Faculty-student research team will examine media portrayal of Native Americans

Representations of indigenous populations in the news media is the focus of a funded research project spearheaded by Hector Rendon, assistant professor of communications at the Newhouse School.

Hector Rendon

The project, to be conducted from January to May, is funded by a grant from the Syracuse Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement (The SOURCE).

Rendon will hire two undergraduate students to help conduct research about representations of indigenous populations in TV news stories. Examining the country’s four major news networks—ABC News, NBC News, FOX News and CNN—the team will seek to identify patterns of news media coverage of indigenous populations, and compare specific patterns of Native American representations among networks.

“This is a great opportunity for undergraduate students from Newhouse who want to develop research skills,” Rendon says. “I believe that this kind of project, focused on social justice, can have a positive impact on the students’ careers, and also on the community, because this will help us further our understanding about how Native American populations are generally portrayed by the news industry.”

Once the team finishes the research project, Rendon says the intention is for the study to be published in an academic journal with the student researchers as co-authors. “Publishing in an academic journal while still at the undergraduate level will give our students a great advantage in their careers,” Rendon says.

The SOURCE’s mission is to foster and support diverse undergraduate participation in faculty-guided scholarly research and creative inquiry. Student participants progress from training in research or other creative skills to designing and revising the structure of their projects to research, creative and professional contributions that are original and timely.

STUDY: Media and Modern Racism: Understanding Anti-Asian Attitudes and Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Lars Willnat

Lars Willnat


John Ben Snow Endowed Research Chair

Who worked on the project?

Jian Shi, doctoral student and Lars Willnat, John Ben Snow Research Professor.

What was the focus of the project?

According to a recent report by Stop AAPI Hate, more than 9,000 anti-Asian incidents have been reported across the United States since the coronavirus pandemic began. These anti-Asian incidents represented about 16% of all reported hate crimes in 2020, making Asian Americans the third-most racially targeted group, following black Americans and Jewish Americans (Donlevy, 2020).

In light of this unprecedented rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, our study examines how exposure to partisan news media and the growing political polarization of the American public might affect xenophobia toward Asian Americans through perceptions of symbolic and realistic threat.

What questions did your project seek to address? What were the research questions, hypotheses, etc?

We argue that the consistent media coverage of President Trump’s attacks on China and his frequent use of discriminatory terms such as “Chinese virus” or “Kung Flu” has boosted anti-Asian attitudes by increasing perceived levels of symbolic and realistic threats associated with Asian Americans. Specifically, we hypothesize that the news media can “prime” audiences to stigmatize Asian Americans through repeated displays of prejudicial text and images of Asian Americans.

We also argue that this mediated stigmatization is associated with higher levels of perceived symbolic (values or beliefs) and realistic (economic and physical well-being) threat coming from Asian Americans, which, in turn, might increase anti-Asian attitudes.

What were your findings?

The study is based on a national online survey with 1,200 randomly selected U.S. adults conducted in August 2021.

Our findings indicate that exposure to news about the pandemic on Fox News and social media was associated with higher levels of anti-Asian stigmatization related to the pandemic.

What do you think are the implications for the discipline/profession?

As predicted, this mediated anti-Asian stigmatization significantly boosted participants’ perceptions of realistic and symbolic threats coming from Asian Americans, which, in turn, increased respondents’ racist and hostile attitudes toward Asian Americans. Specifically, more than one-fifth of respondents expressed that they had sometimes or frequently felt fear, nervousness, or discomfort toward people of Asian descent.

This study has received a 2021 CUSE Grant.

Newhouse Professor is part of a research team examining media literacy in the U.S.

Communications scholar and Newhouse faculty member Srividya Ramasubramanian is part of a diverse team of researchers, educators, professionals and activists who conducted a yearlong research project, “Mapping Impactful Media Literacy Practice.”


The resulting report, “Equity and Impact in Media Literacy Practice: Mapping the Field in the United States,” has been published by the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), along with the “Field Guide for Equitable Media Literacy Practice.”

The project consisted of a scoping review of existing research, stakeholder interviews and a survey, which drew 741 respondents from a range of organizations who engage in a diverse set of practices.

