Cheers to 2023’s collaborations

by | Jan 5, 2024 | Blog, Corrections, Education, Partners, Research

For more than five years, the News Co/Lab has pursued its mission to collaborate with a wide variety of partners to advance media literacy (it’s right in the name!). The last year was a particularly productive one for collaborative research. I feel very fortunate to have worked with such an amazing group of scholars and practitioners to conduct research that has real impact in our communities. 

This list of publications may seem somewhat random, especially from a traditional academic perspective. But each project tackled an aspect of one of today’s most critical issues: finding credible, trustworthy content and sources of information. The real benefit of collaboration is being able to draw from different disciplines’ theoretical and methodological approaches — something that should be built into research to get a more holistic view of the challenges, barriers and opportunities in this space.

There’s a longer post to be written about the recipe for a successful collaboration, but for now I’ll share three things that helped me be a better and more productive partner in 2023:

  1. Be clear about everyone’s role at the outset. Nothing kills a collaboration like unclear responsibilities or a lack of accountability. We need to know from the beginning if we are going to drive, be in the passenger seat or be in the back seat. Each role is important, and should come with its own defined set of objectives/tasks.  
  2. Set realistic deadlines and be firm about them. Everyone I know is busy, so it’s important — not only for ourselves, but for our partners — to be honest about what we can offer a collaboration and what we can reasonably accomplish in a particular timeframe. And once that’s clear, it’s important to put it in writing and focus of all meetings on updating each other on the progress toward those goals (this is something I learned from my ASU colleague Joshua Garland, who is a real pro at this!).
  3. Plans and deadlines are important, but flexibility is key. Most of us are working on several projects at a time, so we need to leave room for plans to get a bit derailed by unforeseen circumstances. Prioritize the projects with firm deadlines (say, a conference deadline or funder report), and offer space and patience to those that need a little extra time. Good collaborations are ultimately about relationships, so being a good collaborator means considering the needs of the group alongside our own. 

Here’s a summary of the 2023 research in which the News Co/Lab played a role.

External Collaborations

Doctors Fact-Check, Journalists Get Fact-Checked: Comparing Public Trust in Journalism and Healthcare

By Young Eun Moon, Kristy Roschke, Jacob L. Nelson and Seth C. Lewis

Our examination of what a trusting relationship with journalists and doctors looks like to the public, was a rewarding — and big! — project led by the News Co/Lab’s first postdoctoral research Young Eun Moon. It was a pleasure to collaborate with former colleague Jacob Nelson, now at University of Utah, and Seth Lewis of the University of Oregon.  The full paper is available via open access online in Media and Communication.

TL;DR: The are significant similarities and differences between the journalist-audience and doctor-patien relationship that can help us understand public trust in these institutions. A combination of specialized expertise and personal engagement may be the right mix for improving public trust.

People’s (mis)trust of doctors can help us understand their (mis)trust of journalists

The Corrections Dilemma: Media Retractions Increase Belief Accuracy But Decrease Trust

By Joshua Freitag, Madeline Gochee, Mitchell Ransden, Brendan Nyhan, Kristy Roschke and Dan Gillmor

It was a fantastic learning experience working with Brendan Nyhan and his graduate students researching journalistic corrections — a topic that has been central to the News Co/Lab for several years. In this paper for the Journal of Experimental Political Science we explored the dilemma news publishers face when correcting false information.   

TL;DR: Journalistic corrections are effective for keeping the public informed; however, there is a small decline in trust in a news outlet after a retraction. This is an unfortunate trade-off for news organizations in a time of record-low public trust. The opinion of the News Co/Lab is that news organizations must prioritize accurate information even if it  means a (potentially temporary) dip in trust, because accuracy is a key to credibility and long-term trust.

The Voices Listening Project

Wick Communications Contributors: Rocky Baier, Sean Fitzpatrick, Reilly Kneedler
ASU Contributors: Abhijith Ajith, Haley Borgrud, Melissa Daniels, Tori Gantz, Somaly Jaramillo Hurtado, Mingson Lau, Maria Manaog, Daniel Ogas, Kristy Roschke, Celeste Sepessy, Haley Spracale and Isza Amponin Zerrudo  

Image of Voices Listening Project team

Photo by Reilly Kneedler

In a truly rewarding and fruitful collaboration, the News Co/Lab partnered with local news organization Wick Communications to design the Voices Listening Project. Working with 10 amazing ASU students,  the team collected 1,638 survey responses, interviewed 218 people, and conducted a dozen in-person outreach trips to learn more about how Arizonans feel about local news. From the findings, we developed several product prototypes to address people’s concerns about misinformation and finding credible local information. Though the project mostly wrapped in 2022, in 2023 we shared our findings at various new industry conferences and on the project website, which includes a detailed report of our research findings and a syllabus for journalism educators interested in teaching product design.

TL;DR: People care about local news! They are concerned about the credibility of their local news outlets, though, and would like to see more positive coverage of local events and people. We see promise in tools that help assess a site’s credibility and that provide more context on newsroom practices like sourcing and advertising.

Internal Collaborations

Sharing Reliable COVID-19 Information and Countering Misinformation: In-Depth Interviews With Information Advocates

By Alexis M Koskan, Shalini Sivanandam,  Kristy Roschke, Jonathan Irby, Deborah L Helitzer and Bradley Doebbeling 

Thanks to a joint seed grant from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and College of Health Solutions, I was fortunate to collaborate with a great team of health researchers on a COVID-19 misinformation paper that was published by JMIR Infodemiology. Alexis Koskan was the driving force behind this collaboration, and she taught me so much about being a supportive leader while keeping a project on track. For this research, we quizzed people on common COVID-19 information and myths, then interviewed those with high scores to learn more about their information habits. We continue to feel the effects of pandemic information, so our findings will be relevant for years to come.

TL;DR: People with high covid knowledge have high levels of trust in credible and authoritatve health and science sources, high regularly consult multiple news and information sources and often act as “information advocates”, sharing quality information with friends and family.

J-Guard: Journalism Guided Adversarially Robust Detection of AI-generated News

By Tharindu Kumarage, Amrita Bhattacharjee, Djordje Padejski, Kristy Roschke, Dan Gillmor, Scott Ruston, Huan Liu and Joshua Garland

This collaboration began a couple years ago as part of DARPA’s Semantic Forensics (Semafor) project, and is a great example of how unlikely partners can come together to bring different perspectives to an important topic. The resulting paper is so highly technical that I’ll admit I don’t understand it all. But it’s exciting to be able to contribute journalism subject matter expertise to help shape the way our computer science colleagues tackle a problem. Another great reward is working with phenomenal graduate students like Tharindu Kumarage and Amrita Bhattacharjee, who are the heart of this collaboration.

TL;DR: The J-Guard framework incorporates journalist attributes from AP Style to distinguish real-world journalism from AI-generated news articles with significant effectiveness.

We’re grateful to those who supported the research: Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Deloitte, DARPA, Google News Initiative and ASU.

What’s Coming in 2024

We have a lot to look forward to in 2024 … including more collaboration! We have several internal collaborations in the works, including interdisciplinary projects funded by the National Science Foundation and Department of Education. The NSF project, led by Athena Aktipis, is exploring collective risk management through gamification and narrative storytelling. Lauren Harris and Leanna Archambault are leading the Department of Education project team, which is developing a microcredentialing program to improve K-12 civics, history and media literacy education.