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The Impact of a Civic Journalism
Project on Reader Knowledge, Attitudes, and Stereotypes
Maria Knight Lapinski
Sue Ellen Christian
School of Communication
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5318
Authors' Note: Sue Ellen Christian (MA, Journalism, University of
Michigan, 1990) and Maria Knight Lapinski (PhD., Michigan State
University, 2000) are assistant professors at Western Michigan
University. Please direct all communication to the first author via
email ([log in to unmask]) or telephone (269-387-0362).
Student newspapers are published for a variety of reasons, one of
which is to have an impact on reader's knowledge of or attitudes
about a variety of social issues. This manuscript reports the
outcomes of a civic journalism project in a high school designed to
impact knowledge, attitudes, and stereotypes about Muslims post-9-11.
Findings indicate sex differences for knowledge and attitudes. The
intervention had some impact on stereotypes but not attitudes or knowledge.
The Impact of a Civic Journalism High School Newspaper
Project on Reader Knowledge, Attitudes, and Stereotypes
There has been a consistent downward trend in newspaper readership
among Americans over the past four decades: In 1964, 81 percent of
Americans read a daily newspaper (Corneg, 2005), compared to 54
percent today (Journalism.org, 2004). According to 2003 unpublished
data from Scarborough Research, a market research company, 40 percent
of people ages 18 to 24 read the newspaper on weekdays, and 48
percent on Sundays (Journalism.org, 2004). Furthermore, studies by
the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press suggest that
young people are not only reading the newspaper less, but that people
who had been newspaper consumers have stopped reading as well. (Pew
Research Center for the People and the Press, 2002).
In response to such figures, newspaper editors and publishers are
trying desperately to attract young readers. The Newspaper
Association of America Foundation has a newspaper in education
program that facilitates the distribution of newspapers to U.S.
schools in an effort to create lifelong newspaper readers. The
American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Newspaper Publishers
Association called for and have supported a major examination of
readership by The Readership Institute at Northwestern University's
Media Management Center. One purpose of the research was to determine
why Americans, particularly young adults, aren't reading the
newspaper anymore. The recommendations of the institute's research
call for more news stories geared to the sought-after demographic;
stories on environment, government, health, fitness, recreation. (The
Readership Institute, "Content and Service," 2004).
The Impact of a High School Paper
The backdrop to this for-profit grab for young readers is a decidedly
non-profit publication for young readers; the little-noticed student
publication, particularly the high school student publication, that
is for many youth, the first paper -- and if the above statistics are
any indication, perhaps the only paper -- they ever read. There are
many reasons that high school newspapers exist. One reason for high
school newspapers is to promote reading. According to a study by the
Newspaper Association of America Foundation (2004), reading a
newspaper in high school, albeit a for-profit, commercial newspaper,
not a student-produced paper, develops the newspaper habit. Young
adults who recalled reading the newspaper in school were more likely
to develop lifelong readership habits than those who reported no
exposure to papers in school, according to a study released by the
NAAF. The study of 1,500 adults ages 18 to 34 found that 62 percent
of those surveyed who had a class in which newspapers were
distributed and used as part of the curriculum said they read a
weekday paper on a regular basis. Only 38 percent of those with no
exposure described themselves as regular weekday readers.
The benefits of a high school newspaper are many; they teach the art
of persuasion, the value of freedom of speech, build a sense of
school community, teach students how to practice responsible
journalism, give students a voice in their community, and prepare
high school students for success in higher education. There is a
unique journalistic world in which high school publications
function. High school publications are subject to a court ruling
that severely limits much of what is publishable in a public forum.
Yet Dickson (1994) found that the Supreme Court's 1988 Hazelwood
School District v. Kuhlmeier decision, which allowed public school
administrators to censor school –sponsored publications for
legitimate educational purposes, had not reduced scholastic press
freedom as had been expected. However, content analysis of high
school newspaper editorials before and after Hazelwood, found that
more than three times as many critical editorials were published
before the decision than after (Lomicky, 2000). This finding suggests
that self-censorship may be occurring at high school newspapers.
