Public Affairs Blogging Grows In Popularity, Especially In Troubled Communities [STUDY]

Public affairs blogging is on the rise in cities affected by high crime and poverty rates paired with an increase in professional occupations, according to a study out of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

This study, featured in the November 2011 Special Issue of Mass Communication and Society, found that structural pluralism may have less of an impact on blogging than community stress factors. Studies of media connections with local community structure focuses on the effects of societal or community characteristics on media rather than the impact of media on society or individuals. The research conducted by Brendan Watson and Dr. Daniel Riffe challenge the classic definition of the community structure approach with the use of a community stressor model that aims to assist communities dealing with social problems.

“We found that local public affairs place blogs are more common in communities with higher levels of violent crime, poverty, and other symptoms of  community stress, “ Watson said. “We suggest that these blogs may be a forum for blog authors, and their online communities, to cope with what can be the serious psychological and physical health consequences of living in, or on the edges of, a troubled community.”

The special issue contains several articles focusing on a wide range of topics that link together the benefits of the community structure. One study, coming out of Washington State University found that the community structure assists in enabling social change through political and youth participation, rather than oppressing societal changes. Another from Washington State University’s Masahiro Yamamoto discovered that local media can act as an agent of social change in helping communities tackle issues such as public safety, education and a clean environment.

Dr. Maxwell McCombs and Marcus Funk, University of Texas, discovered that local newspapers are not only influenced by the national media agenda but by the paper’s surrounding community. An article from Drs. Seungahn Nah, University of Kentucky, and Cory L. Armstrong, University of Florida, reviews journalism and media studies over the past 40 years to help propose further research studies in the community structure area.

“If we can set aside our professional judgment of these amateur public affairs blogs and it can be hard to do when struggling to decipher a barely comprehensible blog post,” Watson said, “there may be richer opportunities to study the value and social function these sites and other citizen-produced media have for local communities.”

Mass Communication and Society is a scholarly journal focused on publishing articles from a wide variety of perspectives and approaches that advance mass communication theory, especially at the societal or macrosocial level. It draws heavily from many other disciplines, including sociology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, law, and history. For more information, visit www.tandfonline.com/HMCS.