Producers of the EPIX series America Divided conducted an innovative engagement campaign to spur action against social injustice and invited the Lear Center’s Media Impact Project to determine if their documentary series inspired real social change. Spoiler alert: It did! This report outlines key strategies to success and areas of improvement that could be applied to other documentary media projects.
The Great ShakeOut, the largest earthquake preparedness drill in the history of the United States, first took place in 2008 and offered the Lear Center a chance to study and assess how people participated and whether audience segments shared behavioral patterns. Our online survey revealed four clusters of participants: Minimal, Basic Drill, Community-Oriented and Interactive and Games. Our full, peer-reviewed report on our findings has just been published and the take-away should inform all future disaster prep campaigns. READ IT NOW.
Read this transcript of the remarkable conversation about media, news, fake news and the 2016 election that took place at the 2017 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. The panel featured Jorge Ramos, Jake Tapper, Katy Tur and Brian Stelter, and was moderated by Lear Center Director Marty Kaplan.
At the awards event in 2005, Cronkite warned that “it’s going to be, to a large degree, up to us in television and radio, in broadcasting” to equip Americans “to perform the act of intelligently selecting our leaders…. If we fail at that, our democracy, our republic is, I think, in serious danger.”
The Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism encourages and showcases substantive and innovative coverage that informs viewers about their electoral choices.
This new study from USC Annenberg PhD Candidate Traci Gillig, Hollywood, Health & Society‘s senior researcher Erica Rosenthal, USC Annenberg professor Sheila Murphy and HH&S director Kate Folb, is among the first to explore how entertainment narratives depicting transgender individuals influence viewers’ attitudes toward transgender people and related policies. Numerous studies have demonstrated the power of entertainment narratives to influence attitudes and behaviors; fewer have examined the effects of TV portrayals on attitudes toward marginalized groups. The present study examines the impact of exposure to a TV storyline on Royal Pains (USA Network) and cumulative effects of viewing other TV series featuring transgender individuals.
In this trenchant dialogue with Lear Center Director Marty Kaplan, MIT’s professor Sherry Turkle – scholar and critic of technology’s impact, public intellectual and recipient of the 2017 Everett M. Rogers Award — discusses her current research about the effects on human relationships of digital technology, including the personal computer, social networks, mobile connectivity and artificial intelligence. Turkle has described technology as the “architect of our intimacies,” and her work has explored how digital communication devices affect the ways we understand ourselves, relate to others and experience our humanity.
The Spring 2017 Real to Reel spotlights stories about depression and pregnancy, a genetic link that might hold the key to ending the opioid epidemic, the U.S. nuclear command-and-control center at Cheyenne Mountain, and a Southern Christian doctor who believes the abortions he provides are rooted in justice.
READ: The latest Real to Reel newsletter from Hollywood, Health & Society includes articles on the horrific Tuskegee Study; five plausible scenarios set in the year 2045 for reaching the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons (from a joint effort by N Square, an initiative to stimulate nuclear disarmament); and the moving story of Olympian Diana Nyad’s attempt to swim 100 miiles from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64.
Key Findings from Research in Nigeria:
A Report to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
An effort by Hollywood, Health & Society, Nollywood Workshops, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation led to the development of Code of Silence (CoS), a mainstream Nollywood film tackling issues of rape and gender equality, which premiered in Nigeria in August 2015. This report outlines preliminary evaluation findings from research investigating the impact of the film on attitudes toward rape and gender equality.
Contagion is a feature film directed by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh and released in 2011. The film follows the rapid progression of a highly contagious virus that kills within days. As the epidemic grows, medical researchers and public health officials work to contain the disease, introduce a vaccine to halt its spread and calm the panic that spreads as fast as the virus itself. The film highlights the factors that shape the occurrence of a pandemic, the limits and consequences of public health responses and how interpersonal connections can play a role in the spread of disease.
It was especially exciting to measure the social impact of Contagion because it is a fictional film. While most audience members recognize that documentary films are often carefully engineered to deliver actionable data to viewers, moviegoers do not immediately assume that a fictional film might teach them something or encourage them to change their attitudes about a particular issue, or take action after the film is over. Whether the topic is history or science, experts are often wary about fictional films that try to grapple with real-life issues and events. Contagion, which provides a gripping illustration of what could happen if a global pandemic occurred, caused a flurry of news coverage about its accuracy. Director Steven Soderbergh attracted a bevy of A-list talent — Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne — which increased the odds that this film would be seen by a very broad range of moviegoers, most of whom know very little about global pandemics.
Waiting for “Superman” is a 2010 documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed An Inconvenient Truth. The film looks at the failures of the American public education system through the stories of students and their families who strive for better educational opportunities. The film received the Audience Award for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and, since its release, has directed donations to over 2.8 million children. The film’s release ignited a heated debate about the challenges facing public education to provide adequate education and opportunities for students, parents and teachers.
Two questions guided our study of this film:
● Which variables influenced someone’s likelihood of watching Waiting for “Superman?”
● What was the impact of Waiting for “Superman” on knowledge, attitudes and behavior?
Funding for this study, which was independently designed, conducted and released by the Norman Lear Center, was provided by Participant Media, who also co-financed the making of Waiting for “Superman.”