March 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 3

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Sociological Research Received
Extensive Media Coverage

Daniel Fowler, ASA Public Affairs and Public Information Department

While experts often view adolescents’ aggressive behaviors as a maladjusted reaction typical of social outcasts, a February 2011 American Sociological Review (ASR)study found that it’s actually popular adolescents—but not the most popular ones—who are likely to torment their peers. This ASR article was just one of the many studies the American Sociological Association’s Public Affairs and Public Information Department publicized during a very busy and, more importantly, successful winter.

The study, co-authored by Robert Faris and Diane Felmlee, University of California-Davis, found that those students in the top 2% of the school social hierarchy—along with those at the bottom—are the least aggressive. This finding was a hot topic within the a wide variety of print, online, and radio media outlets and was the subject of approximately 170 articles, according to a Google News search.

National and International Coverage

From December 2010 through February 2011, the ASA Public Information Department oversaw the production and distribution of 13 press releases and responded to more than 100 media inquiries. As a result of these and other efforts, ASA, its journals, and its members received coverage in hundreds of media outlets—both in the United States and abroad.

A sample of the major American media outlets that covered Faris’s study alone include The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN.com, Yahoo!News, the Washington Post, MSNBC.com, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune. It was also a hit with the international media, including Canada’s The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, and The Ottawa Citizen; India’s The Times of India and MSN India; Mexico’s CNNMexico.com; and Brazil’s O Estado de S. Paulo.

"We find this and other coverage we have received very gratifying," said Larry W. Isaac, Vanderbilt University, a co-editor of ASR. "Sociologists do research on a host of important and often contentious issues. The evidence and insights that sociology can bring to the big issues of the day are valuable to the citizenry as well as to the discipline. As editors, we believe that our colleagues publish very important research in the pages of ASR, and we want that research to reach beyond disciplinary boundaries."

Another big success for the Public Affairs and Public Information Department was the media coverage of a December 2010 ASR study by Chaeyoon Lim, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Robert D. Putnam, Harvard University. The study revealed the "secret ingredient" in religion that makes people happier—social networks.

"Our study offers compelling evidence that it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction," said Lim.

According to a Google News search, there were approximately 130 articles written about this study. Articles on the study appeared in major American media outlets including MSNBC.com, Yahoo!News, CNN.com, USA Today, the Denver Post, the Washington Times, Newsday, Discovery News, and Science News as well as international media outlets including the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, Canada’s The Globe and Mail, Spain’s El Mundo.

A number of other studies also received significant media coverage including a December 2010 Journal of Health and Social Behavior study by Pamela Herd, University of Wisconsin-Madison, which found that good grades in high school lead to better health later in life, and a December 2010 Social Psychology Quarterly study by Shane Sharp, University of Wisconsin-Madison, which found that prayer can help people handle harmful emotions. According to Google, there were about 90 articles written about Herd’s study and approximately 75 about Sharp’s.

The other media outlets that covered ASA, its journals, or its members this winter include the Chicago Sun-Times, NPR, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Columbus Dispatch, Reuters, The Village Voice, FoxNews.com, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Baltimore Sun, the Huffington Post, United Press International, U.S. News and World Report, the Atlantic Wire, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Slate.com, New York magazine, The Arizona Republic, and Education Week.

New Public Affairs Page Offers Tips for Communicating

In addition to promoting ASA, its journals, and its members to the media this winter, the Public Affairs and Public Information Department has also worked to ensure that ASA members are as prepared as possible to communicate effectively about their sociological research—both to journalists and policymakers.

In that light, the department developed a new Public Affairs page (www.asanet.org/press/public_affairs.cfm) on the ASA website, which includes tips for communicating sociology.

The "communicating with the media" section includes advice on preparing for an interview, the DOs and DON’Ts of interviewing, and what to do after the interview, along with other helpful information. The "communicating with policymakers" section includes tips on scheduling a meeting with a legislator, attending a Town Hall Meeting, inviting a legislator to speak at the workplace, and more general advice.

"As sociologists, we know the importance of our work," said Brad Smith, ASA’s Director of Public Affairs and Public Information. "Unfortunately, the public at large often does not. It is critical to sociology and the social sciences to clearly explain the significance of what we do to non-sociologists."

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