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A Matter of Perspective: An Experimental Study on Potentials of Constructive Journalism for Communicating a Crisis

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A Matter of Perspective: An Experimental Study on Potentials of Constructive Journalism for Communicating a Crisis

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Abstract

Restorative narratives describe a new form of journalism that attempts to overcome the detrimental effects of the more prevalent negative and destructive tone of news coverage. This study investigates the potentials and risks of restorative narratives in the coverage of crises with a 2 (restorative/negative) × 2 (COVID-19/climate crisis) experimental online study (n = 829) for emotional, cognitive, evaluative, and behavioral outcomes. For both crises, results demonstrate that restorative narratives evoked more positive emotional reactions to the news, were more likely to be endorsed, and improved quality ratings of the news article compared with negative narratives. We found no effects for elaboration and information-seeking.

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Commentators regularly lament the proliferation of both negative and/or strategic (“horse race”) coverage in political news content. The most frequent account for this trend focuses on news norms and/or the priorities of news journalists. Here, we build on recent work arguing for the importance of demand-side, rather than supply-side, explanations of news content. In short, news may be negative and/or strategy-focused because that is the kind of news that people are interested in. We use a lab study to capture participants’ news-selection biases, alongside a survey capturing their stated news preferences. Politically interested participants are more likely to select negative stories. Interest is associated with a greater preference for strategic frames as well. And results suggest that behavioral results do not conform to attitudinal ones. That is, regardless of what participants say, they exhibit a preference for negative news content.
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This review of the literature on disaster media coverage describes the events, samples, and forms of media coverage (television, newspapers, radio, internet) studied and examines the association between media consumption and psychological outcomes. A total of 36 studies representing both man-made and natural events met criteria for review in this analysis. Most studies examined disaster television viewing in the context of terrorism and explored a range of outcomes including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caseness and posttraumatic stress (PTS), depression, anxiety, stress reactions, and substance use. There is good evidence establishing a relationship between disaster television viewing and various psychological outcomes, especially PTSD caseness and PTS, but studies are too few to draw definitive conclusions about the other forms of media coverage that have been examined. As media technology continues to advance, future research is needed to investigate these additional media forms especially newer forms such as social media.
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Support is surfacing in the popular media, and in some cases the scholarly press, for allegations that the media's perspective is tinted by partisanship and negativity. Despite great attention to these matters, analyses subjecting these claims to objective testing, using meaningful baselines with which to compare coverage, have been lacking. By studying coverage of unemployment, an issue for which outcomes are known and quantified, this research offers comparisons of coverage when presidents of both parties have produced the same results and when the unemployment rate has fallen or risen by a comparable margin. The results, utilizing a fair baseline from which to evaluate media coverage, provide no evidence of any meaningful partisan bias while offering strong evidence that the media cover bad outcomes far more than good.
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The cognitive mediation model of learning from the news proposes that motivations for news use influence the processing to which the news information is put, and that this processing is the proximal determinant of learning. The role of motivations in learning from the news, then, is indirect through information processing. Secondary analysis of data indicate substantial support for the model. The relationship between motivations and knowledge was reduced by the introduction of the mediating cognitive variables, news attention, and news elaboration. Both attention and elaboration were significantly related to knowledge, even after controlling all other variables in the model.
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The cognitive mediation model predicts that the impact of a learning gratification for news media use on knowledge of news content is mediated by information processing variables. Specifically, surveillance gratifications seeking should encourage two forms of information processing: news attention and elaboration. These forms of information processing should covary and have a direct and positive impact on learning of news content. The impact of surveillance gratifications seeking on knowledge—expected at the zero-order level—should be approximately zero when these information processing variables are controlled. A secondary analysis of two sample surveys (N = 512 and N = 567) plus analysis of original data specifically designed to test the model (N = 299) provide nearly complete support for hypotheses derived from the model in the context of political learning from the news. Suggestions for expansion of the model are provided.
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An effect observable across many different domains is that negative instances tend to be more influential than comparably positive ones. This phenomenon has been termed the negativity bias. In the current work, it was investigated whether this effect pertains to judgments of truth. That is, it was hypothesized that information valence and perceived validity should be associated such that more negative information is deemed more true. This claim was derived from the findings that negative instances tend to demand more attentional resources and that more elaborate processing can render messages more persuasive. In three experiments, manipulating information valence through framing – and assessing judgments of truth – the hypothesized negativity bias was corroborated. Potential explanations and implications for further research are discussed.
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This study extends the research on information processing in performance appraisal judgments. A critical aspect of this research is the relation between memory and judgment processes. Performance appraisal researchers have traditionally assumed that performance judgments are based on memory for specific behaviors; implicit in this assumption is the idea that as memory for specific behaviors improves, judgmental accuracy should also improve. The authors elaborate the circumstances under which performance ratings are more or less likely to be based on previously formed judgments as opposed to memory for specific information. Results indicate that the causal relation between memory and judgment is driven by contextual factors at the time ratings are required as well as at the time information is encoded. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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L'A. montre que chaque individu tient a etre tenu informe des differents evenements qui surviennent au cours de l'existence et cela qu'il soit concerne ou non par l'information. Il estime que la connaissance permet de reduire, de repondre a certains dangers, a certaines peurs. Il s'efforce de comprendre l'importance de l'information dans le cadre de la vie humaine. Il estime que le besoin d'information s'est manifeste des la Prehistoire. Il presente une analyse de type evolutionniste de ce type de besoin qui fait intervenir a la fois une dimension biologique et culturelle
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Scholars have begun to explore the role of modes of information processing and related audience characteristics in reactions to risky situations and risk information.((11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 20))"Information processing" concerns how people attend to and consider available information: systematic processors analyze messages and situations carefully, while heuristic processors skim and use cues (e.g., opinions of trusted reference groups) for quick judgments. This article uses scenarios about a semi-hypothetical industrial facility, in particular risk comparisons being considered by its manager for inclusion in a talk to the community, to explore the impact of information processing. Information insufficiency, self-assessed capacity to understand information, and information-seeking propensities are tested for potential effects on information processing about industrial risks by people living near industry. As well as testing established models, this article explores the additional explanatory value of involvement, relevance, and ability (Earle et al., 1990) and objective knowledge. Both existing model variables and new ones have significant effects on information seeking and information processing in this case, and partly confirm earlier results. Trumbo((17,18)) found that heuristic processors saw lower risk and systematic processors higher risk from suspected cancer clusters. In this study, reporting knowledge about local industrial risks as insufficient for one's purposes and self-reported avoidance of such information both raised ratings of the facility's risk and lowered ratings of its acceptability. Neither type of information processing significantly affected risk or acceptability judgments, but both increased risk ratings and heuristic processing had more effect than systematic processing. Positive ratings of risk comparisons' clarity and meaningfulness decreased risk and increased acceptability ratings, dominated other information variables in predictive power, and exceeded risk, benefit, and trust in contribution to acceptability judgments. Despite differences across studies in designs and variables, and the embryonic development of appropriate (self-reported) measures for use in field surveys, these results confirm the potential value of further research in how information seeking and processing affect risk beliefs and reactions to risk communications.