Background: People of all ages participate in activities that can pose a risk to their health. However, it is important not only to see risks as threats, but also something that can enhance positive experiences and opportunities. The media has a huge influence on young people and thus there are good reasons to investigate how risks and risk-taking are portrayed. Significance: The communication in the media can be described as bi-directional, with subjects covered from many different perspectives, for example the reporting of views and values held by the authorities, politicians, residents and other community stakeholders. The human identity is constructed from self-experiences, but also through the different public discourses (collectively agreed discussions or arguments) that are present in the media and in everyday speech. For adolescents in particular, contact with the media affects their lives and the development of their identity. Hence, the media plays an important role in the presentation of how the world is constituted. The aim of this study was therefore to explore how risks and risk taking are described in media targeting young people in Sweden. Methods: 270 adolescents aged 15-20 years were surveyed on which newspapers they primarily read. Two daily tabloids were identified, both in paper format and on the Internet. Hence, the data consisted of two daily tabloids, each studied over a 14 day period. Each article that mentioned risks and risk taking was analyzed using discourse analysis from three perspectives: 1) what is stated, 2) by whom and 3) how such statements are articulated. Results showed that risks were mainly addressed in four ways; 1) News reports by journalists and press spokespersons articulating the theme “offender, heroes and victims”, e.g. news about crimes and accidents. 2) Reports about sports by athletes, coaches, doctors and columnists on the theme “enduring punches and injuries”, e.g. reports about violence and injuries in sports. 3) Reports, about entertainment by actors, performers, presenters and columnists about “Idols, drugs and confessions”, e.g. celebrities’’ confession stories, and 4) Expert- and opinion reports by journalists, experts, panels about “opinions and influence”, e.g. columnists writing about current events. The Conclusion drawn is the importance of discussing the discourses media create and reproduce, and that all levels of society need to take responsibility for what risks are reported, how and, by whom. For example, the media can reproduce outdated gender roles and may obstruct equal opportunities for young men and women. This study contributes in several ways, one being to bring awareness on how discourses are presented in the media and the impact on young peoples’ opportunities to create balanced and conscious attitudes to risk.
Risk discourses in Swedish tabloids. Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/281280598_Risk_discourses_in_Swedish_tabloids [accessed Oct 29, 2015].