UC Berkeley press release


Local Television News Links Youth and Violence

by the American Journal of Public Health

Berkeley -- A recent UC Berkeley study concludes that if our nation's most popular source of news continues to report on violence primarily through crime stories isolated from their social context, policymakers and the public will be less likely to embrace public health solutions to violence, such as prevention, as an alternative to punitive policies.

The study, entitled "Youth and Violence on Local Television News in California," appeared in the August 1997 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the journal of the American Public Health Association. The issue featured child and adolescent health as a special topic.

The authors, Lori Dorfman, DrPH, and Lawrence Wallack, professor of public health and director of the Berkeley Media Studies Group, performed a content analysis on 214 hours of local television news from California. Each of the 1,791 stories concerning youth, violence, or both was coded and analyzed whether it included a public health perspective.

The study found that:

  • violence dominated local television news coverage;
  • the specifics of particular crimes dominated coverage of violence;
  • over half of the stories on youth involved violence, while more than two thirds of the violence stories concerned youth;
  • episodic coverage of violence was more than five times more frequent than thematic coverage, which included links to broader social factors;
  • only one story had an explicit public health frame.

The American Journal of Public Health is the monthly Journal of the American Public Health Association, the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world and the foremost publisher of public health-related books and periodicals promoting high scientific standards, action programs, and policy for good health. This year, the American Public Health Association celebrates 125 years of public health leadership.

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