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2016 Research Papers

Below are the blind peer-reviewed research papers that were selected for presentation for the 2016 symposium event. Listed in alphabetic order by first author.

James Breiner, University of Navarra (Spain): The Economics of Accountability Journalism: What Price Is Right?
The declining supply of high-quality accountability journalism, also referred to as investigative or watchdog journalism, can be viewed from an economic perspective as a pricing problem. This costly journalism has never paid for itself. It has been subsidized by advertising or by government, so its value to the audience has never been measured in a pure market environment. With the loss of advertising and staff cuts, accountability journalism has suffered. Now publishers, government, and the public are, in effect, negotiating in a new digital marketplace to establish a price for this valuable information service and who will pay for it.

Danielle Kilgo and Vinicio Sinta, University of Texas at Austin: Six things you didn't know about headline writing: Sensational form in viral news of traditional and digitally native news organizations
From the listicle to the personalized headline, sensational form has become prevalent in online content. Interacting with online news articles through liking, sharing and commenting is one of the most popular social media forms of audience interactions with news organizations in modern times. Using a content analysis of viral Facebook news articles, this study examines the degree to which sensational forms appear in headline writing, including forward referencing, personalization, "soft" news structures and listicles. Findings suggest that while both types of organizations use these strategies, digitally native organizations are more likely to employ sensationalistic tactics in headlines while traditional organizations are more likely to appear in viral news for breaking stories. The discussion suggests that audience preference and expectation from specific news organizations may indicate content success.

Jeremy Littau, Lehigh University and Mi Rosie Jahng, Hope College: Interactivity, social presence, and journalistic use of Twitter
This study explored the extent of journalists’ use of Twitter in terms of interactivity and social cue using a content analysis of journalists’ Twitter profiles (N = 555). Journalists with more personal and professional details on Twitter profiles were more likely to be highly interactive, a relationship that predicts higher perceptions of credibility based on past research. Results suggest the need for journalists to utilize interactivity more for increasing their impact on Twitter.

Zhaoxi Liu, Trinity University: Toward Omnipresent Journalism: A Case Study of the Real-Time Coverage of the San Antonio Spurs 2014 NBA Championship Game
Based on a field study, this paper examines how the San Antonio Express News practiced omnipresent journalism in its coverage of the Spurs’ NBA 2014 championship game. This study refines the concept of omnipresent journalism as having two dimensions: time (real-time coverage) and space (on multiple platforms); and consisting of three rounds of news presentation: live tweets, real-time website updates and print paper. Such omnipresent journalism primes mobile journalism and requires journalists to be proficient in multitasking while prioritizing their tasks. Meanwhile, in the omnipresent news environment, journalists have perceived the print newspaper as the holy grail of quality journalism. Journalists also need to brace themselves for glitches, technological and otherwise.

Susan McGregor and Elizabeth Anne Watkins, Columbia University: "Security by Obscurity": Journalists' Mental Models of Information Security
Despite wide-ranging threats and tangible risks, journalists have not done much to change their information or communications security practices in recent years. Through in-depth interviews, we provide insight into how journalists conceptualize security risk. By applying a mental models framework, we identify a model of "security by obscurity"–one that persists across participants despite varying levels of investigative experience, information security expertise and job responsibilities. We find that the prevalence of this model is attributable at least in part to poor understandings of technological communication systems, and recommend future research directions in developing educational materials focused on these concepts.

Hans Meyer and Burton Speakman, Ohio University: Quieting the Commenters: The Spiral of Silence's Persistent Effect on Online News Forums
The Internet may help overcome the Spiral of Silence because posters can remain anonymous. Forum moderators could alleviate some concerns by imposing group norms, such as moderation, to ensure civility. Through a nationwide survey, this study focuses specifically on comments at the end of news stories to examine the impact journalists can have on the conversation. Despite online advantages, the study finds the spiral of silence persists, but journalists who noticeably moderate comments have an effect. The key to overcoming the spiral of silence is helping commenters feel part of a community with other forum participants.

Leonard Witt, Farooq Kperogi, Claire Bohrer, and Solomon Negash, Kennesaw University and Gwenette Writer Sinclair, CEO/Owner, 1Virtual World Development: Journalism: How One University Used Virtual Worlds to Tell True Stories
This case study demonstrates a relatively low-cost, quick-startup project that advances work in virtual world immersive journalism; in this case, to amplify the voices of often marginalized youth in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Using ethnographic and survey research, it provides insights into producing "machinimas" (videos filmed in virtual worlds) to tell journalistic stories using virtual world tools, props, scenery and avatars, and provides a prototype for college-level journalism, communication and media studies programs considering initiating their own immersive journalism and virtual reality journeys.

Lu Wu, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Did you get the buzz? Are digital native media becoming mainstream?
The term "digital native media" describes media companies that were born and grown entirely online. Recently digital native media companies have been repositioning themselvesaway from viral aggregation of second-hand content to generating quality journalism at a level competing with the best old line media. According to media ecology scholars, a nascent media outlet will tend to adopt traditional organizational forms and mimic standard production routines and practices of legacy media, in part to seek legitimacy and stability. This study performed a content analysis of eight years of news content published on BuzzFeed.com. The results showed that while BuzzFeed remains in the early stages of establishing itself as a news organization, it has gradually adopted newsroom routines resulting in more hard news stories that use more official sources.

University of Texas at Austin | Moody College of Communication | School of Journalism | Knight Center Journalism in the Americas