Intimate partner violence has often been considered a problem best discussed within the framework of social advocacy or more recently the criminal justice system. However, it is important to realize that it is also a key public health issue to which widespread public attention must be turned in order to ameliorate its far-reaching effects. Research has shown that the public would likely be willing to provide support to domestic violence prevention programs if it were to recognize the full extent of the problem. However, it has been argued that our society has an underlying belief that intimate partner violence is a private rather than a public affair. Such a belief must be altered in order for awareness of the issue to be improved and its incidence decreased. One of the major ways people learn about social problems in which they are not intimately involved is the media, which not only provides facts but also shapes the way in which people think about or even experience such issues. Because the public tends to find newspaper articles the most credible of all sources of information, we would expect the public to be most swayed in their opinions and actions by what they read in the newspaper. We have thus attempted to determine how the Albuquerque print media has reported on intimate partner violence and whether its portrayal correlates with the actual incidence of domestic violence in Bernalillo County specifically and New Mexico generally. We have collected two sources of data in order to answer our primary question. Comprehensive and current data regarding the incidence of domestic violence and associated demographics and characteristics has become available from the New Mexico Interpersonal Violence Data Central Repository for the years 2001 through 2004, allowing for the analysis of trends through time. In addition, we have identified over 650 appropriate articles about intimate partner violence from the major Albuquerque newspapers for these same years and coded attribute data to allow for the identification (or not) of correlation between incidence data and newspaper data. Finally, we have calculated the number of articles about intimate partner violence per the incidence of domestic violence in order to more directly evaluate any correlation between the two. A qualitative analysis of our data reveals several general trends. The incidence of domestic violence has decreased while the number of newspaper articles about intimate partner violence has increased over the years 2001 to 2004. There is also an increase in the number of articles relating to intimate partner violence per the actual incidence of domestic violence over the years 2001 to 2004. This indicates that the incidence of domestic violence and its portrayal by the media are negatively correlated. However, the actual numbers of articles per incidence is very small, indicating that the public is receiving only a very small (though increasing) portion of information about this crisis. It is important to note, however, that correlation does not equal causation. Future research should include a more refined coding algorithm for a more thorough quantitative analysis of the data. In addition, expansion of the research parameters may allow for the clarification of these results. Ultimately, however, it does seem clear that there is some relationship between the incidence of domestic violence and the media portrayal of intimate partner violence. This indicates that further enhancement of domestic violence coverage by the media could not only increase public knowledge and opinion but may also help decrease the rates of domestic violence as well.
Pendergrass, Stephanie; Ann Winegardner; and David Bennahum. "A Survey of Print Media Coverage of Domestic Violence in New Mexico, 2001-2004." (2008). http://digitalrepository.unm.edu/ume-research-papers/31