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The Secondhand Effects of College Drinking: The Need for Media Relations
Public Relations Journal (2011)
  • Michelle L. Campo, University of Iowa
  • Natoshia M. Askelson
  • Teresa Mastin
Heavy episodic drinking can lead to significant harmful effects for the drinker and others. Rates of heavy alcohol use on college campuses have remained high, despite increased educational interventions. This study examines the coverage of the negative consequences of drinking among college students. This content analysis looks at coverage from1996-2006 in 32 major US newspapers. Of the total 255 articles, 209 covered at least one negative consequence of college drinking. Consequences were framed as individual in nature and did not acknowledge the impact on other individuals and institutions. Those related to damage to self were covered most often in newspapers from this time period, appearing in nearly every article that mentioned a negative consequence. Damage to others and damages to institutions were mentioned very infrequently. In addition, in 2006, damages to self outnumbered damages to others 4:1 and damages to institutions 10:1. While a range of negative consequences of heavy episodic drinking are covered, the most common harm covered is death, which is severe but highly unlikely. Coverage of more commonly occurring negative consequences were far less frequent. Coverage varied by region and was not consistent with where the greatest college drinking problems are found. The focus on individual harms and particularly those that are uncommon could lead readers to inaccurately perceive the issue as episodic and unrelated to environmental determinants. The study concludes that public relations and public health professionals can use media advocacy to work with the media to illuminate the secondhand impact of episodic drinking beyond those affecting the drinker.
Publication Date
Spring 2011
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Citation Information
Michelle L. Campo, Natoshia M. Askelson and Teresa Mastin. "The Secondhand Effects of College Drinking: The Need for Media Relations" Public Relations Journal Vol. 5 (2011)
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