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Challenges in Covering Cancer Disparities: A Study of Journalists

Pilot Abstract

News media are not only an important source of information for the public but also influence their opinions and views about topics that are important and that should be attended to. The ability of media to frame the issues for community members and set public agenda is influenced to a large extent by journalistic occupational routines and community leaders and community activist groups. Media frames, in turn influence, audience conception of the issues and the way they perceive them. Despite a body of work on how journalists produce news, several research gaps exist when it comes to health disparities:

  1. How do journalists perceive the issue of health disparities and cancer control and what levels of importance do they assign that issue?
  2. What are the processes journalists adopt in their news work that allows local health disparities to be covered more prominently and framed appropriately?
  3. What internal (to the media organizations) and external (local community context and composition) factors influence the determination of news frames around health disparities and cancer control?
  4. Do media personnel from ethnic media perceive the issue of cancer disparities differently from mainstream media?

These questions will be addressed in the current research proposal through in-depth focused interviews with 20 journalists from media targeting majority as well as minority groups in three communities that are the focus of NCI-funded Community Networks project Massachusetts Community Networks to Eliminate Cancer Disparities through Education, Research and Training (MASS CONECT): Boston, Lawrence and Worcester. The findings from this pilot project will be used to (a) guide the work of the media and communications outreach core of MASS CONECT, (b) develop a R01 proposal to study how journalists cover health disparities and (c) develop interventions with community groups and journalists to promote the importance of addressing health disparities in the community agenda.

Updated: 07/23/09