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THE CORRESPONDENT, THE COMIC, AND THE COMBATANT: HOW MODERATOR STYLE AND GUEST CIVILITY SHAPE NEWS CREDIBILITY. By Emily K. Vraga, Mitchell Bard, Leticia Bode, D. Jasun Carr, Stephanie Edgerly, Courtney Johnson, Young Mie Kim, & Dhavan V. Shah. INTRODUCTION.

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THE CORRESPONDENT, THE COMIC, AND THE COMBATANT:HOW MODERATOR STYLE AND GUEST CIVILITY SHAPE NEWS CREDIBILITY

By Emily K. Vraga, Mitchell Bard, Leticia Bode, D. Jasun Carr, Stephanie Edgerly, Courtney Johnson, Young Mie Kim, & Dhavan V. Shah

introduction
INTRODUCTION
  • The way Americans get their news is changing
    • Success of political humor shows like The Daily Show
    • Success of aggressive talk shows like The O’Reilly Factor
  • Previous research has focused on effects of video-malaise on trust and perceptions
    • Incivility (Mutz & Reeves, 2005; Cho et al., 2009)
    • Combative television (Forgette & Morris, 2006)
    • Political humor (Baumgartner & Morris, 2006; Tsfati et al., 2009)
  • But how do shifts in moderator role affect this relationship?
  • Does moderator style interact with guest tone?
moderator style
MODERATOR STYLE
  • Moderators organize discussion and promote high-quality exchange (Janssen & Keis, 2005)
  • Moderator-As-Correspondent
    • Journalists as “fair-minded moderators” (Ettema, 2007)
      • Ensure guests given equal time, pose critical questions, and reiterate key positions
  • Moderator-As-Combatant
    • Journalists as a check on the powerful (Schudson, 1994)
      • But “attack dog” style may be detrimental (Tannen, 1998)
  • Moderator-As-Comic
    • Self-effacing humor boosts credibility and likeability (Lyttle, 2001) and defuses tension (Miron et al. 2008)
    • But comedic talk shows may also lessen media trust (Baumgartner & Morris, 2006)
guest tone
GUEST TONE
  • Recent boom in high drama political talk shows
    • But these shows can turn nasty, including personal attack (Forgette & Morris, 2006)
  • Research suggests televised incivility decreases trust in politicians & political institutions (Mutz & Reeves, 2005; Cho et al., 2009)
  • Incivility also heightens arousal and entertainment of a show (Mutz & Reeves, 2005; Mutz, 2007)
  • But outlets containing contentious programs – like Fox, CNN, and MSNBC – are among the most trusted in America (Public Policy Polling 2010)
effects on media credibility
EFFECTS ON MEDIA CREDIBILITY
  • Effects of modality understudied with increasing blending of hard and soft news (Baym, 2010)
    • Despite decades of concern about media credibility (Gaziano, 1988; Tsfati & Cappella, 2003)
  • Credibility remains multi-dimensional concept (Meyer, 1988; Fico et al., 2004)
  • Perceptions of media credibility driven by on-air personalities for TV news (Newhagen & Nass, 1989)
  • Thus, the behavior of a moderator and the guests on a political talk show should have a large impact on ratings of media credibility
hypotheses moderator role
HYPOTHESES: MODERATOR ROLE
  • H1: A correspondent will lead to higher ratings of a) moderator credibility, b) program credibility, c) change in media trust, d) program informational value and lower ratings of e) entertainment value compared to both the combatant and comic.
  • H2: A comic will lead to higher ratings of a) moderator credibility, b) program credibility, and c) change in media trust, compared to a combatant.
  • RQ1: Does the comic lead to higher perceptions of program a) informational value and b) entertainment value compared to a combatant?
hypotheses guest tone
HYPOTHESES: GUEST TONE
  • H3: Uncivil guests will lead to higher ratings of a) moderator credibility and b) program entertainment value but lower ratings of c) program credibility and d) change in media trust compared to civil guests.
  • RQ2: How will uncivil guests affect ratings of program informational value compared to civil guests?
  • H4: The effects of moderator style will be conditioned by the tone of the guests, such that we will see larger depending on moderator style when guests are civil compared to when they are uncivil.
method
METHOD
  • Simulated political talk show
    • Professional actors: Moderator with two guests
    • Professional director & experienced producer
    • Discussion of proposed governmental policy of cap-and-trade
  • 3 (Moderator style: Correspondent, Comic, Combatant) x 2 (Guest Tone: Civil, Uncivil)
  • Measures
    • Moderator credibility
    • Program credibility (Meyer, 1988; Fico et al., 2004)
    • Change in media trust
    • Program informational value & entertainment value (Mutz & Reeves, 2005)
summary of results
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
  • The correspondent performs best in terms of program and media credibility
    • But does not hurt entertainment value
  • The combatant is the least credible
  • The comic mitigates some of the negative effects of aggression – but never outperforms the correspondent
  • Guest tone has no impact on ratings of program or media credibility
  • Nor does guest tone interact with moderator style
    • Compartmentalized judgments?
testing alternative explanations
TESTING ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATIONS
  • Moderator style did not affect ratings of attention to the program
    • People did not report paying more attention to the combatant or the comic
  • Correspondent also produces greatest intentions to watch program in the future
  • Guest tone also not related to trust in the political system
    • Does not replicate Mutz & Reeves (2005)
    • Guests not politicians but pundits?
    • Again – judgments compartmentalized
implications
IMPLICATIONS
  • Correspondent follows deliberative ideal
    • Neutral, truth-seeking, balanced
    • This style best matches viewers’ expectations
  • A correspondent can sustain perceptions of media credibility without hurting ratings
  • Media credibility driven by moderator style
    • Not conditioned by guest tone
    • Audience able to distinguish the source of incivility
  • Incivility’s lost entertainment value?
    • Previously, incivility entertaining and arousing
    • Audience desensitization?