Feeding the Debate: A Qualitative Framing Analysis of Organic Food News Media Coverage

Courtney Meyers, Katie Abrams
2010 Journal of Applied Communications  
Consumer interest in organic food has increased in recent years due to concerns over conventional production practices, health standards and environmental protection. Organic food production can be viewed as both an ally and rival of traditional agriculture. Americans tend to be more susceptible to media coverage about production agriculture. Determining how the media frames organic food is important because news frames can determine what becomes salient in conversations from the dinner table
more » ... the dinner table to Capitol Hill. This study employed qualitative content analysis methodology to discover how five national newspapers framed organic foods during an 18-month period. Emergent frames included "ethical," "health," "production," and "industrialization. " Emphasis was placed on the ethical and moral reasons to purchase organic food with limited discussion of the scientific evidence for consumer claims of superior quality, safety, and nutrition. Overall, common sources included consumers, industry representatives, and organic farmers. Future research should utilize the identified frames to examine news coverage over a longer time frame and in additional media such as agricultural magazines. Abstract Consumer interest in organic food has increased in recent years due to concerns over conventional production practices, health standards and environmental protection. Organic food production can be viewed as both an ally and rival of traditional agriculture. Americans tend to be more susceptible to media coverage about production agriculture. Determining how the media frames organic food is important because news frames can determine what becomes salient in conversations from the dinner table to Capitol Hill. This study employed qualitative content analysis methodology to discover how f ive national newspapers framed organic foods during an 18-month period. Emergent frames included "ethical," "health," "production," and "industrialization." Emphasis was placed on the ethical and moral reasons to purchase organic food with limited discussion of the scientif ic evidence for consumer claims of superior quality, safety, and nutrition. Overall, common sources included consumers, industry representatives, and organic farmers. Future research should utilize the identif ied frames to examine news coverage over a longer time frame and in additional media such as agricultural magazines. So What? The organic and natural food markets have experienced tremendous growth recently due to an increase in consumer demand for these products. When consumers seek information to make food purchasing decisions, one of the most trusted sources is the media. How the media covers agriculture is important because it can influence consumers' perceptions of how food is produced, handled, or processed. Understanding how agricultural topics have been presented (or framed) in the media helps agricultural communicators understand what is being said and by whom. This perspective then helps agricultural communicators determine what additional information is necessary to support or correct that coverage. This article provides that perspective for the specific topic of organic foods with the purpose of discovering what frames are used in this coverage.
doi:10.4148/1051-0834.1190 fatcat:bfan7zflfjgkpggk5y7rhnilbu