Press coverage of AIDS/HIV in the South Pacific: Short-term view of a long-term problem

September 1, 2003

Background to the Abstract

In 1999, the author conducted face-to-face interviews with 25 newspaper editors from several South Pacific countries. The findings highlighted a worrying sense of complacency and lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS among the editors. Moreover, most of them were not convinced about the potential disastrous affect an HIV/AIDS epidemic would have on the political, social, economic and social landscape of their respective Pacific countries. The lack of editorials and front-page stories reinforced this view. New stories focused mainly on statistics and workshops. There was little mobilising information or human-interest angles which might have motivated self-protective behaviours or changed socio-political educational approaches. However, three years later. In September 2002, the author returned to the largest country in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, and recorded a significant shift in attitude among the editors. What led to this ‘change of heart’ and will it result in a different approach to reporting HIV/AIDS?

About the Author

Dr Trevor Cullen is a professor in journalism in the School of Arts and Humanities at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. He has received several university and national teaching and research awards. His research areas include journalism education, health reporting and media coverage of infectious diseases, especially HIV. Dr Cullen is on the editorial board of Pacific Journalism Review.

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