News Media Coverage of Trans Fat: Health Risks and Policy Responses

Marian Jarlenski, Colleen L. Barry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Prior research indicates that the news media play a critical role in transmitting information to the public about the most pressing public health problems, and framing attributions about who in society is responsible for solving these problems. In this article, we use content analysis methods to study the agenda-setting and framing functions of the news media in shaping perceptions about the health risks posed by trans fat in the U.S. diet. A census of news stories focusing on trans fat was collected from the two largest circulation U.S. newspapers and three major television networks from 1998 to 2008 (N = 156). The content of news coverage was analyzed using a 23-item instrument. Findings indicated that the news media served an important agenda-setting role in educating the public about the presence of trans fat in the U.S. diet and describing the health risks these foods pose. In addition, results indicate that news media coverage framed attributions of responsibility for solving the problem of trans fat in the food supply. News stories noting the heart disease risks of trans fat were significantly more likely to mention governmental responses aimed at curbing consumption than news coverage that did not note these health risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-216
Number of pages8
JournalHealth communication
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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