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University of Iowa
UI UNDERGRAUATE STUDENTS’ OPINIONS TOWARD THE PARKING SITUATION ON CAMPUS
Final Report
Lauren Baker, Kristin Skoglund, Brittany Caplin, Colleen Kennedy, Rosaline Sixby, Kelly O’Neill, Jordan Taylor, Melissa Payne, Beth Wendling, and Kathleen Graham
5/4/2010

Research Purpose

The purpose of this project was for our group to conduct a probability-sampling survey of the undergraduate students at the University of Iowa.  When trying to determine a topic, each member in our group knew that we wanted to choose a topic that would be important and useful for the future of our campus.  We ultimately decided that we wanted to interview freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior students to gain insight on their thoughts and opinions towards UI’s parking situation.  We chose this topic because as students of this university, we have all been impacted by the availability and convenience of parking there is around campus.  Each of us have experienced countless amounts of times where we had a need for parking whether we were going to class, running errands, going out to eat, etc.  Based on our own experiences, we knew that this topic was significant because not only has the parking situation affected each of us, but also we were certain that it has most likely affected every member of UI’s student body at one point in time.

Our group made two hypothesizes regarding what the undergraduate students’ overall feelings toward UI’s parking situation would be.  First, we predicted that since many freshmen do not drive as often as most sophomores, juniors, and seniors, they would not view parking as an important issue on campus.  Second, we thought that students who had a car at school would consider parking as a larger issue than students who did not have a car at school.  Before beginning our research, our group tried finding other existing studies similar to ours to compare their research method and hypothesizes to ours.  Unfortunately, no one in our group could find any other studies that surveyed students regarding the parking situations at their university.  Nevertheless, we did find a website called College Prowler that surveys thousands of students at various universities each year in order to get their opinions on what life is like on campus.  Each student surveyed is asked a variety of questions regarding their school’s academics, athletics, campus housing, and parking.  After every student completes the survey, they are awarded an entry into College Prowler’s $1000 Monthly Survey Scholarship.  Students can earn additional entries into the scholarship drawing by referring their friends to take the survey.  Moreover, College Prowler’s survey found that UI students ranked parking as the number one complaint on campus.  At Indiana University, the results to their survey showed that parking is viewed as an important issue on their campus as well.  Students’ responses from the survey indicated that not only are there limited parking spots around campus, but also the “zones” that indicate where students and faculty are allowed to park are extremely confusing.  In addition, the results from the survey taken at Michigan University proved that students also view parking as a large problem on their campus.  The student’s responses from the survey claimed that not only are there limited spots around campus for students to park, but also that the university’s parking permits are expensive.  Moreover, College Prowler showed our group that not only is the parking situation viewed as an important issue on the University of Iowa’s campus, but also on many other college campuses across the country.

Overall, we believe that our survey research will lead us to the conclusion that the undergraduate students at the University of Iowa have overwhelmingly negative views about the parking situation around campus.  We also hope that throughout our research, we will be able to discover potential solutions to this significant problem based upon what the most frequent complaints are from UI students.  Moreover, our group hopes that the University of Iowa Parking and Transportation department will take the information we collect into consideration when they are considering any changes or alternatives to the parking situation around campus.  It is our hope that this research will provide a foundation for the improvement to campus-wide parking options.

Questionnaire

The first draft of our survey consisted on 20 questions, but they were not focused on a specific topic.  For example, one of our questions asked students about their satisfaction with parking near their home or work.  After meeting with Yao, our group realized that we were not concerned about students’ satisfaction with parking options near their home or work.  Instead, our group wanted their opinions about parking around campus.  In addition, our group did not specify what was considered on and off campus and students could have been mistaken between the two.  “Home” and “off-campus” are both relative terms that could apply to many different areas.  Our group later decided that if we took the time to clarify every location that we considered to be “on” and “off” campus, our survey would be too long and the respondents would most likely lose interest quickly.  Therefore, we removed many questions about parking near home or off campus because we needed more analytical and focused questions.

Our final questionnaire that we came up with after meeting with Yao was an online survey that consisted of 20 questions that allowed us to gauge the approval of on campus parking for University of Iowa undergraduate students.  The area we defined as “on campus parking” consisted of downtown Iowa City, which included all of the bars and shops along the streets of Clinton, Dubuque, Washington, and Iowa. The streets by major University of Iowa buildings where most classes are held were included as well.  This includes areas from Clinton to the Field House on the other side of the river.

The first two questions our group decided to use are demographic ones, which are close ended questions.  This was because one of the hypotheses was predicting that freshman would not view parking as an important issue because most freshman do not have cars at school.  Instead, they rely on the cambus to pick up and drop them off right in front of their dorms, classes, and downtown.  In order for us to best address our hypothesis, our group knew it was important to have students clarify their year in school.  We also asked whether the respondents were male or female in hopes that it was an even response rate for comparison at the end of the survey.

Question 3 was a close ended question that asked if the participant had a car.  It was important to ask how many students had a car because we wanted to know who personally experienced the parking situation. Knowing whether or not students have cars showed us how familiar they are with the parking situation.  One of our other hypotheses is that students who had a car at school would consider parking to be a larger issue than students who do not have a car at school. In order to prove this hypothesis, we needed a direct question.

Questions 4 and 5 were both close ended questions that addressed where and how often the individuals park.  These questions would help us understand how dependent students were on their cars and if there was one area on campus that the majority of students were driving such as to their classes or the gym.  Their responses to these questions would help clarify if they were biased towards one area of campus or another popular spot downtown.

Questions 6 through 9 helped us to determine where students park when they go to class or downtown and also how they rate their satisfaction with that parking area.  We wanted these questions to ask about students’ satisfaction about the specific parking area that we chose to do our survey about.  Questions 6 and 8 ask the participants to check all the options that apply to them.  We did this format instead of just a close ended question because depending on where the student’s class is located or where they’re headed downtown, there are different types of parking availability that students would use more than others.  Ranking on a scale of 1-5 was easy to analyze and didn’t give the participants too many choices to describe their satisfaction.  On our previous survey, we used a scale of 1-10 which was difficult because there were too many choices.  Even we didn’t know the distinction between a 7 or 8.  A scale of 1-10 was too broad and it would have been difficult for participants to pinpoint their opinions and even more difficult for us to interpret what they meant.

Question 10 was extremely important because that would help us determine solutions that we asked for later in our survey.  If we knew which payment method was the most successful, it would help us draw conclusions about implementing more meters or parking ramps with a different type of payment that was more popular among students.

Question 11 was another way to discuss the problems and dissatisfaction with parking on campus.  If most students receive parking tickets more than once a month, then they would more likely be dissatisfied with parking.  If most students who took our survey received tickets frequently, then receiving tickets might be a reason why they are dissatisfied with parking overall.

Questions 12 and 13 were close-ended questions with yes or no answers.  Question 12 helped us determine if being towed was a bigger issue than being ticketed for student drivers, or if towing was even a problem at all.  Question 13 highlighted the inconvenience that students have faced while trying to park.  If finding a parking space was affecting a students’ ability to get to class on time, then this is a major problem that the university should address.  This again is another indication of dissatisfaction among our polling sample and would help us gain a better sense of how much of a problem parking is around campus.

Question 14 was a rating scale question that was used to determine the fairness of the ticketing and towing policies among campus.  If people feel that they are receiving multiple tickets for one period of being parked in the same spot or are ticketed enough that they will be towed, they might view the policies as unfair.  If most students view these policies as unfair then they are going to be dissatisfied with parking and start looking for a new possibility for parking.

Question 15 was used to demonstrate overall how students felt about the parking situation.  Just because students received tickets or couldn’t find a place to park does not mean that they are unsatisfied with parking.  This question had very clear wording that would help us understand how students felt about parking.  It was also a good way to lead into our next series of questions which dealt with possible solutions to implement new policies.  This question concluded the part of our survey where we asked about students’ opinions about the current parking situation.

Questions 16 through 19 are all realistic possibilities for future solutions.  Members of our group brainstormed solutions and asked our friends as well as other students in our classes about parking on campus and came up with four possible solutions.  There has been a lot of conversation about charging parking fees to students’ credit card or U-bill instead of only having the coin operated meters. University officials believe this will be the norm for all meters within a couple of years.  Since most students used meter parking according to our results, we thought that this solution is not only highly probable to be implemented but it is also a popular solution among students.  Another possibility we thought of was having a pre-paid student only parking facility.  This solution would have worked well to ensure that students would always have a spot to park and therefore not waste time looking for one and being late to class.  We wanted to rate the students’ interests in these solutions and see if they thought that they could be effective, convenient, and help their own parking problems.

Question 20 was the only open ended question that we had throughout our survey.  This let our respondents brainstorm their own solutions to the parking problem.  It’s good to conclude our survey with an open-ended question because it gave students the freedom to express their opinions and feelings about parking solutions more in-depth and in their own words.  We hoped to find some new and interesting solutions from students’ responses.

Overall we think our survey was highly successful.  It was focused to a specific area, downtown and classes, which all University of Iowa students could recognize and identify with.    We used different types of questions including open ended, close ended and rating scales that helped us determined how significant this problem was to the students.  It was short enough where no student would get bored or side tracked while taking it yet long enough to help us prove our hypotheses.

Sampling and Survey Administration

For our parking survey, we utilized the WebSurveyor to distribute and analyze our survey.  The sampling method we used was systematic random sampling.  This means we started with a randomly drawn starting point and from there selected every nth element to participate in the sample.  Systematic random sampling is a form of probability sampling.  Probability sampling is when the participants are chosen according to mathematical guidelines whereby each unit’s chance for selection is known so the sampling error can be calculated when the survey has been completed.

There are several advantages associated with utilizing systematic random sampling.  The first one is that selection was very easy; also, this type of survey tends to be more accurate than simple random sampling.  Finally, this method was inexpensive.  However, there was also a disadvantage that came with using systematic random sampling.  This disadvantage was that it was more difficult to find a comprehensive sampling frame at first.

Our total sampling frame consisted of 30,000 University of Iowa undergraduates.  We acquired a list of names within the University of Iowa “Hawkmail” list of contacts.  This list included contact information for all people associated with the university, including professors, graduate students, university programs and undergraduate students.  From that list, we had to systematically go through and select only the undergraduate students.  Within the sampling frame, our sample contained 1,100 subjects that were all undergraduate students at the University of Iowa.  For our purposes, we started on element number five (5) and selected every 27th name from our sampling frame.  All of this information was needed in order for us to accurately calculate the sampling interval.

The formula for the sampling interval is I = N/n, where “I” is the sampling interval, “N” is the total number of elements in the sampling frame and “n” is the number of participants in the actual sample itself.  Therefore, our sampling interval was calculated in the following manner: I = 30,000 / 1,100 = 27.3.  Our sampling interval was 27.3, which proves that we systematically selected every 27th name on our list.

After our sample had been compiled through systematic random sampling, we uploaded the questions separately onto WebSurveyor.  WebSurveyor is an online database that is used to create polls and/or surveys, and it’s available to members of the University of Iowa if you acquire an account through Information Technology Services (ITS).  Once we received a username and password, we were able to manipulate WebSurveyor for our purposes.  We uploaded an existing Microsoft Excel document that contained our sample of 1,100 units.

After the sample had been successfully uploaded, we wrote a short introductory paragraph.  In this paragraph we explained what the survey was about and how the subject had been randomly selected.  We also explained that the survey would not take very long and would be very beneficial for our study.  We did this to maximize the number of survey responses we would get.  We then sent out the survey to the units through their university email addresses.  We chose one of our group member’s email addresses to use as the sender for our survey.

We originally thought that we would have to send out three different “waves” of our survey.  Waves are the number of times a survey is sent out to the same sample.  Fortunately, we only had to send out one wave.  In our first wave, we received 307 responses – a number much higher than the required 200 responses.  The last response we received before stopping the survey was on April 22, 2010 at 5:30 PM.  Obviously, our great success rate shows that our feedback was very high.

Data Analysis

Overall we believe our survey was highly successful.  It was focused to a specific area, downtown and classes, which all University of Iowa students could recognize and identify with. We used different types of questions including open ended, close ended and rating scales that helped us determined how significant this problem was to the students.

Out of the 301 respondents we received, 123 were male and 178 were female.  Therefore, 40.9% of the respondents were male and 59.1% of the respondents were female, giving us a well balanced ratio of male to female.  As you can see by our graph, we also had a fairly equal representation of year in school, with 29.2% seniors, 29.2% juniors, 23.9% sophomores, and 17.6% freshmen.  As a result, we believe our survey accurately portrays the student population at the University of Iowa.

81.4% of our respondents have a car at school, whereas only 18.9% did not have a car. Therefore, the results accurately portray the ideals of students who deal with parking at the University of Iowa on a daily basis.  According to our survey, the highest percentage of students (27.6%) drives their car at least 4-6 times per week while, 15.9% of students drive more than 10 times per week.  Only 14.3% of students drive their car less than once a week.  Since our survey tells us that 55.8% of students drive their car over 4 times per week, we are able to conclude that parking is a prevalent issue to be looked into at the University of Iowa.
Question number 6 gave us insight as to where students park their cars when they go to class.  We were interested to find that 81.3% of students park in parking spots that cost money, 16.8% park in city ramps, 31.9% park in university ramps, and 32.6% park in meters on the street.  The results from question 6 coincide with our next question, which was to rate your satisfaction with the availability of parking near your classes.

Our results indicate that over 70% of our respondents are unsatisfied with the parking availability near their classes, and 40.4% of the 70% indicated that they were highly unsatisfied.  Only 3.5% of students reported being satisfied with the parking availability.  Our group believes one of the reasons for the large percentage of unsatisfied students was that 81% of our survey respondents responded having been late to class due to the lack of parking on campus.
Although students are dissatisfied with the current parking options at the University of Iowa, 54% of our survey respondents believe that implementing credit card capability for parking options in the City of Iowa City and University of Iowa would improve the parking situation in Iowa City.  However, 20.6% believe that credit card capabilities would provide no improvement at all.  Similarly, 26.5% of respondents do not think that having the ability to U-Bill their parking fees would improve their opinion of the parking situation, and 43% believe it would.

In our first cross-tabulation test, we measured the significance between male and female satisfaction with on campus parking. Our data produced a p-value of 0.136, and therefore proves that there is no significant difference between male and female satisfaction with on campus parking. We know this because 0. 136 is greater than .05.

In our second cross tabulation test, we measured the significance between year in school and satisfaction with on campus parking. For this test, our data produced a p-value of .007, which is less than .05 and therefore proves that there is a significant relationship between the respondent’s year in school and his or her satisfaction with on campus parking. According to the cross tabulation chart the only generalization we are able to make about this relationship is that senior students at the University of Iowa are generally more satisfied with on campus parking. This conclusion can be made due to the fact that the Expected count was 5.8; however, the observed count was 12. The Adjusted Residual was 3.1, greater than two; therefore the generalization can be made.

The bolded cell below illustrates the observed count and expected count relationship.

Year in School Highly

Unsatisfied

Unsatisfied Neutral Satisfied Highly Satisfied
Freshmen

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

16

20.4

-1.4

17

17

.0

8

7.7

.1

1

3.5

-1.5

4

1.8

1.9

Sophomore

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

32

26.9

1.4

17

22.5

-1.6

15

10.2

1.9

3

4.6

-.9

2

2.3

-.2

Junior

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

36

34.2

.5

30

28.6

.4

12

13

-.3

4

5.9

-1.0

1

2.9

-1.4

Senior

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

31

33.8

-.7

31

33.8

-.7

9

12.8

-1.4

12

5.8

3.1

3

2.9

.1

In our third cross-tabulation test, we measured the significance between the respondent’s year in school and whether or not they have a car at school. Our data produced a p-value of .000, again, below .05, and therefore proves that there is a significant relationship between year in school and having a car. Based on our cross-tabulation chart, three generalizations about students at the University of Iowa can be made. First of all, freshmen are more likely to not have a car at school. Secondly, juniors are more likely to have a car at school, and thirdly, seniors are also more likely to have a car at school.  These conclusions can be made, because in all three cases the observed count is greater than the expected count and the adjusted residual is above two.

The bolded cells below illustrate the observed count and expected count relationship.

Year in School Owns a Car at school Does not own a car at school
Freshmen

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

29

9.8

7.5

24

43

-7.3

Sophomore

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

13

13

.0

57

56.8

.1

Junior

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

10

16.5

-2.1

79

72.2

2.2

Senior

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

4

16.3

-4.0

84

71.4

41.

In our fourth cross-tabulation test, we measured the significance between whether or not difficulty finding parking has made the respondent late for class, and the respondent’s satisfaction with parking on campus. Our data produced a p-value of .000 and therefore proves there is a significant relationship between the two. According to our cross-tabulation chart, the generalization can be made that respondents who have been late to class due to parking situations are more likely to be highly unsatisfied with parking on campus. This conclusion can be drawn because the observed count was 98 and the expected count was 89.9 for respondents who answered yes to the independent variable and highly unsatisfied for the dependent variable. Also, the adjusted residual was 2.3, which is greater than 2.

Has difficulty finding parking made you late for class? Highly

Unsatisfied

Unsatisfied Neutral Satisfied Highly Satisfied
No

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

17

21.1

-1.3

18

17.7

.1

7

8.0

-.4

4

3.6

.2

4

1.8

1.8

Yes

Observed Count

Expected Count

Adjusted Residual

98

89.9

2.3

78

75.2

.8

36

34.1

.7

16

15.5

.3

6

7.7

-.3

Discussion and Conclusion

The results of this survey show that many undergraduate students are affected negatively by the parking situation on the University of Iowa campus and in downtown Iowa City.  According to the students who participated in this survey, the amount of money spent on having the ability to park, as well as parking tickets and other related fees seems highly unreasonable.

The lack of parking around campus is an unnecessary added stress to students who already have to deal with the high cost of the University of Iowa education and the expense of being an Iowa City resident. Not only is it a burden, but it could possibly contribute to tardiness to class, which could result in the decline of grades, or tardiness to those who work, which could result in penalty.

In hopes to improve the parking situation around campus, participants were asked to rate various future parking options on how effective of a solution they would be.  These future options include creating a pre-paid student-only ramp, being able to charge parking fees to the U-Bill parking, having credit card meters, and having credit card capability at university parking ramps/lots.  Overall, students were highly in favor of these future options and though that they would help to improve their satisfaction with parking.

From gaining the insight of the thoughts and opinions toward the University of Iowa parking situation from Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors, our group was not only able to confirm our hypotheses, but we were also able to hear the frustration from the University of Iowa student body.  As the surveyors, we hope that our findings and the opinions about future parking options expressed by students will influence the University of Iowa Parking and Transportation Department when making decisions about the future of parking.

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Allison Miller
Intro to Mass Comm

The students of the University of Iowa have expressed much annoyance over the topic of late-night. The feud between NBC, Jay Leno, and Conan O’Brien has been ongoing for months. It seems there is no end. Will this controversy hurt NBC’s ratings? There is much speculation that NBC could be hurting, due to the poor handling of this situation, once the late-night series is altered. This controversy is covered a lot in the media, which reaches out to a lot of students. What side are the students on? To decide if this topic was of much importance to them, we released a poll to approximately 1600 undergraduate students. 201 responses were received back.
According to the poll, 182 students were aware of the conflict and only 15 of them were unaware completely. This is interesting because of how much press this conflict received. It is important to realize that not every person watches the news or cares about public issues, especially ones that are minor in the world.
It looks like bad news for NBC, 54.5% of the students polled believed NBC’s ratings would be affected negatively. Only a miniscule 12.1% thought there would be a positive effect, leaving 32.8% to having no effect, and .5% to another category. One student’s suggestion for improving these ratings, “I would have gone back in time and not given Jay Leno a prime time talk show on the network; since time travel is not currently a viable option, I would have honored Conan O’Brien’s contract to be host of The Tonight Show and let Leno leave the network.” This would be a great option; however, we cannot turn back a clock. On another hand, another student states that the spot should be given “to the host with the best ratings.”
120 people polled believed Leno’s ratings would be hurt once NBC made the switch back because he had been gone for so long and people were angry with him. Many cannot wait for his return to his original time slot just to see if these stats hold true. Conan’s ratings are thought to skyrocket when he finds a new show to host. A whopping 134 polled thought Conan would not get bad ratings. We hope to see how this plays out.
Seeing as the students decided that Conan’s ratings were not going to decrease and Leno’s were thought to increase, I would have to come to the conclusion that Conan is the most favorable. Although the poll states that 97 people believe Jay Leno was favored, 87 for Conan still linger right behind. These were based solely on the publicity and the rewarded time slot to Jay Leno. Clearly, this is a huge controversy and a lot of University of Iowa students showed a lot of support through polling. Hopefully, NBC can get their stuff together so they do not lose so much money next time.

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Jordan Taylor
Poll Story

University of Iowa Dissatisfaction with Parking

A recent study conducted at The University Of Iowa by a group of undergraduate students reveled the dissatisfaction with parking policies both on campus and downtown Iowa City.

For the survey, the response rate was 27.3% and the sampling error was 2.6%. So out of the 301 undergrad students that participated in the survey, it showed that 70% of them were unsatisfied with the parking situation here on campus and downtown. There was only a small percentage of 3.5% of students who actually claimed to be satisfied with the parking.

The students that conducted the survey thought that the freshman would not be as affected by the parking situation or would not have as much experience with it because they do not have cars and they have a bus system that picks them up and drops them off.

Also, in the survey students who received multiple tickets were found to be more unsatisfied then other who did not, and students who have had other problems like being late to class were more unsatisfied with the parking situations then the students who have not had those problems.

Possible solutions to these problems would be to add many more spots around campus or turn a parking ramp into a student only parking ramp where it is prepaid. Other solutions are to use u-bill/debit card meters so that the meters actually get paid.

This is an important thing for the students at the University, and the Administration/city should really look into trying to fix this problem and implement some of these solutions ore there will be a lot of angry people in Iowa City.

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Ty Tannatt
Poll Story
May 6, 2010
College Students are on Conan’s Side.
In a recent poll done by students at the University of Iowa, it appears as though college kids prefer watching Conan O’brien’s Late Show almost twice as much as any other late night talk show including the man who took back his time slot Jay Leno. The study showed that 36.4% watched Conan, compared to 21.7% who watched Leno. The study also included David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, and a category for other late night entertainers. All three of the other late night categories were doubled up by the fans of Conan.
This is quite an interesting find considering NBC just awarded Jay Leno the Tonight Show, after his prime time show wasn’t up to par. Conan was forced to decide whether to take his old show back (Late Night with Conan O’brien) or move on with his career. He did the latter and is now going to be appearing on a late night show on the cable network TBS where he will have a younger crowd to support him.
Another major finding in the poll concluded that 44% believe the situation favored Conan O’brien. So it seems as though people believe his Late Show wasn’t the best and something new is what is best for him.
At the same time 48.5% believe the situation favored Jay Leno. This makes a lot of sense because when Leno was on the Late Show his was number 1 in ratings for many years. It appears as though college students believe he is at his best while on the Late Show.
Students also suggested that they believed the majority of the public would like to see Conan O’brien on the Late Show and believed that NBC’s ratings will be negatively affected. College students appear to be behind Conan on the Late Night Show controversy. They will get their wish in November when his new show will start on TBS.

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Kelly O’Neill
May 6, 2010
UI Students Unhappy with Parking, Survey Shows

A recent poll conducted by 10 University of Iowa journalism students revealed that over 70 per cent of the Iowa undergraduate community is unsatisfied with on-campus parking.
Over 300 students filled out a survey that was designed to analyze the satisfaction rate with the parking situation in downtown Iowa City. While it appears that freshmen are less affected by this issue because fewer freshmen have a car, the upperclassmen deemed it a very significant topic. The survey showed that 81 per cent of the respondents have a car here at school.
There was a significant relationship between how satisfied students are with on-campus parking and whether or not they had ever been late to class due to not being able to find a parking spot. This is appropriate in the sense that a student who has been late to class after searching for a parking spot would be much less satisfied than a student who has never been late to class for that same reason would be.
The survey showed that only 3.5 per cent of students are currently satisfied with parking at the University of Iowa. Because of this, the survey also asked students about other forms of parking to try to improve the situation.
Some of these new alternatives included having a pre-paid student ramp, installing meters with credit card capability, or being able to charge meter fees to students’ U-bills. These measures among others are being looked at by the university parking officials.
This survey had an overall response rate of 27 per cent and a sampling error of +/- six per cent.

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Ben Schuff
Dr. Yao
May 6, 2010
Poll Story

A recent survey shows that undergraduate students at the University of Iowa view health benefits as one of the major advantages of a campus wide smoking ban that went into effect in July of 2008.
The survey, comprised of 210 undergraduate student responses, was conducted from April 2nd through May 2nd by a group of nine University of Iowa students.
The survey showed that 70.3 percent of respondents “strongly agree” with the statement, “overall, people at the University of Iowa benefit from the smoking ban in regards to their health.”
Other benefits of the smoking ban that respondents wrote in on the survey included “an overall cleaner campus and better environment” and “not having to deal with the smell of smoke.”
Furthermore, 68.8 percent of respondents “strongly agree” with the smoking ban, while 10.4 percent “strongly disagree.”
The campus wide ban on smoking prohibits anyone from smoking in any university owned buildings or on university grounds. The ban was part of a larger statewide ban on smoking, the Smoke-Free Air Act. That Act was signed into law by Gov. Chet Culver on April 15th, 2008.
Controversial in nature, the survey found that 41.1 percent of respondents “strongly agree” that the smoking ban on the Iowa campus is fair to smokers. In addition, 24.3 percent “agree” agree that the ban is fair to smokers, 10.9 percent “disagree” that the ban is fair to smokers, and 13.9 percent “strongly disagree” that the ban is fair to smokers.
A further look shows that of the 24 respondents (11.4 percent) who said they smoked cigarettes, 11 marked on their surveys that they “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the smoking ban on campus.
Of the same 24 respondents who admitted to smoking, 14 marked on the survey that they “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the statement, “the smoking ban is fair to smokers.”
The survey had a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percent.

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By Sarah Claypool
IOWA CITY, May 5 – A recent poll found that a substantial majority of University of Iowa students are unwilling to appear on MTV reality shows and believe that going on a MTV reality show would negatively impact future job prospects.
The poll, which surveyed 200 University of Iowa students through e-mail, was conducted in the month of April by students in Dr. Qingjiang Yao’s Mass Media and Public Opinion class. The poll had a sampling error of 5.4%.
The remarkable popularity of MTV reality shows like “Jersey Shore” and “The Real World” inspired the students to investigate Iowa student’s opinions of the consequences of appearing on such shows.
Only 36.7% of students said they would be willing to appear on a MTV reality show. 80.4% thought that going on a show would negatively affect their future job prospects.
Interestingly, the poll found gender differences in willingness to appear on a show and the perceived impact. Males were more likely to respond that they would be willing to go on a MTV reality show and were less likely to think that it would have a negative impact on job prospects.
The unwillingness to appear on MTV reality shows and the opinion that doing so would harm the chances of getting a job is likely influenced by students’ perception of the portrayal of MTV show participants. 68.8% of UI students thought that MTV reality show participants are portrayed negatively.
One respondent of the poll commented, “I wouldn’t go on one of those shows because you are being portrayed negatively to the nation.” Another thought that “employers could easily get an opinion about you just if they heard you were on a MTV reality TV show.”
The results of the poll suggest that University of Iowa students consider the future consequences of appearing on a MTV reality show and most have concluded that going on such a show would be damaging to their career prospects.

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A recent poll conducted by University of Iowa Journalism students found that most undergraduates are negatively impacted by the parking situations on campus and in downtown Iowa City because of the costly meters, ramps, parking lots, and possible tickets.
Freshman and juniors were the most affected, while freshmen were the least affected by the parking issue.
81.3% of students park in spots that cost money, and most students drive to campus or downtown at least four times per week.
70% of students are unsatisfied with the University of Iowa and downtown Iowa City’s parking situation. Out of these 70%, 40.4% are highly unsatisfied.
Not only is cost of parking an issue, but also the unavailability of parking spots can negatively affect students. This could impact their tardiness to class or work, and cause unnecessary added stress.
Possible solutions to this would be to add parking spots. For the costliness, suggestions for solutions include swiping to the U-Bill and debit/credit card swipes.
This survey was conducted in order for the University of Iowa Parking and Transportation Department understand and hopefully will take into consideration and reevaluate parking options.
Despite the poor parking situation, the majority of the undergraduate student body drive to campus or downtown. If the University of Iowa Parking and Transportation Department understand what the majority of students’ opinions are, maybe they will make productive changes.

Rosalind Sixbey

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Kata Welsh
6 May 2010
19:169:002
Poll Story
University of Iowa Students: “I’m With Coco!”
After the controversial NBC late night debacle this past winter, it was of our groups interest to see if NBC really made the right choice in keeping Jay Leno, based on public opinion. Since NBC’s actions were directly related to how they perceived the public to react, we found it an important study to investigate.
The survey was targeted at University of Iowa students as our sample, seeing as they were in an age range that we felt appreciated late night television. It was sent electronically to 1,603 undergraduate students, 1,549 of which were successful, and 201 of which responded. From this information we calculated our response rate to be at 12.97%.
Our sample error was approximately 6.9%, based on the size of our sample compared to that of the entire population.
Triggered with an overwhelming response of 92.4% of students surveyed being aware of this late night controversy within NBC studios, we found that this was in fact a relevant and important issue.
Our other findings were relevant to determining who University of Iowa students supported throughout the controversy, and who they would have liked to have seen reigning late night at NBC. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of Conan O’Brien. 34% said to have watched “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brian” over all other late night options including “The Jay Leno Show,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” 54.8% even expressed that they think the majority opinion would have liked to have seen O’Brien occupy the 11:35 p.m. Eastern time-slot as opposed to all other late night hosts on NBC.
Devoted Conan fans represented their disapproval of the NBC network by making up almost 30% of those who thought NBC handled the situation inappropriately. This is compared to the measly 8% who felt the opposite, although committed as a Leno viewer. Overall, whether deemed loyal to O’Brien, Leno, or any other late night host, 80% of the total sample agreed that the situation was not handled appropriately by NBC.
As an option to feel people’s true opinions on the matter, we placed an open-ended question in the survey asking, “What would you have done if you were in NBC’s position?” In accordance with the rest of the previous results, these comments were immensely overpowered with Pro-Conan proposals. Responses ranged from, “I would have realized that Conan’s ratings were going to take awhile to come up to Jay’s ratings at that time slot because the audience is different. But Conan would have brought his audience. It would have been a long term investment that would have paid off if they stuck with Conan,” to “I would have never given Leno his own show. It crashed and burned.”
The O’Brien level of support was unprecedented. In the analysis of our data, all our results point to University of Iowa students offering strong backing to their beloved late night comedy figure.

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May 5, 2010
Tricia Dean

The 2008 Smoke-Free Air Act has the obvious support of non-smokers but has still not won over the smoking population.
A survey regarding the smoking ban was conducted in a University of Iowa Communications class. This study was aimed at University of Iowa under-graduate students. A slight majority of those surveyed were male.
The results revealed that of those that “Strongly Agree” with the ban, a staggering 96.8% of them was non-smokers. With regards to smokers, the largest percent was found in the “Strongly Disagree” category.
As well, 77.1% of those surveyed listed health benefits as the greatest advantage of the Smoke-Free Air Act. On the other hand, 11.9% of those surveyed stated that the ban did not offer any benefits.
Some of the other benefits named included having a cleaner campus, offering a more appealing atmosphere, and the possibility of assisting smokers to kick the habit.
With the Smoke-Free Air Act coming up on its second birthday, it will be interesting to study the long-term effects of the smoking ban. Of those surveyed, a staggering majority considered themselves to be non-smokers. Will the ban lead to a diminishing smoking population?

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When there is an outbreak of a new virus that many people are unfamiliar with, or any sickness that affects a lot of people, it can cause panic, like in cases such as Swine Flu (H1N1) or the outbreak of staph infections in the last five years. This can lead the public to be overly cautious, racing to the doctor to get their immunization shots.

In Nielson’s article, “The Health Information National Trends Survey,” he puts a lot of emphasis on that the reason that so many people are becoming overly cautious is because there is so much information out there. What people do not realize is that there are viruses and infections being spread everyday all around the world and outbreaks are not an unusual occurrence. One thing that might influence the public is all of the polls. If the polls are showing that more and more people are becoming worried or scared, then it will have a greater chance of scaring the people who read those polls.

Polling about health information is very important and should be done with great care. If anything is reported wrong, or is spun in an unnecessarily negative way, it can affect a lot of people. But it is better to be safe than sorry.

Kaiser Family Foundation is an organization that specializes in health polls and surveys. They have a great reputation for publishing reliable polls. This is an excerpt from their website at http://www.kff.org. “A leader in health policy and communications, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit, private operating foundation… Unlike grant-making foundations, Kaiser develops and runs its own research and communications programs, sometimes in partnership with other non-profit research organizations or major media companies. We serve as a non-partisan source of facts, information, and analysis for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the public. Our product is information, always provided free of charge — from the most sophisticated policy research, to basic facts and numbers, to information young people can use to improve their health or elderly people can use to understand their Medicare benefits.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently published a poll about the current health reform. This was conducted on March 10-15, 2010, and published on March 26, 2010. They found that 52% Democrats strongly support health reform, while 66% Republicans strongly oppose health reform. Independents were 38% strongly opposed. In total, 28% strongly support, 18% somewhat support, 9% somewhat oppose, and 33% strongly oppose. It is unclear how many people were polled, and how the poll was conducted. They also note that “Depends on which proposal (vol.), responses for total = 3% and “Don’t know/Refused” responses for total=9%.” From what I have learned, I would not take this poll seriously without doing more in depth research on who was surveyed, how the surveys were taken, and the question is too general, considering there are many aspects to the health care reform.

Health polls are extremely important because they can tell you what disease or health problems are affecting people in different regions, financial state, etc. What is a problem in one area may not be a problem in another area. For example, there is not a problem of starvation in America, but there is definitely a food shortage in areas of Africa.

In Blendon’s article “Using Opinion Survey to Track the Public’s Response to a Bioterrorist Attack,” he believes that it is important to tell Americans what to do in an emergency situation. But it is also very important that it is important for the government and health officials to know how much Americans understand and what they believe.

I feel Blendon’s article was very useful. He made me believe that it is not just up to the health officials to take control of the situation.

Rosalind Sixbey

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Tricia Dean

The chapter in Austin and Pinkleton’s book focused on the ability to prepare reports and presentations to communicate ideas and research effectively. They stressed the importance of appearing credible, successful and confident. An outline of an appropriate communications plan was laid out for the reader and Austin and Pinkleton walked through each section of the paper. They explained how the executive summary and results sections of the paper are typically the most read sections of the report because the audience may be very busy and not have enough time to read through everything. I am glad they pointed out how the results section should be written independent of the rest of the paper in case it were true that the audience only read that section. As well, they explained how to appear confident on paper and in person and to avoid using words such as “feel” or “believe”. In the end, when analyzing your reports and presentations, Austin and Pinkleton suggest being your own best critic which I thought was very good advice.
As for the APR study guide, there was a focus on research, planning, implementation and evaluation. I thought this was a good review of the majority of the topics we have discussed thus far in class. The study guide stressed the importance of the planning process within the public relations profession. They explained the 4-Step Process that involved research, planning/analysis, implementation/execution/communication and evaluation. As well, they explained how to write a proper public relations plan. I liked the idea of creating a timetable and task list to keep your project on track. I write a lot of lists so that I can visually see what I need to get done for each day, week, whatever it may be so I could relate to this aspect.
The study guide also depicted the two formats of a public relations plan: grid and paragraph. Personally, I would utilize the grid format more often because I like having the ability to quickly look over the details of each portion of the project. The study guide then portrayed the various types of research methods including survey and focus group. I enjoyed their overview of focus group research because I have had to conduct a focus group for my Market Research course.
In my opinion, the biggest piece of advice I took from today’s reading was the need to portray yourself as a confident person. I think this applies to every aspect of your life and it has been one of the most difficult things I have had to deal with while growing up. I was a very successful and competitive athlete, so on the field, I was typically a very confident person. However, for some reason, once I set foot in a classroom, I became more reserved and shy, especially when standing in front of the class. I always received good grades and this has been one of the most frustrating aspects of my educational endeavors. I am not sure if it has to deal with how passionate I feel about the subject I am presenting or how comfortable I am with the people I am presenting in front of but it is definitely something I have been working on. I hope that I continue to grow within this aspect because I will be entering the work force as an account manager after graduation. Exuding confidence and convincing clients that my solution is the one they should choose is practically in my job description. I think it will be a very interesting learning and growth process and I am excited nonetheless.
I found a poll in the New York Times that discussed the lack of confidence that New Jersey residents have in their governor candidates . I thought this was relevant to the readings because it supports the idea of portraying your thoughts and ideas in a clear, concise, and confident manner so that your audience can appropriately interpret and understand what you are saying. In the case of the New Jersey governors, they have done a poor job at convincing their voters that they are worthy of becoming their governor. A quote from the article was that “most voters think he (Mr. Christie) has not explained his positions, and among those who offer an opinion of him, twice as many dislike him as like him”. I think this goes to show that when you are not appropriately presenting your message or ideas, it can definitely backfire and put you in a negative light, depending on the context.
I think this poll story is interesting because of its relation to political candidates. Politicians are required to sell themselves more than any other profession and their entire line of work relies on their ability to get people to agree with their ideas. If the politician is not clear, concise or confident, it can cost them votes, as seen in the story. I think the readings were definitely beneficial to my own development as a presenter and I learned a lot about the need to plan before setting foot on stage, so to speak.

