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Bloggers Need Traditional Media
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Question: What is the most surprising thing that you’ve learned from your research?
Matthew Nisbet: Well I think one of the more surprising things and this is something that I’m going to be following and blogging about, is some of the reports that have come out of the Pew Research Center. In these analyses they’re looking at what exactly are people talking about at blogs, in this new media ecosystem, whether it’s blogs, whether it’s independent media, whether it’s Twitter or whether it’s Facebook. Where is that content coming from?
And in one particular study that they looked at they looked at the media ecosystem surrounding Baltimore, Maryland and in that study what they found is roughly on average 90% of the topics that were being talked about at blogs or other independent media originated with traditional news organizations—in particular either the local newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, or the national newspapers and their online version. That tells me that while a lot of people claim that the traditional media is no longer relevant, in fact, we fundamentally rely upon the traditional media, the role of the traditional journalist as an independent professional news gatherer to inform ourselves and it is the fabric of what we discuss online and without the traditional news… that traditional news gathering process we really wouldn’t have a lot of good content and we wouldn’t have a lot of original reporting elsewhere online.
The other really interesting thing is more recently they looked at the major blogs and they looked… an analysis of the major blogs, public affairs related blogs and they looked at what those blogs are discussing and where they’re links are going to. And in more than 90% of the topics discussed in the links were back to the traditional media. And that is also interesting because people claim now that the blogosphere now has this ability to control the news agenda. Well that is not necessarily the case. The blogs are still influenced and they’re still driven by what is being reported at the New York Times or on the broadcast news or on the cable news networks or political talk radio. It’s that they take that content and they sometimes refocus it. They redirect it. They shape that agenda to either be in a certain ideological direction. They might reframe the significance and the information that is being reported on, or they might take the agenda of the traditional media and focus in on just a few topics—whether it’s foreign policy, climate change or a particular political scandal.
Question: Now that there are so many specialized and niche purveyors of the news, do Americans know less about general things than they used to?
Matthew Nisbet: You know, there's a couple things to think about when you’re considering the tendency towards self-selection and self-exposure to different topics and public knowledge. One is that going back three or four of five decades to the 1960s when we’ve asked in surveys quiz-like questions about the public’s knowledge of the most basic political facts or the basic facts about issues related to science or the environment inevitably the public scores very low in these fundamental quiz-like surveys about either public affairs literacy or science literacy. So that hasn’t changed, and in fact what we’ve seen over the last 15 years is that public knowledge and public scores in those types of questions remain relatively stable. It’s a question though whether that is the best measure of public knowledge or of civic culture.
One of the things that we’re seeing is actually not necessarily a decline in basic public knowledge, but a real problem at getting public attention and elevating public concern about many different issues. The environment is a great example or climate change is a great example and this is a problem really fundamentally of choice. It’s the great paradox of the age of engagement that today we have more information choices about public affairs, politics, science, health, medicine, the environment than any time in history. Yet if you as a consumer of information or as a member of the audience or an individual lack a preference or a motivation to engage with that news and information on a regular basis you can completely avoid that information. It’s not top-of-mind and it becomes that much more difficult then to really raise the type of political will necessary to get things done in this country on issues like climate change, immigration, social security, healthcare, you name the public problem.
Recorded on July 28, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman
One survey found that 90% of all the information on blogs and independent media sites was repackaged from traditional news sources.
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Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".