Faculty News

The Department of Mass Communication is engaged in a variety of projects, some of which are listed below.


48 Hours to Victory: Team UNCA Wins Best Picture in 48 Hour Film Project

Aug. 15, 2017 - For the third time, UNC Asheville’s team of faculty, students, alumni & friends, led by Mass Communication Senior Lecturer Anne Slatton, has claimed Best Picture in Asheville’s annual 48 Hour Film Project. This year’s flick, which was written, produced, filmed and edited all in the span of—you guessed it—48 hours, also brought home Best Sound Design, Best Ensemble Acting, an Audience Choice Award and Best Directing for Slatton.

Read the full article at https://news.unca.edu/features/48-hours-victory-2017.

Considering Purposeful Epistemology: On Starting Over

Sep. 21, 2016 - Mark West has published “Considering Purposeful Epistemology: On Starting Over,” which is an extended response to the publication of “Epistemic Evaluation: Purposeful Epistemology.”  After the publication of Gettier’s seminal work on confounding cases in which individuals have beliefs which appear to be both true and justified, but which seem to not be knowledge, the epistemic community appears to have generally conceded that the traditional definition of knowledge as “justified true belief” can no longer be considered to hold. An example of starting afresh in epistemology is presented in this recent volume by Henderson and Greco, which suggests that the way forward for epistemology is to consider why humans do epistemology.  West argues that our intuitions re Gettier and similar “inescapable paradoxes” are ahead of our understandings, and that pragmatic approaches are our best best for coming to terms with such paradoxes.  A link to the article is at  http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-3cs.  

The Journal of the European Institute for Communication and Culture

Jan. 13, 2014 - Mark West, along with co-author Miika Vähämaa of the University of Helsinki (Finland), is publishing an article entitled "The Dilemma of Group Membership in the Internet Age: Public Knowledge as Preferred Misinformation" in Javnost: The Journal of the European Institute for Communication and Culture. The article, which builds on previous publications by West and Vähämaa concerning epistemology and communication, will appear in the April issue of Javnost, and will describe the ways in which the social benefits of group membership often lead to misunderstandings of important political and scientific information.

Framing Research

Dr. Sonya DiPalma, assistant professor of mass communication, presented Toward the Greening of Nuclear Energy: A Content Analysis of Nuclear Energy Frames from 1991 to 2008 at the PRSA Educators Academy Research Session on October 16, 2010.  The educators Academy Research Session was part of the PRSA 2010 International conference in Washington, D.C. 

While framing effects studies are plentiful, studies assessing longitudinal trends in dominant framing packages and story elements for an issue appear to be less understood.  Findings indicate four significant dominant frame packages among New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. Over time, a shift towards framing nuclear energy within a sustainable frame package increased significance.  This study is part of the growing literature regarding he function of frames over time.

Research in Progress:  Image Restoration Strategies

Dr. Sonya DiPalma, assistant professor  of mass communication, will present Image Restoration Strategies Employed by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs as President Barack Obama's Job Approval Rating Declines at the 14th Annual International Public Relations Research Conference Pushing the Envelope in Public Relations Theory and Research and Advancing Practice in Miami, March 9-12. 

By comparing Gallup opinion polls charting President Obama's declining job approval ratings with press briefings by press secretary Robert Gibbs, this study seeks to expand understanding on the order in which image restoration strategies are employed and which strategies are most useful given a particular situation.  From the beginning of his presidency through the aftermath of the November 2 elections, this study will analyze the content of more than 400 press briefings. 

Cultivation Research

Drs. Mark West and Donald Diefenbach are engaged in a long-running research effort involving an investigation of the distributional properties of responses to questions concerning the effects of media violence upon the properties of  such analyses.   Their findings indicate that the effects of media violence may be greater than commonly believed, having been masked by the statistical properties of such data.

Current research under review include:  "Cultivation and Perceptions of Cigarette Smoking: Distributional Properties and Predictors of Risk Perception," Mark D. West and Donald L. Diefenbach, Under review by the Journal of Communication.

Risk Research

Dr. Mark West, in association with Miika Vahamaa of the University of Helsinki, is engaged in a long-term project concerning the epistemological foundations of knowledge as they relate to the perceptions of risk of low-salience, high-public concern events such as global warming.

Current research under review includes: "Public Risk and the 'Epistemic Calculus' of Groups," Miika Vahamaa and Mark D. West, Under Review by Javnost - The Public: The Journal of the European Institute for Communication and Culture.


Dr. Mark West, in association with other professors, is part of a theoretical effort to link the theories of mass communication to the broader theoretical efforts of sociology. He, with Donald Shaw of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Spiro Kiousis of the University of Florida, and Miika Vahamaa of the University of Helsinki, have proposed a panel to the 2011 AEJMC conference dealing with the prospects of communication theory in the future.