Young people’s perceptions of and engagement with news media reporting on illicit drug issues: An Australian study

Caitlin Hughes, Bridget Spicer, Kari Lancaster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Illicit drug issues have a pervasive presence in mass media. Yet, despite 25 years of research exploring questions of bias, sensationalism and inaccuracies in news media portrayals of illicit drugs, how audiences engage with these portrayals (and their capacity to filter, interpret, deconstruct and even reconstruct media messages) has been neglected. Drawing on focus groups conducted in 2010 with 52 Australian young people aged 16–24 years, this article explores thought processes and reactions to three different news articles. It demonstrates that although young people bemoan the media's apparent sensationalism and bias towards illicit drug issues, their ability to interpret and reinterpret messages about drugs is shaped by four different characteristics: pre-existing knowledge and belief systems; media literacy skills; media framing; and frequency of the media message. Moreover, in spite of their distrust, this article demonstrates that young people remain highly engaged with, and dependent upon, news media for information about drug issues. Unmasking the drivers of media reliance and building skills to navigate the landscape is, thus, critical
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-161
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent Issues in Criminal Justice
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • mass media
  • illicit drugs
  • young people

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