Building the Agenda and Adjusting the Frame: How the Dramatic Revelations of Lyle Alzado Impacted Mainstream Press Coverage of Anabolic Steroid Use

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Bryan E. DenhamSouthwest Missouri State University

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This study addresses the manner in which a dramatic news event can impact mainstream press coverage of a social issue. In late June 1991, football player Lyle Alzado, in haggard condition, appeared on First Person with Maria Shriver and on the cover of Sports Illustrated and attributed his rare form of brain lymphoma to years of anabolic steroid abuse. Though scientific evidence of a relationship did not exist, a series of mainstream press reports did not hesitate in assuming a connection. The study provides an empirical analysis of (a) how a dramatic report in specialized print and broadcast media can build the agenda for mainstream journalism, and (b) how the report can help trigger a change in the way journalists address and frame issues. Methodologically, the study uses log-linear modeling to examine the relationships between a series of categorical variables, thus providing scholars with a framework for future content analyses on the subject.

B.E. Denham is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Mass Media at Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, MO 65804.

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