Lomicky argues that the court's decision has made student journalists
at high schools less likely to criticize school policy or take up
controversial issues in editorials. Lomicky's work indicates that one
role of the high school publication is to persuade readers.
Kathleen Klink, a school superintendent in Ohio, reports that other
reasons for high school newspapers are to help encourage students to
learn responsible journalism, provide on-the-job training, encourage
problem-solving skills, writing skills and creative thinking, and
support freedom of the press, which "demonstrates democratic values
that are an essential part of a public education" (Klink, 2002, para.13)
The vocational benefit to student staffers who learn journalism
skills was cited in a Q-and-A interview in the National Education
Association's publication, NEA Today (2001) with Dorothy Gilliam, a
then-veteran columnist for The Washington Post, and founder of the
Young Journalists Development Project, which revives high school
newspapers and cultivates students interested in print journalism.
Gilliam said that students working on a high school newspaper "are so
excited about having a voice, and teachers report that a newspaper
enhances the whole school community" (p.20). A University of Indiana
study found that students who studied journalism or who were on high
school papers achieved in college at higher levels than those who did
not, said Gilliam.
Another reason for a high school paper is to build a sense of
community. The "Villager," the student newspaper for Westport High
School in Westport, Massachusetts, conducted a survey that showed
school officials how severe the problem of student drinking was at
the school. As Proudfoot and Weintraub (2002) reported, part of the
Villager's mission statement is "to build a greater sense of
community within the school," (p.20). Westport's paper is "an avenue
for open and clear communications about where students are coming
from," according to Proudfoot, the journalism advisor and Weintraub,
the dean of the high school (p.21).
The goal of building community through newspapers is at the heart of
civic, or public, journalism. Civic journalism is local; it is an
attempt to highlight a specific public concern in a community in
order to raise local awareness of that issue. By raising awareness,
civic journalists hope to bring about change regarding that issue.
Civic journalism seeks change in communities through changing
citizen's attitudes. The Pew Center for Civic Journalism (2003)
described civic journalism as a philosophy and a set of values.
At the center of the civic journalism movement is the belief that
journalism has an obligation to public life and must not merely
inform with facts in new stories but seek to affect public life and
empower communities. In a debate on what constitutes public
journalism, Rosen (2000), claimed that the movement seeks to link
"active and interested citizens to one another, with the news
organization as a kind of 'switching device,' in the hope that a more
engaged, interactive, and informable public might result" (p. 680).
Rosen, the director of the Project on Public Life and the Press,
describes public journalists as believing that "public life should
work and journalism has a role in making it work" (Charity, 1995,
p.10). Lambeth sees civic journalism as a form of journalism that in
part seeks to "choose frames that stand the best chance to stimulate
citizen deliberation and build public understanding of issues"
(Lambeth, 1998, p.17).
Thus, high school papers seek to build community, provide education
in the profession of journalism, teach students the value of First
Amendment rights (as in the Hazelwood case), and teach democratic
principles, among other impacts. They are also on the decline, as is
the number of papers nationally. The number of newspapers in America
has been declining, from 1,750 or so in 1980 to 1, 457 in 2002
(Journalism.org, 2004). In the NEA interview, Gilliam also said that
"high school newspapers are becoming an endangered species. About a
quarter of schools in America have none at all" (p.20). According to
the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), there are
indications that the numbers are decreasing (A. Akers, personal
communication March 3, 2005). The NSPA's most recent survey in
Minnesota shows that roughly 65 percent of all schools have
newspapers. Akers also said there are reports of schools without
newspapers reviving them. High school publications are declining in
part due to fiscal constraints. High school journalism is threatened
by budget cuts – for example, the journalism course at San Marin High
School in California was dropped in 2003 in an effort to save money
(National Scholastic Press Association [NSPA], 2003).
This article seeks to understand whether or not high school
newspapers intentionally designed as civic interventions can impact
student attitudes. Specifically, this study sought to test the extent
to which articles in a high school newspaper impact student
knowledge, stereotypes, and attitudes. It began with a civic
journalism project concerning Muslims in the United States.
