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=Convergence & Society: Science, health and new dimensions for communications=
<I>These are running notes by Bill Densmore of the [http://sc.edu/cmcis/newsplex/FallConf2010/index.html ninth-annual Convergence and Society conference] at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. on Oct. 11-12, 2010.</I>
<I>These are running notes by Bill Densmore of the [http://sc.edu/cmcis/newsplex/FallConf2010/index.html ninth-annual Convergence and Society conference] at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. on Oct. 11-12, 2010. If your study is reported here, please feel free to review for accuracy and use the wiki features to make corrections, add material or link off to another site. Or just [mailto:densmorew@rjionline.org email me] with updating material and I'll put it in.</I>
==Monday morning, Oct. 11==  
==Monday morning, Oct. 11==  

Revision as of 21:36, 11 October 2010


Convergence & Society: Science, health and new dimensions for communications

These are running notes by Bill Densmore of the ninth-annual Convergence and Society conference at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. on Oct. 11-12, 2010. If your study is reported here, please feel free to review for accuracy and use the wiki features to make corrections, add material or link off to another site. Or just email me with updating material and I'll put it in.

Monday morning, Oct. 11

Dean Charles Bierbauer of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, provides a short introduction.

Andrea Tanner, a conference co-chair, talks about a campus-wide effort on science and health communication. They also have a graduate certificate in health communications. It’s an expanding program, for working professionals and for graduate students.

Keynote speaker tonight is Elizabeth Cohen, a science correspondent for CNN. She’ll talk about challenges and opportunities of reporting medical and science.

Why do mental-health patients blog? – Yifeng Hu

Today’s first presenter is by Yifeng Hu of the College of New Jersey. She has been studying mental health blogs authored by patients. She says there are few studies on patient-authored health blogs and mental health is an often-ignored topic. One finding: Mental-health bloggers keep blogging even when nobody comments. She asked, “Why?” She wonders, is the public ignoring the giving part of social support.

She interviewed the mental-health patient bloggers and found that many of the patients expressed a desire to want to help others. Her theory: Is this sort of altruistic behavior good for their mental health? By projecting outward, and disengaging from self-reference, might that enhance their quality of life, Hu postulated?

So she asked two questions:

  • Are mental health bloggers more motivated to help others or to seek to help from others?
  • What are the relationships which result?

Did the blogging result in decreased absenses from work, improved emotional, cognitive or behavior? She started with two mental-health blog directories and selected blogs that have been updated at least once in six months to conduct her research. Her study sample included 162 blogs. She emailed them, wrote on their guest pages (if they had one) or commented on their latest blog entries. A total of 57 percent agreed to participate in her study. She also posted to mental-health group bloggers on Facebook. She verified their blog and their identity, asked them to complete an online survey and a $10 gift card as an incentive and ended up with 50 cases.

Most are female, middle-age and Caucasian and 88 percent have some college experience. Most are unemployed or homemakers and 64 percent live in the United States. A total of 96 percent have been diagnosted with a mental disorder and the top three disorders were depression (62 percent), bipolar disorder (52 percent) and anxiety disorders (48 percent).


  • “Mental health bloggers are more motivated to help than to seek help,” says Hu. She says mental-health patients often have a sense of shame because of historical views of their illness. This is partly because they are afraid of being stigmatized if they seek help and their condition becomes know among co-workers or others.
  • ”The helping motive is positive related to all perceived benefits,” because as mental-health patients reach out to help others, they gain a new perspective – their own health issues become less important.


  • Able to reach a population that is normally extremely hard to reach
  • Went beyond descriptive nature of content analysis
  • Provided a better understanding of blog media – this is one reason why people blog without feedback – they have altruistic motives
  • Suggests a new direction for examination of roles and effects of social media in health
  • Added empiracle evidence to the altruism literature

Limitations and future research

  • Need a larger (more than 50), more representative population
  • Need a longitudinal study or experiment to establish the causation
  • Use blogs to advocate against mental illness stigma?
  • Provide lessons for other social media and other types of content beyond mental health


Would results have been different if the 50 study participants were not diagnosed? She feels it doesn’t matter if they are diagnosed as long as they perceive they have mental health issues and blog about those issues. She does not think the results would differ. The reason most participants were diagnosed (based on self report) may surprise some people, but research shows most people who search for health information on the web end up going to their doctors. So that’s probably why most study participants were diagnosed.

