UK newspapers' representations of the 2009-10 outbreak of swine flu: one health scare not over-hyped by the media?

Hilton, S. and Hunt, K. (2011) UK newspapers' representations of the 2009-10 outbreak of swine flu: one health scare not over-hyped by the media? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 65(10), pp. 941-946. (doi:10.1136/jech.2010.119875)

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Abstract

<p>Background: A/H1N1, more commonly referred to as swine flu, emerged in Mexico in spring 2009. It rapidly spread across the world and was classed as a global pandemic on 11 June 2009.</p> <p>Objective: To analyse UK newsprint coverage of the swine flu pandemic.</p> <p>Methods: Content analysis of 2374 newsprint articles published in eight UK national newspapers between 1 March 2009 and 28 February 2010.</p> <p>Results: Newsprint coverage of the swine flu epidemic was immense. The threat from swine flu was portrayed as greatest in the spring and summer of 2009 when scientific uncertainties about the impact on the UK and global population were at their height and when swine flu cases in the UK first peaked. Thereafter the number of news articles waned, failing to mirror the October peak in flu cases as the virus failed to be as virulent as first feared. Content analysis found little evidence of the media ‘over-hyping’ the swine flu pandemic.</p> <p>Conclusions: The news media's role as a disseminator of scientific information is particularly important in areas of risk perception. Despite a succession of health scares in recent years in which the media has been accused of exaggerating the risks and contributing to public misunderstandings of the issues, this analysis suggests that the UK newsprint reporting of swine flu in the 2009–10 outbreak was largely measured. The news media's role as disseminators of factual health information on swine flu is to be welcomed, particularly in relation to their handling and responsible reporting on scientific uncertainty.</p>

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kate and Hilton, Professor Shona
Authors: Hilton, S., and Hunt, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN:0143-005X
ISSN (Online):1470-2738
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2010 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 65(10):941-946
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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