The Student Newspaper Diversity Project (SNDP) began because of the
National Communication Association (NCA) Communicating Common Ground
initiative. Communicating Common Ground is about highlighting,
celebrating, and fostering diversity, and that goal became the theme
of our project's special edition as well. As part of the
Communicating Common Ground initiative, the SNDP joins more than 50
other partnerships that link K-12 classrooms with universities to
combat hate and hate crimes through communication instruction that
seeks to foster respect for and appreciation of diversity. The
initiative is a national effort promoted by the NCA, Southern Poverty
Law Center, Campus Compact, and the American Association for Higher Education.
The SNDP involved devoting an entire issue of a student-produced
newspaper to a diversity theme. The project paired a high school
newspaper staff of 12-15 students with graduate and undergraduate
communication students who serve as mentors and editors to the high
school staff. The student newspaper is a for-credit high school class
taught by a faculty advisor who is an English teacher. The project
goal was to report, write and publish articles on a special diversity
topic relevant to the local community. The subject of discrimination
of Muslim-Americans post 9-11 was particularly timely to the
students; thus the project theme was selected. In all, 6 articles on
the subject of Muslim-Americans were reported and written, and the
story subjects ranged from an article on a student reporter's visit
to the local mosque that was accompanied by a primer on the Islamic
religion to articles on high school students who practice the Islam
religion to an article on Muslim women's dress and customs. The
special edition—entitled simply "Common Ground" by the student
staffers—is one of six editions of the newspaper produced during the
academic year by the high school staff, but it is the only one
devoted to a single theme and such serious content. About 1,200
copies of the newspaper were disseminated free of charge to the high
school students, school board members, key city leaders, and English
teachers in the community for use in classroom discussions.
The purpose of the current study is to test the extent to which
exposure to the series of articles in the SNDP impacted student
knowledge, stereotypes and attitudes. We were interested in first
determining whether or not sex differences exist in knowledge,
attitudes or stereotypes about Muslims in the U. S.
RQ1: Will male and female participants differ in their knowledge, attitudes or
stereotypes toward Muslims?
The following hypothesis proposes that the greater a persons
self-reported exposure to the articles about Muslim-American culture,
the higher their knowledge about Muslim-American culture will be.
Further, exposure to the articles will result in less endorsement of
stereotypes about Muslim-Americans and more positive attitudes toward
Muslim-Americans as a group. Thus the following hypotheses were proposed:
H1:Amount of self-reported exposure to a news intervention will be
positively associated with knowledge about Muslim-American culture.
H2: Exposure to a news intervention will result in less endorsement
about Muslim-Americans than a control.
H3: Amount of self-reported exposure to a news intervention will be
positively associated with attitudes toward Muslim-Americans.
The participants in this study were 119 students from two urban high
schools (Intervention group n=64, Control Group n =55)1 in a
mid-sized Midwestern community. Participants were from three randomly
selected upper division classes from each high school. The
participants were 60% female, with an average age of 16.53 (SD =
1.03) years. Most participants were Juniors (62%) or Seniors (27%),
but several Freshmen (8%) and Sophomores (3%) also
participated. Participants self-reported racial/ethnic backgrounds
included primarily White (75%), Black (12%), and Hispanic/Latina/o
(6%). The remaining 7% listed other racial ethnic backgrounds
including Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American. Two
participants reported their ethnic background as Middle Eastern.
Given the focus of this project, participants were also asked to
report their religious background. The sample included participants
who reported no religious affiliation (25%), Catholic (16%), Baptist
(9%), and Methodist (8%). Smaller numbers of participants reported
other religious affiliations including Dutch Reformed, Episcopalian,
and Lutheran. One participant who reported "Islam" for religious
background was dropped for the remaining analysis.
