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Health News and Responsibility

How Frames Create Blame

by Lesa Hatley Major (Author) Stacie Meihaus Jankowski (Author)
Textbook XIV, 238 Pages

Summary

Who the public blames for health problems determines who the public believes is responsible for solving those health problems. Health policies targeting the broader public are the most effective way to improve health. The research approach described in this book will increase public support for critical health policies. The authors systematically organized and analyzed 25 years of thematic and episodic framing research in health news to create an approach to reframe responsibility in health news in order to gain public support for health policies. They apply their method to two of the top health issues in world—obesity and mental health—and conclude by discussing future research and plans for working with other health scholars, health practitioners, and journalists.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Tables
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter One: Introduction: This Is a Health Communication Book?
  • References
  • Chapter Two: Good Pictures vs. Talking Heads: Iyengar’s Episodic and Thematic Frames
  • References
  • Chapter Three: Research on Thematic and Episodic Frames: The Health News Connection
  • Framing Theories
  • Thematic and Episodic Frames in Health News
  • The Key Outcome: Support for Public Policy
  • Journalists and Framing in Health News
  • Health Communication Research
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Four: 25 Years of Thematic and Episodic: A Content Analysis of the Scholarly Research in Academic Journals
  • Assessing the State of Thematic/Episodic Framing Research on Health News
  • Definitions and Operationalization
  • Generic and Issue-specific Frames
  • Linkage to Theory
  • Methodology Variables
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Definition Variables
  • Discussion of Key Findings
  • Key Findings: Research Operationalizing Thematic and Episodic Frames
  • Appendix A (List of Searches for Article Retrieval)
  • Appendix B (Intercoder Reliability Krippendorff’s Alpha Where Appropriate)
  • Content Analysis Variables
  • Experiment Variables
  • Survey Variables
  • In-depth Interviews
  • Appendix C (Full Citations of Studies Studying Thematic and Episodic Frames)
  • References
  • Chapter Five: The Integrated Process of Framing: An Approach to Organize and Evaluate
  • What Is an Integrated Process of Framing
  • Applying the Integrated Process of Framing Model to Research on Intensifying the Effects of Thematic/Episodic Frames in Health News
  • Frame-building Research
  • Frame-setting Research
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Chapter Six: Feast or Famine: A Qualitative Analysis of 25 Years of Thematic and Episodic Research in Academic Journals
  • Method
  • Analysis
  • Conclusions
  • Appendix A Full Citations of Studies Operationalizing Thematic and Episodic Frames
  • References
  • Chapter Seven: Thematic and Episodic Frames in Obesity News: Findings from Three Studies
  • Obesity Remains Top Health Issue Around the World
  • Frame-building Research on Obesity News Coverage
  • Frame-setting Research on Obesity News Coverage
  • The Big Picture (Frame-building and Frame-setting)
  • Frame-building Studies
  • Frame-setting Studies
  • Expanding Our Understanding of Obesity and Attribution of Responsibility
  • Journalists and the Construction of Obesity Stories
  • Findings from Our Original Obesity Frame-setting Studies (Emotions, Combining Frames, Psychological Reactance, Civic Engagement, and Stigma)
  • Study 1
  • Study 2
  • Study 3
  • Appendix A
  • Details about Study 12
  • Stimuli
  • Measures
  • Analysis
  • Appendix B
  • Details about Study 2
  • Measures
  • Analysis
  • Appendix C
  • Details about Study 3
  • Stimuli
  • Pre-test
  • Post-test
  • Measures
  • Pilot Test and Manipulation Check
  • Participants
  • Analysis
  • References
  • Chapter Eight: Thematic and Episodic Frames in Depression News: Findings from Two Studies
  • Depression Continues to Impact the World
  • Depression and Thematic and Episodic Frames
  • Frame-building Research about Depression
  • Frame-setting Research about Depression
  • The Big Picture (Frame-building and Frame-setting)
  • Journalists and the Construction of Depression Stories
  • Findings from Our Original Depression Frame-setting Studies (Emotions, Combining Frames, Psychological Reactance, Civic Engagement, and Stigma)
  • Findings
  • Appendix A
  • Details about Study 1
  • Measures
  • Participants
  • Analysis
  • Appendix B
  • Details about Study 2
  • Stimuli
  • Pre-test
  • Post-test
  • Measures
  • Pilot Test and Manipulation Check
  • Participants
  • Analysis
  • References
  • Chapter Nine: Conclusions: What Have We Learned and a Path Forward with These Frames
  • Moving Forward
  • References
  • Index

Tables

Table 4.1: Thematic/episodic studies published in academic journals. (The number in parentheses indicates how many of the studies operationalized thematic/episodic frames.)

Table 4.2: Thematic/episodic framing studies by year of publication. (The number in parentheses indicates how many of the studies operationalized thematic/episodic frames.)

