Theses and Dissertations - Department of Journalism and Creative Media

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    The evolution of broadcasting in Alabama, 1900-1934
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 1969) McSwain, Joseph Earl; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
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    Does this microphone make me sound white?: an experiment exploring race recognition and source credibility in radio news
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2020-12) Ott-Fulmore, Tanya; Parrott, Scott; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Despite efforts to increase the number of minority journalists working in radio, television, newspaper and digital newsrooms across the United States, the percentage of people of color working in newsrooms is only slightly more than half of the percentage of minorities in the overall population. Social Identity Theory holds that an individual’s self-concept is shaped, in part, by their perceived membership in a group. With the U.S. expected to become “minority White” by 2045, minority representation in newsrooms could have significant implications for not only increasing the number of people of color employed newsrooms, but also increasing listeners, viewers, and readers of media organizations as people of color would see themselves — or more accurately, hear themselves — reflected in those organizations. This experiment used an online questionnaire to expose U.S. adults to the voices of professional radio newscasters of various races to determine if the participants could accurately identify the race or ethnicity of the newscaster from a voice recording. The race of the newscaster—White, Black or Hispanic—served as the independent variable and was manipulated to measure perceived source credibility, which served as the dependent variable. Participants were best able to correctly identify White newscasters. Results were mixed as to whether racial congruence between participant and newscaster affected the ability to identify the newscaster’s race, but racial congruence did influence the credibility scores of individual newscasters.
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    Foul play: gender discrepancy in sports coverage
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2021) Benedetto, James; Armstrong, Cory L.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Female sports face many challenges to receive equal coverage across multiple sports media platforms. Prior research has shown that the sports media uses stereotypical characteristics to maintain the idea that sports are a male-dominated entity. The present study utilized an experimental design to examine the impact of these stereotypical characteristics on the audience’s gender bias when it is read in a story. A sample of 400 individuals read a newspaper story involving either baseball or softball, which included traits that were deemed masculine or feminine according to Sandra Bem’s Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1974). Despite studies showing that a lack of coverage combined with stereotypical characteristics are found in sports coverage, participants were not affected by the content as no significant findings were found. Due to the non-significant data, the present study then offered future researchers’ suggestions about how the audience is studied in order to better understand gender bias and its affects.
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    History of the Alabama Negro Press, Post-Reconstruction to 1901
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 1964) Wilder, James Chapman; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    A survey of Alabama history books shows nothing significant to have been written about the early Alabama Negro press. However, Alabama's Negro press was founded immediately after Reconstruction, the period in which almost a half million bewildered and confused Negroes sought to find a place in a society which they did not fully comprehend. Their struggles were mirrored in the newspapers they created and consumed. Thus, a failure to study this press constitutes a serious omission on the part of the historians of the period. This is also apparent in their treatment of the former slave in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. "After investigating the periods of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction in lengthy and scholarly detail, the historians have ceased to study the Negro. . . . Just what happened to the Negro people between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the present century remains unclear." In fact, the general reaction to any serious study of Alabama's early Negro press is one of incredulity that there was such a press. However, at least sixty-seven Negro newspapers were published in Alabama in the period from the fall of the Reconstruction government to the advent of the twentieth century. Admittedly, most survived for short periods of time --- sometimes for only a few issues --- yet three still exist today. Moreover, as many as four newspapers were printed simultaneously in some cities. Negroes wanted to learn about each other; they wanted the stories of their progress, conflicts and issues told; they wanted to express their aspirations and their anguish. Since the white press was not an available medium for the Negro, he founded his own press and voiced his feelings there. The thesis of this paper is that a significant Negro press existed in Alabama in the nineteenth century.
