Research Publication Roundup: March 2018

A vibrant and collaborative interdisciplinary research culture at the UNC School of Media and Journalism creates new knowledge, advances scholarship and helps reinvent media. Below is a list of recently published or presented scholarship by MJ-school faculty and students.



Gaither, B. M., Austin, L., & Schulz, M. (2018). Delineating CSR and social change: Querying corporations as actors for social good. Public Relations Inquiry, 7(1), 45-61. DOI: 10.1177/2046147X17743544

This article seeks to delineate the relationship between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social change and asks the important question of whether and how corporations may serve as agents of social change. Dimensions of the business-society relationship are explored to further distinguish CSR from other types of corporate social initiatives and critically examine what types of corporate social initiatives can effectively and ethically serve as vehicles for social change. Based on this exploration, the article advances a descriptive model of business-society relationships and their capacity for creating and promoting social change. A case evaluation of Coca-Cola's '3Ws' social initiatives - related to well-being, water, and women's empowerment - is then used to highlight and contextualize the model.


Austin, L. L., & Gaither, B. M. (2017). Perceived motivations for corporate social responsibility initiatives in socially stigmatized industries. Public Relations Review, 43, 840-849. DOI: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2017.06.011

This CSR study explores how company-cause relationships and acknowledgment of benefit impacts perceived motivations and skepticism. Low-fit CSR appeared to be more in the public's interest and more values-driven than high-fit. Acknowledgment of benefit did not impact skepticism-for a socially-stigmatized company, CSR fit appears most fundamental to public response.


Jin, Y., Austin, L. L., Guidry, J., & Parrish, C. (2017). Picture this and take that: Strategic crisis visuals and visual social media in crisis communication. In S. Duhe (Ed.), New Media and Public Relations (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

The latest edition of New Media and Public Relations offers communication scholars, professionals, and students current insights on how emerging technologies challenge and change the rules of stakeholder engagement in corporate, nonprofit, and activist environments. Topics include updated thinking on mobile applications, crisis response, and ethical implications of online exchanges in addition to groundbreaking explorations into the developing arenas of personas, emojis, listening theory, and historiophoty in public relations practice. All-new content in this popular text once again delivers new thinking in public relations theory and practice for an ever-changing digital landscape.


Cates, J. R., Fuemmeler, B. F., Diehl, S. J., Stockton, L. L., Porter, J., Ihekweazu, C., ... & Coyne-Beasley, T. (2018). Developing a serious videogame for preteens to motivate HPV vaccination decision making: Land of Secret Gardens. Games for Health Journal, 7(1), 51-66.

Vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) is routinely recommended for ages 11-12, yet in 2016 only 49.5% of women and 37.5% of men had completed the three-dose series in the United States. Offering information and cues to action through a serious videogame for preteens may foster HPV vaccination awareness, information seeking, and communication. An iterative process was used to develop an interactive videogame, Land of Secret Gardens. Three focus groups were conducted and two parallel focus groups explored parents' perspectives on the game concept. Preteens wanted a game that is both entertaining and instructional. Some parents were skeptical that games could be motivational. Both boys and girls liked the garden concept and getting facts about HPV. Parents were encouraged to discuss the game with their preteens. Within a larger communication strategy, serious games could be useful for engaging preteens in health decision making about HPV vaccination.


Ekstrand, V. S. (2017). Democratic Governance, Self-Fulfillment and Disability: Web Accessibility Under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the First Amendment. Communication Law and Policy, 22(4), 427-457. DOI: 10.1080/10811680.2017.1364918

The Americans with Disabilities Act celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2015. Enacted by Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, the ADA was designed to ensure that people with disabilities are given "independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream." The ADA defines the kinds of public and private spaces that must provide access and accommodations to the disabled. Missing from that list, because of the ADA's timing, is the Internet, effectively shutting the disabled out of the rich marketplace of ideas online. This article examines both the case law surrounding this omission and delays by the executive and legislative branches in extending the ADA to the Internet. It argues that making the Internet a "place of public accommodation" under the ADA is supported by First Amendment principles of democratic governance and self-fulfillment.


Gibson, R. (2018). Same-sex marriage and social media: How online networks accelerated the marriage equality movement. London: Routledge.

According to polls, from the early noughties to now, public support for same-sex marriage has increased dramatically. Same-Sex Marriage and Social Media asks how such a rate of attitude change came about and, more specifically, what role social media played. Digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have proved to be useful outlets for political expression, and Rhonda Gibson explores how this came to benefit the marriage equality movement. This book seeks to demonstrate how the unique ability of social networks to share personal stories on a mass scale, connect like-minded individuals regardless of geography, and leverage the bandwagon effect of viral content contributed to a seismic shift in visibility and public opinion around the issue of marriage equality.


