Research: Publications

More summaries of recent publications are coming soon! In 2018, I’m working on pieces based on survey data of how people use social media to get crisis info and how they determine what’s “fake news.” Also doing interviews with U.S. journalists about how they use social media to share crisis information.

You can see my CV for a list of selected publications, as well as courses taught and other academic information.


Developing new organizational identity: Merger of St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon

Abstract: Using St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon as a case study, this research applies social identity theory to examine the pre- and post-merger identities of the organizations and their workers. The merger experience is a guide for other institutions considering similar moves. By understanding the impact of a merger, news organizations can better manage the process by reinforcing how changes align with the pre-merger organizations’ identity and the new emerging identity.

Key findings

  • From the survey, a comparison of employees’ views of the similarity between the pre-merger organizations and those organizations’ workers, shows a statistically significant difference. Employees had better perceptions of the organizations’ parallel values and beliefs than they did of the people working at those place.
  • Employees were proud of the expanded coverage they provide as result of their larger newsroom staff. Many workers noted one incident as the watershed moment that united them and established the station’s identity as a comprehensive news organization: Ferguson.
  • The newsroom faced the greatest challenge: Its organizational structure was transformed and journalists’ job roles were expanded significantly with the combination of writing for radio and online. These changes left employees from both pre-merger organizations frustrated on multiple levels.
  • There were no statistically significant differences in organizational identity for the organizations’ employees before and after the merger
  • Journalists feel they have less autonomy and are frustrated with what they see as unequal expectations of reporters by the various editors. The greatest challenge to their organizational identity has been the added focus of writing for the station’s website.

Citation: Amber Hinsley. (2017). Developing new organizational identity: Merger of St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon. Journal of Radio and Audio Media 24(1), 144-160.

Public relations, politics, and rape culture: A case study of frames and counter-frames in the press

Abstract: The present case examines the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s framing of an apparent rape victim and the counter-frame that exposes the newspaper’s inherent biases and assumptions. The P-D claims it approached the story as an opportunity to inform the public about an affair between a public relations consultant and a married public official and to expose the questionable ethics of statehouse politics. Critics accuse the P-D of demonstrating a bias that supports rape culture and engaging in “slut-shaming” through its framing of the victim as a drunk party girl. We explore the original frame used by the newspaper and the P-D’s defense of that frame, as well as the counter-frame as it appeared in response to the initial article. We also identify another frame, which was not noted by the critics of the P-D: discrediting and shaming a public relations professional.

Key findings

  • This case study is about a female public relations practitioner working for clients in Jefferson City, who was not only put at a disadvantage because of her sex, her working environment, and job expectations, but also was subsequently victimized by an attacker and then victimized by the media.
  • Criticism of the Post-Dispatch story came swiftly in the form of a counter-frame that blamed it for perpetuating rape culture.
  • The victim’s position as a public relations professional may have been the reason that the newspaper broke with long-held journalistic tradition and published a potential rape victim’s name.
  • The anti-public relations frame reveals a need to protect female lobbyists and practitioners, in particular, who work in male-dominated and oftentimes overly sexualized working environments.

Citation: Sarah Van Slette & Amber Hinsley. (2017). Public relations, politics, and rape culture: A case study of frames and counter-frames in the press. Media Report to Women 45(1), 6-11, 20-22.


#Ferguson strategic messaging: How local journalists and activists used Twitter as a communication tool 

Abstract: Guided by literature on journalistic practices and activists’ communication strategies during crises, this pilot study examined how local journalists and activists used Twitter as a communication tool following Michael Brown’s death. Through a content analysis, we noted general Twitter practices used by journalists and activists, examined whether the two groups used different message strategies, and identified the ways in which journalists and activists framed their messages about the Ferguson crisis. Findings suggested that while the local journalists and activists showed similarities in their overall use of Twitter, their message strategies and frames were consistent with established practices for each group.

Key findings

  • A majority of the tweets in this research were original tweets, suggesting that local journalists and activists recognized the public’s desire for new information related to Ferguson.
  • The overall Twitter practices of local journalists and activists in this study did not differ significantly. They appear to have a similar understanding of common Twitter practices, such as using hashtags and earning retweets or favorites from others.
  • Journalists and activists both were acting as gatekeepers, although statistical tests showed journalists were significantly more likely to use an informational strategy.
  • Despite not being an “organized” advocacy group, the local activists in Ferguson used strategies similar to more established organizations: Activists were statistically significantly more likely to use opinions and calls to action, compared to journalists.
  • Although their message strategies suggested occasional crossovers in the tactics of local journalists and activists, the frames they produced aligned closely with the expected practices of each group.
  • Activists used Twitter to voice opinions related to the unrest in Ferguson, which included a range of posts that, for example, criticized police and society.Similarly, they issued calls to action through their tweets, asking people to sign petitions, engage in the protest, provide support, or retweet their message.
  • Journalists centered their messages on objective reports and conversations, such as to fact check.

