Achoo! Three Major US Newspapers Reporting on the Flu Before and After H1N1

Philip A. Harris, James Madison University


The flu is the most common and also the most preventable health risk and crisis in the United States. This research is a quantitative content analysis of flu coverage appearing in 102 articles from The Washington Post, USA Today, and The New York Times. It examines the differences in the coverage three years before and after the H1N1 pandemic and evaluates them for the use of fundamental constructs in health, risk, and crisis communication theories such as severity, susceptibility, efficacy, excuse, justification, intention, expertise, and trustworthiness. Most significant differences were found between excuse and justification as well as with severity in comparison to susceptibility and efficacy. Further research could be conducted to see how using these constructs in newspaper reporting impacts individual behaviors for common disease prevention.