Health in the media

Understanding how health is represented in the news media
We’re using sophisticated computer-based linguistic analysis to understand how journalists write about health, including diabetes, obesity, disability, and other health-related conditions or issues.

We exploit the power of computer-based text analysis (corpus linguistics) for quantitative and qualitative insights into the language of health. We use computer software to monitor and analyse media coverage of diabetes, obesity, disability, and other health-related conditions or issues so we can better understand the ways in which they are represented in journalistic texts. We identify any problematic issues such as stigma, blame or invisibility, and aim to disseminate our results to relevant key stakeholders to achieve positive change. Through interdisciplinary research, we connect linguistic expertise with the expertise of scientists and health researchers.

We aim to:

  • use computer-based linguistic analysis to better understand media representations of health
  • identify any problematic issues such as stigma, blame or invisibility.

Our work so far has focussed on the representation of diabetes in the Australian news media. We analysed diabetes coverage in 12 Australian metropolitan/national newspapers over a period of five years (2013-2017). We identified the amount and type of coverage in 694 articles (about 250,000 words), as well as the labelling used to refer to people with diabetes. We are also undertaking a study on references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or issues in this dataset. Our project on diabetes has now been completed and you can find a summary of the project and links to all associated publications here.

We are currently collaborating with the Sydney Informatics Hub and the University of Lancaster on a new project on Australian media representations of obesity.

We have completed building a new corpus of Australian newspaper coverage of obesity (over 26,000 articles from 12 newspapers 2008-2019, more than 16 million words). We are now starting a series of corpus linguistic analyses centered on weight stigma/bias. We have also completed a review of relevant media guidelines, available under ‘Featured research areas’ below.

We are striving to achieve greater awareness of media coverage and working towards improving practices of media representation. To this end, we created a range of stakeholder documents, including an information sheet to help scientists and other researchers engage with the media, a tip sheet for journalists, an executive summary of our research results, and a video for wide distribution. These resources can be accessed under ‘featured research areas’. We also regularly submit resources to the Analysis & Policy Observatory to make our research visible, discoverable, and usable.

Funded by a University of Sydney Multidisciplinary Arts and Social Sciences Inaugural Fellowship (2019) and a Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) fellowship (2019-2020).


Diabetes in the media

Research group leader

Professor Monika Bednarek
View Monika Bednarek's profile