Health and medical stories feature prominently in news and current affairs media, in part reflecting their obvious relevance to many people. We all get sick and we all have some sort of stake in health services. Media coverage of health care reflects and reinforces our hopes, fears and concerns. Analyses of media coverage of health services can provide insights into the political and social dynamics of health care, the media, and social values. This chapter examines the findings of selected studies of news and current affairs reporting of health and medicine. It explores various factors that influence how journalists identify, select and present stories about the health service, and reviews recent developments in health care and the reporting of health care.
Researchers from a range of disciplines have analysed media coverage of health and medicine. Their studies have varied in terms of the media genres they have examined, the scope of their subject matter and the analytic approaches they have used. This section summarises selected studies of UK media coverage of health policy and health care. While much of the discussion is relevant to news reporting of health care issues in other countries, there are international differences in media coverage that reflect social and cultural differences as well as the highly variable ways of financing, organising and regulating both health care and the news media.
Several researchers have identified recurring paradigms in media coverage of health and medicine. Journalists, editors and producers, like the rest of us, view the world through interpretive frameworks-conceptual spectacles that filter information and cause it to be seen and understood in particular ways. 'The use of interpretive frameworks in news and current affairs reporting will mean that a certain pattern of selection of events will appear newsworthy' (Best et al. 1977:23). It also means that events will tend to be presented in particular ways.