Media Sensationalism and Obesity

by ahymes3562 on April 20, 2014 - 6:39pm

Obesity has been a growing concern in the United States for several years now. And in today’s society, virtually every aspect of this condition is brought under the microscope by social media and the media in general. In the article Obesity In The Media: Social Science Weighs In by Natalie Boero , Boero weighs in on the media’s influence in the sensationalism of the condition. Boero first breaks her review down into 3 areas of focus; Framing & constructing Obesity as a social problem, media and the science of Obesity, and finally, the media and Obesity policy. In the first area of focus, she basically discusses how the media focuses heavy in on specific aspects of Obesity. She had it nailed down to 3 media frames; medical ( Obesity as a disease), environmental ( sedentary lifestyle and or poor diet) and individual behavior. In the findings, it appeared as though other countries had begun to consider Obesity a growing problem in their respective countries as a result of Americanization. (Holland et al. 2011) In her 2nd area of focus, Boero discusses  the prevalence of contradictions in the media’s reports of Obesity in relation to Science. In a few of the articles reviewed, it expresses when the media reports on scientific findings, the findings say different than from what is being reported. These contradictions barely go noticed, and there were 2 theories brought up as to why that is. One is simply because the media enjoys a juicy story in order to sell more copies or gain more viewers. And the other basically just relies on how Obesity is framed in the media in general. The third area of focus hones in on the media’s framing of specific populations. This includes children and people of lower income. A point is then brought up that media focus has played a huge role in placing a bigger burden on children in that toys are being removed from kids meals and ads for junk food are being banned. (Udell and Mehta 2008) Narrow focus on the disease itself, combined with the more intense framing has forced the policy of Obesity to shift completely (Rothblum 1999 , Boero 2007, 2012). At the conclusion of the article, there is a notion that media focus on Obesity will continue to increase. However, it also brought up that social scientists who have been following the media’s “research” and reporting will continue to follow the media. And in the end, hope to be able to sharpen the facts that are stated and try to help provide the people with the bare boned truth.


This is clearly an important topic of discussion  In 2013 alone, the adult obesity rate was at 27.2%, up a full percentage from the previous year (Sharpe, 2013). As obesity rates continue to rise, along with it comes heavier media focus. As this article has shown, certain media outlets have gotten a little carried away with that info. I believe this article does an incredible job at highlighting the media’s over focus on such an issue. There’s a fine difference between presenting facts and media outlets just trying to gain viewer’s. I agree with all 3 of Boero’s stances, and her conclusion left me hopeful for the future. Media sensationalism can hurt us all in the end.Boero calls upon scholars and non-scholars alike to pay attention and converse with one another on how they feel about the media’s overexposure. This is a particularly important portion because social scientists can’t do it on their own. A more interactive focus could help to better understand all of this. I totally agree with Boero because we , the regular everyday people, need be our own motivators and our own lookouts. And as she points out, those who are obese should be called upon to voice their opinions as well considering they are the ones who are indeed suffering from the condition. A more unified focus and understanding could go a long way in bringing true facts to the forefront as opposed to blatantly allowing media sensationalism of Obesity to continue.


Boero, Natalie. Obesity In The Media: Social Science Weighs In (2013)

Sharpe, Lindsay. U.S. Obesity Rate Climbing in 2013 (2013)


I agree with your statements about how the media effects how obesity is looked at, and perceived. You show the various ideas that stem from the issue and how it effects those struggling with obesity. Along with the many facts that you presented, you were able to incorporate some of your own personal knowledge and integrate within your article. Overall, there are many good points and facts that you used in this article and you created a very good argument for obesity and how it should be dealt with.

I could not agree more with your way of thinking about obesity. I found very interesting the 3 areas of focus that you described because people would not necessarily divide the issue of obesity this way. However, I would like to make you see that solutions are possible. By coming back to the very basic of your culture or religion for example, obesity can be defeated. It can also be interesting to have prevention projects to raise the awareness and community gardens. In Montreal, a nation of aboriginals facing this issue exactly did this and it worked. Here is the link to the article:

I agree with you that obesity is a topic that is very important at the moment to discuss, and that people should be more clearly informed about the statistics and research behind the issue. Of course, as you pointed out, that need for clarity and transparency is ever harder to achieve in the polemical and sensationalist media world that we inhabit today. While news broadcasts should be informing the general population about the actual facts gathered on obesity, they instead decide to piece together fragmented news stories that only serve the purpose of appealing to the lowest common denominator; stories that, though possibly informative, are construed in such a matter that they only provide a single facet of a multi-faceted story. That’s the reality of framing in news, however. As I read in a book just recently on the subject of communications (which I am currently writing about in an essay), journalists are not simply champions of truth or purveyors of knowledge – more often than not, they’re simply “content producers” working to fill out the front page of a newspaper or TV/radio bulletin. Indeed, many of them strive to report honest and fair facts, but it is a hard argument to make that they’re own personal biases or subjective tendencies have no effect on the content that they produce.

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