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Latest News for Graduate Students

  • 11.28.17: IIP Co-Director Krishna Jayakar examines if Universal Broadband should be an option, right or obligation in the Journal of Human Values. Universal Broadband: Option, Right or Obligation? Journal of Human Values - Krishna Jayakar, 2017.
  • 11.27.17: The PSU Science Policy Society is hosting Doug Dollemore from the American Chemical Society tomorrow. He is a senior science writer who helps scientists communicate their work more effectively.
  • 11.27.17 PhD alum Alyssa Appelman and faculty Mike Schmierbach write about the effects of grammar errors in news in JMCQ. Make No Mistake? Exploring Cognitive and Perceptual Effects of Grammatical Errors in News Articles.  Alyssa Appelman, Mike Schmierbach First Published November 21, 2017.
  • 11.26.17 COMM faculty Yael Warshel presented on "Children, Youth, and Media in Middle Eastern, North African, and Gulf Conflict Zones" in the Middle East Studies Association conference.…
  • 11.25.17: PhD alum Aziz Douai (now at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology) writes about how ethnic media cover crime. "A Different Lens? How Ethnic Minority Media Cover Crime" Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
  • 11.25.17: A co-authored article by Mary Beth Oliver on affect, cognition and "accidental" narrative persuasion. "Health Communication| Moved to Act: Examining the Role of Mixed Affect and Cognitive Elaboration in “Accidental” Narrative Persuasion".
  • 11.22.17: It's Penn State, the Eastern Europe edition as S. Shyam Sundar visits PhD candidate Azeta Hatef in the Czech Republic doing research as a Fulbright Scholar and former faculty Michael Elavsky who is directing his Education Abroad initiative and teaching there.
  • 11.21.17:  AEJMC Public Relations Division: The PR Division's Social Event Committee of AEJMC includes alum Holly Ott and PhD candidate Anli Xiao.
  • 11.21.17: A big congrats to Jenna Grzeslo for being the recipient of the Yale M. Braunstein Student Prize Award for the best student paper submitted to the Pacific Telecommunications Council! Her paper is titled "Building Communities, Bridging Divides: Community Technology Centers and Social Capital."
  • 11.20.17: PhD student Wunpini F. Mohammed presented yesterday at the National Women's Studies Association conference, applying postcolonial feminist theory to Tallywood films. Gender and Power Politics: Reclaiming Tradition through Dagbanli Video-Films. This paper draws on postcolonial feminist theory and film theory to analyze the representation of gender and power politics in three Tallywood video-films: Naabaala (1989/1990), Asadaachi (2002) and Dagbon Politics (2016). I explore Tamale’s film industry paying critical attention to the way gender politics play out in film discourse and the relationship between these themes and the lives of film audiences. I argue that the Dagbanli video film industry is fast becoming a site for cultural preservation, conceptualizing ethnic identity, situating the lived experience of black women and the reimagining of traditions as shaped by globalization and cultural flows.
  • 11.20.17: Palmer Chair Sascha Meinrath co-authors a book chapter about digital disenfranchisement in the new book Media Activism in the Digital Age. The growing subfield of media activism studies has gained wide attention in recent years, but little consensus exists regarding its central questions and concerns. Media Activism in the Digital Age beins to chart an evolving research agenda by providing a.... BOOK2LOOK.COM
  • 11.18.17 Congrats to Srivi Ramasubramanian on winning the Mass Comm Division Service Award! AEJMC
  • 9.12.16: Congrats to Kevin Hagopian for his Alumni Teaching Award; he received his recognition at the Alumni luncheon today. He was introduced by one of his nominators and current student, Steph Orme.
  • 9.12.16: COMM faculty Bu Zhong writes about some of the lessons of 9/11:
  • 9.9.16: News from Lee Ahern: Great opportunity for graduate students to learn about the practical aspects of science communication, hosted by PSIEE as part of SciComm Month:
    Grad Student Message Box Workshop
    We are again offering a Grad Student Workshop on Wednesday, October 19 as part of our COMPASS training. Please forward the attached flier to your grad students. The workshop is limited to 50 participants, so first come, first served. Deadline to register is Monday, October 10. Please advise them to register at: The registration link on the flier is incorrect.
    Would be great to have greater presence from CoC!
    Penn State MP Flyer
  • 9.7.16: Distinguished Professor Mary Beth Oliver will give a research talk this week in the Dept of Communication at the University of Buffalo!


Graduate Student Newsletter - September 2016



Fall 2016 COMM Grad Class


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Move Back to California? Can’t Afford It

(Posted June 29, 2016)

New column by Russell Frank:

One of the pleasures of travel is fantasizing about moving to the place you’re visiting.

