Media Health Coding: Capturing Changes Over Time

The Annenberg-Robert Wood Johnson Coding of Health and Media Project (CHAMP) is a large multi-year content analysis of health risk behaviors, contained in popular U.S. movies, television, music, music videos, and the internet. The project examines trends in the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, as well as sexual, violent and suicidal behaviors. The study also assesses content relevant to portrayal of mental health conditions, such as depression, as well as positive social actions, such as suicide intervention and designated driving.

The purpose of the project is to track trends in risk-related behaviors as portrayed in the media over time so the potential positive or negative impact on adults and youth can be evaluated. There are now datasets containing long-term trends in these behaviors as well as demographic and socioeconomic indicators that might be related to the trends. One of the aims of this project is to provide researchers, the public, and policy makers with evidence of potential influences from popular culture as transmitted through mass media.

What differentiates CHAMP from other content analyses is the time span covered (in some cases dating as far back as 1950), the breadth of content evaluated, and the standardization of coding categories. Also, CHAMP meets a strong reliability standard, tracks pro-social behavior so potentially positive results from media can also be measured, and is representative because it codes media systematically over time.

It is our hope that this website (YMR) can make CHAMPS’ methods and findings accessible to the academic and policymaking communities. The coding of top-selling movies has been completed. The project continues to code popular television dramas since the 1950s. The project is also planning for its coding of music in top-selling songs since the 1950s and music videos starting in the 1980s.

We use a method called “content analysis” to analyze and summarize media content, a methodology established in the communications field that, as a requisite of the scientific method, is able to be replicated by others. (See Neuendorf, 2002 and Krippendorff, 2004). Content analysis enables the coding of media content using a reliable system of coding. It by definition requires more than one coder and methods for determining reliability and validity. The field is relatively new and growing.

Both Neuendorf’s* and Krippendorff’s books are excellent resources for anyone interested in conducting or understanding content analyses, especially what is known about reliability (the measure of coders’ consistent use of shared definitions that allow them to code media content in a similar fashion) and validity standards. (There are many types of validity including face, construct etc.) This site features a link to a paper by Dr. Neuendorf on reliability as well as her reliability program PRAM.  We also post a paper on understanding validity by Dr. W. James Potter, a veteran of the National Television Violence Study. A more detailed explanation of the purpose and need for the project can be found in a paper by Bruce Hardy, et al. We also provide chapter summaries and data from a recent book that features data collected from the movie sample of this project. We hope you find these resources useful; the links are below.




*Neuendorf, K. (2002). The Content Analysis Guidebook. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Press.
Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Press.
Krippendorff, K. & Bock, M. (2008). The Content Analysis Reader. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications, Inc.