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Aust N Z J Public Health. 1999 Jun;23(3):233-9.

The new pariahs: discourse on the tobacco industry in the Sydney press, 1993-97.

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1
Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Sydney, New South Wales.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To review the principal sub-texts contained in all press coverage and references to the tobacco industry in a major Sydney newspaper over five years.

METHOD AND SAMPLE:

After excluding value-neutral financial page reports, thematic analysis of all value-laden references to the tobacco industry in the Sydney Morning Herald, January 1993 to December 1997.

RESULTS:

Some 155 articles containing 221 separate references to the tobacco industry were identified. Eight sub-texts (callous merchants of death; conspiracy/cover-up; blood money; toxic pied pipers; corporate leviathans; beleaguered/legitimate industry; index case of unethical or corrupt practice; and bumbling fools) accounted for all 221 references. Eighty-nine per cent of references to the industry framed it negatively. Journalists or regular newspaper columnists authored 56% of the references. Only 5% of comments were attributed to tobacco company sources.

CONCLUSIONS:

In press reports, the tobacco industry is routinely framed as a corporate pariah by journalists, the public, government spokespeople and tobacco control advocates.

IMPLICATIONS:

Routine negative publicity about the tobacco industry is likely to significantly reduce its public credibility and political influence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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