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Communication Faculty Scholars News

Dr. Andrew R. Binder

Posted on May 6, 2014 11:11 pm by Joan Alford

Dr. Andrew R. Binder

Dr. Andrew R. Binder

Assistant Professor Dr. Andrew R. Binder is the Communication faculty scholar of the month. His research focuses on how people develop attitudes toward and learn about science and risk, how the mass media depicts emerging technologies, and how social factors shape the communication of science.

Dr. Binder's published articles have focused on the interplay between mass communication and interpersonal communication—the messages people receive from media and how they talk about those topics with family and friends. This research has contributed to a greater understanding of how people come to see issues from polarized stances and how this dynamic is not limited to politics.

In a book manuscript in development, Dr. Binder examines how communities made sense of new potential risks posed to them by the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF). This story of risk is compelling because of how different people’s views became, even among those with similar backgrounds. The book project aims to untangle the how people’s feelings about the facility resulted from communication and how messages originating from various sources influenced the level of controversy surrounding it.

Recent classes taught at NC State:

COM 240: Communication Inquiry
COM 386: Quantitative Communication Research Methods
COM 498: Media & Politics (special topics course)
COM 541: Quantitative Research Methods in Applied Communication
COM 561: Human Communication Theory
COM 598: Seminar on Mass Media & Public Opinion (special topics course)


Dr. Lynsey K. Romo

Posted on March 26, 2014 12:39 pm by Joan Alford

Dr. Lynsey K. RomoBuilding on six years of real-world communication experience, in which Dr. Romo worked to improve health and economic conditions for low-income individuals, Dr. Romo is an interpersonal and health communication scholar. Her socially meaningful research examines how people communicate about uncomfortable issues, specifically pertaining to health and finances.

Dr. Romo largely explores how communication can affect people’s health decisions. She studies how families can encourage one another to engage in healthy weight management behaviors (for example, healthy eating or exercise) and the effects families can have on one another’s weight management. She has also examined how people who engage in healthy deviance (violating norms in healthy ways, a concept which emerged from her research) negotiate communication about these behaviors. Through her research Dr. Romo has uncovered strategies people can use to sustain or enact healthy behaviors (such as abstaining from alcohol or consuming a vegetarian diet) while maintaining their interpersonal relationships.

Dr. Romo is also at the forefront of interpersonal financial communication scholarship. Her focus on finances, together with health, is united by its examination of the uncertainty involved in managing one’s physical, social, or economic well-being while negotiating disclosure and/or multiple goals.

Although talking about money is a fundamental communication practice, little is known about finances from a communication perspective. Dr. Romo is working to fill the gap. She has interviewed parents and children about what motivates disclosure of financial information and uncovered what financial information children are learning. She has also examined the ways in which adults in married or cohabitating relationships negotiate financial uncertainty in the wake of the recession, illuminating practical communication tools people can use to manage their finances and their relationships.

Dr. Romo has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles that are aimed at helping people improve their lives and relationships through communication. Visit her faculty page for publications.


Dr. Ryan Hurley

Posted on February 2, 2014 3:12 pm by Joan Alford

People need and want recent information about cancer in order to make decisions about how they might manage their personal prevention, detection, treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life efforts. To get that information, they often turn to the news. But problems can arise when the information people get from the news doesn’t reflect the real world – and new research suggests that people’s beliefs about cancer are tainted as a result.

Dr. Ryan HurleyCancer news is a major source of information for those impacted by the disease. In an analysis of online cancer news (Hurley, Riles, & Sangalang, 2014), we found that treatment information was far and away the most popular content. This finding has been consistent across several media (e.g., newspapers, TV, online) in a number of studies, leading researchers to wonder about the impact of treatment-heavy news coverage on news consumers.

Particularly when compared to prevention coverage, which was fourth (of five) cancer stages in terms of coverage, the news environment seems to paint cancer as something to be treated after diagnosis as opposed to prevented from happening in the first place. Some have blamed the treatment-based coverage landscape for beliefs that cancer is inevitable or that everything causes cancer; a concept researchers refer to as cancer fatalism.

Though more work is required to determine the impact of treatment-heavy news coverage, progress has been made regarding the impact of distortions between news coverage and real-world cancer rate perceptions in news consumers. Our analysis also noted that online cancers are covered disproportionately compared to real-world incidence rates. In fact, several studies have now documented that breast cancer coverage in particular is drastically over-mentioned with respect to other cancers and actual incidence rates. Meanwhile, prostate cancer is chronically underrepresented in terms of coverage, even though it ranks number one in terms of incidences in the U.S.

