Who is responsible when you get sick? Doctors, who can treat you with superior knowledge? Politicians, who have designed the welfare services? Yourself, who should take steps to live a healthy lifestyle? Or perhaps illness is largely a matter of genetics and coincidence and therefore not a question of responsibility at all? Health journalism plays an important role in constructing such ideas of responsibility. This chapter explores how the Norwegian tabloids VG and Dagbladet present health issues verbally and visually on their print front pages and in their Facebook feeds. Through quantitative and qualitative content analysis, we find that the print front pages address the readers as individuals who ought to take certain actions to stay healthy. The Facebook feeds, on the other hand, prioritize stories about health politics and other societal matters. One of the explanations for this difference may be that the news you pay for differs from the news you may share in social media. However, even the Facebook stories do not touch upon socioeconomic factors, genetic dispositions, or sheer coincidence as reasons for health problems. Instead, structural flaws are pinned to decisions made by particular politicians. As such, an overall discourse of individual responsibility is sustained on Facebook as well, while more overarching structural explanations do not find their way to our everyday news experiences.
This chapter gives a short historical overview of the development of personalised traits in health news, ranging from somatic illnesses to mental health to ‘positive’ health advice, in Norway from around World War I to 2010. Where and in what form do we find personalised content, whether it be with regard to topics, the use of individual exemplars, or personalised address? Drawing on a combination of existing literature and new data gathered for this project from selected newspapers and magazines, this chapter explores these questions in a period marked by profound changes in both public health and the media.
The chapter examines how media representations of mental illness can be either stigmatising or destigmatising in the light of the increasing individualisation of health news journalism. The chapter analyses how, by including patient narratives, a journalistic campaign can give a voice to the individual patient who is then allowed to define her- or himself beyond a diagnosis and an illness. The analysis of the patient utterances and of the media representations shows that: 1) a diagnosis can be seen as a dividing practice that categorises the individual as a subject within a biomedical discourse; and 2) the discourse of individualisation relies on a false sense of empowerment and that the “disembedded” individuals must draw on available language and structural settings to make sense of their condition. Despite the existence of many different explanations for mental illness – sociological, psychological and medical – the biomedical discourse provides the structural and discursive setting within which the individual can be understood. This has consequences for the ability of patients, experts and journalists to contribute to media practices that destigmatise the mentally ill.
Coming to terms with his sexual orientation is important for the mental health of a homosexual man. This chapter analyses several journalists’ critique of the Norwegian TV series Jævla homo (Fucking Homo) and argues that their commentary demonstrates a struggle over the discourse of the homosexual man today. I have identified three discourses: homopolitical, homonormative, and radical queer. The homopolitical discourse dominates the critique, which may be explained by the series itself, by historical reasons, and by the journalists’ preference for a political understanding of social issues. Several of the journalists state explicitly in the texts that they are homosexual.
This chapter investigates narrative representations used by sports journalists when reporting on individual doping cases. Referring to empirical data from the coverage of a doping case against a female weightlifter of minority background, it analyzes how narratives are constructed by applying master plots and constructing roles for the characters involved. Cases of doping in sports are conventionally covered in moralizing media narratives where judgements are made on personal integrity. There is often a clear role for the character in the stories, with the athlete represented as “the villain”. However, sometimes the narratives can deviate from the moral discourse, for instance when the athlete’s explanation is connected to health issues, illness or medication.
This chapter presents a discourse analysis of how the two largest newspapers in Norway, VG and Aftenposten, report on egg donation in their news reports with feature elements. The typical source is a hopeful mother or father. Typically the news reports depict the daily struggle of the prospective parents, with particular emphasis on their efforts to have a baby. The journalist primarily asks questions about their experiences and feelings. Consequently, attention is brought to the personal experience rather than to the principled aspect of egg donation. When critical questions are raised, the journalist tends to sympathize with the source and asks how they think, respond, and feel about ‘the others’, referring to people who are critical of egg donation. The stories analyzed serve to normalize alternative ways of having a baby. Instead of providing tools to discuss difficult ethical dilemmas, these personal media stories contribute towards converting principled issues to subjective feelings of right and wrong.
