Sixty  articles  in  five  Australian  women's  magazines  were  analysed  for  journalistic qualities,  metaphors,  narrative  features  and  accuracy  of  clinical  facts  related  to  risk, early  detection  and  treatment  of  breast  cancer.   The  stories  were  features,  news features or soft news stories.   The stories reflected the ‘good news’ editorial style of women's  magazines.   A  dominant  theme  in  the  stories  was  that  early  detection  of breast  cancer  is  crucial  and  equals  survival.   While  there  were  few  inaccuracies  in the stories there was little detail of treatment modalities, an emphasis on life style as a risk factor and a prevailing message that a genetic history of breast cancer means you will get it.   A major implication of the findings is that scientists, doctors and nurses, who provide information to women, must be aware of the goals of journalists and the educational  power  of  narrative  logic  of  stories  in  women's  magazines.  This understanding  can  help  to  broaden  the  boundaries  of  what  is  acceptable  and  not acceptable  information  statements  when  the  purpose  of  the  communication  is  to present an informative and appealing story to an audience.

This  study,  conducted  by  a  cross  disciplinary  team  using  quantitative  and  qualitative research  approaches,  also  suggests  how  the  articles  can  be  improved  through  slight changes  using  a  collaborative  rather  than  interventionist  information  flow  amongst sources,  journalists,  and  readers  that  support  the  magazine  communication  product and  process.  This  is  an  enriched  and  beneficial  communication  environment  that needs  to  be  acknowledged  and  supported  as  it  provides  women  with  the  opportunity of  reading  about  breast  health  and  breast  cancer  through  facts,  news  and  stories.

Finally,  the  research  team  believes  this  knowledge  can  also  be  used  to  develop accurate,  persuadable  and  appealing  breast  cancer  information  in  other  mass mediums.

This paper is based on an ARC funded research project Breast Cancer Media conducted by Janice Withnall, Lesley Wilkes, Barbara Beale, Marsha Durham and Jane Hobson University of Western Sydney, Rebecca Harris, University of Technology, Sydney, Kate White, Catholic University and Linda Kristjanson, Edith Cowan University
 

 

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Breast cancer media
Accuracy, readability and rhetoric

Janice Withnall   University of Western Sydney

Sixty  articles  in  five  Australian  women's  magazines  were  analysed  for  journalistic qualities,  metaphors,  narrative  features  and  accuracy  of  clinical  facts  related  to  risk, early  detection  and  treatment  of  breast  cancer.   The  stories  were  features,  news features or soft news stories.   The stories reflected the ‘good news’ editorial style of women's  magazines.   A  dominant  theme  in  the  stories  was  that  early  detection  of breast  cancer  is  crucial  and  equals  survival.   While  there  were  few  inaccuracies  in the stories there was little detail of treatment modalities, an emphasis on life style as a risk factor and a prevailing message that a genetic history of breast cancer means you will get it.   A major implication of the findings is that scientists, doctors and nurses, who provide information to women, must be aware of the goals of journalists and the educational  power  of  narrative  logic  of  stories  in  women's  magazines.  This understanding  can  help  to  broaden  the  boundaries  of  what  is  acceptable  and  not acceptable  information  statements  when  the  purpose  of  the  communication  is  to present an informative and appealing story to an audience.

This  study,  conducted  by  a  cross  disciplinary  team  using  quantitative  and  qualitative research  approaches,  also  suggests  how  the  articles  can  be  improved  through  slight changes  using  a  collaborative  rather  than  interventionist  information  flow  amongst sources,  journalists,  and  readers  that  support  the  magazine  communication  product and  process.  This  is  an  enriched  and  beneficial  communication  environment  that needs  to  be  acknowledged  and  supported  as  it  provides  women  with  the  opportunity of  reading  about  breast  health  and  breast  cancer  through  facts,  news  and  stories.

Finally,  the  research  team  believes  this  knowledge  can  also  be  used  to  develop accurate,  persuadable  and  appealing  breast  cancer  information  in  other  mass mediums.

This paper is based on an ARC funded research project Breast Cancer Media conducted by Janice Withnall, Lesley Wilkes, Barbara Beale, Marsha Durham and Jane Hobson University of Western Sydney, Rebecca Harris, University of Technology, Sydney, Kate White, Catholic University and Linda Kristjanson, Edith Cowan University
 

 

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

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