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Title:Medicalization in the news media: A comparison of AIDS coverage in three newspapers
Author(s):McAllister, Matthew Paul
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Whitney, D.C.
Department / Program:Communications
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Mass Communications
Abstract:This dissertation explores the acceptance and criticism of medical authority and perspectives in early coverage of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in three newspapers--a specialized medical newspaper, American Medical News (AMN); an alternative gay newspaper, Gay Community News (GCN); and a mainstream mass circulation newspaper, The New York Times (NYT). After examining "the medicalization of society" perspective (which highlights the expansive and political nature of Western medicine), theories of how news is produced, and the social context of AIDS during its first four years, it is hypothesized that NYT would be as "medicalized" (that is, as accepting and celebratory of medicine) as the medical newspaper AMN in its coverage of AIDS, while the gay newspaper GCN would be the most "nonmedicalized."
To determine how medicalized each newspaper's coverage of AIDS was, quantitative and qualitative methods are used. All of the AIDS articles in each newspaper from July 1981 to June 1985 (N = 735) are content analyzed for article topic, sources cited, and statements made about medicine. In addition, a more interpretive qualitative analysis is conducted on three early feature stories about AIDS that appeared in each newspaper; the analysis focuses on understanding how AIDS, medical researchers working on AIDS, and those affected by AIDS were discussed in the articles.
Results indicate that AIDS coverage in AMN and NYT was "medicalized" compared to GCN. Both AMN and NYT depended heavily on medical sources in early AIDS coverage (although NYT used biomedical researchers more, and AMN used health care deliverers more), and rarely criticized medicine's role in AIDS (in fact, fewer criticisms of medicine were found in NYT than in AMN). Similarly, non-medical sources such as gay leaders were rarely cited in their AIDS stories. The interpretive analysis also reveals a similarity in their coverage: both newspapers tended to celebrate the medical perspective, describing researchers as "dedicated" and "detectives." GCN, by contrast, cited medical sources less, alternative sources more, and was much more critical of medicine. The last chapter explores some of the implications of the differences in mainstream versus alternative newspapers' use of medical authority.
Issue Date:1990
Rights Information:Copyright 1990 McAllister, Matthew Paul
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9114339
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9114339

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