Trends in US newspaper and television coverage of tobacco

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Abstract

Purpose

The news media plays an important role in agenda setting and framing of stories about tobacco control. The purpose of this study was to examine newspaper, newswire and television coverage of tobacco issues in the USA over a 7-year period.

Methods

Analyses of 2004–2010 news media surveillance system data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office on Smoking and Health, based on content analysis and quantitative methods. Information on extent of news coverage, and types of tobacco-related themes, were examined from articles in 10 newspapers and 2 major newswires, as well as transcripts from 6 national television networks.

Results

The overall extent of newspaper, newswire and television stories about tobacco, and level of coverage by specific media outlets, varied over time, especially for newspapers. Nevertheless, there was an average of 3 newspaper stories, 4 newswire stories, and 1 television tobacco-related story each day. Television stories were more likely to contain cessation/addiction or health effects/statistics themes and less likely to contain secondhand smoke or policy/regulation themes than newspaper/newswire stories. There was more variation in the choice of tobacco theme among individual newspapers/newswires than television media outlets.

Conclusions

News coverage of tobacco in the USA was relatively constant from 2004 to 2010. Audiences were more likely to be exposed to different tobacco themes in newspapers/newswires than on television. Tracking information about tobacco news stories can be used by advocates, programs and others for planning and evaluation, and by researchers for hypothesis generation.

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