The fantasy can take the form of grabbing the flyer when you pass a House for Sale, checking the photos in the window when you pass a real estate office or, if you really obsess, going online to see what’s on the market.

Of course, nothing crushes the fantasy of an alternative life like engaging in any of these idle pursuits while visiting a land of pricey real estate. Case in point: Petaluma, Calif., where I am spending part of my summer.
Petaluma, population 60,000, is about 40 miles north of San Francisco. It’s in Sonoma County, which everyone knows as Wine Country, though the Petaluma (southern) part of the county is better known for poultry and dairy products than for vineyards and wineries.

Up until a few decades ago, it was the kind of town big-city reporters would have described as sleepy if they were sent here to cover a lurid crime. Then came the foodies and the techies and those seeking an affordable alternative to pricey Marin County to the immediate south. Keep reading...

LeBron for President

(Posted June 28, 2016)

New column by Russell Frank:

The knock on California sports fans has always been that they lack passion.

Dodgers fans famously come late and leave early. 49ers fans can’t shake their reputation as “wine-sipping, quiche-eating snobs.” And so on.

Many Californians cheerfully plead guilty to these charges. The weather is so splendid here, they say, and the outdoor recreation opportunities so plenteous, that they would rather sail/surf/ski/hike/cycle, etc., than watch other people pitch/pass/catch/shoot/hit, etc.

Rabid sports fandom, according to this line of reasoning, is a function of living in places where there isn’t much else to do. Keep reading...

I Sat So Quietly My Foot Fell Asleep

(Posted June 16, 2016)

New column by Russell Frank:

I meditated for the first time the other day, or tried to. The location was both perfect and imperfect:

Perfect, because it was a rock outcropping on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.

Imperfect, because a rock, even a smooth, butt-contoured one, is not a cushion, which meant it was not an ideal perch if one’s goal was to sit still for 20 minutes.

Indeed, an online meditation guide specifically instructs us to “be seated on a cushion or chair, taking an erect yet relaxed posture. Let yourself sit upright with the quiet dignity of a king or a queen.” Keep reading...

On the Hot Seat at a High School Graduation

(Posted June 8, 2016)

New column by Russell Frank:

Rebel that I was, I skipped my own high school graduation 40-some years ago, but journeyed 2700 miles last week to watch my friends’ son participate in the same ceremony.

Well, OK, I was going to California anyway, so as long as I was in the neighborhood, I put Ross’ graduation on my itinerary.

This would be a glimpse of the road not taken -- the high school my kids would have attended if we hadn’t moved to State College when they were little. Keep reading...

Researchers ready to share expertise at international conference

(Posted June 8, 2016)

More than three dozen ‪#‎PSUComm‬ researchers are set to participate in panels or present papers at the annual International Communication Association (ICA Official Page) conference in Japan this month. ‪

More than three dozen researchers from the College of Communications at Penn State — a combination of faculty members and graduate students — will participate in panels or present papers at the annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) in Fukuoka, Japan, this month.

Members of the Penn State contingent have collaborated on 34 papers and presentations for the international conference, scheduled June 9-13.

The Penn State group includes 10 faculty members and 27 gradaute students. The breadth and depth of the group’s work includes papers and presentations about topics such as the impact of the news media quoting Twitter as it relates to credibility and news judgment, media entertainment as a guilty pleasure, online privacy, and the psychology of posting “selfies.Keep reading...


User Engagement with Interactive Media: A Communication Perspective

(Posted June 8, 2016)

A new chapter on user engagement with interactive media by PhD alum Jeeyun Oh and Distinguished Prof S. Shyam Sundar.

This chapter builds on previous work that positions user engagement on the user involvement continuum and suggests that user engagement is comprised of physical interactions with media, cognitive involvement, absorption in media content, and behavioral outcomes in the form of outreach or media participation. The authors explore medium or interface characteristics and individual differences in the form of “power users” as determinants of user engagement, and persuasion as an outcome. An empirical example is user to illustrate the relationship between physical interactions, cognitive engagement, imagery engagement, and user attitudes and behavioral intentions. The chapter acknowledges and seeks to remedy the challenge associated with integrating conceptual frameworks of user engagement into design principles. Keep reading...

Brady and Hiltz present paper at Qualitatives Conference, Brock University

(Posted June 8, 2016)

A summary of the co-authored work of PhD alum Miranda Brady on residential school photography presented at Qualitatives Conference.

Communication Studies Associate Professor Miranda J. Brady and Emily Hiltz, a doctoral candidate in Communication, co-presented a paper titled “The Archaeology of an Image: Situating the Mediation and Remediation of Thomas Moore Keesick’s Residential School Photographs” at the Qualitatives Conference hosted at Brock University in St. Catharines from May 11-13. The theme for this year’s qualitative inquiry conference was visual methods and analysis. Keep reading...  