Citation: Amber Hinsley & Hyunmin Lee. (2015).#Ferguson strategic messaging: How local journalists and activists used Twitter as a communication tool. #ISOJ, The Official Research Journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism (5)1, 124-146.


‘Sharing’ the news on Facebook: Exploring the differences between news-sharers and non-sharers on the social media site

Download: Hinsley-Sharing the news on Facebook ISOJ

Abstract: This study examines news consumers’ motivations for posting news links on their Facebook profiles. It provides a comparison of news-sharers and non-sharers, enabling media managers to develop better connection strategies for both groups. Findings are based on an online survey and indicate people who share news links via Facebook are more interested in news of all types and are more engaged with the news organizations they follow. Factor analysis revealed two news-sharing motivations: People who share news links on Facebook do so because they believe it enables them 1) to maintain relationships and 2) to help others and themselves.

Key findings

  • News-sharers have a stronger preference than non-sharers for all types of news listed in this study, especially area and national crime and entertainment news.
  • News-sharers feel a greater connection to news in general and feel it plays a more central role in their lives.
  • News-sharers more frequently engage by clicking on news links posted to the organization’s Facebook page and are more regular commenters.
  • News-sharers more strongly agreed with the notion that they could be well-informed getting their news via Facebook and not through more traditional formats.
  • Age, race and political orientation appear to play a role in defining the demographic-type differences between those who share links to stores via Facebook and those who do not while gender and education seem to have fairly similar breakdowns between the groups.
  • News-shares tend to be younger, more liberal leaning and less likely to self-identify as a minority when compared to non-sharers.
  • Two distinct motivators for sharing news links on Facebook are to maintain relationships (both on and offline) and to help one’s self & others by reinforcing personal values and influencing friends.

Citation: Amber Hinsley & Samantha Johnson. (2013). ‘Sharing’ the news on Facebook: Exploring the differences between news-sharers and non-sharers on the social media site. #ISOJ, The Official Research Journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism 3(2), 204-223.

The press v. the public: What is ‘good journalism?’

Abstract: Research on journalists and their audience indicates journalists have a more positive perception of their work than the public, and poor perceptions of press performance have been linked to reduced news consumption. Newspaper journalists and the public were surveyed on what constitutes “good journalism,” as well as the public’s consumption of distinct modes of information. Journalists gave higher marks to their performance on the tenets of “good journalism” than the public they claim to serve. Citizens who had high expectations of “good journalism” were more regular consumers of traditional news and infotainment programs, but not citizen journalism.

Key findings

  • Being objective, covering stories that should be covered, helping people, getting information to the public quickly, providing analyses and interpretation of complex problems, verifying facts, giving ordinary people a chance to express their views and being a watchdog for the public are all facets that represented “good journalism” in the eyes of the public and journalists.
  • The public’s assessments of the newspaper profession’s performance of several job roles aligned into a single scale, while the journalists’ perceptions of their work split into two categories, suggesting the two groups have somewhat different views of what constitutes “good journalism.”
  • Positive public perceptions about the main features of “good journalism” are associated with greater professional media use.
  • Having a more positive view about the way journalists perform their job in relation to the central features of good journalism has no effect on the amount of citizen journalism individuals tend to consume.
  • A positive and statistically significant relationship exists with respect to people’s perceptions about the main features of good journalism and consuming more infotainment content.

Citation: Homero Gil de Zuniga & Amber Hinsley. (2013). The press versus the public: What is ‘good journalism?’ Journalism Studies 14(6), 926-942.

Personality and social media use

Abstract: Research on digital media has mostly paid attention to user’s demographics, motivations, and efficacy, but with increasingly popular web tools like social media, studying more stable psychological characteristics such as users’ personality traits can show how people use the Web to communicate and socialize. Relying on the Big Five Framework as a theoretical approach, this book chapter explores such relationships. Survey data from a national sample of U.S. adults show that more extraverted people are more likely to use social networking sites, instant messaging, and video chats, while those more open to new experiences tend to use social networking sites more frequently. When looking at specific use of social media–to create political content–emotional stability was a negative predictor, whereas extraversion had a positive impact.

Key findings:

  • Personality traits are significantly associated with social media use.
  • Extraverted people tend to be heavier users of social media.
  • Individuals who are anxious and worrisome use social networking sites more frequently than those who are more emotionally stable.
  • People who are open to new experiences, innovative and creative use social media more often.
  • Emotional stability is negatively related to social media use as people who are more neurotic tend to overly rely on these social applications.
  • More extraverted people tend to post on blogs and upload videos with political content.
  • Extraversion is the strongest predictor of social media use among the personality traits.

Citation: Teresa Correa, Ingrid Bachmann, Amber Hinsley & Homero Gil de Zuniga. (2013). Personality and social media use. In E. Li, S. Loh, C. Evans & F. Lorenzi (Eds.), Organizations and Social Networking: Utilizing Social CRM to Engage Consumers. Hershey, PA: IGI Press.


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