Novelist Phil Tichenor

Research Shows that Press Freedom Plays Role In Shaping Citizen Assessment of Well-Being

The level of press freedom in a country plays a role in shaping citizen assessments of their subjective well-being, researchers reported in November at a conference of the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research in Chicago.

The paper was presented by Allan L. McCutcheon, Lee B. Becker, Jenny Marlar, Glenn Phelps and Tudor Vlad.

Dr. Becker is director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia. Dr. Vlad is associate director of the Cox Center.

Dr. McCutcheon is director of the Gallup Research Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a senior scientist at the The Gallup Organization. Dr. Marlar and Dr. Phelps also are with The Gallup Organization.

The paper used data from The Gallup World Poll, conducted in more than 140 countries, which asks respondents to place themselves on a scale indicating how closely their life matches the “best possible life” they can imagine for themselves.

Leo Jeffres and Cecilie Gaziano chat during the session.

The researchers found that age, health and income have strong, positive influences on the level of subjective well-being reported by survey respondents. Those who live in countries with lower levels of press freedom are likely to experience less subjective well-being from increased personal income.

The paper was one of four papers in a special session on International Public Opinion at the Chicago conference, attended by 180 public opinion researchers. Dr. Ayman Nada from the University of Cairo, a visiting scientist at the Cox Center in 2007, presented one of those four papers. His paper examined Egyptian public opinion regarding the United States.

Dr. Becker also played a role in two other sessions at the conference, held at The Avenue Hotel off Michigan Avenue.

Jeffres, Gaziano, Tichenor, Lee Becker and Sharon Dunwoody oversee book signing.

Dr. Becker served as the discussant for four papers dealing with sports, sex and the media. The papers were presented by researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Cincinnati.

Dr. Becker also was one of four panelists in a special session to honor Dr. Phil Tichenor, professor emeritus of Journalism and Mass Communication and Rural Sociology at the University of Minnesota.

The session focused on a novel written by Dr. Tichenor and published in 2006 by Marquette Books of Spokane, Washington, called “Athena’s Forum.” The novel follows a Swedish journalist as he immigrates to the United States with his wife and young child and begins publishing a weekly newspaper in a small town in Minnesota.

Other panelists were Dr. Sharon Dunwoody of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Dr. Cecilie Gaziano of Research Solutions Inc. in Minneapolis and Dr. Tichenor himself. Dr. Leo Jeffres of Cleveland State University organized and presided over the session.

Tichenor gave the background of his decision to write the novel and structure its story and then answered questions from the other panelists about the book. Most of those questions focused on how Dr. Tichenor’s work on the role of the media in community conflict was integrated into the novel.

The Cox Center is the international outreach unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Pictures courtesy of Steve Everett.