Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Research: Bias in newspaper report of injury

Last week, the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health published an article that Jason Foster and I wrote entitled “If it bleeds, it leads: The construction of workplace injury in Canadian newspapers, 2009–2014”. This article uses quantitative content analysis to examine how newspapers report workplace injuries across Canada and compares those reports to official injury statistics.

The upshot is that newspapers dramatically over-report fatalities, injuries to men, injuries in the construction and mining/quarrying/oil industries, injuries stemming from contact with objects/equipment and fires/explosions, and acute physical injuries such as burns, fractures, intracranial injuries, and traumatic injuries. 

Basically, newspapers construct injuries as things that violently kill blue-collar men. This results in a profoundly misleading picture of occupational injuries in Canada. To the degree that Canadians use (consciously or otherwise) media representations of workplace injuries to inform their views of workplace injuries, the biases in newspaper articles may be skewing public perceptions. Misunderstanding the nature of workplace injuries then leads to inappropriate prescriptions for injury prevention.

-- Bob Barnetson

No comments: