U.S. newspaper coverage of bioterrorism after the September 11 attacks

Chun, Sun
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This study aims to analyze the news coverage of bioterrorism--what information were conveyed and how the issue was framed to influence public understanding--and to propose some ideas about how the media should report this distinct type of terrorism. A content analysis of news articles was conducted to examine how 171 US newspapers covered bioterrorism. A census of these articles published over three and a half years after 9/11 in national, regional, and local newspapers across the United States showed that they provided insufficient information about bioterrorism in their coverage. Contrary to the propositions of framing theory, the national newspapers did not perform better than the regional and local papers in terms of information richness and depth of coverage, information sources cited and number of frames used. However, they showed more interpretive coverage while the regional and local papers depicted stories with a local flavor. Examining frames as a dependent variable, the findings of this study also did not support the framing theory postulate that bigger (national) news organizations exhibit more frames than smaller (regional and local) news organizations. At best, the findings provided partial evidence in support of the theory that the resources of media organizations and journalistic routines can lead to particular ways of framing an issue. The findings also revealed the need for a more comprehensive coverage of bioterrorism and the importance of credible sources that will provide accurate and proper information about this unique form of terrorist threat.

Journalism and Mass Communication