Skip to main content
What Makes African American Health Disparities Newsworthy? An Experiment among Journalists About Story Framing
Health Education Research (2011)
  • Hyun Jee Oh, Hong Kong Baptist University
  • Amanda Hinnant
  • Charlene A. Caburnay
  • Matthew W. Kreuter
News stories reporting race-specific health information commonly emphasize disparities between racial groups. But recent research suggests this focus on disparities has unintended effects on African American audiences, generating negative emotions and less interest in preventive behaviors (Nicholson RA, Kreuter MW, Lapka C et al. Unintended effects of emphasizing disparities in cancer communication to African-Americans. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2008; 17: 2946-52). They found that black adults are more interested in cancer screening after reading about the progress African Americans have made in fighting cancer than after reading stories emphasizing disparities between blacks and whites. This study builds on past findings by (i) examining how health journalists judge the newsworthiness of stories that report race-specific health information by emphasizing disparities versus progress and (ii) determining whether these judgments can be changed by informing journalists of audience reactions to disparity versus progress framing. In a double-blind-randomized experiment, 175 health journalists read either a disparity- or progress-framed story on colon cancer, preceded by either an inoculation about audience effects of such framing or an unrelated (i.e. control) information stimuli. Journalists rated the disparity-frame story more favorably than the progress-frame story in every category of news values. However, the inoculation significantly increased positive reactions to the progress-frame story. Informing journalists of audience reactions to race-specific health information could influence how health news stories are framed.
Publication Date
September 12, 2011
Citation Information
Hyun Jee Oh, Amanda Hinnant, Charlene A. Caburnay and Matthew W. Kreuter. "What Makes African American Health Disparities Newsworthy? An Experiment among Journalists About Story Framing" Health Education Research Vol. 26 Iss. 6 (2011) p. 937 - 947 ISSN: 1465-3648
Available at: