Online Program

Telling the red tide story: Framing and news media coverage in Florida

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 2:50 p.m. - 3:10 p.m.

Zongchao Li, doctoral student, Strategic Communication Department, School of Communication, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL
Bruce Garrison, Ph.D., Journalism and Media Management Department, School of Communication, University of Miami, coral Gables, FL
Steven Ullman, PhD, School of Business, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL
Barbara Kirkpatrick, EdD, RRT, Mote Marine Laboratory, Environmental Health Program, Sarasota, FL
Porter Hoagland, PhD, Public Policy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA
Lora E. Fleming, MD, PhD, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL
Introduction One of the central themes in media effects studies is the agenda-setting role of mass media, which argues that the mass media impact heavily on the dominant issues being discussed in the public agenda. Furthermore, scholars have argued over media's “framing” effects, which draws attention to how particular news coverage attributes dominate – or frame – the way certain topics are addressed among publics. Based on framing theory, this study focuses on news media reporting about harmful algae blooms (specifically Florida red tides) along the Southwest Coast of Florida over the past decade.

Methods This study examines news content related to Florida red tide in three standard metropolitan statistical areas as suggested by US Census Bureau along the Florida Gulf Coast: Sarasota-Bradenton, Tampa Bay–St. Petersburg, and Bonita Springs-Naples. Twelve years of data are content analyzed through the NewsBank and the Lexis-Nexis from four major local newspapers. A coding scheme is designed based on previous literature and pretested for reliability and validity. Two graduate students work independently as the coders. The study looks at the types, quality, and amounts of sources journalists used to report the story, subjects discussed within each story, and other coverage characteristics. Finally, the study looks at coverage findings in the context of hospital occupancy, regional tourism, and timing of red tide breakouts between 2000 and 2012.

Results The study aims to find how the red tide story is framed by the media, e.g., as a human health risk issue, an environmental story focused on marine animal threats, a business story emphasizing tourism and recreation, etc. We are also interested in how the health-related information was communicated by the news coverage.

Conclusions The study findings will offer insights as to the long-term outcome of public awareness and perception of Florida red tide.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Environmental health sciences
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify the major themes of media coverage of the Florida red tide. Identify and compare the information sources cited in the news coverage of the Florida red tide. Demonstrate media’s impact on public health issues by correlating news coverage patterns with regional tourism data

Keyword(s): Media, Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the primary researcher in this project. My research area mainly focus on media studies and public relations.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.