Research Publication Roundup: March 2021

A vibrant and collaborative interdisciplinary research culture at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media creates new knowledge, advances scholarship and helps reinvent media.

Assistant Professor Shannon McGregor and colleagues recently published work examining the effects of political identity and education on the formation of attitudes and false beliefs. More details on this study are listed below, along with a list of other recently published or presented scholarship by UNC Hussman faculty and students.


Cornacchione Ross, J., Reboussin, D. M., Noar, S. M., Wiseman, K. D., & Sutfin, E. L. (2021). What do adolescents and young adults think a cigarillo is? Implications for health communication. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Cigarillo use has increased among adolescents and young adults and has remained high. Public education efforts are needed to communicate with these populations about cigarillo use risks, but little is known about the implications of using the term “cigarillo” in such efforts. The researchers conducted a nationally representative online survey of 3,517 adolescents and young adults to assess perceptions of the term cigarillo. Findings suggest many adolescents and young adults have varied understandings of the term.  Researchers and practitioners need to ensure that terminology used in health communication campaigns is clearly understood by the target audience to maximize effectiveness.

Erku, D. A., Bauld, L., Dawkins, L., Gartner, C. E., Steadman, K. J., Noar, S. M., Shrestha, S., & Morphett, K., (2021). Does the content and source credibility of health and risk messages related to nicotine vaping products have an impact on harm perception and behavioural intentions? A systematic review. Addiction.

In this study, the researchers systematically reviewed the literature on (1) whether and how various risk messages about nicotine vaping products alter harm perception and behavioral intentions of smokers and non‐smokers and (2) how trust in sources of nicotine vaping products risk communication affects message reception and behavioral intentions. They found risk messages may lead to more accurate perceptions of nicotine vaping products as harmful and may increase smokers’ intentions to quit smoking or to switch to vaping.

Essman, M., Mediano Stoltze, F., Dillman Carpentier, F., Swart, E. C., & Taillie, L. S. (2021). Examining the news media reaction to a national sugary beverage tax in South Africa: A quantitative content analysis. BMC Public Health.

South Africa was the first sub-Saharan African country to implement a sugar-sweetened beverage tax in April 2018. This study analyzed how the levy was represented in the press, from expressions of support or challenge to topics most associated with the levy. Across all articles, 54% of articles expressed support, 26% opposition and 20% a balanced view of the levy. All sources except industry expressed majority support for the levy. Health reasons were the most common justifications for support, and economic harms were the most common justifications for opposition.

Francis, D. B., Zelaya, C. M., Fortune, D. A., & Noar, S. M. (2021). Black college women’s interpersonal communication in response to a sexual health intervention: A mixed methods study. Health Communication.

Using a mixed-method approach, the researchers investigated interpersonal communication generated from a successful sexual health intervention for Black college women attending a historically Black college or university. They found women engaged in interpersonal communication and online interactions about the dispensers, with friends being the most common conversation partners. Findings showed positive, significant associations between interpersonal communication and condom acceptability as well as intentions to use condoms. Results suggest health communication interventions should actively encourage young Black women to share health-promoting information within their social networks to extend their reach and impact.

Goldstein, A. O., Jarman, K. L., Kowitt, S. D., Queen, T. L., Kim, K. S., Shook-Sa, B. E., Sheeran, P., Noar, S. M., & Ranney, L. M. (2021). Effect of cigarette constituent messages with engagement text on intention to quit smoking among adults who smoke cigarettes: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Network Open.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is required to communicate the risks of tobacco constituents to the public. Few studies have addressed how FDA media campaigns can effectively communicate about cigarette smoke constituents. In a randomized clinical trial of 789 adults who smoke cigarettes, the researchers examined whether messages about cigarette smoke constituents are effective in reducing smoking intentions and behaviors among adults who smoke. These findings suggest messages about cigarette smoke constituents increased smokers’ intentions to quit, which can inform national efforts to communicate harmful constituents in cigarette smoke among adults who smoke.

Jin, Y., Lee, Y.-I., Liu, B. F., Austin, L., & Kim, S. (2021). How college students assess the threat of infectious diseases: Implications for university leaders and health communicators. Journal of International Crisis and Risk Communication Research.

