Author: Linda J. Pfeiffer – Purdue University, USA, United States


  • Beth Forbes – Purdue University, United States

The range of mosquito-borne diseases are increasing with climate shifts simultaneously with the rise in insect resistance to known, and safer pesticides – resulting in decisions about how to balance the complex risk trade-offs of disease control and the socially imposed risks of pesticide exposure. The media play a key role in construction of these risk tradeoffs and in informing the public of the evolving science. The outbreak of Zika virus in Miami-Dade County (2016) illustrates a (missed) opportunity for journalists to utilize evidence-based messaging strategies to meaningfully translate the emerging threats, as well as to structure in efficacy cues to enhance uptake of protective public action. This study analyzed six months of regional media coverage of risk during Zika Virus outbreak in Miami-Dade County (2016) to identify: 1) media source utilization of threat frames across the risks introduced by the Zika crisis, 2) media source characterization of solutions to risk tradeoffs, and 3) how solution frames are paired with efficacy cues to enhance public uptake of protective health behavior. Our analysis revealed the differential role that key media sources take in framing threat and empowering informed public response during a public health crisis. Public health officials and politicians dominated coverage, while industry sources, scientists and the public found a lesser voice in the media. Overall, threat frames were utilized by key sources more than twice as often as solutions. Efficacy cues were absent on about half of these solutions. Of interest, efficacy cues were characterized primarily by directives for action or highlighted the negative efficacy of solutions. Negative or mixed efficacy cues far outnumbered positive efficacy cues when sources proposed solutions – decreasing the likelihood of public engagement with health protective behaviors. The implications of highlighting threat, while minimizing the efficacy of solutions in public health messaging are discussed.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation

Author: Linda J. Pfeiffer – Purdue University, USA

Erica M. Ballmer – Purdue University

Media scholars have struggled to effectively communicate the risks of climate change to the American public. In 2016, less than half of all Americans accepted anthropogenic causes of climate change, and only one-third considered themselves personally at risk. Health framing has provided one promising avenue to increase personal relevance and motivate public concern. Potentially, climate risks to food could inspire similar engagement. Public opinion polling shows that Americans correlate food insecurity with climate change – primarily in distant developing countries. No known studies have examined how journalists characterize climate risks to food and agriculture in U.S. news.A national news search of climate, agriculture, and/or food (January 1 through June 30, 2016) yielded 124 news stories. This study addressed: How do journalists frame climate risks to food and agriculture in the U.S.? Are food frames paired with proximity cues to inspire personal relevance? Who are the primary sources that journalists use to characterize climate risks to food and agriculture, and what frames do they utilize? Findings reflected an emphasis on economics, agriculture, sustainability, energy and health, followed by concern for future generations, with food solution and food risk frames being the least prominent. A significant association between food frames and geographic proximity cues was found, with food risk frames being associated with global impacts, and food solution frames reflecting national focus. Respectively, sources included scientists, government agencies, the public, NGOs, and politicians. A source by frame analysis identified a significant association (Chi-square, p <. 001). Of interest, food risk and solution frames diverged. Source utilization of agriculture and food risk frames was in the expected range. Yet, scientists employed significantly more food solution frames, while government agencies, the public, and politicians utilized significantly less discussion of food solutions. Combined findings demonstrate relatively minimal reporting of proximate food risks to U.S. citizens. The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice