Media Attitudes and Coverage of Pandemic Flu

May 2006

A report released by Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University finds that journalists covering public health issues see a government and society that is "thoroughly unprepared" for a pandemic flu outbreak.

Peter D. Hart Research Associates authored the report, which is based on 20 one-on-one telephone interviews conducted from March 3 to 29, 2006, with leading health journalists, representing national and regional media from print and broadcast organizations. The interviews assessed the media's take on issues related to avian flu and pandemic flu, including preparedness, the seriousness of the threat, and obstacles to covering the issues. Additionally, the study examined journalists' attitudes towards the role the media would play during a flu pandemic.

Also, TFAH released a study of the media's coverage of avian flu and pandemic flu issues from 1997 through 2005. The study, which used a media tracking database to search U.S. daily newspapers and wires, found 165 articles that discussed pandemic flu in 1997, the year the H5N1 virus was first discovered in a Hong Kong child. Coverage rose to nearly 8,700 pandemic-related articles in 2005, as the H5N1 virus spread in bird populations throughout the world and continued to sporadically infect humans. The media tracking study also includes analysis and highlights of significant milestones in the rise of H5N1 as a pandemic threat.

Complete Report: Gauging the Threat: Media Coverage of Pandemic and Avian Flu by Peter D. Hart Research Associates (128K .pdf)

Complete Report: Covering the Pandemic Flu Threat: Tracking Articles and Some Key Events: 1997 to 2005 (167K .pdf)

Release: New Report Examines Media Attitudes and Coverage of Pandemic Flu (5.22.06)

TFAH's Pandemic Flu and You site