Hodgetts, D., Chamberlain, K., Scammell, M., Nikora, L. & Karapu, R. (2007). Constructing health news: Media production and the possibilities for a civic- oriented journalism. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 12, 43-66.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/1743
Health is a very prominent news category. However, we know little about the production processes of journalists leading to the health stories we encounter on a daily basis. Such knowledge is crucial for ensuring a vibrant public sphere for health. This article draws on interviews with eight health journalists in New Zealand to document what they consider to constitute a health story, their professional norms and practices, their perceptions of audiences, and the need for increased civic deliberations regarding health. Journalists privilege biomedical stories involving lifestyle and individual responsibility, and have limited frames for presenting stories that involve socio-political concerns. Stories are strongly shaped by journalists' considerations of their target audience, the sources they draw on, their professional norms, and institutional practices. This results in the omission of stories that have relevance for minority and disadvantaged groups and limits the nature of the stories told to ones that reflect the views of the majority. However, journalists are also reflective about these issues and receptive to ways to overcome them. This raises possibilities for health researchers to engage with journalists in order to repoliticise health and promote a more civic-oriented form of health journalism.