Bad Tidings: Communication and Catastrophe

By Lynne Masel Walters; Lee Wilkins et al. | Go to book overview

6
Preventive Journalism and AIDS Editorials: Dilemmasfor Private and Public Health

Gene Burd University of Texas at Austin

How the press assigns personal and public responsibility for social problems and how it suggests such problems be solved provides clues to press responsibility in society. Preventive journalism has been suggested as a means to solve problems and prevent crises before they develop ( Burd, 1978). The former editor of the New York Daily News, Mike O'Neil, said, "We need to put more emphasis on what I call preventive journalism -- deliberately searching for the underlying social currents that threaten future danger so that public policy can be more intelligently mobilized" ( Keir, McCombs, & Shaw, 1986, p. 7).

For those responsible to "avert these catastrophic dangers," there is "clear and present need for a positive politics of preventative therapy" that can be used by "policy advisers and decision-makers" ( Lerner, 1980, p. 392). For individuals making decisions, "The recipient of a therapeutic journalistic effort will find in it counsel and information. As for diagnosis, the reader will be helped to recognize when a recommended action is appropriate for himself or for others" ( JoslynScherer , 1980, pp. 72-73).

It seems understandable why preventive journalism has been tied to the analogy, metaphor, and practices of health and the suggestion that communication functions operate on levels like the health-care system (Burd, 1980). In the latter,

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