RESEARCH TEAM EXAMINES INTERNET'S ROLE IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE
American politics has embraced the Internet, from a Texas woman who diligently posts candidates’ position papers on her web site, to the official sites of the Republican and Democratic parties. A group of Newhouse professors is studying the Internet’s impact on the 2000 presidential race, and will publish the results in a book aimed at a general audience. “There will be many books published that do some sort of conflict analysis, compare this web site to that one, how often they changed, and so on,” says television-radio-film professor Larry Elin. “Nobody cares about that except the academics. We need to take that information and figure out what it really means in terms of the electoral process and democracy, and what it might portend for the future.”
Seven professors, a doctoral student, and six undergraduate students are working on the project, which was the idea of Newhouse Dean David Rubin. The group’s research interests range from politics to technology, reflecting the school’s various disciplines. “We’re a communications school, and the media are a major component of the democratic process,” Elin says. “The role the Internet plays in the democratic process is unexplored ground.” The group’s members have carved out their own niches in the project. Broadcast journalism professor Barbara Fought, for instance, is researching how web sites run by traditional media, such as ABCNews.com and CNN.com, covered the campaigns. Others are looking at Internet-only media sites, such as Salon.com, and the sites of political activists, parties, and the presidential candidates.
Newspaper professor Steve Davis and Tony Ronzio ’01 are interviewing voters who are both political “junkies” and heavy Internet users. “They’re a select group, not just the first people to come along,” Davis says. “It took two or three months of calling, pleading, and research to get the group as demographically representative as Possible.” Ronzio, who is majoring in magazine journalism and history, looked at what these political junkies publish on the web. “You can put whatever you want out there,” he says. “You can put your position papers on a site, you can have a movie file of George W. Bush picking his nose—you can do whatever you want, and people have.”
Along with a planned online survey of 1,000 people, Davis and Ronzio’s research will help determine how much—if at all—the Internet is changing the face of democracy. “The biggest question is: Is the Internet making a difference?” Davis says. “Or is it just going to be an online version of C-Span, which serves a very select group of people?”
HEALTH IMPROVEMENT PROJECT ENHANCES TEENAGE GIRLS' KNOWLEDGE
There is nothing “hip” about sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, College of Nursing professor Dianne Morrison-Beedy wants to help young women become more knowledgeable about ways to avoid getting infected with the deadliest of all sexually transmitted diseases—HIV. That’s why she created the Health Improvement Project (HIP) for teens, a prevention and intervention program that targets sexually active adolescent girls ages 15-19 who are at high risk for HIV infection. The program is an adaptation of an HIV prevention project for adults developed by Michael Carey, director of SU’s Center for Health and Behavior.
Before joining the College of Nursing faculty, Morrison-Beedy worked with this susceptible age group for more than 20 years as a women’s health nurse practitioner. “Teenage girls tend to live in the here-and-now and don’t think much about future repercussions of unsafe sex,” Morrison-Beedy says, “including the possibility of getting pregnant and infecting their unborn babies with HIV.”
The three-year study, “Motivational HIV Prevention Intervention for Young Women,” is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research, a division of the National Institutes of Health. HIP seeks to discover the best way to recruit adolescent females into a prevention program and then develop an effective intervention protocol that can be carried out with large groups of young women. The project’s ultimate goal is to decrease risky sexual behavior and promote healthy behavior.
Recent studies show an alarming rise in unsafe sex practices among high school students, yet most HIV education programs focus on adults. As one of the few researchers studying the sexual behavior of teenage girls, Morrison-Beedy aims to empower them to look out for themselves through effective communication and life skills. “We’re currently conducting a series of focus groups to determine how best to help teenage girls acquire the negotiation skills they’ll need to avoid unsafe sexual behavior. These are the skills they’ll need to survive,” says Morrison-Beedy, who is being assisted by a team of SU students and faculty. They are working on the project in cooperation with various family planning and adolescent health care services within the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County.
In the near future, HIP may have an impact far beyond the borders of Syracuse and Onondaga County. A nursing student currently involved with the project is from Malawi, and Morrison-Beedy hopes the student will return home armed with new knowledge about HIV prevention to help fight the war against the HIV/AIDS epidemic that’s ravaging the African continent. “No matter the country or culture,“ Morrison-Beedy says, “teenage girls must be taught how to safely negotiate their way through pressures and temptations to engage in sexual behavior that may be hazardous to their health.”
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