Media Matters: Decoding the Press Coverage of Biomedical Addiction, Part II

Editor’s Note:  Yesterday, guest blogger Alexandra Bogren laid out the rationale for a multidisciplinary examination of the way newspaper reporting on biomedical models of addiction affects reader perceptions of drug and alcohol use/abuse and treatment.  Today, she explains exactly how such an examination should transpire.

In an ongoing research project funded by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research [in Swedish], research assistant Katarina Winter and I address some of these issues surrounding the coverage of biomedical models of addiction by studying Swedish press debates about the topic and interviewing newspaper readers about their interpretation of the newspaper stories. In our analysis of the press debate, we have collected approximately 90 newspaper articles published between 1995 and 2010 in four of the major daily Swedish newspapers– Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet and Expressen.

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The newspaper articles were drawn from the full-text online database Mediearkivet and include editorials, debating articles, news articles and thematic articles. Our analysis concentrates on newspaper articles that explain the biochemical mechanisms behind alcohol use and addiction by using keywords such as genes, biomarkers, chromosomes, DNA, hormones, and neurotransmitters. In our analysis of these articles, we look at how health and responsibility are (re)defined in portrayals of biomedical alcohol research, and which actors and sources–for example, medical researchers, social science researchers, politicians, NGO-representatives– are interviewed and quoted in the newspaper stories. In addition, as discourse on biomedical alcohol research includes frequent references to sex differences, we have included a sub-study of the constitution of gender in the newspaper articles.

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