UO journalism professor Scott Maier has drawn media coverage for his analysis of a year's worth of columns by Nicholas Kristof, who often writes about social problems near and far for The New York Times.
Maier studied online social media response by Times’ digital readership, looking to see how readers engaged with columns focusing on "people who overcome adversity and offer real solutions."
The study, published in the September issue of Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, found that when Kristof wrote about celebrities, "like Lady Gaga's anti-bullying campaign, or issues with high interest in the U.S., readers responded." If the columns focused on distant problems, reader engagement was low.
Maier says, in the study, that Kristof's approach may be on the right path. "When presented statistics indicating the magnitude of an issue or event, reader response was significantly stronger. … These results should be viewed with caution; needed is further study examining how different ways of conveying statistics and other contextual information might mitigate rather than accentuate psychic numbing."
The study has landed in multiple media outlets after coverage by the Deseret Times. Read the original story: Increasing empathy: can journalism help people relate to distant problems?