Design and Procedure
In order to test the hypotheses above, a pretest-posttest
quasi-experimental design was conducted. The pretest was administered
at both the intervention and control high schools 2 weeks prior to
the release of the first edition of the newspaper in the
SNDP. Pretest data collection occurred approximately 6 months after
the occurrence of the World Trade Center Bombings of September 11,
2001. Six articles were released in 2 editions of the newspaper over
a period of 5 weeks at the intervention high school. The control high
school did not receive any of the news articles and did not have a
school newspaper. The posttest was administered to both groups 2
weeks after the edition was released.
All participants completed informed consent by returning a document
signed by a parent or guardian. The questionnaire was completed in
groups during regular course time in the presence of a researcher and
a teacher. For both the pretest and the posttest, the first part of
the survey contained items asking participants about their media use
patterns followed by questions regarding their knowledge of Islam and
Islamic practices embedded in questions about other world religions.
The next set of questions asked participants about their endorsement
of stereotypes regarding Christians and Muslims, followed by a series
of attitude and demographic items.
Exposure to Student Newspaper Articles. On the posttest, participants
in the intervention group were given a list of the articles and asked
whether or not they had read each of the 8 articles; "yes", "no"",
and "don't know" were the possible responses. The "yes" responses
were coded as 1, the remaining responses coded as 0. Participants
were also asked to rate from 0 = "Nothing at All" to 4 = "A Great
Deal" the amount of the school paper they typically read. For each
participant an exposure score was calculated by summing their
responses to these items with higher scores indicating greater
exposure. Participants in the control condition were asked if they
had seen or read the school newspaper from the intervention school.
None of the participant reported having seen or read the paper. Thus,
these participants were given an exposure score of "0". None of the
participants reported that the school newspaper was required reading
for their classes and none of the participants reported being a
member of the newspaper staff. Across conditions, participants had an
average score of 2.67 (SD = 3.58).
General Media Use. In order to control for media use of sources other
than the school newspaper, a series of questions on the pretest asked
participants about the frequency of their media use. The items had a
6-point response format and participants were asked to report the
number of times in the last month they used various media sources
(e.g. television, local newspaper, radio, World-Wide Web) for
accessing news. The 4 items were summed to form a measure of media
exposure in which higher numbers indicate more exposure. Across
conditions, this scale had a mean of 9.08 (SD = 4.83).
Knowledge. Knowledge of Islam was measured via a series of
multiple-choice items. Six items asked about knowledge of Islam (e.g.
"What is a Muslim?" and "Who is Allah?"). These items were embedded
with four items that asked about other world religions including
Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Only scores on the Islam
knowledge scale are included in the current analyses; correct answers
were scored as "1" and incorrect answers as "0". Thus, higher numbers
(Range 0-6) indicate greater knowledge of Islam. The knowledge scale
had a standardized item alpha of .65 at pretest and .69 at posttest.
Across conditions, the mean score on the test was 4.41 (SD = 1.56)
and on the posttest was 3.67 (SD = 1.22).
Attitudes about Muslims in the U.S. Seven Likert-type items were
designed to measure participants' attitudes about Muslims. These
items were modified from Katz & Hass' (1988) items; the attitude
object was shifted from "Blacks" to "Muslims in the United States."
Example items on this scale are "People who live in the United States
who are Muslim are an important part of this country's diversity"
and, "Muslims who live in the United States should be treated the
same as every other person who lives here." The items had a 5-point
response scale anchored by "Strongly Disagree" and "Strongly Agree,"
with higher scores indicating more positive attitudes toward Muslims;
four items were reverse scored. Following measurement analyses after
collection of the pretest data, one item was dropped and the
remaining attitude items were summed to form a scale with a
Standardized Item Alpha of .86 (M = 25.57, SD = 4.27) for the pretest
and .82 (M = 25.74, SD = 4.03) for the posttest.
Stereotypes about Muslims in the U. S. The items designed to measure
stereotypes about Muslims were created from the results of a focus
group of high school students who were not part of the current study.
The groups generated a list of common stereotypes about Muslims.
