Research Publication Roundup: October 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.




Guidry, J. P. D., Austin, L. L., Carlyle, K. E., Freberg, K., Cacciatore, M., Jin, Y., & Messner, M. (online first, 2018). Welcome or Not: Comparing #Refugee Posts on Instagram and Pinterest. American Behavioral Scientist.

The Syrian refugee crisis, started in 2011, has resulted in millions of Syrians fleeing their homes: 6.6 million have been internally displaced and more than 4.6 million have fled the country. This flow of refugees has led to both humanitarian efforts to assist refugees and growing views of refugees as a threat to receiving countries’ security and autonomy. Sentiments about the still-growing crisis are increasingly expressed on social media platforms, including visual ones like Instagram and Pinterest. However, little is known about what and how information about refugees is presented on these platforms. The current study addresses this gap by conducting a quantitative content analysis of a random sample of 750 Instagram posts and 750 Pinterest posts to evaluate and compare visual and textual messaging surrounding this crisis. Results show that Pinterest messages more frequently depict security-concern sentiment and include more unique visual components than Instagram. Across platforms, security-concern posts were more likely to be framed thematically; whereas most humanitarian-concern posts were framed episodically. The study concludes with a discussion of implications for communication scholars and practitioners that may inform the development of visual-based social-mediated messaging.


Gaither, B. M., Austin, L.L., & Collins, M. (2018). Examining the case of Dick’s Sporting Goods: Realignment of stakeholders through corporate social advocacy. Journal of Public Interest Communications, 2(2).

This study examined corporate social advocacy and political activism through the case of DICK’s Sporting Goods and the company’s recent stance on gun control reform. Themes related to stakeholders, corporate values, and activism versus advocacy were explored through an interview with DICK’s President, documentation including an interview with DICK’s CEO and statements from the company, and a social media content analysis of 3,000 public tweets to DICK’s in the wake of the announcement. Findings revealed that DICK’s actions extended beyond corporate social advocacy into corporate political activism, partly driven by secondary stakeholders. This action created an opportunity for DICK’s to redefine and realign stakeholders while making corporate values clearer to these stakeholder groups.


Jin, Y., Austin, L.L., Eaddy, L., Spector, S., Reber, B., & Espina, C. (2018). How financial crisis history informs ethical corporate communication: Insights from corporate communication leaders. Public Relations Review, 44, 574-584.

This study explored how financial crisis history can inform corporate crisis communication practice across industries and over time. Thirty-eight interviews with chief communications officers (CCOs) and their counselors were conducted to explore what lasting lessons these corporate communication leaders learned from their crisis communication practice during the 2008 Financial Crisis. Key lessons learned include: 1) the importance for corporations to tailor their financial communication strategies according to victim vs. perpetrator perception and ethical response expectations held by stakeholders; 2) the importance of stakeholders, and employees in particular, when creating and implementing the plan; 3) the balance between speed and legal concerns, as well as the need for reducing complexity by making sure stakeholder communications are delivered with clarity and accessibility; and 4) a recipe for success includes honesty, transparency, trust/integrity, taking action to reform questionable practices, and abiding by one’s own personal morals. Insights from this study shed light on how learning contributes to ethical corporate communication practice in times of crisis and crisis spillover.


Napoli, P. M., & Dwyer, D. L. (2018). US media policy in a time of political polarization and technological evolution. Publizistik, 1-19.

This article examines the state of U.S. media policy (and policymaking) through the lens of the political polarization that has become a fundamental dimension of virtually all aspects of American political life. The authors review the key issues confronting media policymakers today, with an eye toward identifying how these issues — and the ways in which they are being addressed — reflect the increasingly contentious and ideologically polarized nature of the U.S. political environment. This political polarization has manifested itself in contemporary media policymaking in a variety of ways that have led to dramatic deviations in established policy directions, departures from established procedural norms, gaps in analytical logic, and, ultimately, concerns about the integrity of the policymaking process. Additionally, this article also illustrates the ways in which the existing framework for media regulation and policymaking in the United States is increasingly disconnected from the media technologies and platforms that are becoming central to the contemporary media ecosystem. These disconnects represent an additional impediment to coherent and effective media policymaking.


Mackert, M., Guadagno, M., Lazard, A., Donovan, E., Rochlen, A., Garcia, A., Damásio, M., & Crook, B. (2018) Engaging Men in Prenatal Health via e-Health: Findings from a National Survey. JMIR Pediatrics and Parenting. 1(2), e7.

Pregnancy outcomes in the United States rank among the worst of countries with a developed health care system. Although traditional prenatal health primarily focuses on women, promising findings have emerged in international research that suggests the potential of including men in prenatal health interventions in the United States. eHealth apps present a promising avenue to reach new and expectant fathers with crucial parenting knowledge and healthy, supportive behaviors. The aim of this study was to explore the perceived role of men in prenatal health, the acceptability of eHealth to positively engage men during pregnancy, and participant-suggested ways of improving a prenatal health app designed for new and expectant fathers. A nationally representative sample of adult males (N=962) was recruited through an online survey panel. Despite perceived barriers, such as time constraints, financial burdens, and an unclear role, men believe it is important to be involved in pregnancy health. The majority of participants (81.6%) found the site to contain useful and interesting information. Most substantially, more than three-quarters (76.7%) of the sample said they would share the site with others who would benefit from the information. Results indicate men are favorable to this intervention. Reaching men at the prenatal phase is an early “teachable moment” — where new/expectant fathers are open to information on how to help their partners have a healthy pregnancy and promote the health of their unborn children. Findings will further inform best practices for engaging men in pregnancy, which is crucial for improving maternal and child health outcomes in the United States.

Harker, J., & Saffer, A. J. (2018). Mapping a subfield’s sociology of science: A 25-year network and bibliometric analysis of the knowledge construction of sports crisis communication. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 42(5), 269–392.

Sport crisis communication research has emerged as a substantial subfield of communication, sport communication, and crisis communication. The purpose of this study is to assess the development and diffusion of the subfield’s scholarly works to uncover the influential authors, theories, and journals central to the subfield’s knowledge construction process. This study charted the development of the subfield by combining network analysis and bibliometric methods. Analysis of 25 years of scholarship in 25 journals revealed seven major areas of focus in sport crisis communication with an emphasis on applied and critical cultural scholarship. Furthermore, the research indicated that the Journal of Sport & Social Issues played an integral and interdisciplinary role in supporting the emergence of this area of study. The researchers argue that the subfield holds great opportunity for future growth, most notably in empirical research.

Morehouse, J. & Saffer, A. J. (2018). Mapping the knowledge construction in the invisible college of dialogue research. Journal of Public Relations Research, 30(3), 65–82.

Taking a network perspective, this study uses a series of bibliometric analyses to systematically examine public relations scholarship on dialogue and digital dialogic communication. The researchers examine knowledge construction and invisible college networks to identify prominent scholars and publications that inform current thinking in this area of scholarship. Analyses of 157 journal articles reveal core studies that have shaped the use of theories and concepts within dialogue and digital dialogic research. The researchers found evidence that knowledge construction is rapidly growing as researchers are mixing their expertise. Data suggests that researchers are primarily informed by excellence and/or dialogic theories, but relationship management bridges the various theories used in dialogue research. A select few scholars inform a considerable amount of the current research on dialogue and digital dialogic communication. These findings are discussed and a path forward for public relations is offered.