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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 27, 2008

Nov. 1 Saturday Scholars talk examines media coverage of health issues

Is red wine good for you? How much influence do genes have on your ability to lose weight? And why are some forms of cancer given more attention than others?

What we know about these topics comes largely from the news media. Newspapers, magazines, Web sites and television have the ability to set our agendas -- to tell us what diseases or threats we should be thinking about.

Media coverage of health issues will be the topic of an upcoming talk by Julie Andsager, professor and director of graduate studies in the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She will speak at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1 in Room 40, Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building of the UI Pentacrest.

The free, public lecture, "Medicine vs. the Media," is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as part of its Saturday Scholars series, which marks its 10th anniversary this year. It will last about an hour, and refreshments will be served.

Andsager will discuss the fundamental nature of news production in terms of news values and practices that influence which stories are likely to be prominent.

"The importance of timeliness, among other factors, creates a chasm between news and science, which is cumulative and methodical," she said. "To some extent, celebrities influence which diseases are in the news, as do developments in research."

Coverage of cancer will serve as the main framework for the presentation. While more individuals survive cancer than in the past, and developments in treatment have reduced its mortality rates, cancer remains a popular topic in the news.

"By and large, the news and entertainment media misrepresent incidence rates of cancer, such that women tend to believe the greatest threat is breast cancer and men prostate cancer," Andsager said. "Coronary heart disease and lung cancer are, in fact, the leading causes of death for men and women."

Andsager holds a secondary appointment in the UI's Department of Community and Behavioral Health. She teaches courses in quantitative research methods, media and health, gender and the media, and social scientific foundations of communication. Her research and publications center on media framing and message processing about health, particularly regarding gender and public opinion. She won the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Krieghbaum Under-40 Award for research, teaching and public service in 2003 and is an associate editor of Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly.

The final event in the Saturday Scholars series is "New Iowa Writers: Readings by Students," featuring Jae Choi, Iowa Writers' Workshop; Hali Felt, Nonfiction Writing Program; Gabriel Houck, Nonfiction Writing Program and Ted Thompson, Iowa Writers' Workshop, at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, Room 40, Schaeffer Hall.

Saturday Scholars was developed to give the public a chance to hear about the latest teaching and research innovations by faculty members in the college. For more information visit

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the CLAS in advance at 319-335-2610.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070 (office), 319-430-6576 (cell),; Carla Carr, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 319-335-2818,