Framing autism in newspaper media: an example from Finland

Henri Pesonen, Tiina Itkonen, Mari Saha, Anders Nordahl-Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: Media play a significant role in the process of raising public awareness about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Despite an increase in ASD media coverage, there is scarcity of research that examines how the actual frame is constructed and how the news stories are narrated. This study aims to examine the extent to which Finnish print media papers extend medical and societal narration of ASD to other issue domains and the extent to which newspaper stories use a positive, negative or neutral narrative. Design/methodology/approach: The authors analyzed 210 full newspaper reports from the largest daily appearing newspaper by circulation in Finland from 1990 to 2016. The authors used the newspaper’s electronic database to conduct a systematic papers search. The authors then used coding scheme about news story framing, which was followed by a detailed content analysis of the papers. Findings: Approximately two-thirds of the papers consisted of a straightforward informational or clinical lens to educate the public (n = 110). This is in line with international studies. However, the authors’ analysis revealed four additional themes of medical and societal ASD reporting. Social implications: The study increases understanding about how the media can shape the public perception of ASD, which in turn might influence how autistic individuals are accepted in the society, as well as how they feel that they belong. Originality/value: While ASD itself is at the center of neutral news reporting, this study’s results imply how to construct ASD from new paradigms. Linking ASD to a culture, and thus extending it to the more commonly accepted notion of deafness as a culture, might shape the public’s perceptions about ASD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Autism
Early online date2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Disability construction
  • Frame alignment
  • Framing
  • Media
  • Neurodiversity

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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