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Ways of seeing obesity: a visual content analysis of British and German online newspapers, 2009-2011

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2013
<mark>Journal</mark>The International Journal of Communication and Health
Number of pages8
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Obesity prevalence rates, news coverage of obesity and academic research investigating how obesity has been covered in the news have all increased in the recent years. While growing in numbers, academic studies have been narrowly focused on news texts to the neglect of news photographs. In order to expand our understanding of how obesity is communicated in the news, this study content analysed 583 photographs from obesity-related news stories published in selected British and German online newspapers between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2011. We assessed the potential of news photographs to frame how obesity should be seen as an issue by communicating definitions, causes and solutions and extending moral judgments. We found that: weight was significantly more often presented as a defining factor responsible for obesity-related health complications than fitness; food consumption was significantly more often presented as the cause of obesity than was physical inactivity; over half of the analysed obese people were depicted in stigmatising ways potentially cueing readers’/viewers’ moral judgments, but also possibly sustaining public support for solutions which burden individuals. Few significant
differences emerged between the analysed newspapers (British/German, liberal/conservative, broadsheet/tabloid) leading us to conclude that readers/viewers of different news publications are exposed to similar messages about obesity. Such ‘homogeneity’ may contribute to a ‘consensus’ view on obesity that is not especially sympathetic of obese people and conductive to solving obesity.