Risk, expert uncertainty, and Australian news media: Public and private faces of expert opinion during the 2009 swine flu pandemic

Kate Holland, Warwick Blood, Michelle Imison, Simon Chapman, Andrea Fogarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

During the outbreak of emerging infectious diseases scientists and public health officials play a key role in informing communities about what is happening, why and what they can do about it, and the news media are critical to how expert knowledge is presented to the public. Therefore, it is crucial to examine the media-oriented practices of experts and to gauge their perceptions of risk communication during public health emergencies. This study investigates the experiences of scientists and public health officials who were sources for the Australian news media during the 2009 pH1N1 (swine flu) pandemic. The paper discusses the perception among some participants that their colleagues were 'toeing the party' line as distinct from offering individual 'expert opinion', and identifies the different meanings they associated with responsible expert risk communication. In their encounters with the media some indicated frustration with news media constraints, while others demonstrated an internalization of the kind of skills required to play the 'media game'. The paper discusses the ways in which scientific experts balanced their roles and responsibilities in the context of institutional pressures to be an active media performer. The study affirms the importance of looking beyond media texts and to the activities and perceptions of media sources in order to fully appreciate framing contests, especially when there is a suggestion that dissenting views on disease risk are restricted from entering public debate
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-671
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Volume15
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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