Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship Program

"Journalists Under Threat: Does Economic Anxiety Change the Way Journalists Report About Terrorism?"

About the Project

Project Time & Type:
Summer 2017 - DURI
Research area(s):
Global Security
Project Description:
The news influences people’s sense of security from terrorism, the counterterrorism policies people support, and what they know to be true about the world. We want to learn about what influences the influencers. Specifically, we examine whether journalists who experience either economic anxiety in their jobs or who are anxious about the US economy allow these concerns to influence their work by reporting about terrorism in more negative terms. Social scientists argue journalists respond to economic pressure with more negative reporting because negativity helps sell the news. Journalists, however, reject this idea, saying they rely on reporting standards that do not change in response to economic conditions. We want you to help us put this debate to the test. First, using automated computer text analysis methods, we explore how the tone of actual news articles on terrorism vary through time and across newspapers. Second, using an experimental design, we examine whether economic anxiety causes journalists to change the way they report on a hypothetical terrorist attack. Journalists will be recruited at journalism conferences and via e-mail. Economic anxiety will be stimulated by asking participants to reflect on aspects of the news industry or the national economy that make them anxious. Effects on reporting will be gauged using: 1) the number of negative words journalists write; 2) the headlines journalists propose; and 3) where reporters believe their articles would appear in newspapers (e.g., front or interior page). We will also study whether journalists experiencing economic anxiety are inclined to include unverifiable information (i.e., potentially “fake news”) in their reports.
Expected Student Contributions:
The summer intern will be involved in critical preparatory work for this project. First, the student will design an algorithm to identify and download articles on terrorism that are archived by databases, like Lexis Academic and ProQuest Newsstand. Second, the student will also work on developing the experiment designed for professional journalists. Finally, the student will assist with recruiting research participants for the experiment via e-mail and social media.
Related Website(s):
Students can read a working paper relating to this project and other work by Hoffman and Jengelley at
Desired Qualifications:
This position requires a student with either a computer science background and/or strong coding skills. Some statistical training and basic knowledge of statistical packages like R and STATA is desireable. Good oral and written communication are also a plus. All majors with these qualifications are welcome to apply.
Estimated Weekly Hours:
Department awards independent research credits for this project?
Yes, 3 credit hours

Professor in Charge

Hoffman, Aaron
political science

Student Supervisor

Aaron M. Hoffman
Associate Professor

Cooperating Faculty

Erin Hennes
Department of Psychological Sciences
Dwaine Jengelley
Honors College