This chapter analyzes the strategies and dilemmas of a digital storytelling campaign evolving around the plights and struggle of families with severely ill children in need of constant care. The campaign, organized by parents fighting to stop government cuts in health and welfare benefits, started on social media. Stories and pictures of the children soon went viral, caught the headlines of the national established news media, and impacted the political agenda. This parent initiative epitomizes newer trends in advocacy and lobbying in which citizens organize in ad-hoc campaigns and networks made possible by social media, and where compelling storytelling can outmanoeuvre established political actors. Social media and autobiographic stories provide effective tools for grass-root movements, but also pose a range of dilemmas and ethical concerns related to individual exposure, vulnerability and privacy rights. The focus here is how non-professional activists balance, negotiate or sacrifice privacy protection and control with their messages in the name of winning a larger battle where high personal stakes are involved.
Hailed as “the land of future health” (Upgraded, 2017) and home to the annual SLUSH event (the world’s largest start-up event and community of entrepreneurs), Finland embraces and actively supports innovation and entrepreneurship as viable solutions to societal pressures and needs. With an emphasis on creativity in the workplace, an openness to natural exploration into alternative approaches in the social system, and an economic sector that strongly supports individual endeavours, Finland offers an interesting case study as to how the individualism of healthcare may be facilitated in the future. This study therefore considers how Finnish online health news sites discuss technological innovation in relation to the individual’s healthcare needs. The study is based on online articles collected from three main online health information providers from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2017. The analysis shows that while social impact is presented in a limited manner, more emphasis continues to be placed on innovations (potential and actual) as well as the technology itself. This is despite growing concerns over data privacy.
This chapter explores how newspapers in Denmark and Norway both verbally and visually framed and personalized risk and crisis assessments and scenarios following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. Our point of departure is media samples from the two Nordic countries in two different periods of the outbreak. We investigate how authorities, non-governmental organizations and victims were used as sources and personalized in the mediated narratives. Whereas health authority sources provide risk assessments based on statistical predictions, NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières’s coverage rather build on narrative evidence and personalization that focus on victims in stricken African nations. However, although the ways in which health authorities and NGOs frame risk differ, they testify to how the news media in Denmark and Norway tend to support and convey the crisis communication strategies of the institutions that the actors portrayed represent.
Covering crises comes with its risks for the messengers. While journalists on the scene of a crisis may see gruesome details that remain stuck in their minds, those working at the head office may be exposed to distressing descriptions of dead bodies or extreme cruelty when interviewing victims or editing graphic pictures. In the worst case, both types of exposure may lead to severe long-term psychological impairment. This chapter focuses on the mental health of news journalists working with sudden and unexpected crises. It provides an insight into the issue from the fields of psychotraumatology and journalism. The chapter discusses the most common forms of trauma-related psychological disorders, with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By using examples from the authors’ studies on several man-made crises in Nordic countries, including a truck rampage case, school shootings, and a terror attack, the chapter summarizes the central factors that put journalists at risk for trauma-related problems. One of these, an inner conflict between carrying out journalistic duties and showing enough respect towards crisis victims, is presented in more detail. The authors conclude that pro-active work by media organizations can both prevent long-term psychological impairment in their employees and diminish the risk of journalists causing additional harm to crisis victims.
Harald Hornmoen is Professor of Journalism at the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Oslo Metropolitan University. His research interests include risk communication and the relationship between science, journalism and society.
Birgitte Kjos Fonn is Professor of Journalism at the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Oslo Metropolitan University. Media history is one of her main research fields, and gender and the media is a main interest.
Nathalie Hyde-Clarke (PhD) is Head of the Department of Culture and Media, Arcada UAS, and a Docent in Media and Communication, University of Helsinki. From 1 August 2020 she is head of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Oslo Metropolitan University. Her interest is in the evolving relationship between media and society, and its effect on different communities and sectors.
Yngve Benestad Hågvar is Associate Professor at the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Oslo Metropolitan University, He has a PhD in journalistic genre development and is particularly interested in how news is presented in social media.