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A content analysis of news coverage of skin cancer prevention and detection, 1979-2002
Unformatted Document Text:  Skin cancer news coverage 2 The news media are an important source for the transmission of health information. Prior research has demonstrated that the news media function as a source of health information not just for the general public (Meissner, Potosky, & Convissor, 1992) , but also for patients (Yanovitzky & Blitz, 2000) , for doctors and the medical community (Phillips, Kanter, Bednarczyk, & Tastad, 1991; Ward, Morrison, & Schreiber, 1982; Gutman, 1977; Okeefe, 1970) , as well as for policymakers and funders (Yanovitzky & Bennett, 1999; Corbett & Mori, 1999; Rogers, Dearing, & Chang, 1991) . It is therefore critical to understand how the news media cover certain medical issues. This study is a content analysis of news coverage about skin cancer, focusing on aspects of primary and secondary prevention. Disparities between medicine and the media There are normative tensions between medicine and the media that diminish the likelihood that public health priorities are echoed as media priorities. For example, studies have demonstrated that media attention to disease is not commensurate with incidence rates (Hoffman-Goetz, 1999; Freimuth, Greenberg, DeWitt, & Romano, 1984) . One study of cancer news coverage in 1980 found that colorectal cancer had the second-highest incidence rank of all cancers, but ranked 8 th in newspaper coverage (Freimuth et al., 1984) . Journalistic norms, values, and practices force a reliance on short narrative structures and “newsworthiness” criteria (that include timeliness and the need for novelty and drama), and also govern the ultimate selection and framing of news stories (Gans, 1980, 1979; Tuchman, 1978; Molotch & Lester, 1974; Tuchman, 1972) . The factors affecting story selection and format often hinder optimal presentations of science and medicine in the news media (Shuchman & Wilkes, 1997; Nelkin, 1996; Nelkin, 1995) . In particular, journalists over-simplify medical research, often omitting important contextual information that might

Authors: Stryker, Jo. and Solky, Benjamin.
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background image
Skin cancer news coverage
2
The news media are an important source for the transmission of health information.
Prior research has demonstrated that the news media function as a source of health information
not just for the general public
(Meissner, Potosky, & Convissor, 1992)
, but also for patients
(Yanovitzky & Blitz, 2000)
, for doctors and the medical community
(Phillips, Kanter,
Bednarczyk, & Tastad, 1991; Ward, Morrison, & Schreiber, 1982; Gutman, 1977; Okeefe,
1970)
, as well as for policymakers and funders
(Yanovitzky & Bennett, 1999; Corbett &
Mori, 1999; Rogers, Dearing, & Chang, 1991)
. It is therefore critical to understand how the
news media cover certain medical issues. This study is a content analysis of news coverage
about skin cancer, focusing on aspects of primary and secondary prevention.
Disparities between medicine and the media
There are normative tensions between medicine and the media that diminish the
likelihood that public health priorities are echoed as media priorities. For example, studies
have demonstrated that media attention to disease is not commensurate with incidence rates
(Hoffman-Goetz, 1999; Freimuth, Greenberg, DeWitt, & Romano, 1984)
. One study of
cancer news coverage in 1980 found that colorectal cancer had the second-highest incidence
rank of all cancers, but ranked 8
th
in newspaper coverage
(Freimuth et al., 1984)
.
Journalistic norms, values, and practices force a reliance on short narrative structures
and “newsworthiness” criteria (that include timeliness and the need for novelty and drama),
and also govern the ultimate selection and framing of news stories
(Gans, 1980, 1979;
Tuchman, 1978; Molotch & Lester, 1974; Tuchman, 1972)
. The factors affecting story
selection and format often hinder optimal presentations of science and medicine in the news
media
(Shuchman & Wilkes, 1997; Nelkin, 1996; Nelkin, 1995)
. In particular, journalists
over-simplify medical research, often omitting important contextual information that might


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