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Allison Miller
Reaction Paper #5

The APR study guide discusses research, planning, implementation, and evaluation. It is discussed that this public relations always uses a four-step process to plan. First, you want to know who you are researching, what the subjects need to do, and what is wanted to be conveyed to the public. Planning helps to decide what goals you have in mind and what you want to get out of the study. Next, the execution of the plan is done and you have to decide on what channels the messages will be sent. Lastly, evaluating the plan helps show what needs to be improved next time a plan is implemented. Many objectives, strategies, tactics, and materials are decided in order to write a plan for attack. There are a few case studies that have been researched; Planned Parenthood and HIV/AIDS. There are many different ways to write a plan for research studies. “If your planning style is different, use it” (APR 49). This quote just shows how diverse the world or journalism and planning can seem. It is best to point out the advantages and disadvantages you have, whether it is in telephone polling or media analysis, when looking into a study. Many of the best ways to interview are listed in the study guide. The top ones are personal interviews, telephone, and the mail. Lastly, sample size and accuracy are discussed in a way to help you get the smallest sampling error as possible.
Chapter 16, in Austin and Pinkleton, discusses presenting campaigns, program proposals, and research reports. Different organizations like their reports in certain ways. Some like a lot of detail and others like less detail. This chapter goes in depth on how you should write a report and go about it in a slightly scientific way. There should always be some type of cover letter or memo explaining what the purpose of the report is to the receiver. One should also keep goals, objectives, and a hypothesis in mind in order to research and get results. In order to be a successful write, this chapter suggests that one should be confident and not hesitant because “hesitance will appear to come from self-doubt” (Austin and Pinkleton 357). This could be true because a lot of people are not willing to just jump into a story and write, they would rather be factual and correct. “The communication plan serves as the manager’s sales pitch” (Austin and Pinkleton 361). The mission or goal of the organization should come across as creative and enthusiastic.
I believe that a lot of manager’s do not have a lot of self-confidence. If there is no self-confidence, the company will not do very well. I used to work for someone who wanted me to help a marketing professional create different marketing plans in order to address the public. He asked me to help because the company was a new casino hotel and the professional was a woman who had been out of school for quite awhile and no longer had a fresh view. I helped her create a young, fresh, and enthusiastic ad campaign that brought in tons of new customers. Without my help, there may not be such a great business happening. It is interesting how employers will hire people just to get someone in the seat. I believe they should look at their credentials and expect more out of their work.
President Obama has to create a plan to communicate with his country all the time. He must deliver a speech that is both correct and understanding towards the U.S. citizens. It is difficult for him, however, having all of this information makes people believe and respect him. A lot of people do not think he really understands what is happening in our world economically, but, he gives enough facts to support his speech. The media talked more about the earthquake in Haiti than Obama’s state of the union address. Americans seemed more interested in this topic, “four-in-ten say they followed news about the aftermath of the earthquake and relief efforts ‘most closely’ last week, far more than said the same about the debate over health care reform (18%) or reports about the condition of the U.S. economy (15%)” (Public 1). It is interesting how different parties are affected by Obama’s speeches, as well. “More than half of Democrats (55%) say they watched the speech, compared with 38% of Republicans and 41% of independents” (Public 1). Obama focuses on what he thinks is more important while the media focuses on what they believe important.

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Ty Tannatt
Reaction Paper 4/22
The first article starts out about the four-step process of strategic planning. The four steps are; research, planning/analysis, implementation/execution/ communication, and evaluation. Knowing how to use these steps can greatly affect your performance in public relations. Like the second article they give an outline to writing a public relations plan, but they only include 10 steps.
Then they give you an exercise that puts you in the position of a public relations professional. Seven steps are required to learn from this process. This exercise is supposed to build confidence skills and ability in research.
The next step is to plan formats and styles. There are two types of formats; grid format or paragraph format. Next they talk about content analysis, which is, “the objective, systematic and quantitative description and evaluation of the content of documents, including print media and broadcast media coverage” (57). Next is survey research, which is, “is a quantitative method that uses a series of written or oral questions to sample a desired “universe” — a population or group of people” (59). They continue to talk about many different types of research including focus group research and scientific method research.

The second article we read was chapter 16 out of our book, “Strategic Public Relations Management.” This chapter is a summary of how to present campaigns, program proposals, and research reports to outside clients who need the help. The book has 12 steps which make up a proposal. They include; Introductory material, executive summary, situation analysis and research needs, research goals, research objectives, research hypothesis, research strategies, results, revised situation analysis, and proposed communication plan, conclusion, and references and appendixes.
These 12 steps should be very detailed and explicit. Confidence should extrude out of the proposal. Hesitance and evasiveness need to be put aside for this type of project. The proposal should be easy to read, as if the reader has no idea what you’re talking about. Get to the point quickly. Make sure you proofread and have no grammatical errors. Leave a positive impression by writing a strong conclusion.
When presenting always be on time and ready to adapt to the circumstances. Have a backup plan if you are planning on using a computer or monitor. Be effective, clear, and complete. Look and act professional. Again be confident and leave no doubt in your mind that you did a great job.
I am interested in public relations so it was good to read general tactics of strategic planning. I am currently a volunteer for the Cedar Rapids Independent Filmmakers and have done various public relations items. I think knowing that this information is out there will definitely help me in the future when I start looking for a job. I have learned a lot about how surveys and polls can be beneficial to companies. This is something that can beneficial and improve my experience in the workplace.
A poll story I found called, “Why Aren’t People Trusting the Government” includes the new pew survey, which asks the people if they trust our government. Only 22% said they trust the government in Washington. This is a public relations nightmare for our government. The last thing they want is for the general public to not trust in them. Professionals who work for the government will definitely be looking for ways to change the negative public image. To do so they will need to build a proposal similar to the proposal outlines that our two readings included. They need to make sure they return a positive image to the country and they must do this in a confident matter that builds our trust in them.

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Allison Miller
Reaction Paper 4

The first article on The Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) talks about where the survey originated and how it came from a conference dealing with risk. It is discussed that “an internal HINTS advisory committee met to develop the principles and framework for the selection of topics and questions for the survey instrument” (Nelson et al 5). This was important because they had to decide who they were going to administer the survey to and they had many different criteria to decide this. Deciding who to give the survey to also helped to decide how to conduct the survey, whether it was online or over the phone and what other kinds of communication media to use. Before releasing the survey, one person, Westat, was chosen to review the survey and research other similar surveys to make sure it was extensive. A pretest was given in Westat’s laboratory to determine different opinions on topics included in the survey. He wanted to make sure the survey could meet a broad range of people. They discuss how the questions were displayed on the page in simple communication questions and then the questions tend to get more medically specific. One important aim for the survey was to get a large “minority representation” (Nelson et al 13). Different methods, such as reverse telephone look up and sending letters before calling on the telephone, were “successful for 43% of telephone numbers” (Nelson et al 13). All of the data was taken down by highly trained individuals and this data was collected for up to about a year. Lastly, they had to make sure the information from HINTS would be used effectively in ways people would notice. This is to ensure that, for future HINTS surveys, a lot of people participate so the sample is larger.
The second article focuses on the ways people respond to bioterrorist crises. It is discussed how many “Short-duration surveys can provide vital information to guide public officials in their response to events and their communication efforts” (Blenden et al 1). A lot of media polls were found in history to have been a huge help during crises, not necessarily surveys. Short-term polls are more effective because attitudes and behaviors tend to stay the same for a short period of time. In the U.S., a lot of people choose to not participate in polls. This is an issue because information is not recent. This article suggests that “although response rates have declined, error rates have not increased significantly” (Blenden et al 3). The article discusses how the public feels about the accuracy of information given by the public officials during a terrorist attack. Also, public officials do not know if the people are doing what they say during crises and need to know those things in order to fix them in the future. Many people say that if it was recommended to get a certain vaccination to prevent infection of certain bioterrorist attacks, they would listen to officials. Lastly, the reactions from these attacks are important to note because they needed some kind of feedback on how the situation was handled and what could be done better next time.
A lot of people choose to not take surveys, including myself. However, it is extremely important to participate in such things because it helps protect our country. In the anthrax attack a while back, we were so scared of any kind of white powder located anywhere in the United States. Everyone was expected to be ready to board up our homes and be prepared to stay in for days on end. These were all recommendations from public officials who we seem to trust. It was a very scary situation, however, we listened, and very few people were affected by this. I now choose to take surveys to help my community and the country. I believe everyone should become involved in order to become a better place to live. Also, this happens a lot with the current war in the Middle East. People are not sure what to believe. I am very skeptical of this situation, myself, but let’s see what the polls suggest.
A poll story regarding the current war in the Middle East suggest that “About half [the people] (52%) have a fair amount of confidence that the government is giving an accurate picture of the war, while better than a quarter (28%) have a great deal of confidence” (Terror 1). Apparently Republicans are most likely to believe what the government has to say on the war, which is very surprising. “Three-in-ten Republicans express a lot of confidence that the government is giving an accurate picture of developments on the home front – just 14% of Democrats and independents agree” (Terror 1). This is very interesting, especially because Democrats seem more interested in government affairs, to me.

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Introductory Topics Mass Communication
Reaction Paper #4
April 20th, 2010

Polling for Health
The Use of Surveys for Medical Research

The first article I read was entitled, The Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS). HINTS is essentially the result of a conference held in 1998 by the National Cancer Institution (NCI). The conference was held to discuss the topic of health risk communication. Members at the conference realized that with the cancer epidemic on the rise, it was “…essential to maximize the effectiveness about the communication of cancer.” As a result, HINTS, a representative survey, was created with the purpose of providing the public with accurate information regarding medical research. The survey was distributed to 19,509 households, and consisted of a series of telephone interviews given to respondents by experts in the field. Ultimately, the development of HINTS was a large step in the right direction for both individuals suffering from cancer, as well as those studying methods to combat its deadly effects on humans. The survey will continue to assess current trends in the use of health information, as well as study the percentage of Americans utilizing new communication technologies over time.
The second article, entitled Using Opinion Survey’s to Track the Public’s Response a Bioterrorist Attack, discusses the use of polls and surveys during times of national crisis. The article describes an instance during WWII, in which a survey administered to American soldiers around the world ultimately led to Truman’s order to desegregate the army. The article goes on to state that while these polls can be very effective in gathering useful data regarding issues of top national concern, they are rarely used to assess public health issues. For example, shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, a series of attacks involving anthrax in the mail led to the death of four Americans. Little was known about the key aspects of public response to these attacks, and the issue created a large public stir of anxiety. As a result, the Harvard Opinion Research Program of the Harvard School of Public Health launched a survey project specifically to measure Americans’ response to biological terrorism. The survey answered a series of questions that led to a better understanding of the public’s view of the issue.
The final article I read, Public Perceptions of Information Sources, analyzed data from six national surveys taken before and after the anthrax attacks on America during October of 2001. The findings showed that Americans believe strongly in the usefulness of television and radio during times of national crisis, as well as the use of cable and network news channels as information sources. The six surveys used in the study were taken from three sources: firstly, the Healthstyles survey, an annual mail survey conducted for a social marketing firm; secondly, the Harvard School of Public Health survey project on Americans’ response to bioterrorism; thirdly, a web-enabled online survey of civic attitudes and behaviors after September 11th. The results of these six surveys indicated that the most trusted spokesperson or source of reliable information regarding a local bioterrorism event was a local health department, followed by a local physician or the hospital, and at the bottom of the spectrum was an elected official, such as the mayor.
Regarding the third article, it is interesting to note that my personal reaction to national terrorist attacks involves seeking out the same information sources that the surveys indicated were most trusted. I recall exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. I was in 8th grade, and it was approximately 7:30 am, a few minutes before we would ordinarily leave to go to school. I had a daily routine of turning on ESPN to catch some highlights before we left – I remember asking my parents why every channel had the same program broadcasting the Twin Towers’ with smoke billowing out of their top stories. When I was informed of what was actually happening, I recall watching the news all day, trusting the broadcasters as reliable sources of important information. My family and I were kept up to date as the worst possible outcome occurred – the towers’ fell down. In the following several weeks, months, and even years later, we continued to receive news coverage regarding the terrorist attacks via major network television.
A recent poll questioned what Americans’ perceived to be the “single biggest threat the world faces.” The results of the poll showed that at 48%, just under half of the American population feels that the possibility of terrorists’ obtaining nuclear weapons was the largest threat in the world. This relates to the article because it is an example of a time when polls were used to determine what Americans’ perception was regarding a national crisis (or a potential national crisis). The results help politicians and world leaders assess what citizens’ are worrisome about, and also determine the level of threat that certain issues are perceived as in the public eye.

http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenumbers/2010/04/on-nuclear-terrorism-a-muted-perception-of-threat.html

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Ty Tannatt
Reaction Paper for 4/20
The first article we read was called, “The Health Information National Trends Survey” and it was about the HINTS research program. The acronym HINTS means, “to provide important insights (hints) into the health information needs and practices of the American public” (445). “The National Cancer Institute (NCI) developed this survey to be an ongoing vehicle for providing data periodically to researchers and policymakers on the nation’s progress in conveying cancer-related health information to the U.S. adult population” (456)

It took them several years to come up with and execute the final survey they used for their research. “A list-assisted random-digit-dial (RDD) sample was used for HINTS” (453). They used this because they wanted to achieve an adequate minority representation. Special attempts were made to oversample African Americans and Hispanics. They used 19,509 household telephone numbers to reach their sample. They called a maximum of 30 times to achieve responses from individuals. “The final response rate for the extended interview—that is, the rate at which SPs voluntarily completed the full HINTS interview—was 62.8%” (455).

“The four dissemination objectives were the following: (1) to encourage scientists to conduct research using HINTS; (2) to promote use of findings from HINTS to inform and guide further research in cancer communication, behavioral science, public health, and informatics; (3) to promote use of HINTS to inform health policy decisions related to cancer prevention at the local, state, and federal level; and (4) to promote the translation of HINTS findings for cancer communication programs, including through NCI’s Office of Communications” (456).
In all HINTS was put in place to keep researchers and policymakers aware of the nation’s progress in communicating cancer-related information to the U.S. adult population.
The second article was called, “Using Opinion Surveys to Track the Public’s Response to a Bioterrorist Attack.” This article talked about the importance of short-duration polls in times of a national crisis such as a bioterrorist attack. The main example they used was the anthrax attacks in 2001 after 9/11 happened.
Harvard School of Public Health/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Survey Project on American’s Response to Biological Terrorism reported the data in this article. “The first survey in this series, conducted October 24–28, 2001, with a sample of 1,015 adults nationwide (HSPH/RWJF, 2001a), dealt mainly with knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to the threat of anthrax. Next was a collection of four surveys conducted November 29–December 3, 2001. One was conducted nationally (n¼1,009 adults); the others were conducted in three of the metropolitan areas where anthrax cases had been reported: the District of Columbia (n¼516); Trenton/Princeton, New Jersey (n¼509); and Boca Raton, Florida (n¼504) (HSPH/RWJF, 2001b)” (86).
The results they found showed that people in a metropolitan area or area that had been affected by anthrax took much greater precautions in opening their mail. “The surveys gave a picture of the demands being placed on both the public health system and the health care system by these attacks” (89). The goal of this article was to inform officials of the significance of short-term surveys in response to a biological attack.
I haven’t really been introduced to the devastation that is cancer. My family has been relatively lucky to not have to experience its hardship. I feel like I could use more awareness on how people obtain cancer and more information about prevention. I don’t think our government or education system does a good job of educating the public. I see thoughts of special events about cancer such as special days, events, or symbols but I don’t see much information. We as a country should help inform others.
As for the second article relating to short-term surveys, I definitely feel like these could be a great help to society. I think if you took a short-survey after most attacks, whether terrorist or not, you would see a rise in precaution by the general public. The general public doesn’t know much about biological chemicals that can harm them. I know I had never heard of anthrax before those attacks in 2001. I was really scared something might happen, because I was uniformed and unaware there were such things out there. Out public health department could do a better job of educating us. It’s not just them it’s also our education system. This type of information would be useful for our children to learn. Maybe someday they could cure cancer and prevent biological attacks.
In the article, “Class Divide in Awareness of Breast Cancer” by Helen Puttick, she conducted a poll of more than 500 women and, ”found that almost one-quarter of women in the lowest socio-economic groups had never checked their breasts and couldn’t name any symptoms of breast cancer” (Puttick). This poll shows that women in a lower social class are not as aware of the symptoms of breast cancer. They are trying to do more to educate women of classes so that this can be dealt with and beaten. This poll probably rings true in most, if not all, countries. As a society we have a hierarchy of power and sometimes we don’t help out the lower levels of this hierarchy. We need to do more to educate everyone and that starts in our education system.

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Jordan Taylor
Reaction Paper
4/20/10

Polls and Medical Research

The first reading I read was called “The Health Information National Trends Survey.” This reading starts out talking about the NCI and how people are searching on the Internet for health information. This is important because it is the most searched on the Internet besides the use of email. Given this, the NCI and other organizations involved in the control of cancer have realized that it is essential to maximize the effectiveness of communication about cancer. To do this, they developed HINTS, which is a nationally representative survey. The rest of the article describes Hints in more detail by describing Hints research program and other uses for the data and information it collects. The origin of HINTS grew from a 1998 conference on risk communication and in planning it the NCI staff gathered both written and oral comments from a group of experts and they came up with a lit of recommendations for HINTS regarding potential underlying theoretical models, survey variables, and operational issues. From there they came up with the list of questions they’d like to ask and worked on developing it further up until the first administration of HINTS was given.

The second article I read was called” Response to a Bioterrorist Attack.” This article deals with the roles short-duration surveys can play during a public health crisis like the anthrax attacks of 2001. During crises that threaten the nations security or well being, timely public opinion polls can aid in policymaking and communication activities. The example they gave of this was during WWII when the U.S army conducted around 200 opinion surveys involving soldiers and they eventually led to a better understanding of morale and a major policy change took place calling for desegregation of the army. The article then states that this is not always how government agencies measure immediate responses to epidemics or other health emergencies such as the threat of bioterrorism. Most data available during past crises have come from media polls, not surveys conducted by government agencies. This only happens when an issue is the top concern at the time, and often they are not so there are no media polls available. The article then goes into talking about the need for short-duration surveys and rapid-turnaround surveys. Based off the example studies they shared, they suggested that short-duration polls can be used without an unacceptable risk of bias, and provide a means to measure quickly the impact of attacks on specific communities.

The last article I read was a recommended reading titled “Public Perceptions of Information Source.” This reading is a study that examined data from multiple national surveys before and after the bioterrorist attacks that occurred in 2001. What the study did was examine the public’s perceptions of different information sources regarding bioterrorism. After examining this, what they found from the two HS surveys conducted in 2001 was that the majority of people would turn to “local television and radio” or “cable and network news channels for information on an event that could be bioterrorism.

When I read this last article, I immediately thought of myself, and where I would turn if I needed more information regarding an event that could be bioterrorism. What I came up with was the exact same ways as the surveys results showed. I think this is because it is the quickest and easiest way to gather more information because it is so accessible. The other thing I thought of was when the anthrax attacks actually occurred and how I originally found out about it and where I gathered more information when I wanted to. It turned out that I obtained it all the same way as the results showed the majority of other people did and that was through television, specifically network news channels. A poll story I found that deals with the issues talked about in the first reading regarding a lack of communication with healthcare information. In the poll story it talks about how parents are not getting their kids the swine flu vaccine because they do not think it is safe when really the shot is and it is made the same way any other flu shot is. Because of a lack of communication about the health information of the vaccine people are not getting it when they should be. This is why in the first article the NCI took steps to better the communication regarding health information.

http://abcnews.go.com/PollingUnit/SwineFlu/swine-flu-vaccine-abc-news-washington-post-poll/story?id=9114768

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Melissa Payne

019:169: SCA

20 April 2010

Reaction Paper: Polls and Medical Research

The article from Journal of Health Communication titled “The Health Information National Trends Survey (HIINTS)” discusses the development of the HINTS and how it is used to inform the public about health issues. According to the article, HINTS originated from a conference in 1998 regarding health risk communication. In 2000, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) developed the HINTS using the framework of the conference in 1998. In order to properly develop the survey, the NCI contacted survey research, cancer, behavioral sciences and communications research experts to compile a list of recommendations. The committee decided that HINTS should “[…] serve as a tool for both research and practical applications, with a general aim that approximately half of the questions be allocated for answering individual research hypotheses and half be used for surveillance and other applied purposes” (D.E Nelson et al. 446). Its purpose, according to the article, is to provide the public with accurate information regarding medical research, specifically focusing on cancer. In order to generate a successful survey, a pretest was conducted at Westat’s survey laboratory as well as an extensive review of existing surveys.

After the survey was completed, a random sample of telephone numbers was used for HINTS, which scanned and randomly chose working numbers in the United States. In order to maximize response rates for the survey, introductory letters were sent out beforehand, money incentives of two dollars were used, and expertly trained interviewers were hired to make the phone calls. Ultimately, 62.8% of the 19,509 households sampled completed the entire HINTS telephone interview. According to the article, this percentage was less than they had hoped for. While the HINTS is fairly new and still requires further research, it provides a channel for communication to the public regarding cancer risks and prevention methods as well as information to be used by scientists and other health researchers.

The second article, “Using Opinion Surveys to Track the Public’s Response to a Bioterrorist Attack,” the authors discuss the importance of surveys and polls during a time of crisis or threat to national security. The article also outlines specific strategies for conducting and communicating polls in order to publish them in a timely matter while addressing the public’s concerns. According to the article, “[…] most public opinion data available during past public health crises have come from media polls, not from surveys conducted by government agencies or universities” (R.J Blendon et al. 84). In my opinion, this is a very interesting fact and it puts a lot of pressure on the media’s distribution of surveys and polls. The article focuses a lot on the Anthrax scare of 2001, citing information from polls and surveys conducted during this time. In order to inform health authorities of the general public’s view of the issue, the Harvard School of Public Health provided information regarding the following questions: 1. American’s confidence in public officials to provide correct information during a bioterrorist attack; 2. Precautions Americans were taking against bioterrorist attacks; 3. Americans’ knowledge about the disease and its treatment; 4. Public attitudes about vaccination; and 5. Americans’ views about the likelihood of discrimination in the provision of post-attack services. Each of these questions helped researchers and public officials better understand the public’s view of the issue in order to develop the most effective way of handling the situation. According to the article, communication during an emergency is a “two-way street,” and officials must first learn what Americans believe about the issue before they can address the crisis.

In my opinion, both of these articles provided very interesting information regarding polls and medical research. I found the second article, “Using Opinion Surveys to Track the Public’s Response to a Bioterrorist Attack,” to be the most interesting because I can clearly remember the Anthrax scare. I agree with the author that in order to effectively handle the situation, officials must first learn how the public perceives the issue. I believe that this advice can be applied to many other situations regarding polls and public opinion outside of the medical world. I also thought that it was interesting to learn the large roll that the media play in conducting polls and informing the public during a time of crisis.

According to a poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, “in a response to a fictional scenario describing a significant anthrax attack in their city or town, 89% of Americans will likely follow recommendations to obtain antibiotics.” The survey also concluded that 39% of those Americans would not take the medication right away but rather hold on to it for a while, 21% of Americans are not even familiar with the term “inhalation Anthrax,” and 25% of Americans believe inhalation anthrax is contagious.

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Tricia Dean

The article on HINTS began discussing the background of how the Health Information National Trends Survey that was created out of a 1998 conference on risk communication. The purpose of the survey was to gather information on the public’s sources and access to cancer information, their perceived trust in those sources, their knowledge about cancer and various other health issues, and the factors that may help or hurt their communication. Experts with experience in research surveys were asked to provide comments regarding the development of the survey. They suggested that the sample that nationally represents the adults in the general population, as well as not including questions about cancer treatment options or misperceptions.
The article continues on to discuss the criteria used to include measures such as scientific validity, utility and implementation. The survey was directed at the two different stages of health communications directed at consumers: awareness and information-seeking. The order of the survey began with general questions, progressed into more specific questions and ended with more common, general questions again. The sample was taken via telephone numbers and the survey conductors made sure to oversample minorities to get a proper representation. In order to increase their response rates, they made sure to validate phone numbers with addresses, mailed introductory letters two weeks prior to calling, mandated interviewer training and offered a $2 incentive. In the end, the interviewers were allowed nine callback attempts and 19,509 households were reached. They hope to utilize the survey as a research vehicle in the future for specific cancer research by protecting their specific methodology.
The second article discussed the need to use opinion surveys to track public response to bioterrorist attacks. It opened with a discussion on how government agencies and universities rarely conducted surveys to see the public opinion of a current crisis. The majority of this information came from media polls which are only available when a specific issue is the top concern at the time. It continues on to discuss the need of public opinion during public health crisis in order to fill information voids. To fill this void, short-duration, rapid-turnaround surveys are used during times of crisis because of the possibility of sudden changes in behavior and mood. These surveys typically measured the public’s confidence in public figures to alert them, precautions they may already be taking against attacks, their knowledge of disease and treatment, attitudes on vaccination and the likelihood of discrimination in the provision of post-attack services.
In my opinion, I think it is important to make public health issues an important topic of discussion and that the government and universities should make more of an effort to implement public opinion polls during these moments of crisis. I think that there have been times when a health crisis may have seemed downplayed because of the lack of attention the media and top officials provided. A recent example would be the swine flu. Many people died from this epidemic and I think a lot of people just assumed it could not happen to them so it continued to spread. I’m aware that early on it was impossible to understand how severe the illness was but as time went on and more and more people got sick and died, the government and university officials should have made a point to be more in the public eye to stress the urgency and importance of taking preventative measures against this flu. I know personally, I knew that people had died from the illness but I wasn’t scared to the point of making sure I was sanitizing my counters more frequently or constantly putting on anti-bacterial gel. I think sometimes our society and country gets lulled into thinking that bad things cannot happen to us and that crisis and epidemics only happen in other places. This can be damaging in the long run because we are unsuspecting and unprepared. An example would be the terrorist attacks on September 11th. We never imagined we would be at the forefront of terrorists’ minds and so proper security measures were not in place to prevent this catastrophe from happening.
I found an article from the New York Times discussing the prevention measures that health care workers are taking this season to avoid the flu . It was located pretty far down the page which goes to show that it is not a true topic of conversation even though it directly impacts the health and wellness of every American. The poll found that even though flu shots are recommended for all health care providers, less than half actually get vaccinated during flu season. This statistic demonstrates that the epidemic has not been portrayed as severe enough or dangerous enough to ensure a large majority take preventative measures to protect themselves. The poll reported that only 37% of the health care providers actually received the H1N1 swine flu vaccination.
I think this poll story and the articles’ discussion regarding the need to alert and communicate with the public for various times of crisis demonstrate that there is a large opportunity for improvement. I am glad that there are efforts being made to better the lines of communication but I personally believe that the government and the media can work together to ensure the level of disaster is clearly communicated to the American public.

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Allison Miller

Reaction Paper #3

Chapter 16 in A Journalist’s Guide to Public Opinion Polls is about reporting polls. It talks about the want for the media networks to have poll results immediately. Because of this, many networks came up with instant polls which, “sampled public opinion the moment the debate ended,” (Gawiser and Witt 120). The difficult task of handling polls is discussed, as well. Handling political polling is described as, “the hardest task facing the journalist writing about public opinion,” (Gawiser and Witt 120). This is so difficult because of all the public opinion involved. A large topic of this chapter is how campaign managers spin the polls. A good political manager, “will not lie, but they will highlight the positives and downplay the negatives,” (Gawiser and Witt 123). Who votes in elections and polls is also talked about. It is stated that state primary elections are decided by “fewer than 25 percent of the registered voters” (Gawiser and Witt 126). Many people intend to vote in polls, because they feel like it is their civic duty, but a lot of people do not. Tracking polls is the last important part of this chapter. In political campaigns, polls are used to track which strategies are working and which are not. Drawbacks to tracking polls include not being able to “repeatedly call potential respondents who are not available on the first try by the interviewer” (Gawiser and Witt 129).
Chapter 17 discusses exit polls and projections. The beginning of this chapter discusses exit polls and how they were invented by American television networks to get as much information on the election they can. It is all about timing and how quickly the media can get to the information. Exit polls use so much information on each person who votes and why they vote. The reason they are used is for “projection of elections and analysis of results” (Gawiser and Witt 135). Journalism based on exit polls has to be quickly written and delivered in a timely manner. There is usually a time frame of minutes to hours to analyze all of the poll information into a news story. There has been a dilemma between projection and exit polling. Apparently, as the exit polls are being cast, they are immediately being projected. Many people do not believe this is just.
On his website, Meyer writes about how to do an election survey. He begins by using the statement, “the purpose of an election survey is to predict the outcome of the election” (Meyer 1). He believes that everyone knows that statement is true, yet denies it. He gives us more reasons what polls are used for; measuring “familiarity with the issues and the candidates” (Meyer 1), as well as, strategies from the candidate’s polls. He explains how refusals are a big part of error in polling and most people do not discuss the rates of refusal. A lot of people in the United States choose not to participate in polls. Because of this, we do not have a very large sample at all times. Meyer explains how there are other ways to conduct polls over the phone. If someone is uninterested, you can hang up and try a different number who actually would like to participate. They way you display names of candidates on paper can affect a person’s decision in a poll, Meyer suggests switching the positioning up every once in a while. There are a lot of undecided people in the world when it comes to elections. The rate of undecided people goes down once the election nears, but, “levels of 10 to 15 percent in the final days are not uncommon” (Meyer 1). He talks about a method of getting more people to make a choice by having the interviewer offer “a printed ballot and displays a box with a padlock and a big label, ‘SECRET BALLOT BOX’” (Meyer 1). Sometimes polls are weighted either by design weights or corrective weights. They are used to fix certain issues within the poll and disguise the issue to the public.
In my opinion, it is really important to know who a candidate is in order to vote for him or her. If someone does not know a candidate well enough, including their stance on issues, etc. there is no way to cast an accurate vote. I would have to say that during the more recent presidential election, a lot of students at the University of Iowa, had no idea who Barack Obama really was. Without this information, it is impossible to vote for the “best” candidate. They say our city is very liberal, but, this is simply reflecting all of the rich people from Chicago, IL who come to the University for school. Yes, their vote counts just the same but it would help a lot if they actually knew what they were talking about. All we heard was, “Let’s Change” and things have sure changed. People around campus even say that he only made a few changes that were promised and they do not appreciate him much as president. If we would have noticed what kind of integrity he had at the beginning and in the past, we would have a more clear idea of who was the best candidate.
In the recent presidential election, Obama kept the lead for the majority of the time. In a poll on the presidential campaign, Obama had been in the lead the entire time but really pulled ahead once October of election year pulled closer. “More voters see him as “well-qualified” and “down-to-earth” than did so a month ago” (Growing 1). He instilled more power in his voice to make others believe what he had to say. The poll also told us that he was “the candidate best able to improve economic conditions by a wider margin (53% to 32%)” (Growing 1). All of these polls may be true, with little sampling error, however, I will argue with you all day that he has not accomplished what the people want, let alone, everything he has promised. I understand that this takes time, but, drastic changes are not even being accepted widely by the Democratic Party. I, along with a lot of others, still consider Obama “risky.”

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Jordan Taylor

4/15/10

Polls and Elections

The first required reading that I was required to read was called “Precision Journalism.” In this chapter there are a lot of important points that are discussed. The chapter starts off discussing what election surveys are and their purpose being to predict the outcome of the election. Sampling is the next important point they discuss after election surveys and they talk about how few organizations are content with single pre-election polls. Because of this sampling is a big target for cutting. After this the chapter leads into refusals and explains how refusals are one of the main sources of error in all polls because a third of people contacted in telephone surveys refuse to be interviewed. So, the methods for finding voters was discussed after and the first thing that needs to be done is figure out in the beginning of the interview if they are a voter or non-voter and if they are a non-voter then get rid of them. The chapter ends by discussing exit polls, and explaining what they are and how they assess the hidden forces in an election.

The second assigned reading was chapter sixteen called “Reporting Polls: Political Surveys.” This chapter starts out talking about how handling polls correctly is the hardest task facing the journalist writing about public opinion. This is because most of the public has come to resent polls as ways to sway their personal political decisions. It then leads into horse race polls and explains that the horse-race question is designed to answer one question directly and one indirectly. The first question is who is leading the race for president, senator, or governor right now? The second is have the candidates’’ standings changed since the last poll? The next important topic discussed is “spinning the story” for the journalists. As political professionals, they try to put the best “spin” on the facts to help their candidate. Good professional consultants will not lie, but they will highlight the positives and downplay the negatives. The chapter ends then by discussing the criticism of horse-race polls. The criticism is that where the concentration on who’s ahead drowns out information about the candidates stands on the issues, the candidates performance and the substantive contrasts between the contenders, the journalism suffers and so do the voters.

Chapter seventeen titled “Reporting Polls: Exit Polls And Projections” starts out giving me the history of exit polls. I found that exit polls are a very recent phenomenon, and during the last thirty years, exit polls have grown from experiment to the single most visible part of election coverage on television and in newspapers. The exit polls were used to analyze the election returns, to help provide information on why the winner came out on top. It then leads into how it is done. The exit poll is a special version of the intercept poll, in which people who have just voted are asked to complete questionnaires as they leave the polling place. There are two main purposes for this type of poll: projections of elections and analysis of results. Exit poll journalism was the next important topic they discuss in this chapter and that’s because turning exit poll material into a news story is a special case that highlights the clash of values between journalism and survey research. A reporter writing an exit poll story must start and complete the poll analysis vey quickly. Depending on the access to the data and when the story is needed, the journalist may have anywhere from several hours to several minutes to analyze the data and turn it into a news story. The chapter ends by talking about the exit poll/projection dilemma. This is that once the polls provided the data that revealed who won before the votes were counted, journalists were faced with a problem of weather the results of the exit polls, including the winner of the race should be reported before all the ballots are in.