Stereotypes chosen for inclusion in the items on the questionnaire
were chosen based on the fact that they were frequently mentioned by
students, consistent with previous conceptualizations of stereotypes
(Allport, 1954), represented both positive and negative
characteristics, and would not be insensitive to Muslim students
completing the study.
On the questionnaire, participants were asked to provide estimates of
the percent of either Christians or Muslims in the U.S. who possessed
a variety of characteristics. The item stated: "In your estimation,
what percentage (from 0% to 100%) of all (either Christians or
Muslims) have each of these traits?" The list included 3 favorable
(honest, peaceful, intelligent) and 3 unfavorable (untrustworthy,
violent, unclean) traits. This measurement technique is similar to
that used by previous stereotyping research (Nesdale & Todd, 2000)
except for the response scale. Participants were also given the
option to respond with "don't know" if they felt they couldn't
estimate the percentage; these responses were counted as missing. A
stereotypes score was created by taking the difference between scores
for Christian and Muslims for each of the positive and negative
characteristics. In the case of the positive characteristics, scores
for Muslims were subtracted from those for Christians, thus higher
scores indicate that Christians are more likely to have positive
characteristics than Muslims; a score of "0" would indicate no
difference between the two. For negative characteristics, scores for
Christians were subtracted from those for Muslims such that higher
scores indicate that Muslims are more likely to have negative
characteristics; a score of "0" would indicate no difference.
Before testing the hypotheses, a series of preliminary tests were
conducted to determine whether or not the intervention and control
groups differed initially on the dependent variables. A series of
independent sample t-tests were run to compare participants' pretest
scores from each school on the knowledge, attitudes, and stereotypes
variables. These tests indicated that for the knowledge variable,
participants in the control group had significantly higher pretest
knowledge scores (M = 4.84, SD = 1.42) than participants in the
intervention condition [M = 4.04 SD =1.59; t (117) =2.84, p = .005].
Thus, pretest knowledge scores was treated as a covariate in the
hypotheses tests for the knowledge dependent variable. Importantly,
knowledge scores were generally high with little variance in scores
(limiting the possibility of covariance).
The two groups did not differ significantly on the pretest attitudes
scale; intervention group M = 25.39 (SD = 4.50), control group M =
25.79 [SD = 4.02; t (116) =.51, p = .61]. A series of t-tests
indicated that the two groups did not differ initially on either
positive or negative stereotyping scores. In terms of the positive
characteristics, the intervention group did not differ from the
control group in their estimates of honesty [t (83) =.81, p = .42],
peacefulness [t (84) =.80, p = .42], intelligence [t (81) = 1.03, p =
.31] of Christians relative to Muslims. In terms of negative
characteristics, the control group and the intervention group did not
differ initially in their estimates that Muslims are more
untrustworthy [t (76) =.30, p = .76], unclean [t (76) =.57, p = .57],
or violent [t (80) =.47, p = .64].2 Further, 90% of the participants
at the intervention school reported reading at least some of the
newspaper series produced in the SNDP.
Test of Research Question
In research question one, we asked whether or not male and female
participants differ in their knowledge of Islam, attitudes or
stereotypes about Muslims. These analyses indicated that male and
female participants differed significantly on posttest knowledge such
that men exhibited higher knowledge scores than women at posttest
(see Table 1).3 Moreover, female participants exhibited generally
more positive attitudes towards Muslims than male participants and
this difference was significant for pretest scores.
For the pretest stereotype measures, men and women did not differ
significantly at pretest. For both the pretest and the posttest here
was a consistent trend of male participants attributing more negative
stereotypes to Muslims and more positive stereotypes to Christians
than female participants. At posttest, men and women differed only in
their ratings of the cleanliness of Muslims relative to Christians.
Men (M = 2.59, SD = 3.90) and women (M = 2.78, SD = 3.45) did not
differ significantly on their self-reported exposure to the school
newspaper [t (113) =.84, p = .77]; nor did men (M = 9.04, SD = 4.97)
and women (M = 9.02, SD = 78) differ on their exposure to the news
media more generally [t (113) =.01, p = .99]. All other sex
differences were non-significant.
Test of Hypotheses
To test hypothesis one that predicted that knowledge of Islam would
be a function of exposure to the school newspaper series, we
regressed post-test scores on the knowledge variable on our
independent variable: self-reported exposure to the school paper
(Block 1). Because of the findings for research question one, in the
second block we included participants' biological sex as a control,
followed by exposure to the general news media (Block 3) pretest
knowledge scores (Block 4), and school (Block 5). The results for
tests of Hypothesis 1 indicate that the data were not consistent with
our hypothesis that exposure to the student newspaper series would be
a significant predictor of knowledge about Islam. Indeed, neither
exposure to the school paper (ß = -.03; p>.05) exposure to the
general news media (ß = .01, p> .05), or school (ß = .05, p> .05),
were predictors of knowledge scores. Consistent with the findings
above, biological sex (ß = .15, p = .02, R2 =.08, ?R2 = .07) and
pretest knowledge scores (ß = .73, p = .001, R2 = .59, ?R2 = .51)
were significant predictors of knowledge of Islam; with data
indicating male participants had higher knowledge scores than females.
The second hypotheses predicted that posttest stereotype scores would
be a function of exposure to the school newspaper series. Because
difference scores were created (resulting in variables ranging from
–100 to 100), a series of t-tests rather than a regression were
conducted with school as the independent variable. A review of the
means and standard deviations in Table 2 indicates that generally,
people in the intervention group perceived less difference between
Christians and Muslims, and there was less variance in ratings by
participants in the intervention group compared to the control group.
For the honesty variable, participants in the control and
intervention conditions did not differ significantly [t (84) = 1.24,
p = .17]. For the variable assessing perceptions of intelligence,
participants in the control and intervention conditions differed
significantly [t (80) = 2.13, p = .04, r = -.23]. Examination of the
mean scores for intelligence revealed that people in the control
conditions reported believing in larger differences between
Christians and Muslims with Christians being rated as more
intelligent than Muslims. For the variable assessing perceptions of
peacefulness, the control and intervention groups did not differ
significantly [t (84) =.23, p = .80].
In terms of negative stereotypes, differences in the perceived
trustworthiness of Muslims relative to Christians were evident for
the two groups. For perceptions of untrustworthiness, participant in
the control and intervention groups differed significantly [t (80) =
2.40, p = .02, r = -.26]. People in the control condition more
highly endorsed the stereotype that Muslims are more untrustworthy
than Christians. For the variable assessing perceptions of
cleanliness, the groups did not differ [t (76) =.31, p = .57].
Finally, for the violence variable, the groups did not differ
significantly [t (80) = 1.13, p = .26].
As a test of hypothesis 3, posttest attitude scores were regressed
onto self-reported exposure to the student newspaper (Block 1),
biological sex (Block 2), exposure to the general news media (Block
3). Exposure to the student newspaper (ß = -.02; p >.05), biological
sex (ß = -.14; p >.05), and exposure to the general news media (ß =
-.03; p >.05) were not significant predictors of attitudes.
These data reveal that exposure to a school newspaper did not
significantly impact knowledge or attitudes about Muslims. It did,
however, have several interesting effects. Consistent with our
predictions regarding stereotypes, persons in the intervention group
generally saw fewer differences between Christians and Muslims on
both positive and negative stereotypes than people in the control
group. For two of the variables (ratings of intelligence and
untrustworthiness) these differences were significant with fairly
substantial effect sizes. That is, people in the control group were
more likely that those in the intervention group to rate Christians
as more intelligent than Muslims, and Muslims as more untrustworthy
than Christians. Moreover, the magnitude of the difference between
the groups was greater for the control as opposed to intervention
condition. This suggests that those who were exposed to the paper
were less likely to engage in stereotyping of Muslim-Americans than
those in the control.
