Obese adults’ perceptions of news reporting on obesity: The panopticon and synopticon at work

Danielle Couch, Samantha Thomas, Sophie Lewis, Warwick BLOOD, Paul Komesaroff

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    News reporting, in channels such as broadcast and print media, on obesity as an issue has increased dramatically in the last decade. A qualitative study, in which we used in-depth interviews and thematic analysis, was undertaken to explore 142 obese individuals’ perceptions of, and responses to, news reporting about obesity. Participants believed that news reporting on obesity focused on personal responsibility and blame, and portrayed obese people as “freaks.” They described being portrayed as “enemies” of society who were rarely given a voice or identity in such news coverage unless they were seen to be succeeding at weight loss. They were also critical of the simplistic coverage of obesity, which was in contrast with their personal experiences of obesity as complex and difficult to address. Participants believed that obesity news reporting added to the discrimination they experienced. We consider how this news reporting may act as a form of “synoptical” social control, working in tandem with wider public health panoptical surveillance of obesity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-14
    Number of pages14
    JournalSage Open
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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