What is the impact of news coverage trends that don’t mirror real-world incidence rates?

Problematic effects appear to fall into two particular categories. First, according to a new study I co-authored – published online Jan. 21 in the Journal of Health Communication – people’s perceptions of the most frequent cancers in reality are simply wrong and, not coincidentally, mirror coverage trends more than the actual incidence rate (Jensen, et al., 2014).

For example, in this research project we found that people perceived cancer incidences ranks as follows: breast, lung, and colon cancers with male reproductive cancers (e.g. prostate cancer) ranking seventh. Actual cancers rates show that male reproductive cancers are the most common followed by breast cancer. Another glaring inaccuracy in perception relates to blood cancer/leukemia. Blood cancers were perceived as the fourth most common cancers when in reality they rank tenth in terms of real-world incidences.

The second effect documented in our most recent study shows that funding for specific cancers mirrors perceptions and news coverage better than the actual incidences rates.

Breast cancer has led the funding race for sometime, doubling the funds received by any other specific cancer, in spite of its position as the second most prevalent cancer. Blood cancer ranks highly in funding (fifth), perceived incidence (fourth), and news coverage (fifth); however, its actual incidence rate ranks blood cancers tenth. On the other end of the spectrum, bladder cancers are among the least funded (11th), lowest in perceived incidence rank (15th), and least covered by the news (11th) in spite of bladder cancer ranking sixth in actual incidence rates.

Clearly, perceptions of cancers incidence rates are being impacted by media coverage and, furthermore, are significantly related to the amount of research funding received by specific cancers. With these two studies, we have attempted to track and compare coverage trends, perceptual ranks, and actual incidence rates of specific cancers. [Editor’s note: citations and links to both papers are included below.]

The story told by these studies is clear. First, coverage does not match actual incidence rates. Second, these incongruities impact perceptions of actual incidences rates. And finally, funding for research on specific cancers also appears to be related to media coverage and/or perceived (as opposed to actual) incidence rates.

So, what should journalists and the general public take away from this information? First, those reporting on issues of health should make a better effort to cover illnesses proportionally to their actual incidence rates. It is plausible that some cancers are perceived as more “media worthy” and therefore steal coverage from less exciting cancers. I would suggest erring on the side of accuracy rather than erring on the side of entertaining or aberrant coverage about health and illness.

For consumers, make sure to be informed about the real-world statistics before making personal health, policy, or funding decisions. The popularity of any given type of cancer in the media does not necessarily mean that type of cancer is the most prevalent, nor the type of cancer most in need of research funding.

Citations:

Hurley, R. J., Riles, J., & Sangalang, A. (2014). Online cancer news: Trends regarding article types, specific cancers, and the cancer continuum. Health Communication, 29, 41-50. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2012.715538

Jensen, J. D., Lynam-Scherr, C., Brown, N., Jones, C., Christy, K., & Hurley, R. J. (2014). Public estimates of cancer frequency: Cancer incidence perceptions mirror distorted media depictions. Journal of Health Communication. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2013.837551


Dr. Matthew May

Posted on October 31, 2013 10:47 am by Joan Alford

Dr. Matthew May

Dr. Matthew May

Dr. Matthew S. May, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, researches the transformative power of public discourse—in the oratorical performances of classical antiquity and the circuits of contemporary digital media.

His new book, Soapbox Rebellion: Hobo Orator Union and the Free Speech Fights of the Industrial Workers of the World, 1909-1916 (University of Alabama Press), explores the historical connections between the labor movement and the struggle for freedom of expression in the United States. (more…)


Dr. Kami Kosenko

Posted on September 17, 2013 3:33 pm by Joan Alford

Dr. Kami Kosenko

Dr. Kami Kosenko

Dr. Kami Kosenko works in the area of interpersonal health communication and strives to conduct theoretically and methodologically sophisticated research that has practical relevance and import. In particular, she is interested in the communicative challenges and coping strategies of individuals with stigmatized conditions or identities. The goal of her work is to identify common challenges and coping strategies within and across groups of stigmatized individuals, such as transgender community members, victims of violent crime, and people affected by HIV/AIDS, cancer, or HPV. (more…)