Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

News Diffusion of the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident: Influences of Political Ideology, Gender and Personal Experience on Learning News

Dr. Tom Christie, Dr Tom Ingram.

This news diffusion study of the February 2003 destruction of the Columbia space shuttle examines individual differences to provide insight into how respondents learned news of this international news event. Influences of personal experience, gender and political ideology affected how people received the news. Many Texas residents saw contrails, heard noises or felt vibrations associated to this accident, and differences were found in assessments of personal impact of this event between groups who had these experiences and those who did not.

The mass medium of choice for most respondents in was television, probably selected because of the vivid images of the actual event and the ensuing coverage of shuttle debris on highways, neighborhoods, shopping centers and homes. Internet news sources were not major sources of information.

An interdependent and complementary use of media was found, as well as a link between ideology and news sources. Gender differences in mass media/interpersonal use were also found.


Dr. Tom Christie  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Department of Communication
University of Texas at Arlington

Thomas B. Christie (Ph.D., 1993, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is an assistant professor with the University of Texas at Arlington Department of Communication. His research interests include agenda setting, public policy, news diffusion, new media technologies and uses, and international communication. Before his academic career, he served as a government public affairs executive for 22 years dealing with international news media, community relations, and internal information programs.

Dr Tom Ingram  (United States)

University of Texas at Arlington

  • News diffusion
  • Saliency
  • Columbia
  • Mass media
  • Interpersonal

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)