The Opioid Epidemic in the News: Findings from a Preliminary Analysis of Northern California Coverage
2016 | Read the report.
The news in rural Northern California provides a window through which we can glimpse how the public—and policymakers—understand the critical epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose in the region. A new preliminary analysis from PHI's Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) found that the news reinforces that the opioid epidemic is severely affecting communities locally and nationally; that the epidemic drives local crime; and that communities are exploring fledgling prevention and recovery efforts.
Unlike previous responses to drug use, opioid addiction is routinely framed in the news as a public health issue as well as a criminal justice issue—but public health advocates and medical practitioners are currently absent from the coverage.
As the opioid epidemic worsens, it is critical to understand how the news is shaping people's understanding of the issue and what can be done about it. In this report, supported by the California Public Health Department, PHI's BMSG analyzes news coverage from Northern California outlets, provides insights into how the issue is framed, and suggests questions for additional research.