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Robertson School undergraduate, professor win national award for research paper

Jun 29, 2017

Posted in: News

By William Lineberry

A journalism professor and an undergraduate student from the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture were recently announced as the winners of a research paper award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC).

‌Karen McIntyre, Ph.D., assistant professor of multimedia journalism, and Keyris Manzanares, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism, were recently announced as winners of the Top Paper Award in the Visual Communication Division by AEJMC for a research paper about the effects of photos in solutions journalism--a form of journalism that, rather than focusing on conflict and problems, focuses on offering credible solutions to societal problems.  

“It’s unusual for undergraduates to even be involved in research,” McIntyre said. “It’s even more rare to submit that research to a national conference held by the biggest organization in our field and then win a Top Paper Award for it.”

For Manzanares, winning the award came as a shock but also as a revelation, she said.

“It felt very exciting and surreal even,” Manzanares said. “I didn't think I would get involved in journalism research, but I am happy that our paper won because we worked really hard and it's an accomplishment for all of us. I gained a new perspective on my life. I know that I am now capable of doing research. Coming from a family where I am a first generation student if someone were to tell me I would have co-authored a paper that won top prize I would have been in disbelief.”

Karen McIntyre
Karen McIntyre

McIntyre and Manzanares began working together after they met at a workshop McIntyre held on constructive journalism in the fall of 2015. Although Manzanares had never had McIntyre for class, she told her that she would love the opportunity to help with any research McIntyre had coming up that deal with alternative forms of news reporting. From that point forward, Manzanares and McIntyre began working on what would become the award-winning research paper.

“Keyris worked with me from the ground up on this,” McIntyre said. “She helped me brainstorm and conceptualize the project, pull the theory behind it, carry out the data collection, analyze the data and write it all up. She just had really good ideas and thought critically.”

“It’s really cool sometimes to bring in people like Keyris who aren’t familiar with research,” McIntyre added. “They think differently than people who have been doing it a long time. Keyris would think of things as we were working on this that I normally would not have. It made for a lot of great points in the work.”

The research examined how photos that accompanied solutions-based news stories affected news consumers’ reactions. The main research question was: Do the positive effects of a solutions story become deleted if the story is accompanied by a photo that shows conflict?

The results found that news consumers had the most positive reactions to solutions stories when the stories were accompanied with a photo that did not show conflict and instead portrayed the solution, McIntyre said. However, there was one unexpected result, McIntyre said. The study found that news consumers were more interested in the story and had greater intentions to take positive action when a neutral photo accompanied a solutions story.

Keyris Manzanares

McIntyre and Manzanares, along with the study’s third author, Kyser Lough, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin, will present their findings at AEJMC’s annual conference this year in Chicago, Il.,

“It’s exceptional for an undergraduate student to have an award-winning paper at the AEJMC conference, one of the major and highly competitive national/international conferences in the field of journalism and mass communication,” Director of the Robertson School Hong Cheng said. “While we are so proud of Keyris, we greatly appreciate the excellent mentoring and effective guidance that Dr. McIntyre has given to her undergraduate students. This AEJMC paper award is an inspiring success about how to cultivate students’ interest and provide them with the skills needed in research early — when they are still in the undergraduate programs.”

Looking forward, Manzanares said her time with the project, as well as her time spent with McIntyre, was crucial in helping her figure out her next move after graduating from VCU.  

“Professor McIntyre has been a huge inspiration and mentor not just in academic ways but personally,” Manzanares said. “Working with her has been super beneficial to my persona and who I want to be in my professional career. She has inspired me to pursue higher education beyond a bachelor’s degree. I want to attend graduate school and obtain my Ph.D. at Columbia University, or Prof. McIntyre’s alma mater, U.C. Berkeley.”