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With international awards celebrating outstanding work, courses appearing in universities, regular sections dedicated to it in major publications, and financial packages awarded to help journalists develop interactive digital storytelling skills, “data journalism” has, over the last decade, gained worldwide recognition. Questions still open for exploration include how sustainable is it and how is it manifesting in different parts of the world, with different government policies about making data available. Even so, assumptions that data journalism is a “new” phenomenon have been challenged as researchers continue to dig deeper into its past. Very few will doubt the opportunities and innovations it presents especially insofar as rethinking professional practice and retooling investigative techniques are concerned. But data journalism also presents empirical, ethical and professional challenges especially in regions of the world, where it either hasn’t taken off or it’s struggling to gain ground. While access to groundbreaking statistics and ability to adopt storytelling techniques such as computer graphics and visualizations could trigger others to seek sensational success, data journalism’s first priority is to inform adequately and accurately. Failure to do so leaves journalism, already facing intensified international scrutiny as a result of numerous challenges ranging from lack of public trust to “problems associated with normative values and democracy; the political economy of the news media; the relevance of audiences and public trust; definitions of journalism itself; and the salience of old and new forms of professional ideology,” vulnerable.

Article

The relationship between journalists and their sources is central to journalism practice. It is a relationship based on a power struggle over the presentation of information to the public. The nature of that relationship continues to change in response to cultural, social, political, and technological circumstances. Historically, the relationship between journalists and sources has been predominantly characterized as interdependent, oscillating between cooperation and conflict over the control of information. However, the arrival of digital publishing platforms has significantly disrupted this mutually dependent exchange. It has blurred the boundaries between the two roles and released sources from their traditional reliance on journalists to disseminate their messages to citizens. Using digital platforms, sources have the option to bypass the traditional media and communicate directly with the public if it meets their strategic communication goals. Depending on whether the source is trying to reach a specific audience via social media or a wider audience via mass media, he or she can “opt-in” or “opt-out” of a traditional journalist-source relationship. The shift in power between reporters and sources poses a challenge to the authority and control of journalists who have lost their stranglehold over the means of publication. This change points to issues of accountability and scrutiny and raises questions about the ongoing relevance of journalism’s “fourth estate” role in democracy.

Article

Celebrities are famous individuals, well known by many members of the public, who appear frequently in media content. When celebrities appear in the media alongside another cause, be it selling soap or promoting public health, the message becomes a celebrity appeal. Celebrity appeals are messages where a celebrity advocates for or is implicitly associated with a target behavior. In the context of health and risk-related messages, celebrity appeals can take the form of public service announcements, advertisements for health and risk-related products, or even news coverage of a celebrity’s personal struggles with a health issue or risky behavior. Research on celebrity appeals overlaps with the marketing literature investigating the effects of celebrity endorsements on product preferences and purchasing behavior. This work on the persuasiveness of celebrity endorsements demonstrates that celebrities can draw attention to a product or idea, but also that many other factors, like involvement, familiarity, source credibility, and endorser gender can moderate how persuasive a celebrity-based appeal is. Additionally, research on celebrity disclosures of illnesses reveal that these de facto awareness campaigns can elicit emotions in audiences and motivate behavior change. However, media coverage of celebrities has also been associated with harmful effects on lay individuals’ wellbeing, suggesting important caveats for message designers who rely on celebrities to garner attention for a cause or to motivate lay individuals to change their own health and risk-related behaviors. The existing empirical evidence on celebrity appeals and additional theoretical perspectives for understanding their potential persuasiveness provides many insights for message designers.

Article

Edson C. Tandoc, Jr. and Andrew Duffy

News routines refer to patterns of outcome-oriented behavior, structured by ideological and organizational contexts, regularly enacted or invoked by newsworkers engaged in constructing the news, acting individually but thinking collectively. They are enacted by journalists to make their daily work more efficient and invoked to preserve their autonomy. They help make newswork more predictable and journalism more stable. Studies have documented various routines at different stages of news construction. In the access and observation stage, studies have focused on the beat system and journalists’ sourcing patterns, which determine the range of information and events they get to know about. In the selection and filtering stage, studies have examined how news values shape news selection and even deselection of articles. In the editing and processing stage, studies have examined practices associated with writing, such as the use of the inverted pyramid format and the use of direct quotes, as well as with editing and verification. Scholars have also focused on the impact of automation on news writing and editing. In the distribution stage, studies have explored live coverage as well as the use of social media to disseminate news. Finally, in the interpretation stage, studies have explored the tracking and monitoring of audience feedback via web analytics and social media, which also affect editorial decisions. But aside from making work more manageable, news routines also have two main consequences on news work: They drive newsworkers into the arms of authorities who are set up to give them information, and they increase the risk of compromising journalists’ autonomy. While they structure how journalists do their work, news routines are also structured by larger forces. The need for efficiency stems from the motivation for profitability in market-oriented news organizations. News routines also prescribe how news processes ought to be done, distinguishing news construction from other forms of work but also functioning as a form of control. Since they arise out of the practical needs of the organization and the field, news routines will adapt and emerge as journalists are confronted by a changing set of practical needs. Such adaptation opens the way to new information structures and new ideologies.

