Obesity in the news: directions for future research


D Atanasova, Graduate Research Assistant/Research Student, Department of Media and Communication, Incorporating the Centre for Mass Communication Research, University of Leicester, 132 New Walk, Leicester LE1 7JA, UK. E-mail: da124@le.ac.uk


Obesity attracts large volumes of news coverage. This in turn has spawned academic studies investigating how news framing may affect views about causes of and solutions to obesity. We use key studies to demonstrate that although existing research has made valuable discoveries about how obesity is defined in various media outlets, some methodological and theoretical questions remain unaddressed. We argue that extant research has focused on one dimension of analysis – the problematization of obesity in news stories – precluding insights into the entire process of obesity communication. Drawing on framing and media studies research, we propose a multidimensional approach to shed more light on factors affecting the production of obesity news stories by journalists and how they may be received by audience members. Ways of moving research into this multidimensional direction are proposed, including analysis of journalistic news values, political leaning and style of media outlets, emotion-eliciting language, readers' comments and obesity-related news visuals. Knowledge resulting from the exploration of these dimensions of the issue of obesity can be used to improve strategies to inform and engage audience members.