Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fright Factors and Media Triggers

I found these two lists in an excellent book edited by Peter Bennett and Kenneth Calman, Risk Communication and Public Health (Oxford Medical Publications). The fright factors will make a risk less acceptable and more worrisome. The media triggers will make a health risk more likely to be featured as a prominent story in the media.

Fright Factors

  • Risk is involuntary
  • Risk seen as inequitable
  • Risk seen as inescapable
  • Risk is man-made
  • Hidden and irreversible damage
  • Damage to children
  • Risk poorly understood by science
  • Contradictory statements from responsible sources

Media Triggers
  • Questions of blame.
  • Alleged secrets and attempted cover-ups.
  • Human interest through identifiable heroes, villains, etc. (as well as victims).
  • Links with existing high-profile issues or personalities.
  • Conflict.
  • Signal value: What’s next?
  • Many people exposed to the risk, even if at low levels (It could be you!)
  • Strong visual impact (pictures of suffering)

If you look at recent vaccine safety concerns, almost all of these factors and triggers are present. No wonder they make such compelling stories in the newspapers.

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