Table 4.3: Thematic/episodic framing studies by country of publication. (The number in parentheses indicates how many of the studies operationalized thematic/episodic frames.)

Table 4.4: Thematic and episodic frames: specific health area. (The number in parentheses indicates how many of the studies operationalized thematic/episodic frames.)

Table 4.5: Type of medium examined in thematic and episodic frame studies. (The number in parentheses indicates how many of the studies operationalized thematic/episodic frames.)

Table 4.6: Data-gathering by health topic. Data-gathering method.

Table 4.7: Studies operationalizing thematic and episodic frames: number of other frames measured/tested.

Table 4.8: Names & frequency of frames.

←ix | x→

Table 4.9: Citations, frame description used in studies operationalizing thematic and episodic frames.

Table 4.10: Main findings of studies operationalized thematic and episodic frames.

Table 7.1: Stigma characteristic descriptions.

Table 7.2: Stigma characteristic indices.

Table 7.3: Correlation measures for emotion indices.

Table 7.4: Means for stigma characteristics for obesity.

Table 7.5: Emotion means by story type for obesity.

Table 7.6: Tukey post-hoc tests examining differences in means between story types for obesity.

Table 7.7: Spearman’s rho correlations of stigma characteristics and emotion for episodic loss stories and thematic loss stories for obesity.

Table 7.8: Correlations between stigma characteristics and social helping for obesity.

Table 8.1: Stigma characteristic descriptions.

Table 8.2: Stigma characteristic indices.

Table 8.3: Correlation measures for emotion indices.

Table 8.4: Means for stigma characteristics for depression.

Table 8.5: Emotional affect means by story type for depression.

Table 8.6: Tukey post-hoc tests examining differences in means between story types for depression.

Table 8.7: Spearman’s rho correlations of stigma characteristics and emotion for episodic loss stories and thematic loss stories for depression.

Table 8.8: Correlations between stigma characteristics and social helping for depression.

Preface

Several years ago I was presenting my research on the effects of episodic and thematic frames in health news. The audience was colleagues, including professors and practitioners, and graduate students from the journalism program at Indiana University in Bloomington. As I was explaining my work defining episodic and thematic frames and their connection to attribution of responsibility, I watched the facial expressions of the people attending my lecture.

Like most people, who present or perform in front of audiences, I was trying to read the room. Searching the faces for comprehension, confusion, agreement, disagreement, etc. I noticed one of my colleagues, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, nodding in agreement with how I was describing thematic and episodic framing. I was explaining how journalists use these frames in news to cover health issues by focusing on individual stories of success or failure sometimes combined with details that offer a broader context about these same issues–statistics about how many people are affected, and how these issues could be addressed by policy. He remained genuinely interested throughout the presentation.

After the talk was finished, this colleague approached me to discuss my research. He started with the comment, “that’s exactly what we do. That’s how we cover issues.” It was my turn to nod my head in agreement and answer “I know.” I worked as a journalist before entering academia. I had the same reaction when I first read Iyengar’s 1991 book, Is Anyone Responsible: How Television Frames ←xi | xii→Political Issues, about episodic and thematic frames and attribution of responsibility. My dissertation advisor, another former journalist, assigned the book for me to read. She said, “You are going to like this. He gets us.” I did like it. It made sense to me. When I read it, I realized I knew what these frames were because as a journalist I used them all of the time.

My experience as a journalist influences my work as a health communication researcher. Journalists use thematic and episodic frames in news coverage. As researchers we need to examine the frames journalists use in their stories. Even if these frames are not shiny and new. Like most social issues, successful attempts to address public health problems involve public policy solutions. Public opinion support is necessary for public policy. Public support for policy requires the public to understand society’s role in solving problems.

Thematic and episodic frames are directly connected to attribution of responsibility. Along with the who, what, when, where, and why in news stories, identifying the causes of problems, and who or what is responsible for solving problems remains one of the most important functions of journalists. Attribution of responsibility influences the political agenda, public opinion, and public support for policies dealing with issues and problems.

In this book, we examine 25 years of research on thematic and episodic frames in health news. We have two goals in this project. First, to examine and explain what we know about the research on these frames in health to this point, and to provide a framework for research on thematic and episodic frames in health news in terms of public opinion support for health policy.

We plan to share our work with other health communication scholars, public health scholars and practitioners, and journalists reporting on health issues. All of us need to work together to understand the process and power of news frames. In many ways, that is where the real work begins.

Lesa Hatley Major

Acknowledgments

The research presented in this book could not have been conducted without the support and assistance of key individuals and institutions. Christian Potter and Kim Baker provided invaluable help developing the coding categories used to analyze the content in the academic journal articles on thematic and episodic frames in news. As a research assistant, Christian was instrumental during the content analysis phase of this project. We are indebted to him for all of his thorough and thoughtful work.

