NOVELTY, ACCURACY, AND BEHAVIORAL RECOMMENDATIONS IN HEALTH NEWS: TWO DECADES OF NEW YORK TIMES’ NUTRITION NEWS COVERAGE AND READER COMMENTS Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
Creator
  • Ihekweazu, Chioma
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Mass Communication Graduate Program
Abstract
  • Over the past few decades, nutrition news coverage has been criticized by three groups: news audiences, nutrition researchers, and journalists. Among the complaints cited, news audiences have expressed that nutrition news coverage should be taken lightly, researchers have expressed that key messages are misinterpreted, and journalists have expressed that the changing nutrition science makes their coverage erratic. Negative perceptions about the nature of nutrition news can inhibit productive dialogue, and lead to more fatalistic beliefs about the effects of nutrition on health. I identified a news feature for each group (novelty for journalists, accuracy for researchers, and behavioral recommendations for news audiences), and conducted a content analysis to measure how well nutrition news articles have suited their needs. I also examined reader comments published in response to these articles to see if the content of articles was associated with the volume and content of comments. I studied New York Times’ nutrition news articles published online between January 22, 1996 and January 22, 2016. Three hundred and eighty news articles discussing a diet and health relationship, and 1,395 comments published on these articles were reviewed. Forty-nine, 56.8, and 31.4% of stories contained novelty (2 = 16.795, df = 3, p = 0.001), accuracy (2 = 12.145, df = 3, p = 0.007), and behavioral recommendations (2 = 19.511, df = 3 p < 0.001), respectively between 1996 and 2000. These numbers declined to 23.8, 28.4, and 9.8 percent between 2011 and 2016. Only one significant difference was found when looking at the volume of comments based on news features. Articles with behavioral recommendations (Mean Rank = 70.75) were found to have more comments than articles without them (Mean Rank = 49.41, U = 267.5, p = 0.030). There was only one significant difference found when looking at comment content based on the three news features. Specifically, there was a significantly greater percentage of comments requesting dietary advice for articles lacking accuracy (Mean Rank = 54.5, U = 840.00, p = 0.017) when compared to articles with accuracy (Mean Rank = 43.10). The implications of these findings for news audiences are discussed.
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  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • Riffe, Daniel
  • Southwell, Brian
  • Noar, Seth
  • Ward, Dianne
  • Gibson, Amelia
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017
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