An Elon student
and Elon faculty member made presentations at the AEJMC Mid-winter
Conference in Atlanta in February.
student and Rawls Research Scholar Adam Smith presented his paper
"Education, Public Health and the Media: A Content Analysis of AIDS
Coverage in American Newspapers (January 2003-September 2004)" in
the Mass Communications and Society division.
stood out in a competition open to faculty and graduate students.
His faculty mentors for the work are Brooke Barnett and Connie Book.
Barnett accompanied him to the conference.
Communications faculty member Glenn Scott also presented two pieces
of research at the conference: "Rumblings at the Gate: The Extent
of Participatory Comment at U.S. Newspapers' Online Sites" and "Banking
on Trust: Practical Concerns of Online Reputation Building," which
he co-wrote with Cassandra Imfeld.
abstract was ranked as the best received from the faculty, graduate
students and others entering work in his division. It follows:
With more than
42 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide (UNAIDS, 2004),
the media coverage afforded the topic is of significant interest.
Guided by framing theory and agenda setting, this content analysis
examined 32 American newspapers, varied by region and circulation,
to better understand how the media covered AIDS. In all, 1,116 stories
between January, 2003 and September 30, 2004 were coded. The coding
instrument was constructed based on a previous Delphi study of AIDS
activists, care workers, and others in the field (Smith, 2004).
During that study those entrenched in the epidemic were interviewed
concerning their opinions on how AIDS was, and should be, covered
by the media. The content analysis found that while the media are
covering AIDS issues from a variety of perspectives, the education
component of AIDS (transmission and prevention) is starkly absent
from the smaller more localized newspapers where infection rates
suggest it may be needed the most. A majority (60%) of the stories
were written by staff writers and most likely to appear in the front
section. This is important because stories are being written locally,
and not simply taken from the wire. A local angle, the respondents
of the Delphi study said, is more effective. Also, the stories are
not being pushed to the back of the paper in the society pages.
Journalists frequently (237 instances) use the phrases "AIDS victim,"
"AIDS sufferer" and "AIDS patient." Those closest to the treatment
of the disease described these terms as inappropriate to use when
describing people with AIDS. Results also show that popular culture
figures are rarely found in AIDS coverage, with politicians being
noted more frequently. When considering the coverage by region the
articles were found to be significantly different (p = .000) by
length of story, with the northern region and national papers having
longer stories than the other regions. When considering the coverage
by circulation, the articles were significantly different (p = .002)
by focus (AIDS as main focus, mention, or as secondary information).
At every circulation level, a higher percentage of stories had AIDS
as its main focus. Stories about fundraising had the highest percentage
(29.3%) of the total focus category of AIDS as secondary information.
This study provides useful information to journalists to make their
coverage more effective. Journalists at smaller papers, in less
urban areas, need to focus more on education of the disease. Though
fundraisers are important, stories concerning raising money for
AIDS need to further discuss why such money is important. Finally,
newspapers need to continue writing their own stories about AIDS
and keeping them in the front section of the newspaper.