Risky exercise - is physical activity losing the news race?

Journalism Education Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journalism Review, 2011, 33 (1), pp. 73 - 84
Issue Date:
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Physical activity (PA) reduces the risk of chronic disease, but few studies have analysed how news reports PA. This research analyses how television news frames PA. Content and framing analysis was used to examine 91 television news and current affairs stories. Stories were coded for length, prominence, age groups, gender, responsibility, types of activity, barriers to PA, risks and benefits of physical activity and inactivity, and uses of expertise. Few stories focused on men (12 per cent) or women (13 per cent) and most focused on adults. Benefits outnumbered risks. Less than one-third of stories mentioned the risks of inactivity. Responsibility for overcoming barriers was often attributed to individuals. Few stories were broadcast prominently. News coverage of PA reinforces social beliefs about individual responsibility for healthy lifestyles and downplays the role of policy and the impact of the environment. Television coverage rarely gives physical activity the authority of hard news prominence, uses few academic sources and tends to neglect the risks of inactivity.
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