After reading all of the assigned readings I really could relate to the point in the first reading when they discuss refusals and explain how refusals are one of the main sources of error in all polls because a third of people contacted in telephone surveys refuse to be interviewed. The reason I could relate to this and knew that this point is valid is because every time my home phone got a call asking to participate in a survey and I answered, I always said I didn’t want to or made up some lame excuse for why I didn’t have time to participate. The poll story that I found that deals with the material that I read was called “Assessing the Afghanistan Election.” This poll story deals with the pre-election polls and trying to figure out exactly how many people are voters or nonvoters and which side they support. This is basically the same thing as refusals because they are figuring out the people who are going to vote and support their person so they can have an idea of what will happen come Election Day.

http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenumbers/2009/08/assessing-the-afghanistan-election.html

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Ben Schuff
Dr. Yao
Reaction Paper
April 15th, 2010
Election Polls
Every two years, Americans are flooded with election polls. This year just so happens to be an election year as well. Over the next few summer months and into the fall, it will be hard for Americans to get away from election polls because every media outlet will be trying to project midterm winners before November 2nd, the day people will actually go to the polls and vote for their representatives in Congress. Today’s readings, chapters 16 and 17 from Gawiser and Witt and chapter 9 from Meyer, deal specifically with election polls and a few related topics.
Chapter 16 from Gawiser and Witt’s book starts by talking about the “Horse Race poll.” This type of poll is looking to answer two questions: who is leading the race for, say, the presidency and how have candidates’ standings changed since the last poll. As far as the consumers of these polls are concerned, there are three things to consider when looking at the poll results. All three have to do with the margin of error related to the polling numbers. If candidate A is leading candidate B by a margin that is less than the sampling error, then the race is too close to call. Some journalists may refer to such a situation as a ‘statistical dead heat.’ Perhaps the most important thing to remember in a situation like this is that neither candidate is actually leading due to the margin of error. The second scenario is if the margin between candidates is greater than twice the sampling error, then it is ok to say that candidate A is leading over candidate B. Finally, the third scenario is if the margin by which candidate A is leading over candidate B is more than the sampling error but not twice as much. In this scenario, candidate A would be said to have “a small lead” over candidate B, but the closeness of the race must be emphasized.
There were a few other things talked about in chapter 16. Timing of the polls can be important to keep in mind. If a poll takes place in July, a lot can happen over the final three or four months before the election. Another concept to keep in mind when looking at these polls is ‘who is being polled?’ Is the poll of “registered voters,” or is it simply a poll of “adults?” One of the goals of a poll is to identify people who are most likely to vote, and sometimes that can be difficult to do. This results in less meaningful poll data if a large portion of the people who were polled doesn’t intend on voting or never actually end up voting.
Chapter 17 from Gawiser and Witt deals more with exit polls. Exit polls are dealt with primarily by TV News networks. Interviewers will talk with people as they leave the precincts, trying to get an idea of who will win elections before the actual votes have been tabulated. Reporting on this however can be controversial, as Gawiser and Witt explain.
There are two main purposes of exit polls. First, as I just mentioned, is to project who will win, perhaps even before the polls have closed. The second reason is to analyze the data. Interviewers are sent to precincts with questionnaires to hand out to, for example, every tenth person leaving the voting place. In theory, this will give the media a way to collect data on who will win the election. Obviously, the work of analyzing data is done by computer. One problem with exit polls, however, is when people choose not to participate and refuse to take the questionnaire. If a certain demographic refuse to take the questionnaire, and that same demographic also strongly backed a particular candidate, then the exit polls could end up being a misrepresentation of the actual vote itself. From a journalistic standpoint, reporters are not only looking at and analyzing the data in terms of the current election, but they also may compare it to past elections if a particular statistic differs greatly from previous elections (an example might be if people 65+ shifted their vote of Dem. last election to Rep. in the current election).
Chapter 9 from Philip Meyer’s The New Precision Journalism talks about how to run your own poll. He takes the reader through various steps such as sampling, identifying likely voters in order to get more accurate and better results, what to do with undecided voters, problems with weighting your data, and the chapter also talks about election night projections and exit polls. Since I’m running out of space, I’ll focus the rest of my attention on what pertains mostly to the journalism side of things: “what to report.” Meyer writes that the “honest” journalist will report on the data/numbers that “add up to 100 percent,” for example. This is simply because reporting these numbers will give the best comparison to the numbers from the actual election outcome.
The one specific area that I will finish my reaction paper on is projections. Meyer talks about this topic, pointing out that older polling techniques relied upon the idea that “once you had the voters pegged, they would not change very much.” Obviously now, we know that isn’t the case, as every election season there is a significant number of voters who change their minds on who to vote for. Gawiser and Witt, in chapter 17, talk about how voting history in precincts is looked at as part of exit polling. They describe how past votes are put into computers well before election night and then as current votes or exit poll numbers come in they are compared to past data. It is uncertain, though, if that type of work can still be done today. I found a poll story on the New York Times website that talked about the signs that point towards Republicans regaining control in Congress may not be as sure of signs as they were in the past. The article quotes political scientist Alan Abramowitz as saying, “As soon as a political scientist comes up with a sweeping generality about American politics, it will immediately be falsified.”

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Predicting Elections
Biases and Sample Error

Philip Meyer states that the purpose of an election survey is to predict the outcome of the election. While this may seem obvious, it is a truth that pollsters and editors will frequently deny. This is because their success or failure is solely defined by whether or not the poll accurately predicts the results of the election. In theory, a poll will accurately predict the election, given a representative sample of the American voter. However, many variables exist that inevitably cause biased results, making the process of conducting an accurate poll both difficult and frustrating. As a result, pollsters are continuously searching for more accurate and efficient ways to determine election leaders.
In Gawiser & Witt’s, A Journalist’s Guide to Public Opinion Polls, the concept of a horse-race question is introduced. Essentially, a horse-race question is designed to answer who is leading in the political race, and also whether or not the results have changed since the previous poll. An example of a horse-race question would be, “If the election were held today, would you vote for X, the Republican; Y, the Democrat; or Z, the Independent?” It seems that this question would be easy to analyze – the candidate with the largest percentage in front of their name would appear to be leading the race. However, this is not generally the case. In these situations, it is necessary that the leader be ahead by a statistically significant margin, to eliminate the possibility of basing a decision upon sampling error. If a candidate has the backing of 42% of the voters interviewed, versus a contender with a 44% backing, it cannot be determined that the second candidate is winning the race. Rather, it can only be determined that the race is very close, and that no leader can currently be identified.
Horse-race poll questions have been used by journalists for years and continue to be utilized for gaining quick insight into the status of elections. However, over time, the polls have become less credible amongst academicians, columnists, and even the voters. This is due to a vast public knowledge of unreliability within the polls – Americans are aware that the polls do not indicate a valid representation of who is actually leading the election race. Americans also understand that there are more important issues than who is presumed to be leading the race– concentrating on who is leading takes away from the more important factors influencing voters, such as where the candidate stands on political issues. In a horse-race poll, the voter does not receive adequate information about these important issues, and thus cannot make an educated decision when voting.
Personally, I do not place very much reliance upon the election polls. I feel that an informed voter should do his own homework – in other words, each American citizen should be informed of the important issues affecting an election, and also have a solid understanding of where each candidate stands on the issue. During the 2008 presidential election, there was a vast amount of election polls predicting that John McCain would be the next American President. Obviously, this was not the case, as President Barack Obama was inaugurated into the White House on January 20th, 2009. This is a first-hand example of a time when election polls were inaccurate.
A recent poll on pollster.com questioned whether Americans favor or oppose of Barack Obama’s Health Care Plan. In the poll, the results over the past month have been very inconsistent. On March 26, 2010, 46% favored the bill, whereas 50% opposed. Seven days later, on April 1st, only 32% favored the bill, while 52% opposed (pollster). This high amount of fluctuation leads me to believe that the poll is not very accurate. There may be an issue with the sample – perhaps the poll is biased due to the higher education level associated with individuals participating in online polls. What is certain is that while polls may be an excellent way to make a quick inference about important issues, we must understand that they are not entirely accurate, and many can be subject to bias.

(Pollster): http://www.pollster.com/polls/us/healthplan.php

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In chapters sixteen and seventeen of their book A Journalist’s Guide to Public Opinion Polls Sheldon Gawiser and G. Evans Witt discuss political polls, exit polls, and projections. The authors point out that political polls are unique in that they are visible and can be proven right or wrong on Election Day (120). Much of the attention polls receive is related to horse-race questions or which candidate seems to be leading at the time. Gawiser and Witt cautioned journalists against declaring a candidate leading in a race if the margin between the candidates is less than the sampling error (121). Often, the margin one candidate enjoys over the other is over-emphasized. Also a lot can change between a poll in July and the election in November, so early polls don’t tell who will win the election (125). The authors state that concentration on the horse-race aspect of polls prevents people from thinking about the issues (132). Gawiser and Witt also examine exit polls, which are conducted by interviewing voters as they leave the polls on Election Day. Exit polls provide information on why the victorious candidate won. They have also been used to project the winners of elections, but this has raised concern over elections being called before the polls close (140).
Meyer also discusses political polls and election polls in chapter nine of his book Precision Journalism. Meyer discusses the aspects of political polling that contribute to accuracy such as correct sampling procedures. He claims that probability sampling on an individual level is the best method. Identifying likely voters is another component that contributes to accuracy, and this can be difficult. Some pollsters use questions like “how often do you vote?” to determine if someone will vote. Some pollsters try to identify a nonvoter at the beginning of the interview so they can discontinue it and save time. Meyer also discusses election night projections and the use of exit polls. He writes that exit polls tend to be accurate because the respondents are voters, no one is undecided, and sampling doesn’t depend on households or telephones. He recommends that interviewers stay at a precinct all day, have a set procedure for picking respondents, and keep questions short and simple.
The concept of exit polls stuck out to me within the two readings. I had heard of the controversy over calling elections early based on exit polls and projections from early reporting districts. It seems a reasonable assertion that calling an election or revealing poll results could depress turnout. Still, exit polls are a useful tool for gaining information about how different kinds of people voted and why a certain candidate won. Also, I have heard of exit polls being used to validate elections in other countries due to their accuracy. In the U.S. in the 2004 election, when exit polls predicted a different winner in some precincts, exit polls were compared to actual vote tallies and when there were large discrepancies investigations of fraud or machine malfunction ensued. It seems exit polls have many uses that outweigh their potentially dampening effect on turnout.
On November 5, 2008 the Pew Research Center published an analysis of exit poll data titled “Inside Obama’s Sweeping Victory.” The article revealed that the Democratic Party had gained an advantage in party identification, and Obama gained more support from moderates and independents than any other recent Democratic presidential candidate. Exit poll data also showed that Obama gained the support of young voters by a large margin (voters aged 18-29 voted 66% Obama and 32% McCain), people with low or moderate incomes, Hispanics, African-Americans, women, and suburban and urban voters. McCain meanwhile won older voters (age 65 and above), white men, and white southerners. Exit poll data was also used to determine what issues influenced voters’ decisions the most. The economy was the top issue with 63% of voters saying it was the most important factor followed by Iraq at 10%, healthcare at 9%, terrorism at 9%, and energy at 7%. The emphasis on the economy benefited Obama with 59% of the voters who said they were worried about the economy voting for Obama. The Pew Research Center exit poll analysis shows the usefulness of exit polls. Without them, it would be harder to identify voting coalitions and which issues influence voters’ decisions the most.

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When there is an outbreak of a new virus that many people are unfamiliar with, or any sickness that affects a lot of people, it can cause panic, like in cases such as Swine Flu (H1N1) or the outbreak of staph infections in the last five years. This can lead the public to be overly cautious, racing to the doctor to get their immunization shots.

In Nielson’s article, “The Health Information National Trends Survey,” he puts a lot of emphasis on that the reason that so many people are becoming overly cautious is because there is so much information out there. What people do not realize is that there are viruses and infections being spread everyday all around the world and outbreaks are not an unusual occurrence. One thing that might influence the public is all of the polls. If the polls are showing that more and more people are becoming worried or scared, then it will have a greater chance of scaring the people who read those polls.

Polling about health information is very important and should be done with great care. If anything is reported wrong, or is spun in an unnecessarily negative way, it can affect a lot of people. But it is better to be safe than sorry.

Kaiser Family Foundation is an organization that specializes in health polls and surveys. They have a great reputation for publishing reliable polls. This is an excerpt from their website at http://www.kff.org. “A leader in health policy and communications, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit, private operating foundation… Unlike grant-making foundations, Kaiser develops and runs its own research and communications programs, sometimes in partnership with other non-profit research organizations or major media companies. We serve as a non-partisan source of facts, information, and analysis for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the public. Our product is information, always provided free of charge — from the most sophisticated policy research, to basic facts and numbers, to information young people can use to improve their health or elderly people can use to understand their Medicare benefits.”

In Blendon’s article “Using Opinion Survey to Track the Public’s Response to a Bioterrorist Attack,” he believes that it is important to tell Americans what to do in an emergency situation. But it is also very important that it is important for the government and health officials to know how much Americans understand and what they believe.

