STATS at George Mason University
 
   
   

Results

These are the most important elements in this story, and they are the criteria STATS used to analyze breaking news coverage of the study in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. We also looked at newspaper headlines to whether they reflected a sense of controversy over the findings or boosted their impact with alarmist phrasing. Our goal was to find out whether the media gave readers and viewers the information they needed to make sense of the risk presented by PCBs in salmon, or whether the coverage was more likely to result in an unnecessary health scare.

 

U.S. newspapers

  • Fewer than one out of every two stories (47%) provided the numbers on the EPA’s consumption limits for PCBs in fish.
  • Fewer than one in three stories (29%) reported the FDA’s limits on PCBs.
  • Only one out of every four stories (24%) provided readers with both the EPA and the FDA limits on PCBs in fish (and in some of these cases, the reader had to do a little math to get one figure or the other).
  • Fewer than one in five stories (18%) adequately explained why the EPA and FDA PCB limits differed.
  • Two out of three stories (65%) reported the PCB levels found by Hites et al.
  • Fewer than one in five stories (18%) explained the EPA’s estimated risk for cancer.
  • No story (0%) reported that the EPA’s estimation for non-cancer health risks was significantly lower than for cancer.
  • Almost all stories (94%) put the risk from PCBs in salmon into a broader context. Fewer than one in three stories (29%) mentioned the controversy over the EPA’s claim that PCBs are prob able carcinogens in humans.
  • Two out of every three newspaper headlines (65%) were alarmist.

U.S. Broadcast

  • Only one out of four stories (25%) provided the numbers on the EPA’s consumption limits for PCBs in fish.
  • No stories (0%) provided the numbers for the FDA’s limits on PCBs or explained why the EPA and FDA limits on PCBs differed.
  • No story (0%) noted the PCB levels found by Hites et al.
  • One out of every two stories (50%) explained the EPA’s estimated risk for cancer
  • No story (0%) explained that the EPA’s estimation for non-cancer health risks was significantly lower than for cancer.
  • Every story (100%) put the risk from PCBs in salmon into a broader context.
  • One out of four stories (25%) mentioned the controversy over the EPA’s claim that PCBs are probable carcinogens in humans.

Canadian newspapers

  • No story reported the numbers on the EPA’s consumption limits for PCBs in fish.
  • Two out of five Canadian newspaper stories (40 percent) provided readers with Canada Health limits for PCBs.
  • Two out of five stories (40%) noted the PCB levels found by Hites et al.
  • One in five stories (18%) explained the EPA’s estimated risk for cancer.
  • No story (0%) explained that the EPA’s estimation for non-cancer health risks was significantly lower than for cancer.
  • A majority of stories (80%) put the risk from PCBs in salmon into a broader context.
  • No story (0%) mentioned the controversy over the EPA’s claim that PCBs are probable carcinogens in humans.
  • A majority of Canadian newspaper headlines (80 percent) were alarmist.

United Kingdom newspapers

  • Not one story contained numbers pertaining to any regulatory level. • Only one out of ten stories (10%) noted the PCB levels found by Hites et al.
  • Fewer than one in three stories (30%) explained the EPA’s estimated risk for cancer.
  • A majority of stories (90%) put the risk from PCBs in salmon into a broader context.
  • No story (0%) explained that the EPA’s estimation for non-cancer health risks was significantly lower than for cancer.
  • Only one out of ten U.K newspaper stories (10%) mentioned the controversy over the EPA’s claim that PCBs are probable carcinogens in humans.
  • Every U.K. newspaper headline in our sample (100 percent) was alarmist.

 
about staff publications email contact search contribute
Salmon home
email this page to a friend
 

STATS home

 
next