NDSU communication faculty member receives research award

NDSU assistant professor of communication Shuning Lu has received a $10,000 Mass Communication and Society (MCS) Research Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Conferred annually, the MCS Research Award supports both faculty and students who conduct research in the field of mass communication. Lu found the opportunity via SPIN, the NDSU funding database.

Lu’s research is a collaboration with assistant professor at Hong Kong Baptist University Luwei Rose Luqiu. The two will study the dynamics of journalist-audience relationships on social media in the context of Hong Kong. Specifically, Lu and Luqiu are interested in learning how audiences form their expectations and evaluations of journalists’ social media use and how these attitudes in turn impact audiences’ interaction with journalists on social media.

Lu teaches media writing and broadcast production at the undergraduate level and quantitative research methods at the graduate level at NDSU. She notes that while the debate over whether journalists should express their personal views on social media has been going on for years, a recent incident involving the Associated Press firing a journalist who tweeted pro-Palestinian opinions has created new interest in the topic.

“We hope our work will provide insights into how journalists could make better use of social media to inform and connect with the public, enhance their professional image, and restore media trust in a polarized society with constrained press freedom,” Lu said. “Based upon our findings, we hope that news organizations can adjust their rules and ethical codes regarding journalists’ use of social media.”

The research team plans to field two online survey experiments among Hong Kong residents. The MCS Research Award funding will assist in recruiting participants for these surveys through an online survey company and, as Lu notes, alleviate concerns about restricted travel and personal contact during the pandemic. In addition, it will help in publishing the results in open-access articles that she hopes will reach a wider range of readers.

Looking forward, Lu sees potential for additional applications of the research. She believes the proposed theory could be applied to examine journalist-audience relationships on social media in the United States and other countries, especially during times of heightened political divides.

Since 2006, the MCS Research Award has recognized outstanding research proposals focused on some aspect of mass communication research. Two research grants of $10,000 for faculty and one of $5,000 for students are awarded annually. At the end of the research, authors are expected to submit papers to “Mass Communication and Society,” the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s journal.

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