Social web and prostate cancer – Alxis Koskan

Prostate cancer is the most-diagnosed cancer among men – 32,050 have died so far in 2010 and there were 217,730 cases reported in the U.S. this year. The highest rate among African American men is in South Carolina. There is debate about whether to get a blood test to check for the prostate-cancer antigen. Sometimes men receive a high score, even though the disease may be very early stage and the result can be treatment that has adverse side effects – urinary infections, incontinence and impotence. She studied websites and social-media services which address public-health information and doctor-patient decision-making on what to do about prostate cancer.


  • Recommend shared decisionmaking
  • Check credibility of blogs which have no authorship info
  • Half the sites don’t have mobilizing info – what to do next

Next steps

  • Need a readability and cultural sensitivity study of cancer websites. Perhaps they are written at too high a level.
  • Consider the users of the sites and what the need

Studying journalism curriculum convergence

Despite this conference and efforts, there are still more journalism programs nationwide that are siloed among print, broadcast and web than converged. The effort of sessions today is to understand how to change that through discussions, through the #convcurriculum and @convcurriculum Twitter feeds, through a blog.

Communicating health messages to baby boomers – Simon Hudson

Researcher Simon Hudson at the Univ. of South Carolina shows examples of video health messages. Baby boomers feel younger than they are, so it’s important to appeal to youth. Another example shows treating health information like coverage of sports. Financial-service companies promote retirement as a personalization process. One ad focuses on men, because they go to doctors 25 percent less than women, need to go for the sake of children and the family – who’s going to look after the kids. There is a public-service ad from the government called “Real men wear gowns” (patient surgical gowns). Another ad repositions hearing aids as “Personal Communication Aid.” Some 80 percent of boomers have some hearing loss. Provide detailed information, tell a story, boomers want relevance, so the info-mmercial is making a comeback. Product placement is a powerful way ot get a message across. Public-health organizations are work on this now. Examples; Judging Amy and HIV in Southern California and Soul City in South Africa. Real stories. Boomers are connected and are online, but only 4 percent get their messages through social networking. Closes with this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNV5bgsv984

Health disparity news: An experiment with journalists / Univ. of Missouri

Study principally by Amanda Hinnant, Hyun Jee Oh at the University of Missouri. Hinnant presents:

Premises of study: Exposure to disparity, or progress-framed stories affects disparity population (black consumers). Do they respond positively to progress-framed (“positive”) stories and respond negatively to disparity-framed (“negative”) stories.

Two questions

  • Do media gatekeepers erceive disparity or progress-frames tories as more newsowrkty
  • Does it make a different whether gatekeepers know how disparity populations reat to different frames.


  • Journalists who read a disparity-frame story will give higher news value scores than those who read progress framed story regardless of inoculation.
  • Inoculation with findings from the Nichols study will affect differences.


They studied 179 newspaper health journalist and studied variables including publishability, framing, editorial context, information-seeking effects and salience. The study was done entirely online. Half the participants read the “inoculation” – a background on Nicholson findings. The other half did not. Then they framed the same story (as far as facts) in two different ways. For example: “Blacks making great strides against colon cancer” vs. “Black-white gap in colon cancer growing”

What they found was that for people who hadn’t read the Nicholson study tended to publish the disparity story and not the progress story by a huge margin, compared to those who had read the Nicholson research, who rated the publishability of the good vs. bad stories as about equal.

Their conclusion – increasing the exposure of journalists to the Nicholson study will increase the instance of publishing stories with a positive frame. “The Nicholson information could have a pro-social effect.” Future research should look at the Nicholson effct on different media outlets an different health-disparity issues.

Reproductive health issues in South Carolina

  • More than 60% of high-school seniors have had sexual interecourse
  • Youths ages 15-24 account for almost half of new sexually transmitted infection cases in South Carolina
  • Three out of 10 young women will become pregnant at least once before they reach age 20
  • Births to young mothers cost South Carolina taxpayers $156 million annually

Problems: Policymakers are under or uninformed about societal and economic impacts of reproductive-health isseus; there’s lack of funding; unwillingness to acknowledge the problem; challenge to make sure young women in rural South Carolina are exposed to medically accurate information and have access to needed services.

A solution: The “Tell Them” virtual coalition in South Carolina


“We stand together, a unified voice of reason, in support of age appropriate reproductive health education for all South Carolinians.”

  • Challenge: How to unite 80 percent of the state’s voters who are said to believe in comprehensive sex-education and responsible reproductive health policy – and how to engage them in legislative advocacy efforts. The effort focused on using the web and online tools, rather than than trying to get people to drive two or more hours to the state capitol grounds for a rally. The repositioned the message to reach an older, mainstream audience to appeal to their sense of caring.

