The Medium is the Message

Kevin Lewis

March 03, 2010

Taking Late Night Comedy Seriously: How Candidate Appearances on Late Night Television Can Engage Viewers

Michael Parkin
Political Research Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 3-15

Candidate appearances on entertainment television have become a staple of recent presidential campaigns, yet little is known about their effect on voters. Many assume that they leave viewers uninformed and focused on the candidate's personal image. In this article, the author investigates this idea with an experiment using John Kerry's 2004 appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. He finds that - contrary to popular expectations - late night interviews have particular features that can, at times, engage otherwise politically disinterested viewers, causing them to process and recall substantive policy information.


National TV broadcasting and the rise of the regulatory state

Bruce Yandle
Public Choice, March 2010, Pages 339-353

Using historical, theoretical and empirical arguments, this paper puts forth the notion that it was the rise of US national TV networks in the late 1960s that led to the expansion of federal social regulation and a simultaneous decline of federal economic regulation in the 1970s. The paper argues that national TV networks changed the relative position of national versus local and regional producers and sellers of goods and services. Instead of preferring state and local social regulation, the emerging national firms preferred federal social regulation. Since national markets were emerging, the same national firms lobbied for regulatory reform in transportation and communication services. The rise of national markets associated with national TV networks also stimulated a demand for mergers and consolidations. Data describing these various phenomena are provided in the paper.


Chasing the Bad News: An Analysis of 2005 Iraq and Afghanistan War Coverage on NBC and Fox News Channel

Sean Aday
Journal of Communication, March 2010, Pages 144-164

This study analyzes all stories aired on NBC Nightly News and Fox News Channel's Special Report With Brit Hume during 2005 about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and compares that coverage with real-world indicators to address an important question: Did the news media over-report bad news from these conflicts, as claimed by the Bush administration and as one might expect given research into the press' negativity bias? This study finds that while both channels focused a fair amount on negative storylines, overall the news actually underplayed bad news from both countries. Fox News was much more sympathetic to the administration than NBC, suggesting that scholars should consider Fox as alternative, rather than mainstream, media.


What Drives Media Slant? Evidence From U.S. Daily Newspapers

Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse Shapiro
Econometrica, January 2010, Pages 35-71

We construct a new index of media slant that measures the similarity of a news outlet's language to that of a congressional Republican or Democrat. We estimate a model of newspaper demand that incorporates slant explicitly, estimate the slant that would be chosen if newspapers independently maximized their own profits, and compare these profit-maximizing points with firms' actual choices. We find that readers have an economically significant preference for like-minded news. Firms respond strongly to consumer preferences, which account for roughly 20 percent of the variation in measured slant in our sample. By contrast, the identity of a newspaper's owner explains far less of the variation in slant.


The Value of Reanalysis: TV Viewing and Attention Problems

Michael Foster & Stephanie Watkins
Child Development, January/February 2010, Pages 368-375

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (N = 1,159), this study reexamines the link between maternal reports of television viewing at ages 1 and 3 and attention problems at age 7. This work represents a reanalysis and extension of recent research suggesting young children's television viewing causes subsequent attention problems. The nonlinear specification reveals the association between television watching and attention problems exists - if at all - only at very high levels of viewing. Adding 2 covariates to the regression model eliminated even this modest effect. The earlier findings are not robust. This study also considers whether its own findings are sensitive to unobserved confounding using fixed-effects estimation. In general, it finds no meaningful relation between television viewing and attention problems.


Exploring the Association between Israeli Legislators' Physical Attractiveness and Their Television News Coverage

Yariv Tsfati, Dana Markowitz Elfassi & Israel Waismel-Manor
International Journal of Press/Politics, forthcoming

This study develops and tests the hypothesis that physically attractive politicians receive more news coverage. The physical attractiveness of Members of the 16th Israeli Knesset (MKs) was assessed by students abroad, who did not know they were evaluating Israeli politicians. The number of times each member appeared on national television news at the time of study was obtained and used as a measure of television news coverage. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that, over and above controls for a host of factors, the physical attractiveness of the MKs was associated with their coverage in television news.


Sources of Economic News and Economic Expectations

Kirby Goidel1, Stephen Procopio, Dek Terrell & Denis Wu
American Politics Research, forthcoming

This article considers the process by which local economic news coverage influences individual evaluations of the economy. We improve on prior research by capturing a wider range of news sources (including national network news, national newspapers, local television news, and local newspapers) and connecting the effects of this coverage on individual level attitudes. We find that current personal financial evaluations, personal financial expectations, and short-term (12-month) expectations for the U.S. economy are related to national network coverage. Local television coverage of the economy is related to personal financial evaluations but not short-term economic expectations and local print news is important in structuring expectations of future business conditions. Overall, the findings illustrate important differences in economic coverage across media outlets and the effects of these differences on economic expectations. Exposure to different sources of economic information have significantly different effects on economic perceptions-suggesting a more complicated and nuanced role for the news media in shaping economic perceptions than indicated by previous research.


Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review

Craig Anderson, Akiko Shibuya, Nobuko Ihori, Edward Swing, Brad Bushman, Akira Sakamoto, Hannah Rothstein & Muniba Saleem
Psychological Bulletin, forthcoming

Meta-analytic procedures were used to test the effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, empathy/desensitization, and prosocial behavior. Unique features of this meta-analytic review include (a) more restrictive methodological quality inclusion criteria than in past meta-analyses; (b) cross-cultural comparisons; (c) longitudinal studies for all outcomes except physiological arousal; (d) conservative statistical controls; (e) multiple moderator analyses; and (f) sensitivity analyses. Social-cognitive models and cultural differences between Japan and Western countries were used to generate theory-based predictions. Meta-analyses yielded significant effects for all 6 outcome variables. The pattern of results for different outcomes and research designs (experimental, cross-sectional, longitudinal) fit theoretical predictions well. The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior. Moderator analyses revealed significant research design effects, weak evidence of cultural differences in susceptibility and type of measurement effects, and no evidence of sex differences in susceptibility. Results of various sensitivity analyses revealed these effects to be robust, with little evidence of selection (publication) bias.


It's Okay to Shoot a Character: Moral Disengagement in Violent Video Games

Tilo Hartmann & Peter Vorderer
Journal of Communication, March 2010, Pages 94-119

What makes virtual violence enjoyable rather than aversive? Two 2×2 experiments tested the assumption that moral disengagement cues provided by a violent video game's narrative and game play lessen users' guilt and negative affect, which would otherwise undermine players' enjoyment of the game. Experiment 1 found that users' familiarity with the violent game reduced guilt and negative affect, and enhanced enjoyment, whereas opponents' nonhuman outer appearance and blameworthiness had no effect. Experiment 2 found that fighting for a just purpose, perceiving less mayhem, and framing the overall situation as "just a game" or "just an experiment" reduced guilt and negative affect, whereas the distorted portrayal of consequences did not. Effects on game enjoyment were mixed and suggest that moral disengagement cues may both foster and diminish game enjoyment.


How Effective is Creativity? Emotive Content in TV Advertising Does Not Increase Attention

Robert Heath, Agnes Nairn & Paul Bottomley
Journal of Advertising Research, December 2009, Pages 450-463

Emotive creativity is generally believed to facilitate communication by increasing attention. However, during relaxed TV viewing, psychology suggests we may pay less not more attention to emotive ads. An experiment conducted in a realistic viewing environment found that ads that were high in emotive content correlated with a 20 percent lower level of attention and that attention toward these ads was unlikely to decline on repeat viewing. This supports the idea that TV advertising is not systematically processed but is automatically processed in response to the stimuli presented. We speculate that emotive creativity may benefit brand TV advertising by lowering attention and inhibiting counter-argument.


"The Last of the World's Afflicted Race of Humans Who Believe in Freedom": Race, Colonial Whiteness and Imperialism in John Ford and Dudley Nichols's The Hurricane (1937)

Graham Cassano
Journal of American Studies, February 2010, Pages 117-136

This essay examines the political meanings of John Ford and Dudley Nichols's film The Hurricane (1937). The Hurricane appears at a pivotal moment in American history, a moment when Ford and Nichols set out to make films for a "new kind of public." This new audience was forged by new political forces, including the rise of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Popular Front, and Roosevelt's New Deal. Building on previous work that documents Nichols's affiliation with Popular Front organizations, and Ford's own political cinema (including The Informer (1935), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and How Green Was My Valley (1941)), I argue that The Hurricane offers a fundamental critique of European imperialism, and imperial "whiteness." At the same time, the energies for that critique come from a paradoxically "progressive" orientalism that represents South Seas "natives" as inherently wild and independent. It is this projected hunger for independence that allows Ford and Nichols to argue against colonial "whiteness," while, almost simultaneously, they portray African Americans as servile and dependent, thus justifying white supremacy and racial oppression in the United States. Finally, by way of conclusion, I suggest that this dyadic representation - natives as independent, blacks as dependent - continues to structure the politics of Ford's post-World War II cinema, allowing him to normalize white supremacy at home, while at the same time justifying American military adventures abroad in the name of freedom for "the world's afflicted races."


Listening to Rap: Cultures of Crime, Cultures of Resistance

Julian Tanner, Mark Asbridge & Scot Wortley
Social Forces, December 2009, Pages 693-722

This research compares representations of rap music with the self-reported criminal behavior and resistant attitudes of the music's core audience. Our database is a large sample of Toronto high school students (n = 3,393) from which we identify a group of listeners, whose combination of musical likes and dislikes distinguish them as rap univores. We then examine the relationship between their cultural preference for rap music and involvement in a culture of crime and their perceptions of social injustice and inequity. We find that the rap univores, also known as urban music enthusiasts, report significantly more delinquent behavior and stronger feelings of inequity and injustice than listeners with other musical tastes. However, we also find that the nature and strengths of those relationships vary according to the racial identity of different groups within urban music enthusiasts. Black and white subgroups align themselves with resistance representations while Asians do not; whites and Asians report significant involvement in crime and delinquency, while blacks do not. Finally, we discuss our findings in light of research on media effects and audience reception, youth subcultures and post-subcultural analysis, and the sociology of cultural consumption.


Steve Irwin's Influence on Wildlife Conservation

William Brown
Journal of Communication, March 2010, Pages 73-93

The present study assesses audience involvement with popular television personality Steve Irwin, who died tragically at the peak of his career. A survey of 1,800 media consumers revealed that Irwin was perceived to be a hero and role model for wildlife conservation. News of his death spread quickly and globally, promoting interpersonal dialoguing and Internet searching. Those more highly involved with Irwin talked with more people and longer about his death, and, as hypothesized, were more likely to increase their support of wildlife conservation. The effects of involvement with Irwin spanned age groups, educational levels, ethnic groups, and gender. Implications of these findings on the international influence of popular celebrities are discussed.

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