Han, J., Sung, Y. H., & Kim, D. H. (2017). Brand personality usage in crisis communication in Facebook. Journal of Promotion Management, 1-22. DOI:10.1080/10496491.2017.1408526

This study examines the role of brand personality in organizational crisis communication within the context of social media. Content analysis methods are employed to analyze brands' official Facebook posts pre- and post-crisis for a period of 7 months. Relationship maintenance strategies are examined through the lens of two sincere brands (Chick-fil-A and Susan G. Komen for the Cure) and two exciting brands (Netflix and Facebook). Findings demonstrate that organizations communicate with the public about a crisis differently depending on their products' brand personalities, both pre- and post-crisis. Findings indicated that sincere brands were more active in the management of crises by increasing networking strategy and decreasing positivity strategy. In contrast, exciting brands were relatively passive in crisis response communications, sustaining instead such pre-crisis strategies as openness. At the conclusion of this study, implications and future research are discussed.


Case, K. R., Lazard, A. J., Mackert, M. S., & Perry, C. L. (2017). Source credibility and e-cigarette attitudes: Implications for tobacco communication. Health Communication, 1-9. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2017.1331190

As there are many conflicting sources of e-cigarette information, research is needed to determine the impact of these sources on e-cigarette attitudes to inform future communication campaigns. Source credibility is important in shaping attitudes toward other health topics; however, no study has examined its role in influencing e-cigarette attitudes. Data from the 2015 Health Information National Trends Survey-FDA were utilized to assess differences in trust in different sources by e-cigarette user status and to investigate the associations between trust in sources and e-cigarette attitudes. Results from this study indicate that the associations between trust in sources of e-cigarette health effects and e-cigarette attitudes differ both by source and specific attitude assessed.


Lazard, A. J., Kowitt, S. D., Huang, L. L., Noar, S. M., Jarman, K. L., & Goldstein, A. O. (2017). Believability of cigarette warnings about addiction: National experiments of adolescents and adults. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. DOI: 10.1093/ntr/ntx185

We conducted two experiments to examine the believability of three addiction-focused cigarette warnings and the influence of message source on believability among adolescents and adults in the United States. Our findings support the implementation of FDA's required warnings that cigarettes are addictive and that nicotine is an addictive chemical. These believable warnings may deter adolescents from initiating smoking and encourage adults to quit smoking. This article describes, for the first time, the believability of different cigarette warnings about addiction. We now know that the majority of adolescents and adults believe cigarette warnings that highlight cigarettes as addictive and that nicotine is an addictive chemical in tobacco. However, a warning that highlighted the relative risk of addiction for menthol cigarettes compared to traditional cigarettes was not as believable among either population.


Lazard, A. J., Byron, M. J., Vu, H., Peters, E., Schmidt, A., & Brewer, N. T. (2017). Website designs for communicating about chemicals in cigarette smoke. Health Communication, 1-10.
DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2017.1407276

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act requires the US government to inform the public about the quantities of toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke. A website can accomplish this task efficiently, but the site's user interface must be usable to benefit the general public. We conducted online experiments with US adult smokers and nonsmokers to examine the impact of four interface display elements: the chemicals, their associated health effects, quantity information, and a visual risk indicator. Overall, interface designs displaying health effects of chemicals in cigarette smoke as text with icons and with a visual risk indicator had the greatest impact on the user experience, motivation, and potential impact of the website. Our findings provide guidance for accessible website designs that can inform consumers about the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke.


Byron, M. J., Lazard, A. J., Peters, E., Vu, H., Schmidt, A., & Brewer, N. T. (2018). Effective formats for communicating risks from cigarette smoke chemicals. Tobacco Regulatory Science, 4(2), 16-29. DOI: 10.18001/TRS.4.2.2

The US government requires the public display of information about toxic chemicals in cigarettes and smoke by brand in a way that is understandable and not misleading. We sought to identify risk communication formats that meet these goals. We conducted 3 online experiments with US adult convenience samples. Participants viewed a webpage displaying information about chemicals in the smoke of a cigarette brand. Information about chemicals and health effects increased knowledge of these topics by ~30% compared to no information. Quantity format and use of a risk indicator generally did not affect knowledge. The proportion of participants misled ranged from 0% to 92%, depending on measure. Findings indicated 52% would use a website to search for safer cigarettes. Risk communication formats did little to reduce being misled.


Sutfin, E. L., Cornacchione Ross, J., Lazard, A. J., Orlan, E., Suerken, C. K., Wiseman, K. D., ... & Noar, S. M. (2017). Developing a point-of-sale health communication campaign for cigarillos and waterpipe tobacco. Health communication, 1-9. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2017.1407277

Adolescents and young adults smoke waterpipe tobacco (WT) and cigarillos, at least in part, based on erroneous beliefs that these products are safer than cigarettes. To address this challenge, we used a systematic, three-phase process to develop a health communication campaign to discourage WT and cigarillo smoking among at-risk 16- to 25-year-olds. Participants rated intervention and control messages highly with few differences between them. Exposure to messages resulted in significant increases in all risk beliefs from pre to post. For WT, intervention messages increased beliefs about addiction more than control messages. This systematic, iterative approach resulted in messages that show promise for discouraging WT and cigarillo use.


Benedict, C., Victorson, D., Love, B., Fuehrer, D., Lazard, A., Saffer, A. J., ... & Zachary, M. (2017). The Audacity of engagement: Hearing directly from young adults with cancer on their attitudes and perceptions of cancer survivorship and cancer survivorship research. Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology. DOI: 10.1089/jayao.2017.0038

Young adult (YA) cancer survivors have been historically under-represented in cancer survivorship research, which has contributed to more disparate health outcomes compared with young and older cancer survivors. Using qualitative methods, this study explored YAs' perceptions of cancer survivorship and identified YA-specific barriers and preferences for participation in cancer survivorship research. Specific barriers for participation included perceptions of research being inaccessible, overwhelming, and frustrating; participation as inconvenient and burdensome; and researchers being viewed with skepticism and mistrust. Communication strategies are needed to address negative perceptions and perceived barriers to research participation. This includes tailoring of dissemination efforts and developmentally targeted implementation of YA priorities into the research process.


Wenger, D. H., Owens, L. C., & Cain, J. (2017). Help Wanted: Realigning Journalism Education to Meet the Needs of Top US News Companies. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. DOI: 10.1177/1077695817745464

Journalism programs working to stay current with industry practice often struggle to do so without forgoing traditional journalism skills and attributes. This longitudinal study involves content analysis of more than 1,800 jobs posted in either 2010 or 2015 by companies listed among the top 10 newspaper and broadcast journalism companies in the United States. The researchers found an increased demand for employee skills in social media and audience engagement, and a significant trend toward seeking candidates that exhibit web/multimedia skills, teamwork, and the ability to work under pressure and tight deadlines.


Riffe, D., Kim, S., & Sobel, M. R. (2018). News Borrowing Revisited: A 50-Year Perspective. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. DOI: 1077699018754909

Analyzing 50 years' of New York Times international news coverage, this study extends research on the "shrinking international news hole," levels of press freedom, agent (e.g., Times correspondent), and "borrowed" news-information gleaned from local media, including social media. Data show a recent, growing role for social media and an increase in news borrowing, while foreign coverage declined; slight resurgence in foreign coverage during the last quarter-century; reduced wire copy use but increased correspondent news borrowing; and increased coverage of but decreased news borrowing in news from non-free nations. Borrowing from social media was greatest in non-free nations.


Rohde, J. A., Wang, Y., Cutino, C. M., Dickson, B. K., Bernal, M. C., Bronda, S., ... & Farraye, F. A. (2018). Impact of disease disclosure on stigma: An experimental investigation of college students' reactions to inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of Health Communication, 23(1), 91-97. DOI: 10.1080/10810730.2017.1392653

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a serious chronic illness that affects 1 in 200 people in the United States with the majority of new cases of IBD diagnosed in young people under the age of 35. Despite the growing number of people who are diagnosed each year, the consequences of health-related stigma faced by young people grappling with the effects of IBD are understudied. This experimental investigation explored the existence of enacted stigma among college students, a population that faces many social and psychological challenges due to the added emotional stresses brought about by the transition from high school and adolescence to college and adulthood. Results indicate that enacted stigma among college students toward other students with IBD decreases when disclosure of the disease is present. Results also suggest that greater knowledge of the nature and symptoms of IBD positively correlates to decreased stigma.


Roush, C. (Ed.). (2018). Master class: Teaching advice for journalism and mass communication instructors. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

In Master Class: Teaching Advice for Journalism and Mass Communication Instructors, members of the AEJMC Elected Standing Committee on Teaching take readers behind the scenes to explain the teaching strategies, preparation tips, exercises, and project ideas that have, in many cases, earned them university and national teaching awards. It is designed to benefit everyone from instructors-in-training who are about to teach their first class to more experienced professors who are looking for ways to freshen their approach in the classroom. A companion website with additional resources can be found at