UBC Theses and Dissertations
Framing academic sources in the United States health care debates 1993 and 2009 Elias, Ryan
Academic sources are among the most potent sources a journalist can bring to bear on a subject, carrying auras of both authority and objectivity. Yet as serious flaws in the media’s coverage of issues like climate change and the health consequences of cigarettes show, they are not always well used. This project is based in the belief that who sources are and how they are portrayed to the public is of at least equal significance to the content of their quotations. It will thus examine the framing of academic sources, the types of information used to explain to readers why a scholar was quoted in a news article. In examining these techniques, it concludes that academia's internal system of validation, peer review, was effectively never taken advantage of in New York Times coverage of health care reform, an extremely high-stakes political topic, during its uptake in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Over the approximately year-long period when health care was at the forefront of the news in 1993-1994 and 2009-2010, academics were framed with their institutional affiliations and broad areas of study, but not by way of their areas of academic specialization or peer-reviewed research on the topics of discussion. As a consequence, it seems likely that readers of the New York Times did not have any reliable metric by which to judge the credibility of academics quoted in the paper on a topic of supreme national interest.
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