WVU President Meets With Community Members in Grafton to Speak on Student Project

(Posted June 8, 2016)

Alum Julia Daisy Fraustino is in a news video that was detailing her students' efforts to rebrand a city.

West Virginia University President E.Gordon Gee met with Grafton community members this afternoon, to talk about the results of a WVU student project.

More than 20 WVU students have been working for several months trying to create a new image for the city.

It's part of the Benedum-funded community branding initiative partnership between WVU and Grafton.

The students focused on three main aspects of Grafton: outdoor adventures, history and the arts.

"We have a brand new logo, we have a brand new website, we've got some new social media accounts. They've helped us create billboards that are currently up, a new one every month throughout the summer. It's really helping to help market our community and what's going on around the greater community around Grafton," said Tom Hart, All Aboard Grafton.

President Gee's visit is part of his annual Summer State Tour where he tries to visit all 55 counties. Watch the video...

Just Can’t Take It Any Mow

(Posted June 3, 2016)

New column by Russell Frank:

This Central Pennsylvania May was too cold, too hot and, as always, perfectly gorgeous, from its tulips to its irises, from the white of its dogwood blossoms to the 50 shades of green of its coniferous and deciduous trees. My one complaint, fellow citizens: the ceaseless roar of power mowers.

You know my screen porch, the one that became a giant sparrow cage in last week’s column? Once the weather permits, I like to take my coffee and my electronic news reader out there in the early morning, work out there on and off throughout the day, then dine al fresco in the evening.

Putting it another way, from May to October I like to use my screen porch between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Those happen to be the exact hours when it is permissible, according to State College’s noise control ordinance, to operate power equipment.

If you haven’t read the borough’s noise ordinance, allow me to share some of its highlights.

First, it recognizes that “disturbing, excessive or uncontrolled noise” abridges “public health, safety and welfare.” We State College residents have a right, it says, “to an environment free from noise disturbances.” Keep reading...

Opinion: Court's location data ruling spells the end of privacy 

(Posted June 2, 2016)

From Palmer Chair Sascha Meinrath.

On Tuesday, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government does not need warrant to track the location of more than 200 million Americans with smartphones.

It's an astonishing decision. Basically, according to the court, because the vast majority of us use cellphones and apps that track our locations, we've opted out of 4th Amendment privacy protections. Even more alarming, the court's ruling opens the door for the government to get access to all of our Internet-connected apps and software that have knowledge of our whereabouts.

The court reasoned that since we – the hundreds of millions of cellphone users in the US – have voluntarily disclosed our geolocation to a third party (our cellular providers), the third party can share that information with the government.  Read the full article...

Politics, not ignorance, may pollute support for pro-science solutions

(Posted June 2, 2016)

Science Daily reporting on research by Lee Ahern, Colleen Connolly-Ahern, and Jen Hoewe about environmental communication!

Mentioning politics in a message about an environmental issue may turn people -- even people informed about the issue -- away from supporting a pro-science solution, according to a team of researchers.

In a study, conservative participants who were asked to react to a message about excess water runoff showed lower support for an environmental science improvement project when the message was framed around global warming terminology, according to Lee Ahern, associate professor of advertising and public relations, Penn State. The effect was even stronger among those conservatives with more knowledge about the issue, he added.

"It's the framing of the issue that's really important," said Ahern. "This is really a message for scientists and science communicators: don't pollute and politicize the information environment around the issue, because once you do that, people's political identities are going to get engaged."

This study, along with others, has established that having more knowledge about science does not necessarily translate into more support for pro-science policies, according to Ahern, who added that, in this case, the environmental solution was to add more green surface infrastructure, such as green roofs. Read the full article...

Corrections and the College Web

(Posted June 1, 2016)

Kudos to alumnae Kirstie Hettinga and Alyssa Appelman for their paper on corrections at college newspapers.

A previous study found that college newspapers have perceived levels of credibility on par with their professional counterparts, but suggested that quality could be assessed in other ways. Previous research has documented the potential for error corrections to increase perceptions of quality. In a content analysis of College Media Association members’ websites (N = 419), the researchers found that some college publications are publicizing corrections, but some are not. Additionally, these practices seem to depend on publication and university differences. Similarities between college and professional publications are noted, and recommendations for improvement are discussedKeep reading...

Privileged Mobilities 

(Posted June 1, 2016)

PhD alum Erika Polson's forthcoming book on displaced professionals and social media.

