Media research Essay Example

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Media Research

Media Research


This research evaluation examines the cop-watching initiative that raises questions about the use of new media technologies. Bock (2016) notes that the availability of smartphones and social media has resulted in both simple and complicated changes in life. She describes cop-watching as an initiative where individuals actively look for opportunities to film the for reasons like journalism, accountability, and collecting visual evidence. The article argues that cop-watching presents challenges to traditional media and police. At the same time, it acknowledges benefits of getting the other side of the story and bypassing the traditional media that has a tendency to become loyal to the elite in society (Bock 2016, p.4). This paper aims to determine the appropriateness of the research approach that is used to understand cop-watching from a communication research perspective. The paper begins by examining the suitability of the approach used to collect data in addition to the appropriateness of the type of data that was collected. This is followed by analysing the appropriateness of the data design, analysis and interpretation.

Data Collection

The researcher used long-form interviews and observation as the primary data collection methods. The semi-structured interview covered veterans, professional journalists, a student, gun right activists, software technicians, and a protester. In total, the researcher interviewed 12 research subjects, and it is highlighted that the interviews respected the perspectives of the subjects to create an equitable relationship. Gill et al. (2008) argue that the use of a semi-structured interview is advantageous because the interviewer guides the subject while allowing for exploration of issues that were not considered before the interview. Cop-watching is a new phenomenon is tied to the availability of smartphones, the Internet and social media. As such, there is little pre-existing research on the subject. The collection of data using an unstructured interview is, therefore, appropriate as it allows the researcher to explore views, beliefs, experience, and motivation. This leads to a better understanding of new social phenomena (Gill et al. 2008).

The author observed a larger group of subjects with the observation focusing on websites, social media, meetings, cop-watching outings, and protests. As a data collection tool, observation suffers from the disadvantage of altering the behaviour and actions of the subjects (Wimmer & Dominick 2013, p. 129). The author acknowledges that one of the leaders altered his presentation because of the presence of the researcher (Bock 2016, p. 9). The article also states that some of the subjects left because of burnout and that others joined the cop-watching activities, a trend that can be considered as a disadvantage of observation. According to Tischler (2013, p. 33), changes in subject behaviour can be mitigated by the researcher hiding his/her identity and joining the group under pretence. However, the case shows that the author developed relationships with the subjects and that she intended to observe a small group over a long duration. These factors contribute to the appropriateness of observation as a data collection tool. When it comes to sampling, the use of simple random sampling is appropriate because of cop-watching is a new phenomenon with a limited number of active participants (Wimmer & Dominick 2013, p. 99).

Types of Data

The research yielded qualitative data. The researcher interviewed and observed a community that engaged in the practice of cop-watching. The telephone and face to face interviews yielded audio data that could be transcribed. The observation allowed the researcher to share the experiences of the cop-watchers and to view social media posts. These sources of data fall under the category of qualitative data. When it comes to appropriateness, Wimmer and Dominick (2013, p. 150) argue that qualitative data from social media can reflect the opinions of frequent posters and that posts can be affected by vested interests. Apart from social media, the qualitative data from the other areas are very appropriate for the purpose of the research. As stated, the author wanted to understand cop-watching from a communication research perspective. The key research questions were who were involved in cop-watching and what they did (Bock 2016, p. 7). It is apparent that such research objectives cannot be quantified. Therefore, the qualitative data was the only appropriate type of data for the research.

Research Design

Bock employed an ethnographic research design when studying the cop-watching phenomenon. According to Wimmer and Dominick (2013, p. 148), ethnography is a research design that allows a researcher to become immersed in a different culture to understand practices from the perspective of the culture. In the given case, cop-watching can be defined as a separate culture because of the existence of shared beliefs, norms, and values. For example, the cop-watchers share the belief that cops have often abused their powers and victimised the weak in society. The cop-watchers are also against surveillance, and they view their actions as going against abuses by the state. Additionally, some of the subjects have experienced abuse, and they share concerns about the role of traditional media (Bock 2013). These examples illustrate that cop-watching is a new phenomenon that has attracted little detailed research. The use of ethnography is an appropriate decision because it allows the researcher to have first had experience of a new culture. The approach is also advantageous because it allows the researcher to use a variety of data collection methods like interviewing and observation (Wimmer & Dominick 2013, p. 148). The apparent disadvantages of the design are the time requirement and difficulties in confirming the validity of the research when compared to experimental designs that can be repeated (Carrier & Gewertz 2015, p. 118). Despite these issues, the identified weaknesses do not have a negative impact on the quality of the research. In fact, the time requirement allows the researcher to have more interactions with the subjects which allow initial findings to be confirmed through added interviews and observations. Overall, the choice of an ethnographic design is suitable because of the emergent and cultural nature of the research subject.

Data Analysis and Reporting

As stated, ethnographic designs lead to questions on the reliability of findings because the researcher has to collect the perspectives of different individuals and come up with one overall conclusion (Carrier & Gewertz 2015, p. 118). An evaluation of the case shows that the author was able to analyse and interpret the data in an appropriate manner. First, the paper boils down to three main findings. The first is that cop-watchers engage in the practice out of the belief that their activities will influence the behaviour of the police. The second conclusion is that the cop-watchers do not consider themselves to be journalists, indicating a lack of trust in traditional media. Finally, the actions of cop watchers are driven by a sense of rage and empathy (Bock 2016, p. 16). Looking back at the research objectives, it is apparent that the author sought to find out the people behind the new phenomenon, their purpose, what they do, and how they go about their actions (Bock 2016, p. 7). The research conclusions address each of these questions, showing that the author was successful in analysing the vast amounts of data from long-form interviews and observing across several platforms.

The article provides quotes taken from the interviews and observation. For example, one quote shows that Don began cop-watching because of the story of cops abusing the right to film a drunk-driving arrest. This quote is reflected in the conclusion that rage is a primary driver for cop-watching. A second participant is quoted stating that he wants to take reporting media and reporting back. This piece of data is reflected in the conclusion that the traditional media’s role is under scrutiny. These and other examples confirm that the findings match the qualitative data that was collected. The overall conclusion is that the author has been able to come up with legitimate conclusions. The legitimacy of the article is further enhanced by the author highlighting negative aspects of cop-watching like the prevalence of conspiracy theories and incidences where the cop-watchers insult police officers when off the record (Bock 2016, p. 16).


In conclusion, the research article covers the controversial topic of police accountability and the role of new media. The author’s objective is to identify the people involved in the cop-watching phenomenon, their goals, and how the research subject goes about their work. The research employs observations and semi-structured interviews, an approach that is deemed appropriate for the purpose of the research. The emergent nature and limited scope of cop-watching validate the use of simple random sampling. The research collects qualitative data which is appropriate because the responses cannot be quantified. The ethnographic design is also found to be appropriate because cop-watchers share the same values, beliefs, and norms necessitating immersion to understand their practices. A review of the data from the interviews and observations lends credence to the legitimacy of the data analysis, interpretation and conclusion.


Bock, MA 2016, Film the Police! Cop‐Watching and Its Embodied Narratives, Journal of Communication, vol. 66, no. 1, pp.13-34.

Carrier, JG, & Gewertz, DB 2015, The handbook of sociocultural anthropology, A&C Black.

Gill, P, Stewart, K, Treasure, E & Chadwick, B 2008, Methods of data collection in qualitative research: interviews and focus groups, British dental journal, vol. 204, no. 6, pp.291-295.

Tischler, H 2013, Cengage Advantage Books: Introduction to Sociology, Nelson Education.

Wimmer, RD, & Dominick, JR 2013, Mass media research, Cengage learning.