Is there an upside to media coverage of celebrities' private lives? A new study suggests that it has a positive impact on readers' health.
A new research has found something positive about celebrity journalism amid the plethora of negatives reviews.
Researchers from Missouri University have found that celebrity journalism is often discounted due to its sensationalism and lack of news value, but it may be an under-appreciated way to communicate health messages.
Amanda Hinnant, assistant professor of magazine journalism in the University of Missouri School of Journalism with co-author Elizabeth Hendrickson from the University of Tennessee, utilised focus groups that discussed various celebrity health news stories and how each story affected the participants. Two such cases in point are late Big Brother participant Jade Goody's [ Images ] struggle with cervical cancer and Michael Douglas' [ Images ] current fight against cancer of the throat.
Previous research had indicated that after a person read a health news story, they would then seek out interpersonal advice from a friend or family member before deciding to change their health behaviours.
"Based on the discussion of participants, we observed that it is possible for celebrities to serve as surrogate interpersonal contacts for people. Therefore, it would be less likely for a consumer of celebrity media to check with a friend or family member before changing a health behaviour based on a mass-mediated message. The presence of a celebrity in a health story could serve as that interpersonal contact for the reader."
Hinnant says participants in her research demonstrated how they took celebrity health behaviours seriously, weighing the moral implications and mitigating circumstances of a celebrity's life before judging a health behavior.
She believes a person may be more likely to respond to a celebrity health story if that person has past experience with the specific issue in question.
Professor believes celebrity health messages play an important role in society, in that for many celebrity media consumers, they are a catalyst for discussions about health information.
Hinnant's paper was presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference and won her the first place for the Best of Entertainment Studies Interest Group at the conference.
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