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Health News and Responsibility

How Frames Create Blame


Lesa Hatley Major and Stacie Meihaus Jankowski

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.

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Chapter Four: 25 Years of Thematic and Episodic: A Content Analysis of the Scholarly Research in Academic Journals


chapter four

25 Years of Thematic and Episodic: A Content Analysis of the Scholarly Research in Academic Journals

We conducted a quantitative content analysis of the scholarly journal articles investigating thematic and episodic frames in health news. While our effort is similar to other investigations of framing research—to expand theoretical and practical knowledge of framing research—primarily we want to develop a better understanding of how thematic and episodic frames have been used to study health news by examining specific variables. We present a variety of descriptive findings from our study, followed by a more in-depth analysis of how thematic and episodic frames in health news have been studied, both conceptually and operationally.

As Matthes notes, operational definitions in framing studies can be “translated to frame indicators or cited to ground the reader in framing literature” (2009, p. 350). The studies we included in our analysis fall into two categories: ones using thematic and episodic framing definitions in the literature review only, and ones operationalizing thematic and episodic frames for measurement or testing. We present the findings in two stages. We cover the results from an analysis of all the studies included in our analysis, followed by a separate look at the research articles that tested/measured thematic and episodic frames—actual operationalization. Analyzing the studies that operationalized thematic and episodic frames separate from the others allows us to gauge how knowledge of these frames has advanced theoretically and practically.

Assessing the...

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