Higher education institutions and their students face a wide range of infectious disease threats. However, there is a lack of research on how to provide communication for multiple threats to motivate students to take protective action. To close this gap, this study focused on college students and two infectious disease threat types: respiratory and sexually transmitted infections. In an online survey conducted at two U.S. universities with 842 students, the researchers found the type of threat led to different patterns of threat appraisal and intentions to take protective action. Participants perceived sexually transmitted threats as significantly more predictable and more controllable than respiratory threats. Participants also had higher intention to take protective action in response to respiratory threats than sexually-transmitted threats.

Kresovich, A., Noar, S. M., Gvino, E., Prentice-Dunn, H., & Ribisl, K. M. (2021). A review of web-based tobacco control media archives for researchers and practitioners. Journal of Cancer Education.

Web-based resources for tobacco use prevention and control provide valuable tools for cancer education. This study sought to identify existing websites that archive prevention and cessation media content and to characterize the content and features of those websites. The researchers used a comprehensive search strategy to identify and provide a systematic summary of nine web-based resources. The identified websites can assist researchers and practitioners in their tobacco control efforts.

Saldaña, M., McGregor, S., & Johnson, T. (2021). Mind the gap! The role of political identity and attitudes in the emergence of belief gaps. International Journal of Public Opinion Research.

This study examines the effect of political identity, education and partisan media consumption on the formation of attitudes and false beliefs. Using a two-wave, nationally representative U.S. online survey, the researchers assessed people’s attitudes and beliefs toward climate change and Syrian refugees. Results demonstrate that the effect of one’s political identity on attitudes and false beliefs is contingent upon education, which appears to widen the belief gap in consort with political identity.


American Psychosocial Oncology Society 2021 Conference
March 10-12, 2021 | Virtual

Lazard, A., Collins, M. K. R., Hedrick, A., Horrell, L., Varma, T., Valle, C., Love, B., & Benedict, C. (2021, March). Initiation and changes in use of social media for peer support among young adults with cancer. Presented at the American Psychosocial Oncology Society 2021 Conference.

Lazard, A., Collins, M. K. R., Hedrick, A., Varma, T., Love, B. Valle, C., Brooks, E., & Benedict, C. (2021, March). Using social media for support among young adults with cancer. Presented at the American Psychosocial Oncology Society 2021 Conference.

American Society of Preventive Oncology 45th Annual Meeting
March 29-31, 2021 | Virtual

Lafata, J. E., Lazard, A. J., Collins, M. K. R., Fleming, P. J., Brenner, A. T., Crockett, S., Cykert, S., & Reuland, D. (2021, March). The acceptability of text messaging to reach racially diverse adults eligible for colorectal cancer screening. Presented at the American Society of Preventive Oncology 45th Annual Meeting.

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 46th Annual Southeast Colloquium
March 18-20, 2021 | Virtual

Ekstrand, T. (2021, March). Free speech and the marketplace of emotion. Presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 46th Annual Southeast Colloquium.

Foster, M. E., Pendleton, S. M., Prince, C. J., Johnson, D., & Lan, L. (2021, March). Empowerment or entrepreneurship?: Analyzing uses of #BlackLivesMatter to share personal or political news on Instagram. Presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 46th Annual Southeast Colloquium.

Lorenz Nenque, A. (2021, March). Post-Ghosting: The depletion of local government coverage after a county’s newspapers became ‘ghosts.' Presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 46th Annual Southeast Colloquium.

Pendleton, S. M. (2021, March). A curriculum audit of diversity-related content in introduction to PR courses. Presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 46th Annual Southeast Colloquium.

International Public Relations Research Conference
March 3-6, 2021 | Virtual

Zhao, X., & Zhan, M. (2021, March). Fostering social media influence across crises: Examining the communicative and user-specific antecedents. Paper presented at the 24th International Public Relations Research Conference.

2021 American Academy of Advertising Annual Conference
March 18-20 | Virtual

Tackett, T. (2021, March). Examining gender diversity in advertising: A textual analysis of award-winning agency websites. Presented at the 2021 American Academy of Advertising Annual Conference.