Mentor said ‘her ideas and feedback strengthened the research’
Columbia, Mo. (March 1, 2021) — High performing Missouri School of Journalism undergraduates have the opportunity to contribute to journalism research projects as MU Discovery Fellows. Associate Professor Ryan Thomas recently published research about fake news that Lauren Bishop, BJ ‘20, helped co-author as a freshman and sophomore Discovery Fellow. The research team are finalizing a second study they worked on regarding the characteristics of exemplary opinion journalists.
Discovery Fellows at Mizzou are high-performing freshmen and sophomores, all of whom have earned a 32 or higher on their ACT, selected to conduct research in their interest area and given a $2,000 scholarship.
The article, “What is (fake) news?” Analyzing news values (and more) in fake stories,” was published in the journal Media and Communication in 2021. It was also co-authored by Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Ph.D. ‘13, associate professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Thomas had begun discussing an idea for the paper with Tandoc. When he found out he would be mentoring Bishop as a Discovery Fellow, he asked if she’d be interested in contributing.
Bishop said when she came to college in 2017, fake news was a major talking point in American politics. As a dual major in political science and journalism, the research converged on two topics she is very interested in: politics and journalism.
“Fake news is a relatively new topic, especially in regards to everyday conversations, so this topic is in its fledgling stages of academic research, piquing my interest to be at the ground floor of a new wave of academia,” she said.
With the proliferation of “fake news,” in the past few years, the research team wanted to better understand why and how fake news continues to be believed and spread online, said Bishop. The team researched the fundamentals of print journalism and then compared aspects between real news and fake news like timeliness, sourcing and the inverted pyramid. According to Bishop, this led to an initial understanding of fake news in that it follows many of the tenants of factual news, while typically incorporating the author’s personal opinion, a stark contrast from real news.
Bishop conducted content-gathering for the literature analysis and read through many of the articles. She also helped with coding about half of the 886 fake news articles for the various “real news” tenants. She also read the fake news articles and created a detailed spreadsheet on what the fake news stories were about and what tenants of both real and fake news were included in the story.
The research project taught Bishop that worthwhile projects done well like this involve time and hard work.
“There were plenty of weeks when I’d be in the middle of tests and deadlines, but I made a promise to get my end of the research finished by a certain date,” said Bishop. “Some of those weeks were long and arduous, but working through this project and meeting tough deadlines to get to a published academic article was certainly worth it.”
She rose to the challenge of tackling an arduous research project and mentor Thomas said “I could count on her.”
“She was extremely meticulous and hard-working, and her ideas and feedback strengthened the research,” said Thomas. “Her drive and attention to detail bode well for her career in journalism.”
Bishop is now working as a city hall reporter for the Grants Pass Daily Courier newspaper in Grants Pass, Oregon, where she covers meetings, city-involved lawsuits and other topics.
Updated: March 1, 2021
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