As corporations ramp up «workforce globalization» and young professionals increasingly pursue opportunities to work abroad, social entrepreneurs use online digital platforms to create offline social events where foreigners can meet face-to-face. Through ethnographic study of such groups in Paris, Singapore, and Bangalore, Erika Polson illustrates how, as a new generation of expatriates uses location technologies to create mobile «places,» a new global middle class is emerging.

While there are many differences in the specifics between the expat groups, they share certain characteristics that indicate a larger logic to the way that the increasing mobility of professional career paths is connected to new subjectivities and changing forms of community among a diverse and growing demographic.
This book opens up a new field of study, one which pays more attention to middle class mobility while questioning the privileging of mobility more generally. 
Keep reading...

Great Escape: Bird Flies the Coop

(Posted May 25, 2016)

New column by Russell Frank:

A sparrow slips through a gap in a screen and finds himself in a roach motel situation: Having checked into my porch, he can’t check back out.

To understand his situation, try to picture my screen porch. It’s an asymmetrical pentagon. One side is the back wall of the house with the door between inside and outside.

Three of the four remaining sides consist of 14 sections of screening separated by 2-by-4s. The fourth side has two more sections of screening and, jutting out at a 90-degree angle from the house, a screen door that opens into the backyard.

To a sparrow on the wrong side of all that mesh, the screen porch has become a very large cage. My obvious move as the keeper of the cage is to prop open the screen door and retreat into the house to observe. Keep reading...

Never mind the media - we're spying on ourselves

(Posted May 25, 2016)

PhD alum Kathleen Kuehn on New Zealand public radio talking about digital privacy.

Ten years ago, the news media were worried about people standing up for their right to privacy - and rolling back the media's right to pry... in the public interest, naturally.

In March 2006, The Dominion Post warned darkly about "the cult of privacy that has enveloped New Zealand since the Privacy Act came into force in 1993" - even though the media were in almost all cases exempt from that law.

The paper was mainly worried about a rising public expectation that peoples' privacy should always be protected, and that this was being encouraged by the courts and bureaucrats. Keep reading...

Who’s Following Twitter? Coverage of the Microblogging Phenomenon by U.S. Cable News Networks

(Posted May 25, 2016)

A co-authored article by PhD alum Mina Tsay-Vogel about cable news coverage of Twitter.

Through data captured in a digital content analysis (DCA) lab, we examine coverage of Twitter across three 24-hour U.S. cable news channels: CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. This investigation tracked Twitter coverage from its initial stage, followed by its rise to a massively used tool and its subsequent diffusion into society, evident through its plateauing coverage. News stories covering Twitter, as it penetrated into society, were more likely to use benefit/gain frames when discussing the technology, highlighting its positive social, communicative, political, and participatory impact. Benefit frames were also likely to associate Twitter with journalism. Patterns emerging through the indicator graphs plotted by the DCA lab showed that the most intense coverage occurred during crisis situations, as Twitter coverage reached saturation, followed by increased personal daily usage of Twitter. Keep reading...

Quick, Where’s the Anti-Trump Gel?

(Posted May 18, 2016)

New column by Russell Frank:

I surprised even myself this morning by googling the words "Donald Trump antibacterial gel."

I had not intended to write about Trump today. In fact, one of my closest confidants had specifically advised me not to write about Trump or Sandusky.

But here’s what’s happening: After 15 shots of tequila, an editor from a previously reputable publishing house agreed to issue a collection of my greatest hits.

OK, I’m kidding about the shots. As far as I know, the editor was stone-cold sober.

Assuming she was not kidding, I’ve been going through my old columns – I’ve probably written a thousand since I rode the west wind into State College in 1995 – looking for the 10 percent that are worthy of reprinting between the covers of a book. Keep reading...

Research Explores Impact Of Native Advertising On Media Outlets, Ad Companies

(Posted May 18, 2016)

More on the study on native advertising by Mu Wu, Ruoxu Wang, Denise Bortree, Anli Xiao, Yan Huang, Ruobing Li and Fan Yang.

An academic study conducted by researchers from the Arthur W. Page Center of Pennsylvania State University has found that native advertising may create negative perceptions of media outlets. The research, presented at a conference this spring, will be published in the American Behavioral Scientist.

The study examined the question: Are there consequences when companies and news outlets go native?

The researchers noted that native advertising, often known as sponsored content or promoted posts, is showing up all over the Internet. Readers expect to find native advertising on sites like Facebook and BuzzFeed. A discussion has emerged as to whether the practice impacts the credibility of the companies that pay for it and the news outlets that run it.