The research was led by three core questions:

“This is one of the most comprehensive research projects on equity, impact and media literacy in the U.S.,” Ramasubramanian says. “Equity is often overlooked within media literacy research. However, it is important to recognize that social inequities shape differential impacts of media literacy practices on individuals and communities. I am most excited about the research-driven ‘Field Guide to Equitable Media Literacy Practices,’ which is a self-paced interactive map to guide those interested in learning more.”

Key findings from the report will be presented at a virtual event Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. ET.

Ramasubramanian is the Newhouse Professor, an endowed chair position. She is widely recognized for her pioneering work on race and media, media literacy initiatives, implicit bias reduction and scholar-activism. She is editor-in-chief of Communication Monographs, the flagship journal of the discipline.

Henderson part of research team awarded $1.5M NSF grant

Keren Henderson

Keren Henderson, associate professor of broadcast and digital journalism at the Newhouse School, is part of a research team that has received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the impact of technology on journalism.

Kevin Crowston, distinguished professor of information science and associate dean for research at the School of Information Studies, is principal investigator.

The project will explore the technologies journalists use, the impacts of those technologies and how technology can influence the journalism industry. The grant team will also design new narrative discovery and production tools for journalists.

The grant is part of NSF’s Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier program, which is focused on research exploring challenges and opportunities for the future of work.

Future of news production the focus of NSF planning grant

Two researchers from Syracuse University are part of a team that received a $130,000 planning grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier.

The project, “Planning to study automation and the future of news production,” brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to look at the impact of technology on journalists and journalism.

Kevin Crowston

Kevin Crowston, distinguished professor of information science and associate dean for research at the School of Information Studies, is principal investigator. Keren Henderson, assistant professor of broadcast and digital journalism at the Newhouse School, is also part of the team. Other team members include Jeffrey Nickerson, professor at Stevens Institute of Technology’s School of Business, and Lydia Chilton, assistant professor of computer science at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“The future work of journalists is great topic for our study because journalism has long been shaped by new technologies, from the printing press to the telephone to TV to the web, but guided by strong professional norms and values,” Crowston says. “We’re looking forward to understanding how this interplay shapes the use of smarter machines that can share part of the work.”

Keren Henderson

Henderson is conducting a qualitative case study of a large market local television newsroom. “Under which circumstances do local television journalists embrace technological innovations to improve their ability to inform the public, including professional storytelling across platforms?” Henderson asks.

“Journalists today are understandably concerned about how automation is used as a means of replacing human workers,” says Henderson. “Our team is approaching this research with the journalists’ best interests in mind. We want to help members of the Fourth Estate to do their best work.”  

The planning grant supports the researchers as they develop a proposal for sustained research on the future of news production that may be supported by a large-scale grant from NSF. Their work would consider technologies such as natural language processing, crowdsourcing, information visualization and artificial intelligence. The planned work includes refining the project vision and theoretical framework, recruiting field sites and an advisory board, conducting pilot research to identify relevant technologies and impacts and planning of convergent research activities.

Newhouse professors receive funding for work on technology to combat fake news

Two professors from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications have received a $830,958 subcontract agreement for the development of technology to detect manipulated media and combat the spread of fake news.

Stephen Masiclat and Regina Luttrell
Stephen Masiclat and Regina Luttrell

Stephen Masiclat, professor and director of new media management and director of the Thomas and Lisa Mandel Experimental Media Lab, and Regina Luttrell, assistant professor of public relations and director of the W2O Emerging Insights Lab, will work to refine a theoretical framework for the creation and testing of AI algorithms that can identify manipulated media. They will collaborate with researchers from private industry and academia.

The 48-month subcontract is part of the Semantic Forensics (SemaFor) program, funded by an $11.9 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract with PAR Government Systems Corp. The program seeks to create a system for automatic detection, attribution and characterization of falsified media assets.

“The challenge of fake news and disinformation is something we as communications educators have an obligation to address,” says Newhouse Dean Mark J. Lodato. “This is a new area of research for the Newhouse School, and allows us to contribute to the ongoing national conversation about the importance of reliable, fact-based information for the health of our society. Steve and Gina are doing important work.”

Masiclat and Luttrell have already built a preliminary theoretical framework consisting of an eight-dimensional analysis, and will work with researchers to test and refine their ideas.

They will create large data sets—a massive archive of both real and fake news stories based on their theoretical framework—that will train and validate AI algorithms. “Over the next four years we will evaluate various aspects of our proposed ‘theory of semantic consistency’ that can be used to create and test AI algorithms that detect key flaws,” Masiclat says. “This will allow us to develop a method for separating reliable journalism from deliberate misinformation.”

