, UPI or The Washington Post's WonkBlog, or watch the videos below of news coverage of this research.
Messages affect their senders, not just their receivers. See this paper in Communication Theory for my alternative message effects model including several kinds of effects on senders. A 2014 book chapter applies this model to new media to help explain the mechanisms behind the mobilizing power of social media.