Overall, the research team found that when content was identified as native advertising, readers held a lower opinion of the media outlet it was published in. However, the reputation of the company being promoted was not affected. The idea for the project emerged while Penn State graduate students were shown  a news article — but was it? “We looked at it. It didn’t look like an advertisement,” said Mu Wu, PhD student in Penn State’s College of Communications and an author of the study. “It looked like an everyday editorial, but we were wrong.” It was a native advertisement. Keep reading...

Integrating Social Media Into the Workplace: A Study of Shifting Technology Use Repertoires

(Posted May 18, 2016)

An article by PhD alum Justin A. Walden about social media in the workplace in the latest JOBEM!

Research indicates that people are increasingly spending time with social media and other information communication technology. However, scholars have not fully examined how employees as holistic media consumers utilize social media in multiple contexts. Through in-depth interviews (N = 29), this study demonstrates that even as social media are embedded in organizational media use routines, employees question this technology for 2 reasons: It distracts from tasks and threatens personal privacy. These concerns often, but not exclusively, relate to employee age and the amount of time they have worked for the company. The study concludes by arguing that social media’s arrival in the workplace may exacerbate tensions and problems that are associated with presence-creep and the distortion of the work-life balance. Keep reading...

Layout change can make licensing agreements more agreeable

(Posted May 18, 2016)

Work on end-user licensing agreements by Frank Waddell, S. Shyam Sundar, and Joshua Auriemma.

Changing the layout of long and tedious software licensing agreements may not only make those agreements more understandable, but may even make the users like them more, according to Penn State researchers.

Participants in a study found that end-user licensing agreements, called EULAs, that contained simpler language and were divided into several pages -- paraphrased EULAs -- enjoyed increased understanding among end users, according to the researchers.

"Simplifying the layout of licensing agreements -- such as by removing jargon, using bullet points and spreading out terms over multiple windows -- can help improve users' understanding of the legal contracts they are asked to read and consent to on a daily basis," said T. Franklin Waddell, who recently earned his doctorate in mass communications. Keep reading...

Altering a robot's gender and social roles may be a screen change away

(Posted May 12, 2016)

Research on gender and robots by alum Eunhwa Jung, Frank Waddell and Distinguished Prof. S. Shyam Sundar.

Robots can keep their parts and still change their gender, according to Penn State researchers, who noted that the arrival of robots with screens has made it easier to assign distinct personalities.

In a study, people found that feminine cues on the robot's screen were enough to convince them that a robot was female, said Eun Hwa Jung, a doctoral student in mass communications. The findings may help robot developers economically customize robots for certain roles and to serve certain populations.

"We changed the gender cues -- male or female -- on two different locations: the robot body and the robot's screen," said Jung. "The screen, by itself, helped participants perceive whether the robot was male or female."

Robot makers may not need to alter the robot's shape or features to meet users' expectations and preferences, said S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, who worked with Jung. Keep reading...

With Paterno Allegations, Reporting Has Merit

(Posted May 11, 2016)

New column by Russell Frank:

Penn State President Eric Barron and members of Joe Paterno’s family have challenged news reports that Paterno and his assistants might have known that Jerry Sandusky was sexually assaulting children as far back as the 1970s and ‘80s.

Do the reports have any merit? Do the challenges to those reports have any merit?
This latest eruption of Sandusky-related allegations and denials began last Thursday with a story about the university’s attempts to recoup money from its insurer for settlements with Sandusky’s victims.

According to court documents, sealed depositions obtained by the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Company allege that one victim told Paterno in 1976 that he had been molested by Sandusky. PMA also claims that two members of Paterno’s staff witnessed “inappropriate conduct” by Sandusky in the 1980s. Keep reading...

Circulating health rumors in the ‘Arab World’: A 12-month content analysis of news stories and reader commentary about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome from two Middle Eastern news outlets

(Posted May 11, 2016)

Congrats to PhD alum Aziz Douai on his co-authored article on coverage of health issues in Middle East outlets.

The Internet provides great opportunity for news as well as entertainment. One such use is to keep abreast of public health concerns. As news outlets’ websites give the audience the privilege of interacting and posting comments as an ‘anonymous user’ following the posted story, these initial comments trigger further comments—which can lead to speculation, rumor, and inaccurate information. The purpose of the current study was to compare one year of news and comments about the outbreak of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome from two major Middle Eastern online news outlets from June 2013 to June 2014. All stories and reader comments about this topic were collected from Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and reviewed using framing analysis to determine their framing and approach to the outbreak. The research focused primarily on how discussion and rumor may spread through both the stories as well as the controversial commentary sections.  Keep reading...

Progressive Hinduism: A Contradiction in Terms?

(Posted May 11, 2016)

A speech given by PhD alum Murali Balaji at the Princeton University Hindu student commencement:

First off, I really want to thank Vineet for having me here. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been begging him for the past few years to have me speak. I think my exact words were, “Put me on, son!”

