Spring 2013 Issue

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Social Media and Politics:
Twitter Use in a 2012 Congressional Campaign

By Julia Caplan

Many politicians now integrate Twitter into their campaigns. This study offers insight into how the Republican congressman and Democratic challenger in the 2nd Congressional District of Virginia cultivated Twitter to attract voters in the 2012 election. A content analysis of the characteristics and tactical strategies of Twitter posts revealed differing approaches. The tactical strategies employed by the candidates were determined to be calculated methods by which the candidates hoped to motivate citizens, activate voters and differentiate themselves from their competitor. Faculty mentor: Dr. Glenn Scott

Truth and Context in the 2012 Presidential Debates

By Rachel Southmayd

During the 2012 presidential campaign and specifically the three debates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sometimes made factual assertions with little regard for preciseness or context. An abundance of information available to today’s voters could not help them separate truth from political rhetoric, especially when candidates seemed more interested in buzz-worthy moments and personal digs than facts. Through media analysis of three presidential debates and three surveys, this study found that presidential debates are tools to reinforce old messages rather than convey new ones. Faculty mentor: Dr. David Copeland

Assessing Network TV Ad Watches in the 2012 Presidential Election

By Stephanie Petrich

Americans are inundated with campaign advertisements during the election cycle. Ad watches are critiques or commentary of political campaign ads, often performed by media organizations. This study analyzes the factors that best explain why media outlets evaluated certain political advertisements during the 2012 presidential election. Results revealed that ad watches by CNN, ABC and FOX News often involved a specific type of campaign advertisement, feature analyst and anchor critiques, fact-checking, and avoided advertisements that featured war imagery. Faculty mentor: Dr. Glenn Scott

Women in TV Broadcast News:
Reporters and Sources in Hard News Stories

By Mariah Irvin

Three prime-time news broadcasts were analyzed during a two-week period leading up to the 2012 presidential election. Results showed that male reporters were assigned more hard news than female reporters, and males were more likely to be assigned hard news than soft news. Male sources were used more as experts in hard news by both male and female reporters. In fact, female reporters relied on males as expert sources more than male reporters. Implications of the study include female underrepresentation as reporters and sources, probably continuing a perception of women as being in a lower social status than men. Faculty mentor: Dr. Glenn Scott

Pumping Steel and Sex Appeal:
Message Strategies and Content in Dietary Supplement Advertisements

By Joseph T. Ziemba

Dietary supplements exist in a regulatory gray area as neither a food nor a drug. As a result, fierce controversies have erupted over safety and regulation. This study analyzes the relationship between informational print ads for dietary supplements and transformational message strategies that appeal to viewer’s emotions or sense of self. The study found that supplement manufacturers may be selling their products based on better body image than actual health benefits. A lack of information about supplement ingredients and effects in ads also revealed an imbalance between information and persuasion. Faculty mentor: Dr. Glenn Scott

Motivating Behavior Change:
PSAs from a Campaign to Combat Childhood Obesity

By Maria Georgiadis

Public health campaigns seek to combat the growing rate of childhood obesity. A content analysis of the print and television public service announcements from the “Let’s Move!” campaign found consistency in messages, logos and themes, creating a campaign brand easily recognizable to publics. Messages were targeted to parents and kids of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds for appeal across a broader audience. PSAs used techniques drawn from the social cognitive theory and health belief model to increase self efficacy, influence attitudes toward childhood obesity, and motivate behavior change. Faculty mentor: Dr. Glenn Scott

The Influence of Rap and Hip-Hop Music:
An Analysis on Audience Perceptions of Misogynistic Lyrics

By Gretchen Cundiff

This study explores how college students perceive and respond to the portrayal of women when exposed to misogynistic lyrics. Based on cultivation theory, the study analyzed the lyrical content of 20 popular rap and hip-hop songs on Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart between 2000 and 2010. Song lyrics were classified into one or more of the following coding categories: demeaning language, rape/sexual assault, sexual conquest, and physical violence. Prevalent themes were power over, objectification of, and violence against women. Results indicated a positive correlation between rap/hip-hop consumption and misogynous thinking. Faculty mentor: Dr. Glenn Scott

Visual Persuasion:
The Media's Use of Images in Framing People Groups

By Caitlin O'Donnell

This article compares media framing of five groups in response to a societal catalyst that propelled them into the public spotlight: Native Americans during the Indian Wars; women during the suffrage movement; African Americans during the civil rights movement; Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor; and Muslim Americans after 9/11. A tipping point forced each group outside the “status quo,” leading to coverage that often reflected dominant prejudices of the era. Little seems to have changed during the past century in the treatment of groups outside the traditionally understood American identity. Faculty mentor: Dr. David Copeland

Portrayal of the American Legal System
in Prime Time Television Crime Dramas

By Samantha Parker

Crime dramas on prime-time network television regularly portray the nation’s legal system. A content analysis compared multiple episodes of four TV dramas (“The Good Wife,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Fairly Legal” and “Major Crimes”) to the normal legal system in respect to suspect treatment, case-building and trial length. The study found that suspect treatment is portrayed fairly accurately in prime-time crime dramas, but tendencies of exaggeration and inaccuracy exist through the case-building process and trial length. These inaccuracies and exaggerations may lead viewers to misinterpret the processes of the U.S. legal system. Faculty mentor: Dr. David Copeland