Newspaper coverage and healthcare reform—déjà vu?
Coverage of healthcare reform this year increased slightly over last year, from 10 to 16 articles. Although there was an increase,
the number of articles is still significantly lower than the 86 and 74 articles when the PPACA was under debate in Congress
before its passage in March 2010, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Number of Healthcare Articles by Year
Table 5 shows that editorials outpaced front-page articles—13 to three. Coverage decreased in two newspapers, the USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, to no coverage in 2012. However, coverage increased in the three other newspapers with the most coverage in The
New York Times with six articles followed closely by The
Washington Post and Los Angeles Times with five articles apiece. This represented quite a rebound for the Los Angeles Times, which had no coverage in 2011.
Table 5: Healthcare Reform Articles by Newspaper
Again this year, we analyzed the top five US newspapers to address the following questions:
» Do the healthcare articles and headlines support or oppose the positions taken by the pharmaceutical industry?
» What ethical issues face the pharma industry in these articles on reform?
» How often are the industry's perspectives included in the articles?
» What pharmaceutical companies and/or brand names are identified in the articles?
» What are the implications of these findings for the industry?
The headlines as well as the articles were analyzed as positive, negative, or neutral toward the pharmaceutical industry.
There was definitely a negative tone to this year's articles; only one headline was positive, with the related article being
negative. Eleven of 16 headlines were neutral (68.8 percent), four were negative (25 percent), and one was positive. When
full articles were considered, 12 articles were neutral, four negative, and none positive as summarized in Table 6.
Table 6: Healthcare Reform Analysis of Number of Articles
Assessing coverage by individual newspaper, The New York Times was largely neutral in its coverage with five of its six articles neutral and one negative. The Washington Post had similar coverage with four neutral articles and one negative article. Completing this year's coverage was the Los Angeles Times, which had three neutral articles and two negative ones.
When there was negative coverage, it was hard hitting as exemplified by front-page coverage in the Los Angeles Times in March, "Obama's Health Reform Law Still a Hard Sell" indicating that many important provisions are not yet phased in and
that the public has seen little to inspire support. Comparisons of coverage among the five newspapers are depicted in Table
Table 7: Number of Healthcare Reform Articles by Newspaper