Research Publication Roundup: September 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.

Associate Professor Allison Lazard and doctoral student Meredith Collins co-authored two articles exaiming the use of technology in facilitating support among young adults with cancer. In one study, Lazard teamed up with Collins, fellow Ph.D. student Erik Brooks, Ph.D. alumna Ashley Hedrick ('21), undergraduate student Tushar Varma and other collaborators to investigate the benefits and downsides of using social media for cancer support. 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.


Reid A. & Kresovich A. (2021). Copyright as a barrier to music therapy telehealth interventions: Qualitative interview study, JMIR Formative Research, 5(8), e28383.

Music therapy is used with a wide range of patient populations, and therapists are not subject to copyright restrictions when playing privately in a room for a patient. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, music therapy no longer occurs solely in the face-to-face setting. Interviews with 18 credentialed music therapists in the United States revealed that therapists were uncertain about the permissible uses of music via telehealth, leading to lost opportunities for care. Results suggest that therapists have altered their interventions in suboptimal ways to avoid copyright liability in a telehealth environment. 

Viljoen, S., Goldenfein, J., & McGuigan, L. (2021). Design choices: Mechanism design and platform capitalism. Big Data & Society, 8(2).

Mechanism design, developed from economic theory, is a form of optimization in which the designers choose an outcome and then arrange a set of market rules and conditions to achieve that outcome. Mechanism design is one of the most pervasive influences on digital mediation of social life; however, the authors of the paper argue that the justification for using mechanism design to organize interaction through digital media is losing traction. The authors present an argument that mechanism design produces information domination in a way that controls and coordinates participants to the benefits of designers.

Hall, M. G., Higgins, I. C. A., Grummon, A. H., Lazard, A., Sheldon, J. M., & Smith Taillie, L. (2021). Using a naturalistic store laboratory for clinical trials of point-of-sale policies and interventions: A feasibility and validation study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 18, 8764.

Policies such as warning and taxes at the point of sale may improve the nutritional quality of food and beverage purposes. A longitudinal observational study with 61 North Carolina Latinx parents in a naturalistic store laboratory setting — the UNC Mini Mart, which resembled as small convenience store — compared behavior in the store lab setting to purchase behavior in the weeks prior. The percentage of parents who purchased sugary drinks and non-sugary drinks was not significantly different than their real-world purchase behavior. Participants also reported high acceptability of the Mini Mart, indicating that naturalistic store laboratories are a promising method for evaluating the validity of point-of-sale interventions. 

Bartels, S., Gora Combs, K., Lazard., A., Shelus, V., Davis, C. H., Rothschild, A., Drewry, M., Carpenter, K., Newman, E., Goldblatt, A., Dasgupta, N., Hill, L., & Ribisl, K. (2021). Development and application of an interdisciplinary rapid message testing model for COVID-19 in North Carolina. Public Health Report. 136(4), 413-420.

The development of evidence-based messages to reduce COVID-19 transmission has been a key priority since March 2020. Researchers developed and executed an iterative, four-step, rapid message testing model; the model was executed four times in April and May 2020. Participants were 917 adults from North Carolina, who participated in all four surveys. Results indicated that messages that paired protective behaviors, such as social distancing, with motivations, such as protecting one's grandmother, increased participants’ desire to perform the behavior. This model can be used for future rapid, iterative message testing during public health emergencies.

Dasgupta, N., Lazard, A., & Brownstein, J. (2021) COVID-19 vaccine apps should deliver more to patients. Lancet Digital Health. 3(5), E278-E279.

In this commentary, the authors argue that the pharmaceutical manufacturers’ and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s reliance on digital tools as the primary means of adverse event reporting for COVID-19 vaccines may negatively affect the adoption of the COVID-19 vaccine and any adverse reporting.

Jensen M.L., Dillman Carpentier F., Corvalan C., Popkin B.M., Evenson K.R., Adair L., & Taillie L.S. (2021, online first). Television viewing and using screens while eating: Associations with dietary intake in children and adolescents. Appetite

Screen time has been associated with overweight and obesity in children, as well as with poorer dietary quality. This study examined the extent of overall TV viewing as well as using screens while eating (e.g., watching TV or using a tablet) to compare food and nutrient consumption of on-versus off-screen eating occasions for both children and adolescents. Higher weekly TV viewing was associated with more sweets and desserts consumed by children and more sugar sweetened beverages consumed by adolescents. Furthermore, a large percentage of children's and adolescents’ daily energy was consumed while using screens.

Benedict, C., Lazard, A., Smith, S., Agrawal, A., Collins, M.K.R, & Love, B. (2021, online first). User experiences, usability, and social presence of a peer-to-peer support app: Survey of young adults affected by cancer. Journal of Applied Communication Research.

Young adults with cancer often experience social isolation; mobile apps have been designed to facilitate connections among young adults with cancer. Young adults with cancer were surveyed about their use of one such mobile app, with approximately one-third of respondents reporting daily or weekly use. Respondents found the app helpful because it provided convenient access to peer support, but some respondents reported hesitation in initiating connections. Recommendations included improving app design and facilitating in-app connections. Future research should examine communication and design features to encourage meaningful engagement.

Lazard, A., Collins, M.K.R., Hedrick, A., Varma, T., Love, B., Valle, C., Brooks, E., & Benedict, C. (2021). Using social media for peer-to-peer cancer support: Interviews with young adults with cancer. JMIR Cancer. 7(3), e28234.

Social media can offer personalized, accessible social support for young adults with cancer. Researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with young adults with cancer to learn about use of social media for cancer support. Participants used general audience platforms (e.g., Facebook) to discuss medical information and navigating life with cancer. Participants felt they were able to validate their emotional and mental health experiences without constraints; however, participants also expressed that peer support via social media can be an emotional burden and/or raise privacy concerns. Content moderation and the development of more customizable platforms may ease concerns.

Bock, M. & Lazard. A. (2021, online first). Narrative transparency and credibility: First-person process statements in video news. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies

Convergence is an opportunity that may foster more transparency about journalism’s reporting process. Two experiments investigated the impact of transparent language on perceptions of video news reports’ credibility. While participants noticed the transparency statements — reporters’ use of first-person statements and the newsgathering process — the statements produced no significant effect on the credibility of either the story or the reporter. Future research should investigate transparency in relationship to other audience effects.

Kemp, D., Mackert, M., Bouchacourt, L., Lazard, A., Wolfe, J., Stewart, B., Kahlor, L., George, C., Hughes Wagner, J., & Wilcox, G. (2021, online first). Promoting support for community water fluoridation: Testing message effects and the role of normative beliefs. Journal of the American Dental Association

Though community water fluoridation protects oral health, is safe, and contributes to social well-being, little is known about how the benefits of CWF could be effectively communicated to increase support for the process. Participants were shown several messages reflecting the various benefits of CWF. Participants reported significantly more support for the oral health, health equity and safety messages than the social well-being messages. Personal beliefs about CWF benefits predicted support, as well as normative beliefs about family and physician support for CWF.

Sutfin, E., Lazard, A., Cornacchione Ross, J., Noar, S., Reboussin, B. (2021, online first). Waterpipe tobacco warnings: An experimental study among a nationally representative sample of U.S. young adults. Nicotine & Tobacco Research

Young adults use of waterpipe tobacco remains high, as do misperceptions about the product. A nationally representative sample of young adults between 18 and 29 were recruited to rate one of five waterpipe tobacco warning statements. The FDA-required warning led to the lowest thinking about harms and was the least discouraging. The “100 cigarettes” warning led to the greatest thinking about harms and was the most discouraging. To discourage use, warnings should cover a broad range of waterpipe tobacco health effects and should potentially use comparisons to cigarettes.