The sculpture of tick-borne disease media coverage in the United States and China

Cheng Zeng (1), Yanzhe Tang (2), Diyako Rahmani (3), Stephen Croucher (4), Leona K Gilbert (5)
(1) University of Jyväskylä (Finland), Finland,
(2) University of Jyväskylä, Finland,
(3) University of Jyväskylä (Finland), Finland,
(4) School of Communication, Journalism, and Marketing at Massey University, Finland,
(5) Biological and Environmental Science at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland


Media’s ability to enhance the salience of certain topics for the public and affect governmental policy-setting processes is widely recognized. This is particularly evident in health communication, where newspapers are one of the most important sources of health information. This study compares media depictions of tick-borne disease in the United States and China. Both countries are experiencing an increase in tick-borne diseases and have vastly different media landscapes. To investigate US and Chinese newspaper coverage of tick-borne diseases, a content analysis was conducted of four US and four Chinese newspapers. The analysis considered length, tone, chief actors, and themes present in articles covering tick-borne diseases from 2010-2015. The findings reveal significant differences between the two nations on length of the articles, chief actors portrayed in the articles, and themes present in the articles. The data also show: tick-borne disease stories were overwhelmingly framed in a neutral way in both nations; newspapers in the US featured more celebrity-related stories compared to newspapers in China; and US stories as opposed to those in China focused more on health policies.

Full text article

Generated from XML file


Abraham, T. (2007). Twenty-first century plague: The story of SARS. Hong Kong, China: Hong Kong University Press.

Adelman, R. C., & Verbrugge, L. M. (2000). Death makes news: The social impact on newspaper coverage. Journal of Health and Social Behaviors, 41, 347–367. DOI:

Adrion, E. R., Aucott, J., Lemke, K. W., & Weiner, J. P. (2015). Health care costs, utilization and patterns of care following Lyme Disease. PLUS One 10(2): e0116767. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116767 DOI:

Anonymous. (March, 17. 2011). Chinese panic-buy salt over Japan nuclear threat. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

Apollonio, D., & Malone, R. (2009). Turning negative into positive: Public health mass media campaigns and negative advertising. Health Education Research, 24, 483-495. DOI:

Bandao News (2012, July, 28).半岛都市报成为省内唯一"最具传播价值都市报". 半岛都市报. Retrieved from:

Berwick, D. M., & Hackbarth, A. D. (2012). Eliminating waste in US health care. JAMA, 307, 1513-1516. DOI:

Brashers, D. E., Goldsmith, D. J., & Hsieh, E. (2002). Information seeking and avoiding in health contexts. Human Communication Research, 28, 258–271. DOI:

Brodie, M., Hamel, E., Altman, D., Blendon, R. J., & Benson, J. M. (2003). Health news and the American public, 1996–2002. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 28, 927–950. DOI:

Brown, W. J., & Basil, M. D. (1995). Media celebrities and public health: Responses to 'Magic' Johnson's HIV disclosure and its impact on AIDS risk and high-risk behaviors. Health Communication, 7, 345-370. DOI:

Castilla, E. B., Rodríguez, L. T., & Quesada, M. (2014). Political polarization and climate change: The editorial strategies of The New York Times and El País newspapers. Interactions: Studies in Communication & Culture, 5, 71-91. DOI:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Notice to Readers:Final 2012 Reports of Nationally Notifiable Infectious Diseases. MMWR 62: 669–82. PMID: 24133698.

Chan, A. (2007). Guiding public opinion through social agenda-setting: China's media policy since the 1990s. Journal of Contemporary China, 16, 547-559. DOI:

Chan, J. M. (2003). Administrative boundaries and media marketization: Comparative analysis of the newspaper, TV and Internet markets in China. In: C.-C. Lee (Ed.) Chinese media, global contexts (pp.159-176). London: Routledge.

