Narrative sensationalism? Insights from European research on sex, media and violence

michel kobie enny event

Narratives play an increasingly important role in (online) communication about health issues. News reporters not only report the cold facts, but also increasingly employ techniques that are used in novels and movies; serious games use interactive storytelling techniques to improve health outcomes. This seminar brings together presentations from European scholars involved in the international HealthNar Research Exchange network, which has the goal of strengthening and consolidating the emerging field of narrative health communication.

Much ado about sexting? Motives and consequences of adolescents’ intimate imagery

Sexting among adolescents is receiving increasing media and scholarly attention, especially regarding the possible consequences of mediated intimacy through mobile apps and other ICTs. However, in addition to appreciating the potential risks associated with sexting, how can we understand its possible role in adolescent’s identity formation and relational development? What are the motives of young people in engaging in the production of personal sexual imagery? Does it relate to their media consumption? These questions are explored based on the results of focus group discussions and surveys with adolescents in Belgium.

Michel Walrave is a professor in Communication Studies at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. He investigates online self-disclosure and privacy issues.

Virtually experiencing a crisis: The mediating role of narratives in news coverage of mass shootings

The genre of news narratives combines journalistic conventions with storytelling techniques. Narratives are frequently employed in the news coverage of crises, including terrorist attacks and mass shootings. Analyses of American and Dutch newspaper narratives about mass shootings reveal how journalists use various techniques to describe these events through the perspectives of eyewitnesses to the shootings. Such strategies allow readers to identify with these eyewitnesses and experience a sense of “being there”. Experimental findings indicate that news narratives can create a vicarious experience in which readers virtually observe mass shootings from up close, as mediated witnesses.

Kobie van Krieken is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Language Studies at Radboud University, The Netherlands. Her research focuses on the language of narratives and their impact on the audience.

Scare-mongering or fact driven? Media coverage of health crises and public responses

Relations between emotion and quality journalism have been historically contentious. Particularly in the context of health crisis reporting, journalists have been blamed for scare-mongering. Time series analysis of A/H1N1 media coverage across 5 European countries demonstrated that the perception of dramatization may have developed – inadvertently – through the sheer amount of early news coverage. Experimental findings further suggest that the public knows how to distinguish ‘fact’ from ‘fiction’. Audiences perceive news reporting only to be sensationalist if their vulnerability is indeed low, but journalists cover the risk in a dramatic way.

Enny Das is a professor in Communication and Persuasion at Radboud University, The Netherlands. Her research focuses on (un-)intended effects of health messages on public perceptions and health outcomes.

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