A vulnerable community of heart patients re/constructs media stories about cardiovascular disease
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communication and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications
Australian Research Council
ARC Number : LP0775520
Diseases and medical conditions are frequently discussed in mainstream media, with most newspapers having a dedicated health section. The West Australian, a Perth-based daily newspaper, has a regular weekly health section which provides up-to-date coverage of medical issues and treatments. The Australian is a national newspaper and also has a dedicated health section and health editor. Even with specialist journalistic staff, Jones (cited in Donelle, Hoffman-Goetz & Clarke, 2005, p. 187) found that ‘newsworthy topics may not necessarily correspond with established health care priorities or even emphasize key concepts of the disease in question’. So what happens when vulnerable people, in this case members of an online community who identify themselves as challenged by the experience of living with heart disease and seek support from others with similar conditions, identify and raise for discussion issues regarding the press coverage of topics relating to heart disease? The Australian and The West Australian, two print titles, were surveyed between March and May 2010 for articles related to heart disease, heart attack or cardiovascular disease, or which referred to the National Heart Foundation (Australia). The articles were sourced from the online database Factiva and were excluded if they did not meet key eligibility criteria around the topic of heart disease. In total 67 articles printed in The West Australian, and 41 articles from The Australian, met these criteria and these stories form the prompts judged available to members of the HeartNET online community. Interestingly, when the postings on HeartNET about various media articles were examined, the focus of HeartNET discussions mainly concerned lifestyle issues, celebrities who self-identified as having heart-related illness, matters affecting local health services and gendered representations of heart disease.