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    In defense of democracy: exploring the process of identifying, monitoring, reporting, and narrating modern voting and election issues
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2020-12) Dugger, Hannah Katherine; Roberts, Mark C.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    The 2018 midterm elections and the proper way to conduct elections during a national pandemic raise several questions about voting and election systems in this country. Advocates and politicians on the left claim republican politicians in multiple states made efforts to suppress votes during the 2018 midterm elections. Ballot purges in Georgia, ex-felon disenfranchisement in Florida, and the disenfranchisement of indigenous citizens in North Dakota are among the examples. Advocates and politicians on the right are concerned about the security and integrity of modern elections and voting issues, as these players raise concerns about identification laws, felon voting issues, and voter fraud. Journalists and journalism, acting as the watchdogs of democracy, play a unique role in reporting modern-day voting and election issues. Given its obscure nature, voting and election issues often go unnoticed until the press is alerted to its activity, thus adding more importance to the role of political journalists and agenda setters. Research suggests modern voter suppression and disenfranchisement is a device used by Republicans more than Democrats, which creates a challenge and a pathway for criticism for fair and unbiased journalism. Through a series of qualitative interviews, this study explores the process of identifying, reporting, and narrating voting and election issues in the United States and its relationship with the expectation of objective, advocacy, and fair journalism. It was revealed that while voting and election issues remain static as a generalized category, the details in covering, reporting, and narrating are dynamic. Using four journalists with varying backgrounds and a content analysis of their coverage solidified the demand for voting and election issues covered using conventional journalism or partisan-tinted coverage.
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    The hardest to achieve, the easiest to imagine: an examination of predictions about outer space during The Space Race in the Huntsville Times, Houston Chronicle, and Orlando Sentinel
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2020) Stafford, Lane; Bragg, Dianne M.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    For thousands of years humans have made predictions about outer space in fictional and non-fictional works. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union proved space exploration was possible with the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik I. This event marked the beginning of The Space Race, a fierce competition between the United States and Soviet Union that changed the world forever. American newspapers not only aided in documenting the Space Race, but also featured predictions about outer space. This study examines newspapers published near NASA’s main centers during the Space Race’s pivotal years, 1957 until July of 1969. This study aims to reveal what journalists and other citizens who lived near Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida predicted and discussed regarding space exploration. Journalistic theories such as framing and agenda-setting are employed to explain how conversations in these newspapers may have affected public opinion or the efforts of NASA. The themes that emerge within these articles reveal diverse attitudes about space travel, biased reporting, and hopeful predictions that may have inspired the future.
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    At home: shelter magazines and the American life 1890-1930
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2019) Mayfield, Mark; Roberts, Chris; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    The four decades between 1890 and 1930 included an unprecedented wave of new American magazines that took full advantage of lower postal rates, affordable printing costs, skyrocketing advertising revenues, more literate audiences, and a nation rapidly transforming itself from a rural to an urban society. Media scholars have studied this era in significant detail, often labeling it a Golden Age of magazines, or a “magazine revolution.” By any label, it is clear the modern magazine emerged during this period with the advent of halftone photography, writers and editors who honed their skills as “magazinists” instead of newspaper journalists, and massive circulation numbers that made household names out of national publications. Yet, within this larger context, a genre of magazines focused exclusively on the American home has received far less attention from researchers. Known as “shelter magazines,” these publications featured decorating, architecture, landscape gardening, and furnishings, and in doing so, often chronicled socio-economic shifts in the eras they covered. Historians have tended to include these publications only briefly in the far larger body of general magazine research, or alternatively grouped them almost invisibly into the genre of women’s magazines, despite their far more narrow focus on home interiors, decorating and gardening. Today, shelter magazines are among the most popular publications in the United States — ranging from House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, Better Homes and Gardens, Traditional Home, Elle Décor, Dwell and Country Living — to influential regional publications such as Southern Living, Sunset and Midwest Living. This thesis will examine the genre’s origin as a specific and highly-influential niche within the context of the proliferation of new magazines and advancing technology during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It will further review how these magazines mirrored and influenced the American home, and whether social network theory can help explain how they developed obsessively loyal subscribers at a time long before today’s instant digital communications.
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    Disaster mode: mapping media use, dependency, and gratifications through the preparation and impact phases of a severe weather event
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2017-12) Edmunds, Christopher Chase; Parrott, Scott; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    When natural disasters affect human populations, effective communication is key to response and recovery. This study seeks to understand how and why people use various media in the early stages of severe weather events. A survey (N=289) was distributed online to participants, who answered a series of questions about their normal media use, as well as their media use during the preparation and impact phases of a severe weather event. Results show that the most drastic change in media consumption occurs in the preparation phase, in the hours leading up to the event. There was very little change in media use, dependency, or gratifications sought between the preparation phase and the impact phase. Use and dependency was increased significantly in the preparation phase for TV News and Local Radio. Online News Sites and Apps ranked highest in use throughout the event, although there was a significant decrease between each phase. There were also significant decreases in use and dependency for Facebook and Twitter, which rounded out the top five media types used during a severe weather event. Follow-up tests revealed that much of the reason for the overall decrease in media use and dependency throughout can be attributed to loss of power and Internet access during the event. The results of this study show that the most common gratifications sought in the preparation and impact phases of a severe weather event involve reducing uncertainty and maintaining a social connection with friends and family. The findings of this study contribute to a larger field of disaster communications research and provide evidence for the validity of uses and gratifications approaches to such research.
