Publications

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Issue 9: Youth and violence in California newspapers

In the week following the Columbine shootings, news reporting was so ubiquitous that it frightened students, teachers, and parents coast-to-coast -- even though schools are one of the safest places for children to be. This Issue measures how reporting about more proximate and probable threats to California young people compares with coverage of dangers rare and remote.

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Issue 8: The debate on gun policies in U.S. and midwest newspapers

Gun violence and its prevention were thrust onto the public's agenda on April 20, 1999, with the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. But the shootings did not happen in a vacuum. In this Issue, we explore the context of gun policy debate in newspapers during the spring of 1999.

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Myths about defensive gun use and permissive gun carry laws [pdf]

Some researchers have argued that communities are safer when more residents carry guns. But are they? Daniel Webster and Jens Ludwig examine the evidence put forth in various studies by John Lott and Gary Kleck to assess the question. Until proven otherwise, they write, the best science indicates that more guns will lead to more deaths.

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The gun control movement has found its voice: But still needs to find its way [pdf]

The majority of Americans favor stricter gun laws, and they are silent no more. They are telling newscasters, pollsters, and politicians that they want something done to end the ease with which people can get guns. This report traces the trajectory of public opinion on guns and makes recommendations for violence prevention advocates who want to amplify the public's voice on this issue.

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The California Violence Prevention Initiative: Advancing policy to ban Saturday night specials

The California Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) was conceived in 1993 as a policy advocacy effort to reduce violence among youth. The VPI included an emphasis on shifting societys definition of violence to include a public health perspective, reducing access to alcohol and other drugs, and limiting availability of handguns. Prior to the VPI, there were no local SNS bans. Now, there are bans in 41 California jurisdictions.

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Gun policy in seven midwestern states: A brief analysis [pdf]

This report explores gun laws in seven states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. These states, whose laws vary from unusually restrictive to remarkably permissive, present a host of challenges and opportunities for gun violence prevention advocates.

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News for a change: An advocate's guide to working with the media

News for a Change provides step-by-step instructions for public health advocates working with the media to promote social change. The book provides a guide to media advocacy -- the strategic use of mass media to advance policies that improve health.

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Issue 7: Child care coverage in U.S. newspapers

The lines of debate on child care are drawn between the personal responsibility of parents to provide for their own families and the role of the government or other institutions in helping meet this vital need. In Issue 7, we analyze this tension in five years of child care news and opinion.

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Constructing violence as a public health problem

Once viewed primarily as a criminal justice problem, violence and its prevention are now often claimed by public health professionals as being within their purview. After reviewing 282 articles published in public health and medical journals from 1985 through 1995 that discussed violence as a public health problem, the author found a tension between public health professionals' vision of the social precursors of violence and their attempts to apply a traditional set of remedies.

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Issue 6: Youth radio: Broadcasting violence prevention

Youth Radio is dedicated to bringing the voices of youth to young and adult audiences. This is a story of young people using radio to create their own representations as a mechanism for violence prevention.

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The roles of speakers in local television news stories on youth and violence

Violence is a perplexing and multi-dimensional problem, about which the public remains largely misinformed. TV news is important to violence prevention because it heightens awareness of the issue and because it is the most consumed news source. This article examines whose voice is represented in local TV news stories about youth and violence.

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Issue 5: Newspaper frames of childhood lead poisoning

The leading environmental threat to children's health is lead poisoning. This Issue assesses the claims made by various sides of the issue during 1993 and 1994 in the nation's major newspapers.

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Alcohol in the news: The role for researchers

Alcohol is infrequently mentioned in the news. The occasional portrayals rarely depict problems or prevention, instead reinforcing the idea that alcohol is part of the good life or, at best, neutral. Substantive alcohol stories that do appear often report on research or advocacy. Researchers could, and should, have a stronger presence in the news.

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Issue 4: Children's health in the news

In the late 1990's, children's health began to receive more attention in the news media. But was the coverage meaningful? In this Issue, we find out by examining three months of coverage from newspapers and National Public Radio.

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A new debate on affirmative action: Houston and beyond [pdf]

Knowing that the media can be very powerful in shaping how voters perceive social issues, BMSG analyzed news coverage of Houston's Proposition A and other affirmative action issues during the fall of 1997.

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Issue 3: Oakland shows the way: The Coalition on Alcohol Outlet Issues and media advocacy as a tool for policy change

In September 1993, a small but dedicated group of prevention advocates in Oakland, Calif., had the alcohol industry running scared. This Issue describes how the coalition used media advocacy successfully in its four-year struggle to rectify the over concentration of alcohol outlets in Oakland.

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Youth and violence on local television news in California

This study departs from the traditional perspective that televised violence directly affects viewers' behavior and instead examines how news stories about violence influence public and policymaker opinion. The study employs the concept of framing, which posits that media tell people not only what issues to think about but also how to think about them.

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Communications and public health

This chapter shows how public health advocates can make better use of the mass media to address significant public health problems. It lays the foundation for such an approach, known as media advocacy, and it offers a 10-step guide to using media advocacy.

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Issue 2: Junk gun bans in California newspapers

Californians made history in 1996. Across the state, 29 cities and counties voted to ban "junk guns" — the small, cheap handguns used disproportionately in crime. This Issue analyzes the arguments used during that debate in the 18 newspapers covering the regions where the bans were first enacted.

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Issue 1: What is media advocacy?

What is media advocacy? And how does it differ from the other ways groups use the mass media? Issue 1 shows how local groups use media advocacy to focus upstream on policy change and explains why that's so important.

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Reporting on violence: A handbook for journalists

This handbook shows how journalists can adopt a public health approach to violence -- one that views violence as preventable, not inevitable, and seeks to alter the basic conditions in our society that give rise to and sustain its unacceptably high levels. It also suggests different questions that reporters can ask to help illuminate the issue of violence prevention and give people better information to develop more effective policy and programs.

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The affirmative action debate [pdf]

Affirmative action was a significant issue in the 1996 national and state elections. This framing memo, based on a news analysis of the issue, shows how affirmative action supporters and opponents framed their arguments and how supporters could have done a better job of making their case.

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Media advocacy: A strategy for advancing policy and promoting health

The purpose of media advocacy is to promote public health goals by using the media to strategically apply pressure for policy change. It emphasizes public policy rather than personal behavior. This article uses two case studies to illustrate key aspects of media advocacy. The first is a 5-year statewide violence prevention initiative for young people in California. The second focuses on the activities of a mothers' group working to improve public housing.

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Alcohol advertising and violence against women: A media advocacy case study

This article describes one effort to help prevent violence against women by addressing some of the larger societal factors involved. The Dangerous Promises campaign is based on the premise that sexist advertising images contribute to an environment conducive to violence against women. Using the community organizing and media advocacy, the campaign pressures the alcohol industry to change how they portray women in much of their advertising. The article examines the strategies and outcomes of the campaign and makes a case for using media advocacy in the policymaking process.

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Visualizing America's drug problems: An ethnographic content analysis of illegal drug stories on the nightly news

Although drug use in the U.S. was declining in the late 80s and early 90s, "drug war" rhetoric and punitive solutions continued to run rampant. A large body of literature suggests that media played a large role in that. This article reports on a content analysis of network news reports on illegal drugs to see how portrayals of their usage stacked up against reality.

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