Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Instead of Convergence ...

A spanking new copy of Newspaper Research Journal arrived in today's mail and it includes a study about the c-word and how, instead of convergence, we're seeing something very different. The title and abstract give you a hint:
Web-centric Convergence Replaces Media Partnerships

This study of convergence journalism at TV news operations and newspapers in the top 200 markets found that cross-platform partnerships found in 2003 and 2005 had largely faded by 2011 to be replaced by a new model of web-centric convergence journalism or "Webvergence."
TV has been slower than newspapers to adopt a web-based presence of any significance, but of late TV is doing a better job of training folks with multimedia skills (which makes sense). Social media is also driving a lot of this, especially for TV, at least according to the longitudinal national data analyzed here.

Okay, why do I find this interesting? Because we're in the early stages of talking about a reshuffling of Grady College that, perhaps, will mean combining Journalism and what used to be called Broadcast News (it has some long name now with lots of poorly written modifiers, digital something-or-other). The point is, one way to "converge" the two programs is on a common platform. To me, that's web/mobile. We're very early in the process and I'm just one guy on a committee, so don't assume anything I suggest will matter, but in skimming this study it suggests the old c-word is dead. I agree. Indeed, I never felt it was alive in the first place.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Controlling J-Schools

How Eric Newton, j-school critic of the Knight Foundation, must envy China.

Here's the lede:
The Chinese Communist Party has decided to become directly involved in the management of the country's top journalism schools and strengthen the administration of those universities, it was learned Sunday from university and media sources.

It's gotta be killing him.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Can you say Medialization laryngoplasty with arytenoid adduction? I can.

Last March I lost my voice, we figured to a bout of laryngitis. That turned out to be thyroid cancer that had pushed against the nerve that controls my left vocal cord. Eventually I had the thyroid removed, cancer blasted, but they also had to remove the nerve. That left me with no voice.

I just got home moments ago from the long procedure listed above. By the way, that's a fancy way of saying they sewed my dead vocal cord closed and implanted Gor-Tex to hold it there.,

I have swelling. I have soreness. But dammit, I have a voice

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Assessing the Assessors: J-School Standards

Most academic fields go through some kind accreditation. Journalism is no different. Schools don't have to be accredited, of course. It's optional, but most (but certainly not all) of the top j-school programs are accredited through ACEJMC.

An article in the latest Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, just in my mailbox today, gives those assessed a chance to assess the assessors. And yes, I had great fun writing that sentence. You can read the abstract here to get the gist of the survey of administrators asking them to critique the infamous nine standards for accreditation.

Before we go any further, let's lay out those nine standards. It's hard to argue with many of them. I'll lay them out below and provide simplified results from the article.

% Good As Is
Mission, Governance, and Admin
Curriculum & Instruction
Diversity and Inclusiveness
Full-time & Part-Time Faculty
Scholarship & Pro Activity
Student Services
Resources, Facilities, & Equipment
Professional and Public Service
Assessment of Learning Outcomes

As you can see above, folks are not keen about Curriculum. Forty percent say it needs "major changes" (not in table). Also down on the list is assessment of learning outcomes (let's face it, this sucks to make work) and diversity (scary that it's so low). The curriculum complaint is mainly about the liberal arts requirement, but in general people find this standard to work against a more nimble, exploratory curriculum. As the authors note, "attempting to develop a one-size-fits-all academic standard is complex." When that happens, no one is truly happy.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Media Use and Perceptions of Science

It's no surprise that, in some instances, media use can moderate the public's perceptions of science, as was found in a new paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of Media and Religion. This is one of those odd pieces of research I want to break down a bit. First, here's an interesting finding:
A post-hoc inspection of the tables revealed that, in several cases, the introduction of media use as an independent factor rendered significant relationships between religion and views of science insignificant
I'm a bit surprised that media use toppled the predictive power of religiosity. In other words, media use explains the same variance as religiosity and explains it better. In even more other words, the negatively relationship between religious activities and what one thinks of science sometimes disappears when considering media use.

I mentioned above this is an odd study. It uses GSS data, which is terrific, but provides a long set of tables with very simple ANOVAs of "religious activity" and various media variables. Table 12, for example, is religious activity and Internet use. We get in the table a Mean Square -- unusual -- to the thousandth, as well as the F-score and p level (again, to the thousandth, unnecessary false precision). I'll fuss at the editor sometime about this. In full disclosure, I'm on the journal's Editorial Board but I don't believe I reviewed this manuscript, or if I did the authors did nothing I suggested. I read a lot of stuff for a lot of journals.

Anyway, the analysis strategy here should have been, given the survey data, an analysis of covariance to control for various socio-demographic factors that might better explain the results. And some of the results are just curious, such as an F-score of 1.021 (1.0 is fine) but significant at the .033 level. Here's what's more wrong. The authors report the p level of .033 (or others) and add asterisks for below to tell us -- shockingly -- that .033 is less than .05.

C'mon guys.

I'm being picky, I know, but the jillion or so hypotheses are without any real foundation in the literature. They almost seem written post-hoc, after the analyses. I've spent years doing this stuff and predicting interaction effects is tricky and, often, theoretically messy. And how can it be a hypothesis to predict a significant interaction without predicting the direction of the relationship? Additive? Moderating influence?

This is a paper with potential, but it unravels on a number of fronts. That said, there's something to be learned here and there's a reason it was published. I just wish there'd been more of a revise and resubmit.


Fox & CNN

This morning I turned on CNN and it was covering, obviously, the Mandela memorial. I flipped to Fox and it was covering, in some ways obviously, Obamacare. That got me thinking, I wonder what would happen if I quickly compared web sites.

Below, the results of a word cloud from each org's site this morning. I'm only now getting to this after a long meeting. Check out the differences below.

Friday, December 6, 2013

What People Know About ... Auto Dashboard Lights?

In my never-ending mission to uncover the odd an downright screwy when it comes to what people know, I bring you this little gem to brighten up your Friday. People don't know much about those little lights in their cars. No kidding. Read it here.Or just follow me below. Here's the first couple of grafs:
When your car's dashboard lights start glowing, they're trying to tell you something, but many drivers aren't getting the message.

Drivers are most likely to be ignorant of what tire pressure, brake system and electrical warning lights mean, according to a new Insurance.com survey.  Almost 20 percent are unaware of what the low-fuel and temperature icons signify, results show.

Insurance.com commissioned a survey of 2,000 drivers, asking them to match the correct definition to 10 common warning light icons.
Lemme first say this is a cool idea for a survey. If you look at the percentages of who could not correctly identify a light, the worst was this one:

Do you know it? Go to the story to find out, but half had no clue, so don't feel too bad if you're also ... clueless.

The one most people know? To the left. It's easy and you have to wonder how the hell 7 percent could get it wrong. Kinda obvious, eh?

No surprise that men reported themselves to be more confident than women.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How Not To Survey People

It's received a boatload of attention, the Catholic Church's attempt to gauge parish-level attitudes in advance of a global meeting of bishops. You can read a recent story here.

It's also a terrific example of how not to survey, or poll, or ask, or gauge, or whatever the hell it is the Church is trying to do. Mixed methods, mixed samples. It's a mess. Some questionnaires online, some the bishop will just fill out, some sent only to priests but not laity. It's more than a mess. It's result will be misleading, an almost textbook example of how not to do this.

As a practicing Catholic, I'm not surprised. Just take the Pew data, church leaders, rather than trying to cook your own. It'd be more intellectually honest. Except we know you'd not like the results.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Gamson Hypothesis

If there's one thing that tickles an academic's heart (and few things do), it's seeing work that cites stuff he did. In this case, the authors did it better. Which is okay. A new Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media article on the "Gamson Hypothesis" cites a study I published back in 1997. That article was:
Hollander, B. A. (1997). Fuel to the fire: Talk radio and the Gamson Hypothesis. Political Communication, 14(3), 355–369.
I put it there because, dammit, this is my blog and I can be as self-referential as I wanna be. Plus I always liked that study. Anyway, a new JOBEM article by Thomas J. Johnson and Barbara K. Kaye extends the hypothesis into a broader range of media than did mine, which obviously from the title above focused on talk radio (all the rage in the dark media days of 1997).

The hypothesis, first posited by William Gamson, suggests "that the combination of low trust in government and high internal or self-efficacy, which is defined as the belief that one can understand and participate effectively in politics (Craig, Niemi, & Silver, 1990), leads to protesting the government, an action Gamson termed as ‘‘mobilizing activity’’ (1968, 1971)." In other words, if you don't trust government but think you can make a difference, you're more likely to be mobilized and take some kind of action. My argument back in 1997 was talk radio was "fuel to the fire" for these folks.

The authors of the new study found different media effects depending on how you're categorized (Assured, Dissident). For me, the interesting finding is among Dissidents, who tended to use non-mainstream sources of information. They say it better below. I boldfaced a part I find most interesting.
For example, strong reliance on political blogs but low reliance on parody television shows predicts being a Dissident, but low reliance on both political sites and talk radio predicts being an Assured. These media reliance findings indicate that those who distrust the government (Dissidents) transfer their distrust to other institutions, such as the mainstream media, and turn to alternative sources such as political blogs because they are perceived as being independent of big media organizations. Being an Assured or Dissident predicts very different media reliance behaviors. These media reliance findings support an earlier Gamson study that this one builds from ( Johnson et al., 2010).
Full cite: Johnson, J.T., & Kaye, B. K. (2013). Putting out Fire with Gasoline: Testing the Gamson Hypothesis on Media Reliance and Political Activity. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(4), 456-481.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Of Dogs & Guns

I should be doing other stuff, so instead I of course play with data, this time dogs and guns. Yup, sounds like a country music song. If only I had a question about pickup trucks. Sigh.

In my data are questions asking a national sample of U.S. adults if they own a dog and if they own a gun. They're throwaway questions, not really meant for any serious analysis. So of course I put them up to (semi) serious analysis.

Here's the main finding -- if you own a gun, you're likely to also own a dog. Among those who own a gun, 59.6 percent also have a dog. Among those who don't own a gun, 41.9 percent have a dog. Despite what the NRA thinks, not everyone is packing. About a third in the national survey say they own a gun. A little under half own a dog. Fido is more popular than Beretta.

What separates those who own a dog (but no gun) from those who own a dog and a gun?  The obvious stuff. Owners of both are more conservative, more likely Republicans, are older, of higher income, more likely to be white, more likely to watch Fox News, and more likely to feel financially insecure. Education plays no role, and neither does a measure of neuroticism. I don't have a good measure of rural versus urban, but I'm sure that would play a role as well.

For fun I tossed these into a regression model to predict owning a gun. This allows various factors to statistically control for one another to see which variables win out. The result?
  • Factors that reduce the likelihood of owning a gun: education, being female. That's it. Those two.
  • Factors that increase the likelihood: income, being white, being Republican, and uncertainty about your financial future. Oh, and owning a dog. You got it. After this and other controls, owning a dog still predicts owning a gun. I should point out if we flip the analysis and make owning a dog the dependent variable and plop owning a gun among the list of independent (predictor) variables, it still is significant.
Fun facts about owning a dog. Neuroticism plays no role in owning a gun, but it does play a role in owning a dog, even after statistical controls. The more neurotic you are, the more likely you are to own a dog. Or maybe owning a dog makes you neurotic? And what about cats? About the only factors that predict dog owning -- among those I looked at briefly -- are dogs owned by younger, less educated, and higher income. Go figure.

If I were really interested, and I'm not, I'd dig deeper and look at other likely variables. But let's face it. I'm doing this instead of real work.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why December Sucks

This December sucks.Why? My son has surgery in a couple of weeks. I have surgery a week after that. My wife gets to sit around and play nurse. Twice. Merry friggin Christmas.

Yeah, December sucks.

But I'm scheduled to teach again this January. I better. Otherwise the following classes are gonna be a problem:
  • JOUR3410 lecture, in which I drone on and on to 130 or so introductory journalism and public relations students.  They then take smaller writing labs. Which leads us to ...
  • JOUR3410 Honors Lab, in which I do pretty much the same as above, but with 16 Honors students. They write and write and write. Loads of grading for me, and as an Honors class I treat this as a standalone course to give it more rigor.
  • Public Opinion, a graduate seminar that meets once a week for three hours at a time to discuss one of my favorite topics. I have no idea how many students are in there this time. It's sometimes as many as 25, but probably more like 15. Those three hours are going to be tough with my semi-voice.
  • Freshman Odyssey, in which freshman get a small group feel with a senior faculty member. Our topic is social media. Basically, they'll learn about social science and the effects and consequences of Facebook, et al.
Yup, I'm on a 2-2 load. Except not. Somehow, faculty slumming with a 3410 lab get to count that as a single class. I get to count the lecture and lab -- an Honors lab no less -- as a single class. Been this way for over 10 years. That's why I make the big money.

So with luck, my surgery this December will return my one vocal cord to enough working order that I can manage the classes above. Odds are I'll use a Mr. Microphone even in the smaller classes, just to reduce the strain. Assuming the surgery works, that is. Basically they will go in, close the gap caused by a dead vocal cord, plop in a Gor-Tex insert to keep it closed, and one vocal cord will do all the work. Forever.

Stay tuned.

Don't Trust Anyone Over ... 3?

A recent survey got a lot of attention. It found that, quite simply, we're a lot less trusting than we used to be. Not less trusting of government or the media. That's a given. No, we're a lot less trusting -- of each other.

Here's one version of the story and a bit of it below:
These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say "you can't be too careful" in dealing with people. These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. 
So what? So, a lot.

Interpersonal trust (or lack thereof) has consequences. One that comes immediately to my mind, because I'm in the middle of doing research on it, is that people who are less trusting of others are more likely to believe in wacky conspiracy theories -- either from the left or the right. Basically, less trust means you're more likely to believe in complex, insane explanations of major events that involve vast conspiracies.

Such trust has been found to be related to better health, better self control, less depression, and makes you more likely to engage in collective actions to solve problems. Read that last one again. Sound important? Like something we could use today? Sound remarkably unlike our present Congress?

So, less trust can lead to less collective action, which can easily be extended to resulting in a less functional democracy.