Wider access to automated manipulation technologies, coupled with the ease of sharing provided by social media platforms, has increased the threat posed by manipulated media, according to DARPA.

“This work signals Newhouse’s commitment to preserving the First Amendment and addressing the impact misinformation spread across social media has on society,” Luttrell says. “The proliferation of fake news over the past few years has caused numerous problems. Grappling with the many questions plaguing the role of truth and trust in news media, social media and society is paramount. It’s our intention that this research will help detect and combat disinformation.”

Masiclat and Luttrell will form a team of doctoral student researchers, based in Newhouse’s Experimental Media and W2O Emerging Insights Labs, to assist with the research.

STUDY: Mindfulness-based interventions for managing professional stress and burnout

Mark Costa

Assistant Research Professor,

Mindfulness-based interventions are an increasingly popular approach to help diverse groups of professionals, including teachers, nurses, active duty military, and veterans, manage stress and professional burnout, while simultaneously improving focus and empathy. We wanted to test whether using a mindfulness-based intervention would help reduce teacher attrition, which is a nationwide problem. Novice teachers leave the profession at alarming rates. In some districts, over thirty percent of teachers quit within their first few years.

Although mindfulness-based interventions work, getting individuals to stick to the individual and group training sessions is difficult because of the time and travel commitments. Mindfulness-based interventions also have trouble scaling because of the lack of qualified instructors. Our plan is to address the challenges associated with mindfulness interventions by supporting individual and group mindfulness sessions with virtual reality, making it easier for teachers to participate remotely. With virtual reality, we can provide a sense of connection associated with being in a group setting while cutting out the travel time. Our goal is to increase participation in the program and ultimately reduce teacher attrition by giving them the tools they need to manage stress in a healthy manner.

This study has received a 2019 CUSE Grant.

STUDY: The Interactive Effects of Campaign Sponsors and ‘Myths and Facts’ Message Variations on Correcting Misconceptions about Vaping and Preventing E-cigarette Use Among Young Adults

Joon Soo Lim

Joon Soo Lim

Associate Professor,
Public Relations

Summary: Goal: The purpose of the study is to examine whether “myths and facts” message variations presented by two different sponsors of the message will make a difference in correcting the misconceptions about vaping among US young adults and preventing them from initiating vaping. With this goal in mind, the current research will test different versions of advocacy communications that debunk pervasive myths about vaping on social media.

Method: In two experiments, the current project examines the interactive effects of “myths and facts” message variations and the sponsors of advocacy message on correcting misconceptions about e-cigarette use and preventing the use of e-cigarettes among young adults.

Rationale: A priority area of the proposed research project focuses on health communication to build a healthier and equitable community. The effort to create a healthy community via tobacco and e-cigarette control has often been challenged by various stakeholders that call for evidence-based regulatory moves, as well as the inclusion of diverse stakeholders that are involved and might be affected. The underlying assumption of this research is that effective anti-vaping advocacy messages targeting today’s generation must be inclusive as well as balanced in argumentation.

This study has received a 2019 CUSE Grant.

STUDY: Utilizing Artificial Neural Network algorithms (ANNs) to develop a model of effective ad curation

The ability to measure audiences during television commercial breaks versus the overall program has created a new challenge for broadcasters. Advertising revenues provide the foundation of a networks ability to invest in programming, including their news product. The ability to maintain audiences during commercial breaks increases the revenue potential and helps maintain a network’s ability to produce independent journalism. With high commercial clutter currently, viewership declines during commercial breaks is high, reducing the amount of revenue network’s earn. Accurate estimation of the extent to which viewership drops when a commercial is presented can have many benefits:

Artificial Neural Network algorithms (ANNs) have been applied to many predictive and forecasting problems and often outperform traditional regression tasks. Recent developments in Deep Learning algorithms have found application in consumer devices, addressing difficult pattern recognition problems that arise in image processing and speech recognition. The proposed work will apply such algorithms to the prediction of reduction in commercial viewership.

Professors Beth Egan and Fiona Chew of the Newhouse School, and Chilukuri Mohan of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, combine expertise from advertising, media studies and machine learning. Much of the research data provided by Comscore.

This study has received a 2019 CUSE Grant.