Date of Graduation

5-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology

Advisor

Leslie D. Edgar

Committee Member

Karen Christensen

Second Committee Member

Harold L. Goodwin

Third Committee Member

Donald M. Johnson

Abstract

Consumers are increasingly concerned with the use of antibiotics and hormones in poultry production, and the news media is the primary way consumers gain knowledge about this subject. This study assessed articles about antibiotic and hormone use in poultry production from the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal from 1994 to 2014. This study employed a content analysis methodology to assess selected articles (n = 139) for key messaging about antibiotic and hormone use in poultry production, article tone, article framing, and article journalistic quality. Data gathered from key messages were assessed for emergent themes that were reported as frequencies, and data gathered about tone, framing, and journalistic quality were assessed for frequencies and significant differences between media outlets (p < .05).

Five emergent themes were evident in the analysis of these articles: 1) consumers awareness of and concern for antibiotic/hormone use in poultry production (41.0%, n = 57); 2) the role of antibiotic use in poultry production in increased levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (40.3%, n = 56); 3) regulation of antibiotic use in poultry production (36.0%, n = 50); 4) purpose of antibiotic/hormone use in poultry production (32.4%, n = 45); and 5) transparency of antibiotic use poultry production practices (13.7%, n = 19). Articles were written with primarily a neutral or negative tone, and the human interest and responsibility frames were evoked most frequently. Articles showed the most quality in terms of selectivity of information included in the articles, while displaying the lowest percentage of quality in objectivity.

Conclusions were drawn from the findings, and recommendations were made for agricultural communicators and journalists, as well as for public relations in the poultry industry. These included a stronger focus on understanding and addressing consumer concern about antibiotic and hormone use in poultry production, increased transparency, and improved relations with media contacts who cover antibiotic and hormone use in poultry production issues. Additionally, future research recommendations are made, including qualitative research to understand why journalists and gatekeepers set agendas and how they frame articles about antibiotic and hormone use in poultry production and stronger research focus on determining the link between antibiotic use in poultry production and increased antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Share

COinS