Media Analysis Shows Change in Coverage of End-of-Life Issues

Content analysis of media coverage of end-of-life issues

Researchers at Ketchum Public Relations Worldwide, New York, analyzed coverage of issues around death and dying and end-of-life care in newspapers and magazines during the last four months of both 1995 and 1998.

The analysis provided information on the effects of the Last Acts® national communications campaign, which RWJF launched in 1997 to help improve end-of-life care.

Key Findings

  • More than half (52%) of the stories on death and dying analyzed in 1995 were news stories, many of which covered the release of the SUPPORT research findings.

    In 1998, in contrast, nearly half (49%) of the stories analyzed were features, focusing on the emotional challenges associated with death and dying and not on the importance of planning for end-of-life care.
  • News stories, rather than features, provided more coverage of death and dying issues in 1995, while in 1998, feature articles were more likely to cover topics such as advance directives and living wills (an individual's instructions for his or her end-of-life care if incapacitated), hospice and family care-giving at home.
  • The media in both years covered topics related to death and dying in ways favorable to messages promoted by Last Acts. For example, more than one-half of the references to living wills (58%) and advance directives (56%) covered the advantages of addressing these issues when healthy.
  • Media coverage, in both 1995 and in 1998, supported the messages that Last Acts communicated to the general public regarding end-of-life care.