Cheong, Y., Kim, K. & Zheng, L. (2010). Advertising appeals as a reflection of culture: A cross-cultural analysis of food advertising appeals in China and the U.S. Asian Journal of Communication, 20, 1–16. doi:10.1080/01292980903440848 DOI:

China Youth Daily Blog (2005). 中国青年报简介. Retrieved from:

Chongyi, F., (2013). The dilemma of stability preservation in China. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 42, 2, 3–19. DOI:

Collins, P. A., Abelson, J., Pyman, H., & Lavis, J. N. (2006). Are we expecting too much from print media? An analysis of newspaper coverage of the 2002 Canadian healthcare reform debate. Social Science & Medicine, 63, 89-102. doi: 10.1016/j.soscimed.2005.12.012 DOI:

Cook, J., Nuccitelli, D., Green, S. A., Richardson, M., Winkler, B. R., Painting, R., Way, R., Jacobs, P., Skuce, A. (2013). Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature. Environmental Research Letters 8, 1-7. DOI:

Corbett, J. B., & Mori, M. (1999). Medicine, media and celebrities: News coverage of breast cancer, 1960-1995. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 76, 229-249. DOI:

Countries. (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2016, from

Cram, P., Fendrick, M., Inadomi, J., Cowen, M. E., Carpenter, D., & Vijan, S., (2003). The impact of a celebrity promotional campaign on the use of colon cancer screening: The Katie Couric effect. JAMA, 63, 1601-1605. DOI:

de Carvalho, I. L. & Núncio, M. S. (2006). Laboratory diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis at the Portuguese National Institute of Health (1990–2004). Euro Surveillance, 11(10): pii=650. DOI:

Dunlop, S. M., Cotter, T., & Perez, D. (2014). When your smoking is not just about you: Antismoking advertising, interpersonal pressure, and quitting outcomes. Journal of Health Communication, 19, 41-56. DOI:

Feeley, T. H., O’Mally, A. K., & Covert, J. M. (2016). A content analysis of organ donation strategies printed in U.S. newspapers: Application of newsworthiness. Health Communication, 31, 495-503. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2014.973549 DOI:

Fogel, R. W. (2009). Forecasting the cost of U.S. health care in 2040. Journal of Policy Modeling, 31, 482–488. DOI:

Fu, K., Zhou, L., Zhang, Q., Chan, Y., & Burkhart, F. (2012). Newspaper coverage of emergency response and government responsibility in domestic natural disasters: China-US and within-China comparisons. Health, Risk & Society, 14, 71-85. DOI:

Gerdtham, U., & Jönsson, B. (2000). International comparisons of health expenditure: Theory, data and econometric analysis. In A. J. Culyer and J. P. Newhouse (Eds.), Handbook of Health Economics (pp. 12-51). Oxford: Elsevier. DOI:

Haigh, M. M. (2014). Afghanistan war coverage more negative over time. Newspaper Research Journal, 35, 38-51. DOI:

Hinckley, A. F., Connally, N. P., Meek, J. I., Johnson, B. J., Kemperman, M. M., Feldman, K. A., White, J. L., & Mead, P. S. (2014). Lyme disease testing by large commercial laboratories in the United States. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 59, 676-681. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciu397 DOI:

Health expenditure, total (% of GDP). (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2016, from

Hood, J. (2010). Celebrity philanthropy: The cultivation of China’s HIV/AIDS heroes. In L. Edwards and E. Jefferys (Eds), Celebrity in China, (pp. 85-102). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. DOI:

Iyengar, S. (1997). Overview. In S. Iyengar, & R. Reeves (Eds.), Do the media govern? Politicians, voters, and reporters in America (pp. 211-216). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Jeffreys, E. (2015). Celebrity philanthropy in Mainland China. Asian Studies Review, 39, 571-588. doi:10.1080/10357823.2015.1081871 DOI:

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1984). Choices, values, and frames. American Psychologist, 39, 341–350. DOI:

Kim, S.-H. & Willis, L. A. (2007). Talking about obesity: News framing of who is responsible for causing and fixing the problem. Journal of Health Communication, 12, 359–376. doi:10.1080/10810730701326051 DOI:

Lang, G. E. & Lang, K. (1981) Watergate: An exploration of the agenda building process. In G. C. Wilhoit and H. de Bock (Eds.), Mass communication review yearbookVol. 2 (pp. 447–468). Sage: Beverly Hills, CA.

Lee, N. Y. (2014). The influence of business strategies on the frames of health news: A comparison of health news in two Korean newspapers. Asian Journal of Communication, 24, 173-188. DOI:

Lei, G., Hong Tien, V., & McCombs, M. (2012). An expanded perspective on agenda-setting effects: Exploring the third level of agenda setting. Revista De Comunicación, 11, 51-68.

Leigh, J. H. & Choi, Y. (2007). The impact of attributions about life events on perceptions of foreign products: Contrasts in individualism and collectivism. Psychology & Marketing, 24, 41–68. doi:10.1002/mar.20152 DOI:

Lim, J. (2006). A cross-lagged analysis of agenda setting among online news media. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 83, 298-312. DOI:

Liu, S., Yao, C., Lin, G., Jia, P., & Zhang, Y. (2003). Effectiveness evaluation of mass media in health education. Chinese Journal of Health Education, 6, 412–414.

Luo, Y. (2013). Mapping agenda-setting research in China: A meta-analysis study. Chinese Journal of Communication, 6, 269-285. DOI:

Lynch, D. C. (1999). After the propaganda state: Media, politics, and “thought work” in reformed China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. DOI:

Ma, R. (2008). Spread of SARS and war-related rumors through new media in China. Communication Quarterly, 56, 376-391. doi:10.1080/01463370802448204 DOI:

Martinez-Donate, A. P., Zellner, J. A., Sañudo, F., Fernandez-Cerdeño, A., Hovell, M. F., Sipan, C. L., & ... Carrillo, H. (2010). Hombres Sanos: Evaluation of a social marketing campaign for heterosexually identified Latino men who have sex with men and women. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 2532-2540. DOI:

Massey, B. L., & Luo, W. (2005). Chinese newspapers and market theories of web journalism. International Journal for Communication Studies, 67, 359-371. DOI:

Matsaganis, M., & Payne, J. (2006). Agenda-setting in a culture of fear: The lasting effects of September 11 on American politics and journalism. Paper presented at the International Communication Association Convention. Dresden, Germany.

McCombs, M. E., & Shaw, D. L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 176-187. DOI:

Miller, K. (2004). Communication theories: Perspectives, processes, and contexts. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Miller, A. N., Fellows, K. L. & Kizito, M. N. (2007). The impact of onset controllability on stigmatization and supportive communication goals toward persons with HIV versus lung cancer: A comparison between Kenyan and U.S. participants. Health Communication, 22, 207–219. DOI:

Nattinger, A. B., Hoffman, R. G., Howell-Pelz, A., & Goodwin, J. S. (1998). Effect of Nancy Reagan's mastectomy on choice of surgery for breast cancer by US women. JAMA, 279, 762- 766. DOI:

Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The content analysis guidebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

O’Connell, S., Granström, M., Gray, J. S., & Stanek, G. (1998). Epidemiology of European Lyme borreliosis. Zentalbl Bakteriol, 287, 229-240. DOI:

Ogata Jones, K., Denham, B. E., & Springston, J. K. (2006). Effects of mass and interpersonal communication on breast cancer screening: Advancing agenda-setting theory in health contexts. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 34, 94-113. DOI:

Otten, A. L. (1992). The influence of the mass media on health policy. Health Affairs, 11, 111-118. DOI:

Peng, W., & Tang, L. (2010). Health content in Chinese newspapers. Journal of Health Communication, 15, 695-711. DOI:

Peng, Z (2004). Representation of China: An across time analysis of coverage in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Asian Journal of Communication, 14, 53-67. DOI:

Perea, A. & Slater, M. D. (1999). Power distance and collectivist/individualist strategies in alcohol warning: Effects by gender and ethnicity. Journal of Health Communication, 4, 295–310. DOI:

Porpora, D. V., Nikolaev, A., & Hagemann, J. (2010). Abuse, torture, frames, and the Washington Post. Journal of Communication, 60, 254-270. DOI:

Reese, S. D. & Danielian, L. (1989) Intermedia influence and the drug issue: Converging on cocaine. In P. Shoemaker (Ed.), Communication 175 campaigns about drug issues (pp. 29-46). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Roberts, M., Wanta, W., & Dzwo, T. (2002). Agenda setting and issue salience online. Communication Research, 29, 452–465. DOI:

Robinson, S., Neitzel, D., Moen, R., Craft, M., Hamilton, K., Johnson, L., & ... Pelican, K. (2015). Disease risk in a dynamic environment: The spread of tick-borne pathogens in Minnesota, USA. Ecohealth, 12, 152-163. DOI:

Rosen, J. (2006, June 27). The people formally known as the audience. Presslink. Retrieved from:

Sato, H. (2003). Agenda setting for smoking control in Japan, 1945--1990: Influence of the mass media on national health policy making. Journal of Health Communication, 8, 23-40. DOI:

So, J., Cho, H., & Lee, J. (2011). Genre-specific media and perceptions of personal and social risk of smoking among South Korean college students. Journal of Health Communication, 16, 533-549. DOI:

Soroka, S. N. (2002). Agenda-setting dynamics in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Tang, L., & Peng, W. (2015). Culture and health reporting: A comparative content analysis of newspapers in the United States and China. Journal of Health Communication, 20, 187-195.doi:10.1080/10810730.2014.920060 DOI:

Ter Haar, B. J. (2006). Telling stories: Witchcraft and scapegoating in Chinese history. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. DOI:

Top 10 US Daily Newspapers. (June 18, 2014). Retrieved from:

van den Putte, B., Yzer, M., Southwell, B. G., de Bruijn, G., & Willemsen, M. C. (2011). Interpersonal communication as an indirect pathway for the effect of antismoking media content on smoking cessation. Journal of Health Communication, 16, 470-485. DOI:

Wallington, S. F., Blake, K., Taylor-Clark, K., & Viswanath, K. (2010). Antecedents to agenda setting and framing in health news: An examination of priority, angle, source, and resource usage from a national survey of US health reporters and editors. Journal of Health Communication, 15, 76-94. DOI:

Wan, W. (April 9, 2013). In China, bird flu brings panic buying of herbal remedy called ban lan gen. Washington Post. Retrieved from:

Weaver, D., McCombs, M., & Shaw, D. L. (2004). Agenda-setting research: Issues, attributes, and influences. In L. L. Kaid (Ed.), Handbook of political communication research (pp. 257–282). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Weber, I. (2014). Constructing the meaning of nanotechnology in the United States: A socio-linguistic analysis of the New York Times coverage, 1985-2004. Media International Australia, 150, 143-155. DOI:

Wilkes, M. S., Bell, R. A., & Kravitz, R. L. (2000). Direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising: Trends, impact, and implications. Health Affairs, 19, 110-128. DOI:

Xian-Bo, W., Ren-Hua, N., Shan-Shan, W., Jin-Song, Z., & Hong-Juan, P. (2013). Distribution of tick-borne diseases in China. Parasites & Vectors, 6, 1-8. DOI:

Yangtze Evening News (2010). 扬子晚报简介. Retrieved from:

Yu, N. (2006). AIDS coverage in China: A study of agenda-building and framing. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Boston, MA.

Yunjuan, L. (2014). The Internet and agenda setting in China: The influence of online public opinion on media coverage and government policy. International Journal of Communication, 8, 1289-1312.


Cheng Zeng (Primary Contact)
Yanzhe Tang
Diyako Rahmani
Stephen Croucher
Leona K Gilbert
Author Biographies

Cheng Zeng, University of Jyväskylä (Finland)

Cheng Zeng is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at North Dakota State University

Yanzhe Tang, University of Jyväskylä

Yanzhe Tang is a master’s student in the Department of Language and Communication Studies at the University of Jyväskylä

Diyako Rahmani, University of Jyväskylä (Finland)

Diyako Rahmani is a Lecturer in the School of Communication, Journalism, and Marketing at Massey University

Stephen Croucher, School of Communication, Journalism, and Marketing at Massey University

Stephen Croucher is a Professor and Head of the School of Communication, Journalism, and Marketing at Massey University

Leona K Gilbert , Biological and Environmental Science at the University of Jyväskylä

Leona K Gilbert is an Associate Professor in Biological and Environmental Science at the University of Jyväskylä

Zeng, C., Tang, Y., Rahmani, D., Croucher, S., & Gilbert , L. K. (2018). The sculpture of tick-borne disease media coverage in the United States and China. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 18(3), 1–13.

Article Details

Smart Citations via scite_