Article

Melanie Magin and Peter Maurer

Beat reporting refers to thematic specialization and routines (places to go, people to see) in journalism. The term reflects the distinction between general assignment reporters and specialized (beat) reporters covering a specific area (beat) as well as the subject-matter or geographic divisions between areas of reporting by which media organizations seek to structure the social environment they cover. Beat reporting marks the beginning of modern journalism. It was invented at the end of the 19th century in the United States with the aim to increase the efficiency of journalistic work. Thus it relates to the professionalization and rationalization of newspaper journalism and the transformation of newspapers into a mass product. In everyday work, beat reporting has undeniable advantages. It saves resources since beat reporters are very experienced on their beat and know well where and how to get exactly the information they need. Due to their long-term relationship of trust with relevant sources, beat reporters obtain exclusive, trustworthy, and newsworthy information. Along with this specialization come, however, several challenges; for example, the diversity of views represented in a beat might be limited, which can also affect the diversity of news coverage. At the extreme, this can even lead to pack journalism as a form of groupthink. Concerning the reporter–source relationship, there are three risks of losing professional distance: (a) If beat reporters become too loyal toward their sources, they can be instrumentalized; (b) being too adversarial toward their sources might entail a loss of trust and an increasing cynicism of the audience; (c) if beat reporters start feeling like advocates of their own interests, they might behave as activists rather than detached observers. Most recently, online journalism has changed the understanding of beat journalism (e.g., data journalism, local online beat) compared to the traditional understanding. Research on beat journalism has so far focused on stable, high-income democracies and on the political beat as the most fundamental and prominent beat.

Article

Kristin Page Hocevar, Miriam Metzger, and Andrew J. Flanagin

Our understanding and perceptions of source credibility significantly drive how we process health and risk messages, and may also influence relevant behaviors. Source credibility is believed to be impacted by both perceptions of source trustworthiness and expertise, and the effect of credibility on changes in attitudes and behavior has been studied for decades in the persuasion literature. However, how we understand and define source credibility—particularly the dimension of expertise—has changed dramatically as social media and other online platforms are increasingly used to design and disseminate health messages. While earlier definitions of source credibility relied heavily on the source’s credentials as indicators of expertise on a given topic, more recent conceptualizations must also account for expertise held by laypeople who have experience with a health concern. This shifting conceptualization of source credibility may then impact both why and when people select, as well as how they perceive, process, and judge, health messaging across both novel and more traditional communication contexts.

Article

Brenda L. Berkelaar and Millie A. Harrison

Broadly speaking, cybervetting can be described as the acquisition and use of online information to evaluate the suitability of an individual or organization for a particular role. When cybervetting, an information seeker gathers information about an information target from online sources in order to evaluate past behavior, to predict future behavior, or to address some combination thereof. Information targets may be individuals, groups, or organizations. Although often considered in terms of new hires or personnel selection, cybervetting may also include acquiring and using online information in order to evaluate a prospective or current client, employee, employer, romantic partner, roommate, tenant, client, or other relational partner, as well as criminal, civil, or intelligence suspects. Cybervetting takes advantage of information made increasingly available and easily accessible by regular and popular uses and affordances of Internet technologies, in particular social media. Communication scholars have long been interested in the information seeking, impression management, surveillance, and other processes implicated in cybervetting; however, the uses and affordances of new online information technologies offer new dimensions for theory and research as well as ethical and practical concerns for individuals, groups, organizations, and society.

Article

Metaphor equates two concepts or domains of concepts in an A is B form, such that a comparison is implied between the two parts leading to a transfer of features typically associated with B (called source) to A (called target). Metaphor is evident in written, spoken, gestural, and pictorial modalities. It is also present as latent patterns of thought in the form of conceptual mappings between domains of experience called conceptual metaphor. Metaphor is found commonly in a variety of health and risk communication contexts, including public discourse, public understanding and perceptions, medical encounters, and clinical assessment. Often metaphor use is beneficial to achieving desired message effects; however, sometimes its use in a message can lead to unintended undesirable effects. There is a general consensus, although not complete agreement, that metaphors in messages are processed through engagement with corresponding conceptual mappings. This matching process can be taken as a general principle for design of metaphor-based health and risk messages.