Introduction

Newspaper reports on HIV/Aids have undoubtedly been taking up reams of print volume over the last couple of years in South Africa. A lot has been reported on. The pandemic has been well documented in terms of its devastating impact on the fabric of the South African society (Shell, 2000). Projections regarding the diminishing life expectancies of South Africans turn up horror images in terms of the impact of the disease on the economy, cultural aspects of societies and the policies of government (Smith, 2001) It also rises a number of questions: When can we expect a cure for the problem? What is science contributing to the information and knowledge base? Who are the communicators of these messages? What do the victims say in these reports? What is being communicated?

Theoretical orientation

Mc Combs and Shaw (1972) coined the term “Agenda Setting”. It is referred to as “the power to structure issues in the media in such a way that people think about what they are told, but at no level do they think what they are told”. Evidence (Trenaman & Mc Quail, 1995) suggests that a correspondence exits between the order of importance given in the media to issues and the order of significance attached to these issues by the public.

According to Mac Quail (1995) the agenda-setting hypothesis could be presented as:
• Public debate is represented by salient issues
• The agenda derives from a combination of public opinion and political choice
• Mass media news and information reflect the content and order of priority
• This representation of issues in the mass media exerts an independent effect on issues and on relative salience in public opinion.

The research question to be answered in this context deals with the reported information on HIV/Aids in selected national and regional South African newspapers with the emphasis on scientific, political, economic and cultural issues. In short, what is the HIV/Aids news Agenda like and to what extent do newspapers deal with news on HIV/Aids as source of knowledge and information? The emphasis is thus on content and not on the reader’s experiences of content.

Methodology

A mainly qualitative structured research methodology has been used in the form of structured qualitative content analysis on a number of newspaper reports on HIV/Aids. The period November 2001 to February 2003 has been covered. This includes The Sowetan, Sunday Times, Beeld, Mail and Guardian and Rapport. The mix between national papers and regional papers Afrikaans/English as well as in terms of readership foci has been included.

The content analysis dealt with the following aspects:
• The communicators on HIV/Aids. Who were they?
• Message content with the emphasis on scientific, cultural, political and economic matters regarding HIV/Aids
• The role of experts in these reports
• The context of the target audiences. At whom was the original message aimed

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Agenda setting politics an analysis of main stream newspaper reports on HIVAids

Prof Gideon de Wet   Potchefstroom University

Introduction

Newspaper reports on HIV/Aids have undoubtedly been taking up reams of print volume over the last couple of years in South Africa. A lot has been reported on. The pandemic has been well documented in terms of its devastating impact on the fabric of the South African society (Shell, 2000). Projections regarding the diminishing life expectancies of South Africans turn up horror images in terms of the impact of the disease on the economy, cultural aspects of societies and the policies of government (Smith, 2001) It also rises a number of questions: When can we expect a cure for the problem? What is science contributing to the information and knowledge base? Who are the communicators of these messages? What do the victims say in these reports? What is being communicated?

Theoretical orientation

Mc Combs and Shaw (1972) coined the term “Agenda Setting”. It is referred to as “the power to structure issues in the media in such a way that people think about what they are told, but at no level do they think what they are told”. Evidence (Trenaman & Mc Quail, 1995) suggests that a correspondence exits between the order of importance given in the media to issues and the order of significance attached to these issues by the public.

According to Mac Quail (1995) the agenda-setting hypothesis could be presented as:
• Public debate is represented by salient issues
• The agenda derives from a combination of public opinion and political choice
• Mass media news and information reflect the content and order of priority
• This representation of issues in the mass media exerts an independent effect on issues and on relative salience in public opinion.

The research question to be answered in this context deals with the reported information on HIV/Aids in selected national and regional South African newspapers with the emphasis on scientific, political, economic and cultural issues. In short, what is the HIV/Aids news Agenda like and to what extent do newspapers deal with news on HIV/Aids as source of knowledge and information? The emphasis is thus on content and not on the reader’s experiences of content.

Methodology

A mainly qualitative structured research methodology has been used in the form of structured qualitative content analysis on a number of newspaper reports on HIV/Aids. The period November 2001 to February 2003 has been covered. This includes The Sowetan, Sunday Times, Beeld, Mail and Guardian and Rapport. The mix between national papers and regional papers Afrikaans/English as well as in terms of readership foci has been included.

The content analysis dealt with the following aspects:
• The communicators on HIV/Aids. Who were they?
• Message content with the emphasis on scientific, cultural, political and economic matters regarding HIV/Aids
• The role of experts in these reports
• The context of the target audiences. At whom was the original message aimed

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

BACK TO TOP