Smith, Scott present
research at AEJMC


An Elon student and Elon faculty member made presentations at the AEJMC Mid-winter Conference in Atlanta in February.

Communications 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.

Smith's work 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.

School of 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.

Student Smith's 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.



Share your news and items of interest. To contact us, e-mail:
School of Communications 
2850 Campus Box 
Elon, NC 27244-2010   (336) 278-5724 
Last Modified:  2/26/05
Copyright Elon University