This topic is so timely, given what’s happening here and across the world. I know so many of you are still trying to negotiate the role your Hinduness plays in your daily life. Some of you are more comfortable than others in articulating your Hindu identity. I think the reality is, our faith identities, and how we conceptualize ourselves, are lifelong works in progress. But that work is one of the philosophical underpinnings of Hinduism: the search for truth. It’s basically the recognition that how we identify, how we practice, and even what we believe are subject to change, evolution, reconciliation, and hopefully, eventual clarity.

Before I talk about my own journey, I think it’s critical about the term ‘progressive Hinduism.’ Given how politicized the terms progressive and Hinduism have become on their own, some folks see the combination of the two as either oxymoronic or redundant. Keep reading...

Extended “Visiting Hours”
Deconstructing Identity in Netflix’s Promotional Campaigns for Orange Is the New Black

(Posted May 11, 2016)

Congrats to PhD alum Lauren DeCarvalho for her co-authored article (with Nicole Cox) on the ideology of promotions for Orange Is the New Black in the journal Television and New Media!

This article interrogates Netflix’s use of unconventional marketing strategies for season 2 of Orange Is the New Black (OITNB), and argues that the company takes a mixed approach to cast a wider net for potential subscribers. One campaign emphasizes stereotypes that the program itself problematizes, and another humanizes the images of real-life incarcerated women. Using feminist textual analysis, we explore these campaigns in relation to intersectionality and analyze the construction of intersectional identities within Netflix’s two promotional campaigns: The New York Times’ paid promotional content “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work” and the “Crazy Pyes” food truck campaign. Applying theoretical work from scholars such as Lotz and Gray, we discuss the ideological messaging of the campaigns, and examine how Netflix commodifies images of OITNB’s incarcerated, female characters, and also images of actual incarcerated women—and how these images function in exchange for viewership for Netflix and OITNB. Keep reading...

South African watchdog organization has important role in ensuring fair and equal media

(Posted May 4, 2016)

On Giuliana Sorce's forthcoming dissertation work, for which she received funding from The Arthur W. Page Center.

The South African media system emerges through a complicated history of multiple imperialisms, racial disparity and disappointment in its political leadership. In 1994, when South Africa voted to abolish the segregation-based “apartheid” system, the government inaugurated what is oftentimes lauded as the “most progressive constitution in the world.” The constitution clearly enshrines gender, racial, cultural and religious equality. However, legal statutes rarely translate into immediate cultural change. Many South Africans continue to encounter discrimination on a regular basis and the media are no exception to this.

When the government restructured the broadcasting regulations to account for the newly forged mandates of equality, the industry was called to “provide, through its programming, a public service necessary for the maintenance of a South African identity, universal access, equality, unity and diversity.” Hence, the various media houses were supposed to be controlled by diverse individuals and provide programming that reflects the myriad of cultures and languages indigenous to the nation.

The public broadcaster South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) produces the majority of South Africa’s news and media contents, both educational and entertainment. With a 60 percent government-enforced quota for local, culturally-relevant content, the SABC is a key player in the industry and has a strong impact on attitudes and opinions, including gender and sexuality. A recent amendment to the Broadcasting Act put the South African president (Jacob Zuma) and communications minister (Faith Muthambi) in direct control of the SABC. With this, partisan news and government-congruent media messages pose a direct threat to South Africa’s pursuit of democracy and social justice in media. Keep reading...

Making the Grades

(Posted May 4, 2016)

Russell Frank on grading:

An e-pile of papers before me, I ponder one of the great questions of academic life: Does this story deserve an 86 or an 87?

Ridiculous, right?

Speak not to me of rubrics, I pray. Yes, I could assign X points for “content” and deduct Y points per spelling, grammar or punctuation error. But that would not extricate me from the murky realm of qualitative, subjective judgments.

Is it interesting? Did it tell me something worth knowing? In the parlance of the newsroom, did it sing?
86 or 87?

Grading an essay or a poem or, in my case, a feature story, is not like grading a multiple-choice exam, which these days we can farm out to computers. Am I right, dear colleagues in the humanities? Keep reading...

The Handbook of International Crisis Communication Research

(Posted May 3, 2016)

Michel Haigh has a chapter on War, Media and Public Opinion in The Handbook of International Crisis Communication Research.

The Handbook of International Crisis Communication Research articulates a broader understanding of crisis communication, discussing the theoretical, methodological, and practical implications of domestic and transnational crises, featuring the work of global scholars from a range of sub-disciplines and related fields. Read more...

