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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 3 otherwise provide a greater depth of understanding (Moynihan et al., 2000; Pellechia, 1997; Singer, 1990; Caudill & Ashdown, 1989; Tankard & Ryan, 1974; Tichenor, Olien, Harrison, & Donahue, 1970). Inaccuracies resulting from the decontextualized and sensationalized manner in which stories are reported are conceptually distinct from, and occur with greater frequency than actual factual errors contained within a story (Entwistle & Watt, 1999; Moyer, Greener, Beauvais, & Salovey, 1995; Singer, 1990) . One of the fundamental normative differences between the two institutions is that medical research is based on replication over time, while good journalism is based on timeliness of the news event. The need for drama in news stories often results in emphases on aberrant findings, scandals, individuals of public notoriety, or misleading headlines (Shuchman & Wilkes, 1997; Nelkin, 1995) . Journalists sensationalize medical findings, are not necessarily aware of biases and conflicts of interest in medical research, may not know how much importance should be placed on one particular study, and ignore certain kinds of medical information (Shuchman & Wilkes, 1997) . Evidence of Media Effects Despite the obstacles that hinder optimal presentations of medical information, there is increasing evidence that news coverage affects preventive heath behaviors. One way to classify evidence of news effects on health behavior is to distinguished between short-term, individual, and non-cumulative from long-term, population-level, cumulative effects (McLeod, Kosicki, & Pan, 1991; McLeod & Reeves, 1980) . Occasionally, an event occurs that, when amplified through the news media, can produce sudden short-term changes in health behaviors. For example, celebrity experiences with cancer can often serve as teachable moments for the entire country. There is evidence that

Authors: Stryker, Jo. and Solky, Benjamin.
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background image
Skin cancer news coverage
3
otherwise provide a greater depth of understanding (Moynihan et al., 2000; Pellechia, 1997;
Singer, 1990; Caudill & Ashdown, 1989; Tankard & Ryan, 1974; Tichenor, Olien, Harrison, &
Donahue, 1970). Inaccuracies resulting from the decontextualized and sensationalized manner
in which stories are reported are conceptually distinct from, and occur with greater frequency
than actual factual errors contained within a story
(Entwistle & Watt, 1999; Moyer, Greener,
Beauvais, & Salovey, 1995; Singer, 1990)
.
One of the fundamental normative differences between the two institutions is that
medical research is based on replication over time, while good journalism is based on timeliness
of the news event. The need for drama in news stories often results in emphases on aberrant
findings, scandals, individuals of public notoriety, or misleading headlines
(Shuchman &
Wilkes, 1997; Nelkin, 1995)
. Journalists sensationalize medical findings, are not necessarily
aware of biases and conflicts of interest in medical research, may not know how much
importance should be placed on one particular study, and ignore certain kinds of medical
information
(Shuchman & Wilkes, 1997)
.
Evidence of Media Effects
Despite the obstacles that hinder optimal presentations of medical information, there is
increasing evidence that news coverage affects preventive heath behaviors. One way to classify
evidence of news effects on health behavior is to distinguished between short-term, individual,
and non-cumulative from long-term, population-level, cumulative effects
(McLeod, Kosicki, &
Pan, 1991; McLeod & Reeves, 1980)
.
Occasionally, an event occurs that, when amplified through the news media, can
produce sudden short-term changes in health behaviors. For example, celebrity experiences
with cancer can often serve as teachable moments for the entire country. There is evidence that


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