The “Tell Them” virtual coalition emerged 3.5 years ago, to enable constituents to let legislators know where they stand on important public health issues. The premises of the campaign is that every young woman in South Carolina:

  • Deserves a chance to reach her full potential
  • Has the right to receive age-appropriate, comprehensive sexual health education.
  • Has a right to access uncensored health information, counseling and services.

It uses a website, an array of digital communications vehicles including email, tweets and social networks. Members are kept informed about critical reproductive health issues and approaching legislative activities. Strategies included:

  • Get older, influential women from the state to be “ambassadors” for the cause
  • Develop a dynamic, cross-media campaign linked to website and blog and using legacy media and PR
  • ”Ambassadors” reach out to peers through channels and make personal please for the cause
  • Created a network of men and women interested in preventing teen pregnancy and HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases.

Some metrics

  • A total of 9,329 web visits and 26,498 page views since in March.
  • Average of just over one minute per page – linked from 248 pages
  • Recruited 3,966 marchers who registered online
  • The “Virtual March” landing page received 7,544 page views.
  • On March 23 (day of march) had almost 4,000 virtual marchers involved
  • Membership was around 6,000 after the “march” About 3,500 Facebook fans
  • Total of 1,100 emails to state legislators.
  • Op-ends in five targeted papers and national coverage from 215 national media outlets.


  • E-advocacy and virtual marches worth trying for other advocacy issues
  • Virtual march allows for engagement despite geographic location
  • Social media such as Facebook and Twitter provide useful tools
  • But traditional PR and marketing including F2F contact still needed to maintain engagement and get people to take action


Studying journalism curriculum convergence

Despite this conference and efforts, there are still more journalism programs nationwide that are siloed among print, broadcast and web than converged. The effort of sessions today is to understand how to change that through discussions, through the #convcurriculum and @convcurriculum Twitter feeds, through a blog.

What are some things journalism curricula must now include?

Discussion comments/suggestions:

  • Students still have a hard time thinking about where to send people with links outside of their story. Journalism curriculum needs to teach people how to be better infovalets.
  • Building a Twitter list of sources.
  • Co-teaching of courses between journalism and public health (or other disciplines)

The Popularity of Online News

Pamela Shoemaker, Philip R. Johnson / Syracuse University

A study within several countries about the popularity of online news – how does it become popular and what are the stories which are most popular. They checked China News163, the New York Times website and Brazil oGlobo and Russia’s Kommersant.

Readers have be come gatekeepers. Methods of making making news popular.

They did one month of data collection. News goes thorugh three channels: Source channel, online media and audience channel. Statistical, social change and theoretical signficance measured. Also studied writing style: People want information that elps them – are their personal pronouns, anecdotes, vividness. Highly complex items becomes

How do the popular articles differ among the four countries as determined by the readers? What’s missing? Soft news and opinion-type news items did not differentiate.

What does this mean:

Uses different criterial than editors

Readers favor features, dislikes crime.

Do newspapers know or care what audience thingks?

iPad or iMag: Will Younger News Consumers Take to the Tablet?

Presenter: Steve Collins, scollins@mail.ucf.edu, with Tim Brown, timbrown@mail.ucf.edu; Nicholson School of Communication, University of Central Florida

They start by showing the Newsday advertising for their iPad newspaper application.

The premise: Newspapers trying to do it over – instead of a free web, how about charging for an iPad app. The question: Would you use an iPad and if so what for other than games and pornography. They did the survey at the University of Central Florida before the iPad actually came out – by showing videos of coming apps.

One in four students said they would pay for newspaper or magazine content.

  • 86% would read digita NP if they don’ they don’t have to pay for it.
  • 30% would pay $5 for an app
  • 27% would pay $1/week for digital NP
  • 91% said tthey would use table to read digitral Mag for free
  • 24% said they would pay $3 for digital version of Mag
  • 33% said they would pay $15 for annual digital subscript

What doesn’t matter:

  • Gender
  • race
  • ethnicity – but Hispanic more likely to adopt than non-Hispanic
  • age
  • Degree of using Internet for social information seeking (tablet seen as fun, social device)
  • But this doesn’t mean that all groups read same content; only suggests that there are opportunities to reach different groups.

“You can build a niche audience here. If your magazine targets Latino women, you don’t have to say that’s great but that’s now how Latino women use the iPad.”

