Textual analysis of tobacco editorials: How are key media gatekeepers framing the issues?

Katherine Clegg Smith, Melanie Wakefield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Purpose. The news media's potential to promote awareness of health issues is established, and media advocacy is now an important tool in combating tobacco use. This study examines newspaper editors' perspectives of tobacco-related issues. Design. This study presents a textual analysis of tobacco-related editorials. The data consist of editorials on tobacco from a sample of 310 U.S. daily newspapers over the course of 1 year (2001). Data were sampled from a random one-third of the days per month, yielding 162 editorials for analysis. A qualitative textual analysis was conducted. Each editorial was coded for theme, position, and frame. We analyzed the topics gaining editorial attention and the arguments made to support various perspectives. Results. Editorials discussed a variety of both positive and negative news events, largely conveying support for tobacco-control objectives. Various organizing frames were used-supporting policy interventions, condemning the industry, highlighting individual rights, and expressing general cynicism were most prevalent. Conclusion. Editors largely promoted tobacco-control efforts, particularly policy advances. There was, however, little coverage of key issues such as health effects and addiction - perhaps because they are no longer perceived to be contentious. Advocates should seek to address this area and minimize the cynicism of key media gatekeepers to avoid undermining policy and individual change efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-368
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2005


  • Editorial Gatekeepers
  • Media Advocacy
  • Prevention Research
  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Tobacco Control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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