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Research statement

Online media—Participatory journalism

This area examines ways that professional journalists and citizen journalists are using online media to renegotiate what journalism is and looks like today. In Gil de Zuniga et al. (2011), we developed a model supported with empirical evidence that bloggers have certain perceptions and motivations that lead to journalistic behaviors in their blogging practices. The perception-motivation-behavior path uses structural equation modeling to illustrate the direct and mediated links among the three elements. Previous research had proposed those relationships in theoretical offerings, but not with empirical connections.

In Hinsley & Johnson (2013), I invited a master’s student to work with me and the findings compared Facebook users who share news on the site and non-sharers. Two news-sharing motivations were identified: 1) to maintain relationships and 2) to help others and themselves. This insight highlights why some information spreads at a rapid pace and how people use information to forge stronger connections with others. It also suggests a digital divide between news-sharers and non-sharers.

Recently, I have engaged in a series of research projects examining Twitter’s role as a communication tool during different types of crises. The first project focuses on the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. following the death of Michael Brown in August 2014. Hinsley & Lee (2015) provided an overview of journalists’ and activists’ message strategies, which were consistent with established practices for each group. That study further developed the online communication practices used in a crisis situation. Subsequent research has expanded to include a national survey exploring the types of crises information the people seek, the sources they see as most credible, and the platforms on which they want to receive crisis information. Additionally, interviews with journalists in different cities are shedding light on how they applied journalistic norms when covering various crises on social media.


Online media—Psychology of social media use

The pieces in this area are linked to journalism through the guidance they provide media managers and scholars seeking insight about individual personality traits that influence the public’s use of social networking sites and other communication tools. As with other studies, we found in the Correa et al. (2010) article that extraversion and openness to experience were linked with greater social media use. The research is unique from similar studies because it used a national sample of U.S. adults, not a convenience sample of college students, and found differences in gender and age. The other piece, Correa et al. (2013), is a book chapter that summarizes the original study and places it in context with other studies of personality traits and social media use.

Media management—Change management

In the past two decades, the entire media industry has become a study in managing change. Traditional and emerging media organizations sought market share and audience attention as technology and economic changes transformed the profession. Journalists have come to see most technological tools as improving the quality of their work. The tools, however, also challenged journalistic routines and added to the news workers’ workloads as they struggled to master new devices, software and platforms. Economic changes, of course, did not inspire optimism. Dropping revenues were compounded by the global recession, leading organizations to slash expenses, resources and positions. The magnitude of these changes and their effect on journalists is detailed in two book chapters: Hinsley & Schmitz Weiss (2010) and (2012). In two years, much had changed. In 2010, journalists were discouraged with technological changes in their work because they were still adjusting to the new tools; by 2012, most were using the tools regularly. Economic concerns persisted. Using this data, we forecast how journalists will do their work in the future and how their practices will continue to change.

Another book chapter, Hinsley (2013), examines the impact of these changes in relation to journalists’ sense of connectedness to the profession and their organizations. Journalists are highly identified with the profession, aligning their work with basic tenets such as contributing to an informed society and being watchdogs. Journalists’ bond to their organization, then, is tempered by the extent to which the company enables them to carry out the practices of the profession. Based on empirical research, the chapter outlines approaches for managers to enhance journalists’ connections to the organization since high identification engenders greater productivity and reduces turnover.

Hinsley (2017) assesses organizational identification during a time of change for two news groups. In a case study of the merger of St. Louis Public Radio and the nonprofit St. Louis Beacon, employees across all departments reflected on their place in the new, merged organization and in their “old” organization, as well as ways they can move forward in establishing the new identity of St. Louis Public Radio.

We looked at challenges throughout the news industry in two editions of the book The Future of News, which I co-edited in 2010 and 2012. The chapters examined a variety of issues that included information overload, media fragmentation, economic models, global journalism, social media, participatory journalism and the gamification of news. From the 2010 edition, four chapters were revised for 2012 and ten new chapters were added.

One of my previous studies focused on women and their perceived place in the profession, and the changes needed to overcome barriers that managers had perpetuated. Hinsley (2010) highlights certain norms that reinforced how women were covered in a leading trade publication over 30 years as objects of news as well as how they experienced the profession as news workers.

In Van Slette & Hinsley (2017) we examine a newspaper’s coverage of a rape victim and justification of publishing her name. We deconstruct the newspaper’s reports and subsequent criticisms that it reinforced rape culture. We identified a secondary theme in the newspaper’s reports of discrediting a public relations professional, who was the victim. The analysis outlines flawed ethical reasoning by leaders at the newspaper, and it argues for greater recognition of how negative tension between journalists and public relations practitioners influences coverage.

Media management—Public perception

Essential components of effective media management include understanding the operations of the industry, organizations and personnel. Another crucial element is seeking insight about the audience. The studies here explore how the public views journalism and how they feel when a news outlet is no longer available. Gil de Zuniga & Hinsley (2013) identified a disconnect in how journalists and the public view traditional “good journalism” tenets such as providing analysis and being objective. The disparity illustrates for industry leaders the need to focus on rebuilding credibility with news consumers. Interestingly, the other study in this area discovered the high regard that the public has for journalism after it’s gone. In the Smethers et al. (2007) article, community members felt a great sense of loss and detachment when their local newspaper folded.

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