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TV Coverage of Tragedies Often Lacks Prevention Messages
Date:5/8/2008

When police, fire officials interviewed, viewers twice as likely to hear advice

THURSDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- When television news reports about traffic crashes, fires or other injury-causing events feature interviews with police officers and fire department officials, viewers are more than twice as likely to hear prevention information that could help them and their families, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin analyzed one month's worth of late-evening TV newscasts from 122 stations in the nation's top 50 television markets.

Of the 2,795 newscasts, 1,748 included coverage of incidents such as crashes, fires, falls, drownings, accidental poisonings and recreational and sporting mishaps. Most of the stories (84 percent) involved crashes or fires.

Only 245 of the stories featured an interview with a police officer, fire official or other public services professional. These stories were much more likely to include prevention and risk-reduction information -- 2.5 times more likely for crash stories and more than 2.75 times more likely for fire stories -- than stories that didn't have these kinds of interviews.

"In the end, if police and firefighters appeared on camera, it meant more prevention messages for the public," study author Dr. James Pribble, an emergency medicine physician at the U-M Health System, said in a prepared statement.

"This suggests that we have a very powerful opportunity to train these public service professionals to be ready to give interviews on the spot, often on the scene, to give the public prevention tips and information about current public policy issues in injury prevention and safety," Pribble said.

The study was published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Next, the researchers hope to
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