Audience responses to television news coverage of medical advances: The mediating role of audience emotions and identification

Hyehyun Hong

Exemplifying a real person in news stories has become a popular journalistic technique to describe an event or issue. With the frequent appearance of medical news reports in local television in recent years, this news presentation style is widely believed to help audiences better engage in and understand complex medical information and to influence their perceptions and judgments. In terms of television news coverage of medical advances, this study investigates how audiences respond to embedded human examples (mainly patients who experience benefits from the advances) and to overall news stories, and how such responses are related to their perception of portrayed medical advances. The experimental results indicate that news stories with a human example were more likely to intensify the audience’s positive emotions than those without, which in turn influenced favorable perceptions of the described medical advance. In addition, the extent to which the audience identified with a human example (in particular, sympathy) mediated the relationship between the audience’s involvement in the news story and its perception of the portrayed medical advance.

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