  • It also doesn’t make a difference whether a people read a newspaper or magazine yesterday. But people who went online yesterday for news were more likely to say they would adopt the iPad than others.
  • But those who consume more outlets – newspapers, magazines and online—are also more likely to predict they would use tablet for newspaper or magazine, free or paid.

Students were predicting future behavior which is always a caveat.

Tweeting the news: An interpretative textual analysis of journalists’ Twitter messages

Presenter: Charles J. Hartman, M.A., University of Kentucky Cjhart2@mail.uky.edu

  • Twitter.com launched in 2006 as a site for microblogging in 140 characters or less.
  • The social network included 25 million registered users in May 2009, up from six million in October 2008 (Arrington, 2009; Swisher, 2008).
  • On Jan. 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549, carrying 155, people, ended up landing in the Hudson River. The first report came from a city employee who snapped a photo and posted a tweet from his cell phone.
  • Muck Rack http://www.muckrack.com identifies which journalists are posting the most messages on Twitter and displays the most recent messages posted by journalists on Twitter. As of May 2010, the online directory had more than 1,000 journalists>
  • There are six ways pople use it: To retweet with or without a link, to tweet with or without a link or replying with or without a link. The second most likely use was commenting on some else’s news tweek. Less than third of the messages are headlines and a link. Personal daily life details was the third most used purpose.
  • Journalists appear to have found an avenue from which they can promote their work and others’ reporting to thousands of readers with one message.

Students and “Friend-ucation”

Heather Halter from Univ. of Central Florida / hhalter@knights.ucf.edu

Question: Why are students draw to social networking sites? What are their intentions? If you could answer that, you could determine how to use social media in the classroom. So they examined student movitation and satisfaction. Literature finds social networks fulfill multiple needs, and the motivations are different from motivations for using the Internet generally.


  • What are college students motivations for using social networking sites?
  • Are college students satisified with their use?

They surveyed 750 students at the University of South Florida. They were given 32 motiviation statements in a list and 32 satisfaction statements and questions about use in education in a list and asked to comment.

They use it for relationship management, the pass time and for information seeking. They are overall “very satisfied with using it. “In many cases social networking sites exceeded their expectations for what they were intending to use it for.”

Educational motivation

A convenient way to maintain relationships with classmates, an entertaining way to get class and homework information and as a way to pass time. They also use it to communicate with their instructor. But, although they were motivated to use social networking sites for classwork, they didn’t like the experience.

95.7 percent of students surveyed use Facebook and 96.9 percent use a social networking site. “Just about every single college kid is on this site. They were split half and half about whether they wanted to use social networking in a class. But 85.2 percent said they would join a Facebook Group for their class.

So in general they don’t want use social networking sites for education. But she thinks that’s because such sites haven’t been implemented in a appealing way. She thinks if instructors implement sites the way students want them done, students would use them. She suggests starting a Facebook group.

Future research ideas

  • Would like more information about uses and gratifications in education and more case studies, more qualititative students and – especially – more attention paid to new media. Maybe, for example, college students won’t like Facebook as much in a few years.

Function analysis comparison of web-only ads and traditional tv ads from 2004 and 2008 campaigns

Presenter: Chris Roberts of the University of Alabama

He shows “The One” ad by John McCain from the 2008 campaign – an “antichrist” Obama ad.

  • Web only ads attract attention from MSM but at little or no cost
  • They can target specific demographics and create a a viral effect

Elections are inherently comparative because a choice has to be made so ads are meant to acclaim, attack or defend a policy or character. Over the summer they watched 817 presidential campaign ads from 2004 (237) and 2008 (580). They coded them all. They came close to getting most all of them. About 30 percent of the ads did more than one of the things Benoit suggests (attack, acclaim, defend). They looked for the third-party evidence the ads cited. In 2004 there were only eight web-only ads and 229 traditional. In 2008 there were 67 web only ads of the 580 surveyed.

Most TV ads were about acclaiming a position. But it was less than half the time in the web-only ads. Web ads tend to be attacking or 72 percent. Generally they were about attacking character. Question: “Why are we nice on television and mean online?” He thinks ads have to be more entertaining on the web and attacking is more entertaining. On the web, there is less concern about angering general audiences. They are also good for reinforcing your base. Attack ads are more likely to have evidence regardless of communication channel.

Observations during Q&A session

Roberts surprised in doing research that when newspaper reports are deceptively used to bolster arguments in political adds he is surprised how seldom do newspapers call out the deception. He’s not sure why this is.

Effect of Music Priming on Issue Perception, Recall and News Credibility of Photo Slide Shows

Presented by Quint Randle (study collaborators were John Davies and Maurianne Dunn, Brigham Young University

ISSUE: More and more news organizations are using music in their presentations of news. Does the type of music tend to make an editorial judgement about the story being covered?

Research theory

  • Priming effects – How does music create a point of view by the viwer
  • Exemplification -- Does music overpower actual cognitive information in piece?
  • Music & emotion – Music arouses emotions
  • Music & cognition – In advertising, music increases recall
  • News credibility – How does music affect online news credibility?

The music was the independent variable. Survey participants did not know they were being surveyed about the effect of music, the were just asked to watch news clips, some of which had music and some of which didn’t.

Compared music added to the start of a report on China pollution

Results: Music treatments have no apparent difference in perceptions of the seriousness of the China pollution problems. The music did contribute to recall. But there was no difference in terms of credibility between the no music groups and the others.

They are baffled by the results.

Comments during the Q&A

Quint Randle: Bothered by the fact that so much teaching is done about the techniques (technical and otherwise) rather than the substance.

Postmodern Epidemics Perpetuated Through Traditional and New Media

Presenters: Tony DeMars of Texas A&M University and Leo Chan of University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Book: Deception from Ancient Times to Internet Dating

Study demographics. Not a random sample.


Missouri Western Univ. research – Robert Bergland

First study: Looking at the content of Mexican news websites

Presenter: Austin Jacobs

18 of 120 newspapers didn’t have websites at all. Twenty-eight percent of the sites were operated for newspapers by an aggregator/service provider and they all looked similar and had the same multimedia features. The rest (just over half) had their own websites.

Extent of features on the websites didn’t correlate with the size of the print newspapers. Of 102 websites, 49 had video, a couple had audio slideshows, 72 had photo galleries, a couple had games, about 16 had audio on their websites and some 39 had podcasts..

Of 39 websites with video surveyed, 30 had video supplied by the newspapers, 18 had video supplied by another media website such as a TV station ,and nine had video supplied by amateurs or user. Only four newspapers generated their own original podcasts. Features that enable redistribution are the most heavily used.

Second study: U.S. weekly newspaper websites content analysis

Presenter: Todd Fuller

He sites three previous studies as part of his literature review. He adopted a 31-item matrix.

  • 43% of weeklies with circulations less than 2,500 had no website. Sometimes a website was listed and it was no longer there. For those 2,500 to 5,000 30% had websites; for 5,000 to 15,00 30% had websites and from 15,000 to 125,000 range 18% had websites.

Photo galleries were very popular, on 61 percent of all sites, almost none (4 percent) had audio, 6 percent had TV, five percent had user-generated video and 32 percent had their own-generated video.

Of the sites, 57 percent offered the option to share stories, 22 percent had a twitter feed and 25 percent had their own Facebook page.

Sixty-three percent allowed comments, 27 percent blogs, 10 percent reader blogs, 27 percent polls, and five percent forums. Biggest local content feature was obits (75 percent), free archives (58 percent), multiple updates (43 percent), e-editions (27 percent). Very few charged for e-editions; they just put up the PDF.

Thirty-five percent of the weekly websites had registration and 10 percent required registration for access to some type of content.

He surveyed 365 papers out of 6,055 weekly papers in the United States. And of those 365 there were only 246 that had websites. They only had class time to make one pass at a website.


  • Weeklies lag behind dailies
  • Circulation size and finances most likely reason
  • Study not exhaustive but provides starting point for future
  • Free vs. paid and circulation sizes are of issue; he didn’t bother to pay

THIRD STUDY: Looking at magazine websites

Researcher: Emily Gummelt; presented by Bob Bergland

Research question: How common is it for magazine websites to encourage the reader to follow them on Facebook or Twitter? How many or what percentage of sites have slideshows?

Emily looked at the top 100 magazines in circulation in the United States, based on circulation figures from 2008. She wanted to see how features have changed over the past three years, especially re multimedia, interactivity and distribution (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Interesting findings: AARP’s magazine has 22 million print circulation but that and the AAA publications are noncommercial, so she ignored. A few magazine websites required payment so she ignored.

Findings: Video and slideshows dominate – 70% to 80% of sites have them, but audio is under 20% and has declined over three years. Sixty-six percent of sites have blogs and comments, 30% have reader polls and about 25% have forums.

Compared to 2007 the big changes: Video up, audio down, blogs up, comment sections down a bit, RSS feeds steady at being offered by about 60% of sites and the “most popular” readout was up dramatically from 20% to 50% of sites.


  • Multimedia going up
  • Slower transition to web features and tools than newspapers