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    Cocaine powder screens and the gray lady: New York Times coverage of the war on drugs in Colombia, 1971 – 2001
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2019) Parra Mejia, Daniel Andres; Bragg, Dianne; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    There is a vast amount of literature about media coverage of the United States protracted war on drugs. Mainly, researchers have analyzed anti-drugs campaigns, its most frequent themes, frames, and narratives in network news coverage. However, little research has been done on United States newspapers coverage of the war on drugs, and there is almost none in reference to the United States’ war on drugs and its relationship with Colombia, the world’s top cocaine producers during the 1980s and 1990s. This paper will analyze how the New York Times covered the war on drugs in Colombia from the day Nixon first declared it on June 17, 1971, to the day Bush shifted the country’s focus away and announced the “War on Terror” on September 20, 2001.
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    Elaboration likelihood and readers' perceptions of native advertising on news websites
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2019) Cockrell, Calvin; Parrott, Scott; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    This research examines native advertising on news websites through the lens of the Elaboration Likelihood Model. It seeks to determine factors that influence whether readers identify and trust native advertisements. These ads often appear and read similar to real news stories that have been written by journalists rather than sponsored content meant to persuade. Native advertisements have become prevalent on many news websites, with some outlets having in-house studios dedicated to creating them. They are designed to blend in with the rest of the website and not detract from it. There have been several recent studies on native advertisements, but there are still gaps, such as the effects of different types of design and the use of mobile phones, which the majority of mobile ads are targeted toward. For this study, an experiment was conducted that exposed four groups of participants to one of four articles, two of which were real stories and two of which were native advertisements. The results indicate that very few factors, relative to the readers or the native advertisements, bear any relation to readers’ identification of the ads. No matter what, very few are able to tell the difference between news and native ads. But even after being made aware of the nature of native ads, people seem not to care.
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    Terrorism going uncovered: gatekeeping international news events at local news outlets and the role of desensitization, news flow, and news routines
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2019) Gazzara, Caroline Mae; Lowrey, Wilson Hugh; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    This exploratory study takes a look at three local newsrooms in Alabama to learn and understand news room routines regarding international wire news content and international terrorism wire news content, as well as examine how journalists (gatekeepers) make news decisions, how wire content affects journalists, and the perceived importance of international wire news content to these local gatekeepers.
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    Living in an unreal world: fake news, social identity theory, and media literacy
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2018) Leonard, Wade Hampton; Lowrey, Wilson Hugh; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    This study examined fake news under the theoretical framework of Social Identification Theory, and whether media literacy could act as an inoculant against the undesirable effects of social identification as it relates to the perceived credibility of fake news stories. A survey was conducted in which respondents were asked to read four stories. Two of the stories were real and two were from a fake news publisher. One fake story was about Barack Obama, one fake story was about Donald Trump, one real story was about Barack Obama, and one real story was about Donald Trump. Respondents were then asked a battery of questions measuring their perceived credibility of each story. They were then tested for political and social identification. Respondents’ media literacy was measured and also tested. Perceived credibility for both real and fake stories was highly correlated with social identification. Media literacy was most effective against social identification with the real news stories but overall did not affect perceived credibility of the fake ones. However, when respondents were split along ideological lines, it was found that media literacy was an effective inoculant against fake stories for conservatives, and less so for liberals.
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    Disposition theory and protest: the influence of media frames and individual disposition on audience response to protest
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2018) Steele, Hailey Grace; Parrott, Scott; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    This study examined the influence of news frames and individual disposition on audience response to protest. Specifically, the study sought to determine whether the social group depicted as the main actor in news coverage of protest would influence audience reactions to and support for organized protest. Informed by disposition theory and tested using an experimental design, the study found that certain audience characteristics can significantly predict attitudes toward protest based on the types of media content to which audiences are exposed, although the influence audience disposition toward the main actors within media frames of protest – the primary focus of this study – was less clear. Three characteristics consistently predicted participants’ emotional and cognitive reactions to the stories about healthcare protest: their pre-existing attitudes toward the subject of the protest (affordable healthcare); their general political ideologies, and their pre-existing dispositions toward protesters in general. The results underscore the importance of an audience member’s existing attitudes and dispositions in the interpretation of news content about protests.
