Music Therapy in the Australian Print Media: A Content Analysis

By Roberts, Melina; McFerran, Katrina | Australian Journal of Music Therapy, Annual 2008 | Go to article overview

Music Therapy in the Australian Print Media: A Content Analysis


Roberts, Melina, McFerran, Katrina, Australian Journal of Music Therapy


Abstract

As music therapy is a relatively young profession, educating the public about "What is music therapy?" is a vital part of our work. Newspaper articles access a novice and wide-reaching audience and music therapy is now being reported in print media more frequently than a decade ago. This paper describes a study that investigated how music therapy has been reported in Australian print media over the last 10 years (1996-2006), examining 178 articles retrieved via the Factiva search engine. Mixed-methods content analysis strategies were utilised for this study to examine both the main foci of articles and the nature of quoted material. Quantitative results indicated that articles referencing music therapy usually focus on contextual information about clients, the role of music generally, and how both of these are relevant in contemporary society. Qualitative analysis of the words of music therapists (quotes) suggested that journalists may use a common sequence of questions to frame interviews, and these are proposed. Recommendations for further studies are also suggested.

Keywords: music therapy, print media, content analysis, mixed-methods research

Introduction

Attempting to discern what information journalists are seeking during interviews can be a challenge. While practice or inside knowledge can improve this interaction, it is always helpful to prepare for media interviews. Knowing what to prepare was the focus of this investigation of a decade of print media reports on music therapy in Australia. Media interviews are considered a valuable opportunity for music therapists to educate a wide-reaching audience about music therapy. This is considered to be an important part of the music therapy profession as awareness of "What is music therapy?" still seems to be somewhat misunderstood. Anecdotally, music therapists have described situations where articles portray their contributions with a different and unexpected emphasis. The purpose of this study was to closely examine newspaper articles about music therapy to ascertain what the final products are and describe how music therapy is represented in print media.

Content analysis is an adaptable analysis methodology that can utilise both quantitative and qualitative strategies. Using a mixed-methods approach to content analysis can result in different types of information from newspaper articles. While quantitative content analysis can provide a numeric breakdown of "what" is in the articles, qualitative content analysis can reveal the more descriptive elements of the textual data and answer the "how" questions. This study incorporated both quantitative and qualitative strategies to seek different types of information from the 178 newspaper articles reviewed. The results provide basic information about what material is reported in articles addressing music therapy. The results also suggest a series of questions that journalists seem likely to ask in interviews. Perhaps the most touching outcomes are found in the statements reported about the experience of being a music therapist by the various interviewees.

Rationale

A literature search was conducted prior to the commencement of this study in order to identify similar studies analysing the content of media reporting on music therapy. Major music therapy journals were canvassed in this search, namely: The Australian Journal of Music Therapy, Journal of Music Therapy (USA), Music Therapy Perspectives (USA), Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, and British Journal of Music Therapy. Some studies were identified that provided analysis of journal articles on music therapy (Brooks, 2003; Gregory, 2002) and internet information on music therapy (Johnson, Geringer, & Stewart, 2003), however no media analyses were found.

The authors had attended a seminar on a similar topic at the Australian National Music Therapy Professional Development Seminar presented by local music therapist, Helen Shoemark (2002). …

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