Mental health rarely discussed on the campaign trail

(Posted May 3, 2016)

Russell Frank is quoted in this story about the portrayal of mental health issues in the 2016 presidential race

If you’ve been following the 2016 presidential campaign, you can probably say which candidate wants to build a wall, who wants to audit the Federal Reserve and who wants to make college free at state universities.

A voter might think the candidates have talked about everything by now in a presidential campaign that has featured 21 debates, 19 forums, hundreds of campaign stops, and regular news conferences as well as each candidate’s Tweets and Facebook posts.

What do the candidates say about mental health? What are their stances on how to address substance abuse and addiction? How would their administrations deal with the lack of resources needed for people with mental health issues? What programs do they support?

The candidates haven’t addressed these issues at length on the campaign trail, despite the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimate that 18.5 percent of Americans experience mental illness during a given year. Mental health advocates are not happy with the lack of discussion and say part of the blame rests on the moderators of the debates and the media for not asking questions. Keep reading...

Journalism Degree Motivations: The Development of a Scale

(Posted May 3, 2016)

Anne Hoag is the co-author of the lead article in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator about developing a scale of why undergraduates major in journalism.

Scientific knowledge should reflect valid, consistent measurement. It is argued research on scale development needs to be more systematic and prevalent. The intent of this article is to address scale development by creating and validating a construct that measures the underlying reasons why undergraduate students seek a degree in journalism, the Journalism Degree Motivations (JDM) scale. Through a multimethod approach and seven-step process, a set of motivations that reflect existing theory and measures was developed. The JDM scale is composed of eight factors: social responsibility, reporting, social prestige, sports media, photography, writing, varied career, and numbers and science anxiety.  Keep reading...

How Positive Media Can Make Us Better People

(Posted May 3, 2016)

A review of positive media psychology by Sophie H. Janicke that calls our very own Mary Beth Oliver "one of the seminal scholars in the field."

Research sometimes suggests that movies and other media are a negative influence to rein in. But new studies highlight their potential to spread goodness on a wide scale.

Deadpool is the highest-grossing film in the United States so far this year—and one of the most controversial. Though the film has scored points with critics and audiences for its irreverent take on the superhero genre, its extreme gore has raised some familiar questions and objections about the role of violence in films.

But look at the highest-grossing film of 2016 internationally, and you’ll find a different type of movie: Zootopia, a family-friendly animated film that has been praised for its positive messages about the harm of stereotypes and prejudice.  Keep reading...

Why We Root for Characters Who Do Bad Deeds

(Posted May 3, 2016)

An exploration of the research by PhD alums Mina Tsay-Vogel and Maja Krakowiak.

TV shows, movies, and books are full of characters we root for despite their despicable acts. Consider Dexter, the honorable serial killer, Walter White, the meth-cooking family man, and Arya Stark, the young assassin who seeks to avenge her slain family.

To make sense of viewers’ engagement with shows and stories featuring morally complex characters, Mina Tsay-Vogel, an assistant professor of communication at Boston University’s College of Communication, is looking beyond the past research that suggests viewers get the most enjoyment from watching good characters win and bad characters lose.

This argument is too simplistic for studying narratives that are constructed to encourage viewers or readers to empathize with morally complex characters, she says. For example, Dexter (from Showtime’s hit show by the same name) is a serial killer, but there’s a compelling reason for his depravity, says Tsay-Vogel, also the co-director of the Communication Research Center. Keep reading...

Rethinking the notion of a second Holocaust 

(Posted May 3, 2016)

News coverage of COMM faculty Boaz Dvir's film A Wing and a Prayer.
Editor’s note: The Focus on Research column highlights different research projects and topics being explored at Penn State. Each column will feature the work of a different researcher from across all disciplines.

As a documentary filmmaker, I change my mind about societal issues related to my projects much like kids experience growth — I only notice it months, sometimes years, later.

Directing and producing “Jessie’s Dad,” which captures the transformation of an uneducated truck driver into an effective child-protection activist following the loss of his daughter to a repeat sex offender, altered my point of view on mandatory sentencing. Making “Discovering Gloria,” which paints the portrait of an average teacher who became an innovative trailblazer after her inner-city school failed its No Child Left Behind exam, made me feel quite differently about standardized testing.

Gearing up for the May 4 Baltimore screening of my latest documentary, “A Wing and a Prayer,” I’ve noticed that it’s happened again: My thinking has shifted on a key topic, and my brain has only now bothered to notify me.

This time, it’s the Holocaust. Keep reading...

Multistakeholderism in Praxis: The Case of the Regional and National Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Initiatives

(Posted May 3, 2016)

Congrats to PhD alum Brandie Nonnecke for her co-authored article on Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Initiatives!

