fifteen minutes: one way research goes public

A relatively minor project I was part of in 2004, led by Monica Prasad and in collaboration with several UNC and Northwestern graduate students, has been making press waves recently. The article identifies a mode of political reasoning we labeled inferred justification. One of the co-authors, Steve Hoffman, is now at SUNY Buffalo, and the news services folks there put out a press release. LiveScience.com picked it up and gave it a spin about the health care reform debate. Now there’s a lot of blogging about it, and interviews from Reuters, Newsweek, and the NYT. I spent an hour this morning on Wisconsin Public Radio, and am being asked to appear on an Ontario public TV show as well.

This is fun and interesting, particularly for a guy like me with an inflated ego. And I am happy to have a platform from which to talk about responsible citizenship with regard to health care. But I’m also interested, as a scholar of the media, in how it was this article, among many other frankly more important ones, that got “legs.”

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

3 thoughts on “fifteen minutes: one way research goes public”

  1. As a colleague of Steve’s (and, uh, his wife), I’ve witnessed the media coverage secondhand, with great interest. My impression is that the news outlets were following each other, esp. LiveScience, which enjoyed at least 24 hours of fame on yahoo news. Also, the second headline of the press release connects the article to the health care debate. I’m sure journalists are eager for a new spin on the debate–the pickets at townhall meetings are played out (as a news story), and the details of the health plan are still uncertain as it winds through Congress.

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  2. Wow, now you reeaaallly know this thing has gone viral when it makes it onto scatterplot! Sheesh.

    Andy is absolutely right that there are much better people to contact for a story about health care policy and/or motivated reasoning than either of us, and much more important papers to be covered in general. Overall, the stories are just quoting one another, so it seems to be an artifact of the mass media’s 24 hour (re)production system. Another issue may be that SUNY-Buffalo seems to have a pretty pushy PR office. That may be part of the organizational story behind the story.

    However, I think Andy and Ellen may be overlooking a major piece of the puzzle. In the LiveScience article, I am quoted using the term “Nietzschean Hammer.” I mean, come on now, ‘nuf said.

    Well, not quite ‘nuf said, I guess. It turns out that someone even has a blog about my use of that term: http://ahedlund.blogspot.com/2009/08/get-out-your-nietzschean-hammer.html

    Since this story went viral, I have received around 5-10 emails per day about “my article on health care” (I have NEVER written a single word about health care), most of which accuse me of being an ignoramus communist who wants to tank the American economy and entrepreneurial spirit post haste. I’ve also been contacted by several public radio programs wanting to talk about our research, by a radio show focused on conspiracy theories, and most recently, by a science writer at the NY Times who is drawing inspiration from our concept of inferred justification while writing a short piece on the controversy of who discovered the North Pole. Completely bizarre, but entertaining and interesting in a highly distracting sort of way…

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