Financial support for two of the experiments presented in this text was provided by Indiana University, Bloomington, through the Faculty Research Support Program. We would like to thank Dr. Lee Becker and are honored to be included in his series—Mass Communication and Journalism with Peter Lang Publishing. Also, we want to thank our editor, Dr. Erika Hendrix and everyone at Peter Lang Publishing for all of their support during this entire process.

Lesa would also like to acknowledge the following: Working with Stacie on this project was one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my career. I truly mean it when I say this work would not have been possible without her. Her insight not only added to the intellectual integrity of our research but provided the depth that could lead to real changes in how journalists and researchers do their jobs.

←xiii | xiv→

Professor Amy Reynolds provided much needed advice when I decided to write this book. I value her honesty, humor and friendship. I’d like to thank my dear friend Tracey Setze for her encouragement and support.

I’d like to thank my parents—Donald and Mikell Sue Hatley—for helping me see the possibilities in life, always supporting me through the good and difficult times, and never making me color within the lines when I was little. My brother, John C. Hatley, always believed his big sis could do just about anything—that means the world to me.

Finally, I want to thank my husband, Allen C. Major for his unwavering love and support. He makes me laugh every day. For 19 years, he has been by my side with positive energy continually reminding me, “You got this!”

Stacie would like to recognize the following: Lesa has been my teacher, mentor, friend, and colleague for more than a decade, and working on this book together has been my favorite project we have done. It has truly been a joy as well as a revelation. Lesa is at the heart of this work, always pushing for deeper understanding. It’s this drive that will help uncover the knowledge researchers and journalists can use to be more effective.

I am fortunate to have supportive colleagues at Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics, especially within the journalism program. Furthermore, I am thankful for the kindness and support of friends, particularly Jessica Birthisel, Anne Blandford, Spring-Serenity Duvall, Lori Henson, and Rosemary Pennington. My sister, Jennie Goetz, also is a constant source of joy and comfort.

I am blessed with a supportive, loving, and hilarious family—parents Don and Paula Meihaus, siblings Don, Stephen, and Jennie, and an entire extended family, particularly my grandfather, Paul Tipton, who has not let a conversation go by without asking about this book. Finally, I am profoundly grateful for the love of my sons, Luke and Nathan, as well as my husband, Hal, who all celebrate with me the smallest of successes and buoy me through rough waters.

chapter one

Introduction: This Is a Health Communication Book?

Geoffrey Rose advised epidemiologists that “(s)ociety is not merely a collection of individuals but also a collectivity, and the behavior and health of its members are profoundly influenced by its collective characteristics and social norms” (2, p. 62).

Hundreds of health news stories are read and viewed daily across the globe. While individuals may turn to multiple outlets for health information, news remains one of the most important providers of health knowledge. All health news stories use some combination of episodic and thematic framing. Reporters tell stories about an individual’s health problem or provide details about a single event involving health (episodic coverage) and/or discuss a health problem more broadly offering context by focusing on prevalence, societal causes, and treatments including health policy (thematic coverage). These are the frames journalists use in the real world. Understanding how journalists construct these frames, and how these frames influence audience members, is critical for anyone involved in health communication, including health reporters.

Shanto Iyengar introduced thematic and episodic news frames in his 1991 book, Is Anyone Responsible? How Television Frames Political Issues. These news frames provide the audience with critical information about the causes of problems and who or what is responsible for solving problems. This attribution of responsibility influences how individuals think about social problems including health—who or what is causing the problem and who or what is responsible for solving it. ←1 | 2→Attributions of responsibility are critical elements of all social knowledge (Iyengar, 1991). Iyengar found news stories using an episodic frame led audience members to blame problems on the person in the story, while a thematic-framed story did the opposite. Thematic news coverage led audience members to think about problems in a broader context. In turn, audience members would consider societal conditions as problems requiring societal solutions like public health policies.

Details

Pages
XIV, 238
ISBN (PDF)
9781433140938
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433142482
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433140921
ISBN (Softcover)
9781433140839
Language
English
Publication date
2020 (March)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XIV, 236 pp., 26 tables

Biographical notes

Lesa Hatley Major (Author) Stacie Meihaus Jankowski (Author)

Lesa Hatley Major is Associate Professor in the Media School at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She has published extensively on news framing and health issues. She worked as a journalist for years before earning her PhD in mass communication and public affairs. Stacie Meihaus Jankowski is Assistant Professor of Journalism in the College of Informatics at Northern Kentucky University. Her main research focuses on media framing, particularly involving health issues. Her journalism experience informs her teaching in media law and media ethics. She received her PhD from Indiana University.

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Title: Health News and Responsibility