The growing phenomena of regional and national Internet Governance Forum (IGF) initiatives offer an opportunity to look into how various interpretations of the multistakeholder model play out in different cultural, political, and economic settings. The variety of ways in which the multistakeholderism is enacted are expressed through the organizational structures and procedures of these events, their funding mechanisms, their agendas and formats, the kind of participation they attract and enable, and their potential influence on the national, regional, or global Internet governance debates. This article is a systematic attempt to map out regional and national IGF initiatives with an emphasis on how the multistakeholder model is playing out in various contexts. This analysis builds on existing dispersed documentation of these initiatives, transcripts from meetings (such as global IGF interregional dialogs), and interviews with individuals engaged in facilitation of regional and national IGF initiatives. The goal of this exercise is to offer an empirically grounded framework for thinking about the emerging models of multistakeholder governance. Keep reading...

Native advertising may create negative perceptions of media outlets

(Posted May 3, 2016)

Native advertising, often known as sponsored content or promoted posts, is showing up all over the Internet. Users may expect native advertising on sites like Facebook and Buzzfeed, but a discussion has emerged among those in the public relations field on whether the practice impacts the credibility of the companies who pay for it or the news outlets who run it. Are there consequences when companies and news outlets go native?

With funding from the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication, a part of the College of Communications, Penn State researchers conducted a study to find out and presented the results at the International Public Relations Research Conference in March. The research team found that when content was identified as native advertising, readers held a lower opinion of the media outlet it was published in. However, the reputation of the company being promoted was not affected.

The idea for the project emerged while the team of graduate students was sitting in its weekly public relations group meeting. Adviser Denise Bortree, Page Center director and associate professor in the department of advertising and public relations, showed them a news article—or was it? Keep reading...

Professor Halstuk

(Posted May 3, 2016)

PSUComm‬ student Cameron Hart's photo profile of retiring faculty member Martin Halstuk.

“When I was 5-years-old I had my first panic attack. My father got me this rubber ball the top hemisphere was blue and the bottom was red and there was a white band around it. In that band there were blue letters and I remember sitting on the floor with my legs out and turning it and memorizing my alphabet because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in school. Apparently language resonated with me because of all the things you can freak out about I picked the English alphabet and I wanted to master it. When I was young I devoured books and by the time I was in the 8th grade I knew I wanted to write.” See the photo essay here...


Communications dean elected to leadership role with AEJMC

(Posted May 3, 2016)

Official university announcement about Marie Hardin as AEJMC Vice President, soon-to-be President.

Penn State College of Communications Dean Marie Hardin was elected vice president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). She will serve as vice president before becoming the AEJMC president for 2018-19.

“I’m grateful for the chance to help lead an organization that has been essential to my development and success,” said Hardin. “I'll be working with people I admire on projects that will move us ahead. That feels great.”

Hardin was named dean of the College of Communications in July 2014. She joined Penn State’s faculty in 2003, and previously served as associate dean for undergraduate and graduate education, capping levels of responsibility that grew regularly during her tenure at the University. Keep reading...


Water You Waiting For?

(Posted April 27, 2016)

New column by Russell Frank:

The first time I went to Ricketts Glen State Park, I wondered what took me so long. Why hadn’t I heard of it sooner? Why wasn’t it world famous?

The park is a waterfall freak’s paradise. It has 22 of them and you can see them all on one 7.2-mile trail loop. (Warning: The way is steep and slippery at times.)

The highest, Ganoga Falls, plunges 94 feet. To give you an idea of how high that is, Niagara drops 165 feet.
To give you an idea of how gorgeous Ricketts Glen is, let me drop a few names:
Yosemite. Yellowstone. Grand Canyon. Zion. Ricketts Glen has some of the grandeur of those western places.

This is not to belittle the East, whose green, rolling, forested landscapes I missed when I lived in drought-prone California. But the West has places where you round a bend in the trail and stop in your tracks, transfixed by the monumental magnificence of the view. Keep reading...

It’s Okay to Think of the Gilmore Girls As Your Real Friends

(Posted April 26, 2016)

Distinguished Prof Mary Beth Oliver quoted on parasocial relationships and binge watching in New York magazine!

Like roughly a zillion other mother-daughter pairs in the early 2000s, my mom and I were deeply devoted to Gilmore Girls, the television show chronicling the close relationship between 30-something Lorelai and her teenage daughter, Rory. We sang along to the opening credits, gleefully discussing the fact that I was more of a Rory (shy, studious), and she was more of a Lorelai (chatty, confident). We reveled in the tidiness of it, the neat symmetry between our lives and theirs — even though, in truth, there really wasn’t much of a resemblance there at all. (We didn’t live in a tiny, quirky Connecticut town; our nuclear family was bigger than just us two; our lexicon of snappy cult