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    How does Olympic and biographical media coverage affect fan and social identification with Mo Farah?
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2018) Simpson, Oliver; Bissell, Kimberly L.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Mo Farah is a quadruple Olympic gold medalist who has won distance gold medals in track competition in the London and Rio De Janeiro Summer Olympic Games, in 2012 and 2016, respectively. Farah’s national and ethnic identity are complex. Often, news coverage of him has mentioned his heritage. Using media clips, one of Farah winning a race at the Olympics and two clips from a documentary about Farah – one where Farah is at home with family Oregon, where he trains, and one where Farah is visiting his roots in Somalia, where he was born – this study asked survey participants which clip scored highest on several scales. Those scores included how well Farah represented his country, his likability, his relatability to the American college student audience, and how positively the participants felt about him. Findings show that participants reacted most positively toward Farah when he was described as Somali in the media, even though he left Somalia at age eight, was officially a British athlete in the Olympics, and now lives in the United States. Participants on the whole responded better to personable documentary coverage than news coverage, and they seemed to embrace Farah based on what they perceived his national identity to be. Keywords: Social identity, national identity, ethnic identity, nuanced national identity, media coverage, sport and Olympic media, Mo Farah.
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    First impressions: an analysis of media coverage of first ladies and their inaugural gowns from Jackie Kennedy in 1961 to Michelle Obama in 2009
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2018) Sullivan, Amy; Roberts, Chris; Bragg, Dianne M.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    The Presidential Inaugural Ball is a special moment for every president’s wife because it is her first official public appearance as first lady of the United States. Historically, the manner in which the first lady presents herself in the way she dresses often contributes to her public image. Scrutiny from the media includes a focus on what she wears to the inauguration, as well as examination and analysis of her inaugural ball gown that evening. The gowns have a tradition of setting the tone for the first lady in the new administration as well as providing glimpses of a first lady’s personality. The gown gives the world a look at her personal style and a glimpse at her potential influence on fashion trends. Most first ladies recognize and understand the expectations of the role and what it means to the public. Some, however, have questioned why their appearance should matter so long as they are true to themselves. In positions of power, though, appearances are important because the media can use fashion as a lens to filter and interpret information to the public. Research on the news media coverage of first ladies and their inaugural gowns identified four themes: Feminism and the media’s reflection of society’s changing views of the first lady’s role; the media’s descriptions of first ladies, specifically references to their dress sizes and their physique; ethnocentrism and the fashion industry’s unbridled interest in and reliance on what the first lady wears; and the perspective of moderation in that the inaugural gown should be nice but not too expensive. Each theme has an intrinsic news value interjected into that coverage as revealed by Herbert J. Gans: Individualism, altruistic democracy, ethnocentrism, and moderatism, respectively. The media’s tendency to fixate on the first lady’s fashion style and clothing choices is best described as a fascination, almost an obsession at times, beginning with her selection of the inaugural gown. This thesis examines newspaper and magazine coverage and reaction to inaugural gowns from First Ladies Jackie Kennedy in 1961 to Michelle Obama in 2009.
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    Credibility of photojournalism in changing times
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2017) Norris, Jonathan Michael; Bissell, Kimberly L.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    With the constant growth of the internet and the explosion of hand-held devices, the news industry is in a continuous state of evolution. Although citizens desire news feeds of what is happening now, there is also a fundamental need for content that is accurate, unbiased, and in the public’s best interest. The demand for immediate news, however, raises several critical ques- tions: How credible is the information, who is reporting it, and is there a relationship between credibility of information and the reporter? Credibility has been one of the cornerstones of the news industry, and the area of interest for this study messenger credibility (Roberts, 2010). The central focus of this study was to identify how the credibility of news photographs is influenced by the source’s organization (who published the photo) and the source photographer (the affiliation of the photographer to the source). A news credibility scale was used as the de- pendent variable. The independent measures of “Media Source Organization” — which contained 3 types, and “Photographer Affiliation” — which contained 2 types, were then compared to the dependent variable. Specifically, the independent variable of source organized had three factors — “Mainstream” (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post); “Online-focused” (BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Elite Daily); and “Fictitious” (Daily Post, Citizen Times, Peoples’ Constitution). The two factors for the independent variable of “Photographer affiliation with the source organization” were: “Staff” and “Contributor.” A univariate ANOVA determined that respondents rated photographs from mainstream sources as more credible than photographs from online or fictitious sources. Additionally, a staff photographer from fictitious media was rated significantly more credible than contributor pho- tographer from fictitious media. Survey respondents rated media from mainstream sources significantly more credible than online or fictitious sources. These findings indicate it does make a difference who provides the content and photograph when “credibility” is essential to the content. These findings are significant to the evolving field of visual journalism and messenger credibility in that photos, which are entry points to news coverage, differ in their credibility to read- ers based upon who is the “messenger” or provider of the photo.
