Sixth Brown Bag – October 24, 2014


Jessica Myrick, Assistant Professor, Journalism, Indiana University

Putting a Human Face on Cold-Hard-Facts: Effects of Personalizing Social Issues on Perceptions of Issue Importance 

This presentation will discuss a study that tested the influence of personalization (moving testimony from ordinary citizens) on the reception of television news reports about social issues. The data (N=80) from this mixed-design experiment offer evidence that personalized news stories evoked greater levels of empathy toward and identification with people who are affected by social issues, which in turn increased perceived importance of those issues. The effects of personalization persisted even a week after viewing the stories. Moreover, path analyses revealed that involvement with ordinary citizens in the news was a catalyst for understanding how men (but not women) assign importance to stories. The findings imply that the goal of advancing civic engagement with social issues could be served by employing personalized story formats.

Ozen Bas, PhD student, and Betsi Grabe, Professor, Telecommunications, Indiana University

The Participatory Potential of Emotional Personalization in News

News media are frequently implicated in examinations of citizen apathy and low voter turnout. Large survey data sets are often used to do diagnostics at the macro level, testing the effects of news consumption on political participation in general terms, without much effort to parse variance in terms of the content and form of news messages. The experiment reported here tests how emotional personalization of news messages might influence political participation intent. The data (N=80) provide support for the idea that being exposed to news that features emotional testimonies of people with first-hand experience of social issues encourages political participation. Unlike most existing research would suggest, education-based variance in participation intent did not emerge. Taken together, these findings offer evidence that message characteristics such as personalization of social issues can elicit political engagement from news users, which in turn has potential to revitalize the public sphere.


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