Objectives: This study explores how local television news structures the public and policy debate on youth violence.
Methods: A content analysis was performed on 214 hours of local television news from California. Each of the 1791 stories concerning youth, violence, or both was coded and analyzed for whether it included a public health perspective.
Results: There were five key findings. First, violence dominated local television news coverage. Second, the specifics of particular crimes dominated coverage of violence. Third, over half of the stories on youth involved violence, while more than two thirds of the violence stories concerned youth. Fourth, episodic coverage of violence was more than five times more frequent than thematic coverage, which included links to broader social factors. Finally, only one story had an explicit public health frame.
Conclusions: Local television news provides extremely limited coverage of contributing etiological factors in stories on violence. If our nation's most popular source of news continues to report on violence primarily through crime stories isolated from their social context, the chance for widespread support for public health solutions to violence will be diminished.