Carrigan English is an Honors senior majoring in Political Science, Communication, and French. She is originally from Bossier City, Louisiana and she is writing her thesis on the rise and fall of political investigative journalism and its subsequent effects on political socialization.
As a current senior, I have always been excited to write an Honors Thesis. It was the perfect way to culminate my Tulane career and showcase not only all of the knowledge I had received over the past four years, but also the writing and research skills I had developed during this time. For the specific topic of my thesis, I knew that I wanted to examine the intersection of political science and communications, as I believe the media is one of the most influential and instrumental ways in which we receive political information and the way we begin to understand and perceive the world around us. My passion for this particular field of journalism (political journalism) stems back to my freshman year, when I took a political communications course. This opened my eyes to the different ways the media affects our outlook on political events, such as elections and debates.
Over the past few years, I have found that many audiences do not question the information they receive, and I believe it is important to dig a little deeper into these complex media systems that have so much power over public opinion and public knowledge, especially during a time where citizens have an unprecedented amount of information at their fingertips. I was intrigued by the term "fake news," but not in the way people might think. I wanted to determine if the information we receive is truly objective in nature, or if it’s a component of a large profit-seeking machine. Thus, each of these interests, paralleled with my passion for journalism, culminated in my current thesis.
Titled "The Era of Fake News: The Rise and Fall of Political Investigative Journalism," my research examines the rise and fall of investigative political journalism, specifically the on-site, hard-hitting articles that present facts with little to no commentary. I argue that these investigative style articles have since been replaced with sensationalism, which is opinion- and commentary-driven reporting. With this rise of sensationalized news pieces, it is important to think of the contextual factors surrounding this type of journalism, such as how it impacts our interactions with others and our political associations. In my research, I am conducting a survey to see just how much of an impact these media systems have on our political perceptions and opinions. I will pair the results of this research with historical analysis outlining the attributes associated with investigative journalism versus those linked to sensationalism. I am thankful for my wonderful thesis committee– Dr. Brian Brox, Dr. Esra Ozcan, and Dr. Alexandra Reuber– who not only have inspired me to pursue this research, but also have helped me every step of the way of this long journey. The process of conducting and writing research is still new to me, so their guidance and assistance is invaluable to me and the work I am doing.
Finally, I believe my study is important now, especially during a pandemic and after two elections where the mass media played an unprecedented role in the information we receive. The goal of my research is to raise awareness of this national phenomenon and to ensure that citizens are more informed about their media sources and the information they are given in their daily lives. With this research, I hope that it will aid me not only to be a more active and engaged citizen, but it will also aid me in law school, where I hope to study either international law or media law. If I pursue the path of media law, this research will help me better understand the field in which I will pursue my career. I am excited to continue my work and present it at the Honors Thesis Forum in the spring!