Moreover, examination of the standard deviations for the control and
intervention groups revealed that there was less variance in
stereotyping scores for the intervention group than the control;
suggesting that the intervention group participants' ratings became
more similar to one another over the course of the intervention. The
data were not consistent with our predictions for the other
stereotype variables revealing the fairly limited impact of the
newspaper series for making change. We also found that male
participants exhibited higher knowledge about Islam and that
generally female participants exhibited more positive attitudes and
less endorsement of stereotypes; although many of these differences
The SNDP is civic journalism. The research team and students who
produced the paper consciously selected a topic for the newspaper
edition that focused on a local diversity issue. There was concern
locally that Muslim Americans were being discriminated against in the
community. The topic was selected in hopes of informing young readers
about a relevant, current, local topic, the discrimination and
awareness about Muslim Americans and the Islam religion in the
community. The more general topic of Muslim-Americans as associated
with 9-11 was prevalent in the national and local media at the time.
The SNDP sought, in the special edition published through this
project, to impact readers' attitudes, stereotypes and knowledge
about local Muslim-Americans, their culture, religion, geography,
history. The findings of the research indicate that the civic
journalism newspaper had some limited effect on stereotype
perceptions, but that large-scale changes in knowledge or attitudes
did not occur as a result of exposure to the paper. Importantly, this
involved only 2 issues of a paper, making it less likely to impact
perceptions than a series of stories over an extended period. For
journalists interested in practicing civic journalism, the findings
highlight the potential for reader impact, but also reveal the
limitations of short-term or one-time efforts.
Research by the Readership Institute (2004) suggests there are eight
key readership experiences – six are positive; that is, they
encourage people to read the paper. Two of the experiences are
inhibitors and discourage people from reading the paper. One of those
inhibitors is content that discriminates and stereotypes. The extent
to which a reader perceives that a newspaper's coverage perpetuates
stereotypes impacts that readers' desire to continue to be a
newspaper consumer making them less likely to continue to read such
papers (The Readership Institute, "Reaching New Readers," 2004).
This, taken in tandem with the SNDP findings for changing
stereotypes, bolster the need for journalists to continue to hold up
their content to scrutiny and to seek out topics such as the
discrimination of Muslim-Americans for coverage.
Thus, our study finding highlights the value of reading the newspaper
and conducting a civic journalism project as well as the limitations.
Students who were exposed to the paper were more likely than those
who were not to decrease their endorsement of stereotypes of
Muslim-Americans. The finding also highlights the need to encourage
reading of the newspaper if stereotype change is going to come about.
Schools as well as newspapers are seeking to promote readership among
youth; the first for reasons of education and awareness of the world,
the second for reasons of advertising and circulation. But the two
promoters may not necessarily be at odds. Both are encouraging the
same act, but for different reasons. The dividends may be manifold,
however, and include changes in stereotype perceptions, according to
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1Only those people who completed both the pretest and the posttest
were included in the final analyses. Thirteen people who completed
the pretest did not complete the posttest.
2The means and standard deviations for the two groups are available
from the first author. The analyses for these variables should be
interpreted with the caveat that a number of subjects did not
complete these questions or responded with "don't know" and counted
as missing. The number of students who responded in this way were
approximately equal for the control (n = 11) and intervention (n = 8)
groups, therefore we were not concerned of the possibility of a
3Subsequent tests for a Sex X Treatment interaction effect on each of
the dependent variables indicated no significant differences.
Table 1. Test of research question one for sex differences in
knowledge about Islam, attitudes towards Muslims, and stereotypes
about Muslims relative to Christians. For positive stereotypes,
higher numbers indicate Christians are more likely to have this trait
than Muslims. For negative stereotypes, higher numbers indicate
Muslims are more likely to have the trait than Christians.
Male M (SD)
Female M (SD)
Note: **Significant at p > .01; *Significant at p > .05, two-tailed test
Table 2. Posttest means and standard deviations on the stereotype
variables for the control and intervention schools. For positive
stereotypes, higher numbers indicate Christians are more likely to
have this trait than Muslims. For negative stereotypes, higher
numbers indicate Muslims are more likely to have the trait than Christians.
Control M (SD)
Intervention M (SD)
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