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    Equality, y'all: newspaper coverage of first wave feminism and suffrage in the American South
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2017) McLeod, Kylie Brianna; Roberts, Chris; Bragg, Dianne M.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    The American South has long been characterized by institutionalized racism and highly traditional Christian values. It would be easy to assume that the Women’s Suffrage Movement would not have been welcomed in this particular region of the United States; however, newspapers that covered the seventy-year fight for women’s right to vote indicate this is not completely true. This paper will examine the presentation of this first wave of feminism in southern newspapers. It is vital to examine the ways the southern media portrayed feminism’s first wave for two reasons. The first is the perpetual need for society to look back and recognize mistakes made in the past and think about ways to avoid remaking them in the future; the second is to discover how the South specifically reacted to and treated this social movement, considering the cultural and religious context present in the newspapers of the time.
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    Black women's body image and Black-oriented media consumption
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2017) Armer, Taylor I.; Parrott, Scott; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    The proposed study examined the relationship between Black women, their body image and their Black-oriented media consumption. The literature review indicated there was a dearth of scholarship devoted to understanding the relationship between this population and their media consumption. Using social comparison as theoretical framework, nine hypotheses and two research questions were posited. A quantitative survey was administered to college-age women at a Predominantly White Institution. Major contributions from the results indicate Black-oriented media communicates a beauty ideal that is unattainable, and body part dissatisfaction was lowest when consuming media–regardless of type.
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    Impact of web metrics on news decisions
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2017) Arenberg, Tom; Lowrey, Wilson Hugh; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Many news organizations are trying to maximize their online audience in an attempt to bring greater exposure to their work and attract advertising. Grounded in Resource Dependency Theory and System of Professions theory, this comparative case study of two divergent news organizations sought to identify how degree of pursuit of audience metrics affects the nature of an organization’s journalism. The study showed that differences in degree of pursuit led to differences in the nature of news content and in the nature of determinations of newsworthiness. A greater emphasis on metrics led one organization toward a lower percentage of civic issue stories, less story depth, a better understanding of online traffic creation, greater use of text and ideas from public relations professionals, and less use of traditional journalistic abstract knowledge to determine newsworthiness. Crucially, however, in the newsroom of greater metric use, a commitment to the traditional journalistic norm of civic duty served to reduce the differences between the organizations. The implications for journalism are discussed.
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    Binging on Gilmore Girls: a parasocial exploration of fans' viewing behaviors
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2017) Dyche, Caitlin Samantha; Billings, Andrew C.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Binge-watching has become increasingly popular with the rise of video-on-demand services and online streaming sites, but little has been done to evaluate the effects of this new viewing behavior on audiences. This study explores binge-watching as a possible mechanism in the formation of parasocial relationships with media personae as well as a motivator for the negative affects experienced when a persona is no longer included in new content, the phenomenon known as parasocial breakup. Other variables, such as the extent to which the media is watched alone or with others, were also explored. To test these relationships, two online surveys were completed by fans of the television show Gilmore Girls, one before the release of a new Gilmore Girls mini-series on Netflix and one after the release. A total of 387 fans participated in the surveys, which assessed their viewing behaviors of the mini-series and already-released episodes in the time leading up to the mini-series’ premiere. In the post-watching sample, it was found that binge-watching the mini-series was negatively related to parasocial relationship intensity. Furthermore, parasocial relationship intensity was positively related to parasocial breakup distress. Other predictors of parasocial relationship intensity include show affinity and age of viewer, while mini-series enjoyment was found to have a strong, negative correlation to parasocial breakup distress. Findings suggest further research regarding the relationship between binge-watching and parasocial relationships, as well as the influence that discussing the show with others has on breakup distress.