Inside Story has a long and confronting story by freelance journalist Melissa Sweet about how the paradigms of the newroom distort coverage both of public health issues in general, and Aboriginal health in particular.
Inside Story, regular readers will recall, is the newish online publication that has managed to strike up a hard copy publication deal with the Canberra Times – as reported here.*
Sweet begins by talking about Simon Holding, the man who has spent the last four years carrying out the University of Sydney’s survey of health issues in the media.
“Over that time, he has learnt much about how the media covers health issues, and the impact of that coverage. He’s seen how it is enlisted in campaigns to have medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, for instance, and he is bemused by the disproportionate number of stories about breast cancer. “It is massively over-represented in the coverage relative to the numbers affected, compared with other cancers,” he says.
On the other hand, there are so few stories on Aboriginal health that they don’t rate as a major category. Instead Aboriginal health is the thirty-sixth sub-category, with 255 stories at last count. This places it just behind wild animal attacks, with 286 stories, and cosmetic surgery, with 296, but ahead of rural health, the forty-eighth sub-category, with 194 stories.
Interesting facts. The whole thing is worth a read.
* Declaration: Inside Story is published by the Institute of Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, where I am employed part time. I also write for Inside Story.