I feel Blendon’s article was very useful. He made me believe that it is not just up to the health officials to take control of the situation.
Rosalind Sixbey

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What would an election be without public polls? Can you imagine? I can’t either. A huge part of elections include polls, whether it is about predicting winners, who is currently ahead in the race, opinions of politician’s stances, etc. Candidates also rely heavily on public opinion polls for certain issues in order to try and represent a certain demographic. Chapters sixteen and seventeen in the book A Guide to Public Opinion Polls by Sheldon R. Gawiser and G. Evans Witt and chapter nine in The New Precision Journalism by Philip Meyer both discuss how polls and elections relate.
Meyer starts his chapter off strong, stating that even though everyone denies it, “The purpose of an election survey is to predict the outcome of the election.” When you think about it, why else would there be so many news channels and newspapers polling the public on the topic? And even if they surveyed each person in the United States, would they really be able to predict the outcome? It is still up in the air, because unless it was right before they entered the voting booth, they could still change their mind.
Gawiser and Witt state that “handling political polls correctly is the hardest task facing the journalist writing about public opinion.” I agree. Elections are huge, especially presidential elections. If reported inaccurately, it could be one of the most embarrassing things for a journalist. I’m not saying that more Americans are unintelligent, but a lot of Americans do not pay close attention to who is running our country. Just look at the number of people who vote! These polls that newspapers or news channels report could greatly, and possibly wrongly, influence the votes of the public, since some of the public vote based on how most other Americans feel.
Horse-race polls are the hardest kinds of political polling. This is because people taking the poll have to try and poll the people who are going to vote, and with not even half of Americans voting in a given presidential election, that can be a very hard job. The horse-race key questions are “who is leading in the race for president, or senator, or governor right now?” and “have the candidates’ standings changed since the last poll?” The leader is not necessarily the candidate with the largest number by their name, but with the biggest margin.
After the polls are taken, it is up to the journalist to report them. This is where spinning can be involved. Campaign managers or people working for a candidate will always try to make their candidate look the best. But it can also work the other way.
Not only are horse-race polls important, but exit polls are just as important when it comes to elections. These polls are intended to find out which candidate has won before the election is over. These can be very tricky and pollsters have to do this carefully and with caution because if they predict the wrong candidate, it will be over.
It is up to the public to not believe every poll story they hear. It is becoming more and more common for candidates to cite polls and have the public blindly believing him or her.
Rosalind Sixbey

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Molly Noesen
Intro to Mass Communication
04/13/2010
Reading Response #4
Civilian Journalism
Civilian Journalism is a rising issue as the years go by; the more technological advancements are made available for citizens to take reporting into their own hands.  Cell phone cameras, cameras, video cameras, the Internet, blogging, etc.  It has become a mass chain of taking footage or photos and streaming them all over the Internet.  However, there are up’s and down’s to this new type of journalism.  Sometimes a reporter cannot be at the scene so it helps to have absolute live footage; on the other hand we worry what is credible and honest.  Journalist’s worry that they are going to lose their jobs through this type of journalism and “junk journalism” will take over the news.
Two of the articles show us examples of how this type of journalism can be beneficial, or a good thing.  Julie Fanselow wrote, Community Blogging: The New Wave of Journalism, and in the midst of her article we see how civilian journalism has helped in NorthField, New Jersey.  Griff Wigley, investigated rumors of high school students abusing the drug heroin.  After investigating Wigley came to discover that this was true and posted on his blog called Locally Grown.
“But Wigley says that positive changes happened as a result of the increase publicity.  Posts and comments at Locally Grown recount these changes: updated curriculum and more counseling at local high schools, increased local treatment options, and plenty of honest conversation over substance abuse” (Fanselow).
This shows how community blogging can be helpful, but the next article we take a look at shows us how it can spread nationwide.  Richard Sambrook writes the article, Citizen Journalism and the BBC.  In this article we learn how much civilian journalism took place on July 7th 2005 in London when the terrorist bombings took place on trains and buses.  The results of how much footage was taken is such a large amount, that no reporter could have given unless on site during the bombing.
“Within six hours we received more than 1,000 photographs, 20 pieces of amateur video, 4,000 text messages, and 20,000 e-mails.  People were participating in our coverage in a way we had never seen before”(Sambrook)
Civilian journalism was at a high point during this event, people were taking the news into their own hands and putting it out on the internet for the world to see.  Also with the help of the Digital Storytelling project, people are allowed to manipulate video and voice recordings so they can tell a story in their own way.  BBC has noticed the use of Digital Storytelling and has been known to use it a lot more.
With the positive side of Civilian Journalism, come the downfalls.  Neimans Reports, Are Reporters Doomed, gives use a glimpse that reporter’s jobs could be in jeopardy and it is a slippery slope if that does happen.  One of the main things discussed is the credibility of the information being given out by the means of civilian journalism.  “Slow journalism” is decreasing, and “Junk Journalism” is taking the high road through Internet blogging.  Junk journalism can be found anywhere; it is streaming all over the web because of civilian journalism.
“You can get junk food on every high street.  And you can get junk journalism almost as easily.  But just as there is now a Slow Food movement, I should also like to see more Slow Journalism.” (Neiman Reports)
While the lack of credibility from civilian journalism is an apparent issue, and even more striking issue is public humiliation through blogging.  The Human Flesh Search Engine, written by Chris O’Brien for Forbes discusses a new phenomenon that is ruining the lives of people in China.  There are two examples, and one is about a man named Wang Fei who was cheating on his wife.  He was exposed on the Internet through blogging, and in turn his wife committed suicide.  He became a target for public humiliation, and to live a life of being the man who made his wife commit suicide.
“The consequences for those on the receiving end often transcend the virtual world and can include loss of employment, public shaming, even imprisonment. Conversely, the most voracious “flesh hunters” are widely seen as the online equivalent of lynch mobs.” (O’Brien)
This is a huge issue of civilian journalism that shows the huge lack of credibility of potential civilian journalists.  With this problem seeming to be such an extreme form, it raises another question: Whom can we even trust with civilian journalism if it progresses?
A poll that potentially caught my eye for civilian journalism was, from CBS news declaring that American’s were growing impatient with Obama and the direction of the health care.  People claiming that he spent too much time on the health care plan and the increase of economic concerns makes citizens believe we do not have the money to fix health care.  I see this, as a possible opportunity for civilian’s to take journalism into their own hands, and take photos of the economy or make videos showing their frustration.  Speaking out in such a way could be dangerous in large amounts, especially with credibility on the line.  It is a potential situation for people to speak out, and possibly in not such a positive way.

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Molly Noesen
Intro to Mass Communications
04/06/2010
(Revised copy)
Response #3

The New Precision Journalism: Privacy Concerns
In the text The New Precision Journalism written by Meyer, touches base on the complexities and advancements of Journalism. Precision journalism is a faster paced way for journalists to get their work done; they are looking for speed and accuracy. However, that are conflicts that Meyer touches base on different aspects that are vital to critical thinking about the future of journalism: privacy concerns, defining public opinion, elections, tactical voting, and uneasiness in the media. All of these apply to the “new precision of journalism”.
Gaweiser and Witt in A Journalist’s Guide to Public Opinion Polls, quickly touch on the idea that journalist’s were trying to discover new ways to collect data, analyze it and report back with accurate results. This quickly caught on because of our technological advancements; we have the privilege of using computers for speed purposes. Over the years, you see the development of precision journalism and finally in the 1990’s polling was referred to database journalism.
The idea of precision journalism is obviously effective and with any new methods there are always going to be consequences. I think it is safe to assume that Journalists like the development of precision journalism. However, Meyer touched on a topic that I found slightly disturbing, especially from a writers perspective. The privacy issue that has risen because of precision journalism is a little alarming.
“The codes of some of the major professional associations in journalism recognize a duty to provide protection of privacy. In the utilitarian ethical systems used, consciously or not, by most journalists, the right to privacy is easily overridden by a more pressing concern for the public’s right to know. The question for precision journalism is whether the power of its methods adds a moral burden that did not exist for less powerful methods.” (Meyer, New Precision Journalism).
It is sad to see that morals have to be put behind us because journalists may obtain certain information that they have to decide whether or not the public should know about it. However, journalists do not have the luxury of making this decision, if there is “vital” information for the public to know even if it’s against their morals, it is highly likely that they would have to share this knowledge. I’m not against the idea of precision journalism, but I did not see this becoming an issue.
An example of how a poll shows information that is questionable to whether or not it should have been given to the public is from the New York Times. October 15, 2009 New Jersey Residents are afraid of the future of their economy. The poll that was conducted showed that the democratic candidate sides with Obama and is convincing the public that the republican opponent is going to help the rich stay rich. However, the public does not like either of the candidates
I think this poll could have been left alone, in my opinion any of this knowledge is creating fear in the public. I believe that some journalists would have looked at this poll would think that sharing this information would go against their morals. All it is doing is expressing fear.

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Jordan Taylor
4/13/10

Citizen Journalism Movement

“The Future of Media Politics” by David Ryfe was the first reading that I read. This reading discusses how newspapers especially large urban dailies have been spiraling downward because of the decline in revenues, declining circulation, and reactions in news staff. They explain that young people particularly seem to have abandoned the news, and 18-24 year olds are getting their news from The Daily Show rather than from mainstream news outlets. The reading also talks about Tunstall, and his thesis on the global media system and the dominance of the system and the emergence of these systems in countries like India and China. He also says that media is American because three key American ideas have been embedded into the international media system but he also states that the rest of the world no longer looks at the United States as its model of what news is or ought to be and that is the ultimate root of American medias global decline. The last point that was touched on in this piece is that Blogs are the most significant revolution since television. The people that use blogs are generally very interested in the news and come with fairly fixed political views.

The second reading called “The New Wave of Citizen Journalism” discusses local bloggers and how they can influence and help their communities. In the reading one example that is used was a blog called “Locally Grown” and it is used for local bloggers and citizen journalists to write about and advocate for their communities in organized ways on the Internet. The reading goes on to explain how community blogs are having a big impact on traditional journalism and many serve as a watchdog function. The point they are trying to make with these local blogs is to show the city leaders that they have to communicate in the new world. Another use for the blogs they talk about in this reading is that organizations that promote civic engagements have begun helping communities use them to record work, document success, and attract new participants.

The third reading called “Citizen Journalism is Here to Stay” discusses how journalistic skills are not entirely whipped out in an online world, but they are diminishing and can not be confined any further to an exclusive elite group. As a result of this, the media companies in the future will use a smaller staff and their job will be to process materials from bloggers. The reading basically states that no more investigative journalism will go on anymore.

The next reading I read called “When the Audience Does the Reporting” starts off discussing how the old-line medias embrace of the Internet may be the logical extension of the “civic journalism” movement. This leads into them talking about how we have gone from flirting with civic journalism to celebrating “citizen journalism, and it can only diminish the traditional medias voice of authority or allow the media to become less aggressive and more passive. Given this newspapers still seem to be redesigning themselves for people who don’t read newspapers and reporters are encouraged to be avid bloggers. The reading ends by saying the only way the old media can hope to compete is by maintaining credibility and authoritative voice.

The last reading I read was called “Citizen Journalism and the BBC.” This reading discusses how when terrorist bombs exploded in London tons of text messages, emails, and pictures from phones from the public were received and these became an integral part of how the BBC reported the day’s events. People were participating in their coverage in a way they had never seen before. The article then goes on to say that the reporting on the story was a genuine collaboration enabled by consumer technology and supported by trust between broadcaster and audience. From this they now know that when major events occur, the public can offer us as much new information as they are able to broadcast to them, and from now on news coverage is a partnership.

I totally agree with the fact that news coverage is now a partnership and that collaboration is necessary. In the past few months especially, when waiting the news it is very evident that the videos and clips that are used most of the time are not professionally done, meaning that the public is definitely contributing to the news coverage. I think that this is a good thing for the news simply because when events occur like the terrorist attack in London, the news casters and journalists are not always the first ones on scene and are not always there to capture something right as it happens where the public can easily pull out a cell phone and record a video that may report the event that occurred far better then anything the news or media could capture. So in the end it benefits every one and the coverage on the even is far better then it might have been if citizen journalism was not on the up rise. A poll story that touches on the issues discussed in the readings has to deal with young people not filling out the census. The poll shows that younger people are not as involved in he news just like they discussed in the readings and that is the main reason they are holding out on the census.

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1538/young-people-make-up-large-proportion-census-hold-outs

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