Media Tip Sheet: Bucknell’s September Story Ideas

LEWISBURG, Pa. — These are Bucknell University story ideas that may interest you in September.

PANDEMIC HOME IMPROVEMENTS — The pandemic has forced us to spend more time at home, and many are making the most of it. Google searches for home improvement projects increased significantly in the early days of the pandemic according to the Home Improvement Research Institute. And a May survey by LightStream, a consumer lending division of Truist Financial, found nearly three-fourths of 1,300 homeowners planned to pursue a home improvement project this year with an average cost approaching $12,000. Freeman College of Management Professor Annetta Grant researches consumption surrounding home renovations. With all this time spent at home, in some cases, home renovations may suddenly take a higher priority. “This may be coupled with more disposable income from decreased spending on travel, restaurants and work clothes, alongside low interest rates,” she says. Grant points out that we look at our homes today differently than we did a couple decades ago. “With the rise of television shows and magazines about home renovations, we have an increasing unease with the insides of our homes, and there’s a growing desire to have them look like the perfect show home,” she says. “The pressure to have a home that looks like the perfect show home is further exacerbated now that online meetings and school occur at home.” CONTACT: Grant, 570-577-3915, annetta.grant@bucknell.edu

SOCIAL MEDIA MANIPULATION — A little over 100 days from the nation’s Nov. 3 election, William Evanina, who directs the counterintelligence branch of the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, wrote that foreign states — including China, Russia and Iran — continue to try to influence the election. U.S. intelligence reports that these foreign states are trying to influence voters via social and traditional media, using issues including the coronavirus pandemic and domestic protests as disinformation fodder. That’s no surprise to Freeman College of Management Professor Eric Santanen, information systems, who authored the article Weaponizing Personal Data to Undermine Democracy, published recently by the academic journal CrossCurrents. Santanen reports how nefarious agents use data mining influence campaigns as “the holy grail of political weaponry.” He details the scheme used by the now defunct firm Cambridge Analytica to influence the 2016 presidential election. With data gathered through a Facebook personality quiz, Santanen reports that political campaigns crafted up to 40,000 to 50,000 uniquely worded campaign messages per day and assessed, in real-time, just how effective each was according to how quickly and how often it was retweeted or liked. “This is a targeted marketer’s dream scenario,” he wrote. CONTACT: Santanen, 570-577-3652, esantane@bucknell.edu

COAL REGION FIELD STATION TURNS 5 — Bucknell’s interdisciplinary Coal Region Field Station (CRFS) celebrates its fifth anniversary. Since 2015 it has connected students, faculty and staff to anthracite coal communities through projects that foster community revitalization and imagine future possibilities. Among a number of current projects, CRFS Coordinator Shaunna Barnhart, place studies program director in the Center for Sustainability and the Environment, is working with two students as part of a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Local Climate Action Plan Program, which matches students with local government to conduct a greenhouse gas inventory and write a climate action plan. The Bucknell students are working with Shamokin and a consortium of local governments in Montgomery County. DEP will highlight the Shamokin profile in a future press release. CONTACT: Barnhart, 570-577-1724, shaunna.barnhart@bucknell.edu

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CONTACT: Mike Ferlazzo, 570-238-6266 (c), mike.ferlazzo@bucknell.edu

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