Charles Briggs, Professor

Closed (1) News Coverage of Health

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2018 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2019.

Why is news coverage so filled with stories about health? How can a story—like the 2009 pandemic of "swine flu" (H1N1) be generated in only 24 hours, before clinical and epidemiological information is available, and yet reshape public health agendas, siphon off funds from known "killer diseases," and scare people around the world?
A long-term study of news coverage of health has resulted in a book, Making Health Public: How News Coverage Is Remaking Media, Medicine, and Contemporary Life by Anthropology professor Charles L. Briggs and UCSD Communication professor Daniel C. Hallin. URAPpers played a crucial role in that study—collecting news stories, coding them for quantitative analysis, transcribing interviews, and tracking their own use of traditional and social media.
I continue to watch news coverage, focusing more on coverage of particular diseases and news stories. Take a look at a blog I wrote,, that compares H1N1 with last winter's H3N2 flu season and analyzes a story about efforts by the Trump administration to block a benign World Health Organization resolution promoting breastfeeding.

I would like to work with a URAP student to continue monitoring coverage, looking for what is particularly significant, and focusing on particular diseases. One focus this year will be news coverage of Alzheimer's disease, where I will be collaborating with a UCSF faculty member who works with patients and their families. We will be compiling stories in print, radio, television, Internet, and social media, analyzing them, and making the results available.

Some students in the past have written course papers and honors theses based upon materials that they compiled for the project. URAP students in their project become an integral part of a research team.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated