The pill that killed: A case study of how Australian media frame health risk

Warwick Blood, Jane Pirkis, Ian Hickie, Graham Martin

    Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookConference contribution

    Abstract

    In August 1999, a 76-year-old man from the southern NSW town of Tumbarumba
    strangled his wife of almost 50 years to death and then attempted suicide. In the NSW
    Supreme Court in May 2001, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of
    diminished responsibility because he was being treated for depression. The court was
    told that the man had taken five times the prescribed dosage of the antidepressant
    drug, Zoloft. Justice Barry O’Keefe in his decision said: ‘I am satisfied that but for
    the Zoloft he had taken, he would not have strangled his wife’.
    More than 100,000 Australians regularly take Zoloft or similar prescription drugs,
    known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, to treat depressive
    illnesses. Zoloft and similar SSRIs such as Prozac are prescribed to millions of
    people around the world. This was the first time that a criminal court in any country
    had linked a violent killing directly to one of these SSRIs.
    The paper draws upon news frame theory and risk theory to analyse national and
    international news coverage of this trial. Recent research has elaborated how risks
    are socially defined and acted upon, especially given changing media representations
    of risks. The paper investigates what role the media played in constructing risk
    knowledge about Zoloft and other SSRIs following the NSW Supreme Court decision.
    News frame theory, which identifies the devices journalists use to routinely organise
    news discourse, is used to analyse how news about the implications of the court case
    are presented and made understandable to audiences. News frames set limits on the
    information available to audiences who are trying to make sense out of the reported
    event.
    The paper concludes by questioning the role some prominent newspapers played in
    setting fear and alarmist frames to define risk in this case, and demonstrates how
    journalism can translate low-risk into high-risk with the potential of unnecessarily
    heightening fear.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationANZCA03: Designing Communication for Diversity: Proceedings
    EditorsCaroline Hatcher, Terry Flew, Joanne Jacobs
    Place of PublicationBrisbane
    PublisherBrisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Print)0646422138
    Publication statusPublished - 2003
    EventAustralian & New Zealand Communication Association International Conference 2003, Designing Communication for Diversity - Brisbane, Australia
    Duration: 9 Jul 200311 Jul 2003

    Conference

    ConferenceAustralian & New Zealand Communication Association International Conference 2003, Designing Communication for Diversity
    CountryAustralia
    CityBrisbane
    Period9/07/0311/07/03

    Fingerprint

    health risk
    news
    wife
    anxiety
    court decision
    journalist
    homicide
    suicide
    Supreme Court
    newspaper
    medication
    town
    coverage
    justice
    drug
    death
    responsibility
    discourse

    Cite this

    Blood, W., Pirkis, J., Hickie, I., & Martin, G. (2003). The pill that killed: A case study of how Australian media frame health risk. In C. Hatcher, T. Flew, & J. Jacobs (Eds.), ANZCA03: Designing Communication for Diversity: Proceedings Brisbane: Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology.
    Blood, Warwick ; Pirkis, Jane ; Hickie, Ian ; Martin, Graham. / The pill that killed: A case study of how Australian media frame health risk. ANZCA03: Designing Communication for Diversity: Proceedings. editor / Caroline Hatcher ; Terry Flew ; Joanne Jacobs. Brisbane : Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology, 2003.
    @inproceedings{8000dd1e58454bb6ad3a6b4e6a9515d8,
    title = "The pill that killed: A case study of how Australian media frame health risk",
    abstract = "In August 1999, a 76-year-old man from the southern NSW town of Tumbarumbastrangled his wife of almost 50 years to death and then attempted suicide. In the NSWSupreme Court in May 2001, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds ofdiminished responsibility because he was being treated for depression. The court wastold that the man had taken five times the prescribed dosage of the antidepressantdrug, Zoloft. Justice Barry O’Keefe in his decision said: ‘I am satisfied that but forthe Zoloft he had taken, he would not have strangled his wife’.More than 100,000 Australians regularly take Zoloft or similar prescription drugs,known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, to treat depressiveillnesses. Zoloft and similar SSRIs such as Prozac are prescribed to millions ofpeople around the world. This was the first time that a criminal court in any countryhad linked a violent killing directly to one of these SSRIs.The paper draws upon news frame theory and risk theory to analyse national andinternational news coverage of this trial. Recent research has elaborated how risksare socially defined and acted upon, especially given changing media representationsof risks. The paper investigates what role the media played in constructing riskknowledge about Zoloft and other SSRIs following the NSW Supreme Court decision.News frame theory, which identifies the devices journalists use to routinely organisenews discourse, is used to analyse how news about the implications of the court caseare presented and made understandable to audiences. News frames set limits on theinformation available to audiences who are trying to make sense out of the reportedevent.The paper concludes by questioning the role some prominent newspapers played insetting fear and alarmist frames to define risk in this case, and demonstrates howjournalism can translate low-risk into high-risk with the potential of unnecessarilyheightening fear.",
    author = "Warwick Blood and Jane Pirkis and Ian Hickie and Graham Martin",
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    Blood, W, Pirkis, J, Hickie, I & Martin, G 2003, The pill that killed: A case study of how Australian media frame health risk. in C Hatcher, T Flew & J Jacobs (eds), ANZCA03: Designing Communication for Diversity: Proceedings. Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australian & New Zealand Communication Association International Conference 2003, Designing Communication for Diversity, Brisbane, Australia, 9/07/03.

