Date of Award

7-31-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communications Media

First Advisor

B. Gail Wilson, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

James Lenze, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Nurhaya Muchtar, Ph.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between a publicly accessible forum intended for commenting on political news stories and the presence of skills indicating media literacy. The data to be examined came from comment threads on CNN.com articles directly related to politics. A randomly constructed seven-day week was formed from seven actual weeks of comment posts pulled from the website. Through a content analysis approach, each comment was coded as having material either related or not related to the core topics of the article to which it was posted. If a comment was deemed task-related, it received additional coding under at least one of seven media literacy skills. The results of the study addressed eight research questions posed. Task-related and media literacy skills were distributed uniformly by day of the week; however, stories that featured popular and controversial topics contained greater quantities of media literacy skills. Stories that were less popular received greater proportions of skills. The majority of all comments and media literate comments occurred within the first twenty-four hours following the initial posting of the article. A greater number of comments correlated strongly with the presence of media literacy although the frequency of an individual's comment posting weakly correlated with the display of media literacy. Comments receiving direct replies are 1.05 times more likely to be media literate than those that do not, but only a very weak association exists between the two factors. Consistency of contributions throughout the length of a story indicates that more media literacy occurs in tandem with more overall comments, but the ratios of media literacy indicate that shorter conversations have more media literacy present. Overall, a connection between media literacy in CNN.com article comment threads is weak. The exploratory questions, however, offer insight into specific situations in which the medium could be used to advance media literacy in teaching. Performing additional research on articles that have low numbers of overall comments has the potential to reveal a place in which newsworthy stories could provide a means to advance higher-level thinking in a public realm.

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