The Role of Health Journalism in Bangladesh
MD. Saiful Alam Chowdhury
Health is a very prominent news category. The mass media has enormous potential to influence health-related behaviors and perceptions. There is a greater demand and need for accurate, relevant, rapid and impartial public health information by people, and a growing reliance on mass media as the main source of information. Much research has focused on how the media frames health issues. This study will sight to explore how journalists in Bangladesh select and shape news on health issues. The study will involve detailed content analysis of Bangladeshi newspapers and TV Channels on health issues.
It is well recognized that the media has an enormous influence on how the public views health issues (Molitor, 1993). Media present a huge array of health stories for public consumption, both reflecting and informing public discourse (Malone et al., 2000). Research has established the importance of such coverage in communicating disease risk, showcasing medical breakthroughs, and framing professional concerns (Finlay and Faulkner, 2005; Wilson et al., 2004). The mass media -print, television, radio and internet -has an unparalleled reach as a communication mechanism (Gunther, 1988). It has substantial power in setting agendas, that is, what we should be concerned about and take action on, and framing issues, that is, how we should think about them (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). But the media coverage of health stories are often inaccurate, superficial, or sensationalized (Klaidman, 1991; Wilkes, 1997). Scientists blame this problem on the press, claiming that reporters are careless about how they present the news. Insufficient reporting on health issues can lead people to make misguided choices that may put their health at risk or influence policymakers to adopt inadequate or harmful laws, regulations, or politics (Norris & Phillips, 1994; Voss, 2002). But no research can be found in Bangladesh in this regards or context. The purpose of this research is to study systematically health related messages in different communication media.
The communication media are dominant feature of our day today life and available both in domestic and public environments. They intend to engage people, to convey some kind of information, and to produce reactions in their audiences which justify their continuing production. Sometimes the main message is clear to the audience but it is also likely that some other meaning is produced in audience mind unconsciously. The purpose of these messages is to engage an audience and influence his/her way of thinking about certain subject. This study will try to find the inner meaning of the news stories on health issues.
Literature Review and Theoretical Framework:
Bonnie and George (1975) discussed the role of radio and television on the announcements for family planning. Dubey and Burdhan (1981) developed a module on content analysis of message and programs in health and population communication, to orient and develop a greater appreciation and understanding of communication research among middle and lower level field workers. Singh Archna (2007) studied the role of mass communication in prevention and control of AID Susing content analysis of Indian newspapers. Freimuth et al. (1984) have shown that many people rely on the news media for their health-related information. Policy makers also obtain considerable amount of information from the media. As Bryant and Thompson (2002) have suggested that news coverage of health matters takes on considerable significance that has the potential to shape the impression of average citizens and powerful policy makers alike. In the words of Brown and Walsh-Childers (1994), news coverage of health “tends to ascribe the power to control individuals’ health to medical experts using high-technology equipment”. Studies have also shown that the news media tend to increase...
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