    The pill that killed: A case study of how Australian media frame health risk. / Blood, Warwick; Pirkis, Jane; Hickie, Ian; Martin, Graham.

    ANZCA03: Designing Communication for Diversity: Proceedings. ed. / Caroline Hatcher; Terry Flew; Joanne Jacobs. Brisbane : Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology, 2003.

    Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookConference contribution

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    AU - Pirkis, Jane

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    AU - Martin, Graham

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    Y1 - 2003

    N2 - In August 1999, a 76-year-old man from the southern NSW town of Tumbarumbastrangled his wife of almost 50 years to death and then attempted suicide. In the NSWSupreme Court in May 2001, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds ofdiminished responsibility because he was being treated for depression. The court wastold that the man had taken five times the prescribed dosage of the antidepressantdrug, Zoloft. Justice Barry O’Keefe in his decision said: ‘I am satisfied that but forthe Zoloft he had taken, he would not have strangled his wife’.More than 100,000 Australians regularly take Zoloft or similar prescription drugs,known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, to treat depressiveillnesses. Zoloft and similar SSRIs such as Prozac are prescribed to millions ofpeople around the world. This was the first time that a criminal court in any countryhad linked a violent killing directly to one of these SSRIs.The paper draws upon news frame theory and risk theory to analyse national andinternational news coverage of this trial. Recent research has elaborated how risksare socially defined and acted upon, especially given changing media representationsof risks. The paper investigates what role the media played in constructing riskknowledge about Zoloft and other SSRIs following the NSW Supreme Court decision.News frame theory, which identifies the devices journalists use to routinely organisenews discourse, is used to analyse how news about the implications of the court caseare presented and made understandable to audiences. News frames set limits on theinformation available to audiences who are trying to make sense out of the reportedevent.The paper concludes by questioning the role some prominent newspapers played insetting fear and alarmist frames to define risk in this case, and demonstrates howjournalism can translate low-risk into high-risk with the potential of unnecessarilyheightening fear.

    AB - In August 1999, a 76-year-old man from the southern NSW town of Tumbarumbastrangled his wife of almost 50 years to death and then attempted suicide. In the NSWSupreme Court in May 2001, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds ofdiminished responsibility because he was being treated for depression. The court wastold that the man had taken five times the prescribed dosage of the antidepressantdrug, Zoloft. Justice Barry O’Keefe in his decision said: ‘I am satisfied that but forthe Zoloft he had taken, he would not have strangled his wife’.More than 100,000 Australians regularly take Zoloft or similar prescription drugs,known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, to treat depressiveillnesses. Zoloft and similar SSRIs such as Prozac are prescribed to millions ofpeople around the world. This was the first time that a criminal court in any countryhad linked a violent killing directly to one of these SSRIs.The paper draws upon news frame theory and risk theory to analyse national andinternational news coverage of this trial. Recent research has elaborated how risksare socially defined and acted upon, especially given changing media representationsof risks. The paper investigates what role the media played in constructing riskknowledge about Zoloft and other SSRIs following the NSW Supreme Court decision.News frame theory, which identifies the devices journalists use to routinely organisenews discourse, is used to analyse how news about the implications of the court caseare presented and made understandable to audiences. News frames set limits on theinformation available to audiences who are trying to make sense out of the reportedevent.The paper concludes by questioning the role some prominent newspapers played insetting fear and alarmist frames to define risk in this case, and demonstrates howjournalism can translate low-risk into high-risk with the potential of unnecessarilyheightening fear.

    M3 - Conference contribution

    SN - 0646422138

    BT - ANZCA03: Designing Communication for Diversity: Proceedings

    A2 - Hatcher, Caroline

    A2 - Flew, Terry

    A2 - Jacobs, Joanne

    PB - Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology

    CY - Brisbane

    ER -

    Blood W, Pirkis J, Hickie I, Martin G. The pill that killed: A case study of how Australian media frame health risk. In Hatcher C, Flew T, Jacobs J, editors, ANZCA03: Designing Communication for Diversity: Proceedings. Brisbane: Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology. 2003