Making Mental Health News: Australian journalists’ views on news values, sources and reporting challenges

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    This study is based on interviews with Australian journalists about their experiences of reporting on mental health issues, including how they see their role and their views about characteristics of newsworthy stories and sources and reporting challenges. The analysis draws out the following themes: exposing problems with psychiatry and mental health care; highlighting gaps between rhetoric and reality; humanising case studies; putting vulnerable people at risk; and negotiating pushy and shy sources. The study draws upon the concept of biocommunicability to consider these themes in the context of biomedical authority, patient-consumer and public sphere orientations to reporting. Journalists tended to convey a public sphere orientation, but they also gave examples of how the concerns of sources and audiences could work against this. The study suggests that factors such as competition for funding within the mental health field and pressures within the media industry play an important role in shaping the models of biocommunicability found in mental health news and in the mediatised practices of actors within the mental health field. The article argues that a preoccupation with the potential harms of reporting could work to constrain journalism that challenges and moves beyond the privileging of biomedical authority and patient-consumer models.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1767-1785
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournalism Studies
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2018


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