Ph.D. students Rob Eicher and Lakelyn Taylor collaborated with Associate Professor of Film and Mass Media Tim Brown, Ph.D., to produce an award-winning paper about messages during hurricanes.

Their paper entitled, “Human or Machine? How Much Difference in Understanding and Trust Does a Human Element Make in Storm Forecasts?” recently took Top Paper award in the Broadcast Education Association – News Division Open Paper competition.

The paper grew out of class projects that both Taylor and Eicher had worked on which measured how college students both understood and trusted hurricane messages generated in three distinct ways: the traditional “meteorologist on the wall with maps/graphics,” the “graphics only style,” and the “talking head,” with no graphics or maps.

As many college students are away from home for the first time while attending a university, they tend to be highly vulnerable during times of severe weather. To craft more effective messaging campaigns, college administrators and emergency management personnel should consider what their students trust and understand.

“When Hurricane Dorian threatened central Florida back in 2019, I experienced a conversation where it seemed like the person I was talking with was putting more weight behind the model forecasts presented on TV rather than the news anchors who were interpreting them,” said Taylor.  “I wondered, at that point, if people trusted hurricane graphics more than forecasters. Our research project, for those reasons, is important because it informs crisis scholars and practitioners about how best to deliver these warning messages to audiences who need them the most.”

And this “Storm Team” isn’t done yet as their future continues to look sunny – Taylor has led their efforts to present more data at ICRCC while Eicher is hoping to take some nuanced findings to the American Meteorological Society meeting this summer. There’s also an updated 2.0 version of this study coming soon with some interesting additions to be on the lookout for!


Published April 1, 2022. Written by Iulia Popescu.

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