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Seminar: News Media Coverage of overweight and obesity

Please be invited to CCS seminar:

News Media Coverage of overweight and obesity

WHEN:     Wednesday 17th October 2012, 4pm - 6pm
WHERE:    Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre, UTS City Campus
Level 3, Mary Ann House, 645 Harris Street, Sydney
(a short walk from Central Railway Station) 

 Dr  Catriona Bonfiglioli,  Centre for Cosmopolitan Civil Societies, UTS
Dr  Jennie Small , Centre for Cosmopolitan Civil Societies, UTS


Australians today are immersed in media: our work, our play, our relationships are more mediated than ever. Media have been recognised as contributing to the obesogenic environment (Swinburn). Journalism, especially medical journalism, and public relations, especially health-related public relations, are influential elements of the media environment. The media have the power to influence overweight, obesity and physical activity in several ways. Mediated communications captivate and immobilise – we work at computers sitting down, we listen to radio in the car, we watch television on our couches, we navigate our social lives through email, Facebook, and mobile phones. Media have a powerful capacity to reinforce public norms and beliefs – from the idea that we should work sitting down to the urge to follow sport, soaps, celebrities and reality television to maintain our social relations. For debates ranging from over whether food or inactivity drive obesity to the normalisation of junk food, junk drink and overconsumption as normal parts of everyday life the news media are a key arena for defining meanings and endorsing solutions to problems such as overweight and obesity. Crucially journalism has the role of investigating health risks including food composition, cost and availability, urban design, calorific drinks, access to health-promoting services and amenities, school curricula, advertising, food regulation including labelling policies and practices, internet marketing, access to obesity health services.

Research investigating media coverage of cycling, soft drinks, physical activity and media images of obesity will be considered so as to compose a picture of which aspects of the media environment may be contributing to the obesity epidemic, the inactivity crisis and the stigmatisation of people of size and what new angles could be followed to counteract obesogenic environments.

Catriona is responsible for the Media Studies Sub Major in the BA Communication. Catriona also teaches into the Master of Journalism program and supervises honours, Masters, and doctoral students.
Her resource for journalists Reporting Obesity: A Resource for Journalists, is the first of its kind in obesity research. Published by the NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity (University of Sydney), it has been disseminated to journalists to encourage broader reporting of the issues.
Catriona's research publications include one peer-reviewed book chapter and a number of peer-reviewed journal articles published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the Medical Journal of Australia, BMC Public Health, The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, the Australian Journalism Review, and the International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education. She tweets under @catbonfiglioli and writes a column on Science and Society for the publication Chemistry in Australia and has had two articles published on The Conversation. Sometimes her letters to the Sydney Morning Herald on obesity, genetics, health and so forth get published, occasionally with a Cathy Wilcox cartoon. Catriona has presented her research at international conferences including The European Congress on Obesity Geneva 2008 and Istanbul 2011, The International Congress on Obesity Sydney 2006, Obesity 2012 San Antonio, Texas 2012, and the Fifth International Conference on Multimodality Sydney 2010.

With modern Western society’s focus on the thin ideal, there are implications for the increasing number of people who are deemed overweight or obese especially in an industry such as tourism and hospitality, an aesthetic industry concerned with style and appearance. The presentation will report findings from two studies concerning the airline and hotel sectors. The first was a web-based study which investigated the airline experiences of obese and non-obese passengers, and airline policies/guidelines for travel of obese passengers.  The second focussed on the hotel sector and examined the “face of” 35 major hotels in the business district of Sydney through their online promotional videos, with particular reference to the size of employees. The moral implications of the findings are discussed.


Jennie Small has a background in environmental psychology, urban studies and tourism studies. She is a Senior Lecturer in the Management Discipline Group (Events, Leisure, Sport Tourism and Art Programs) in the Faculty of Business at UTS. She is a coordinator of the Critical Approaches in Tourism and Hospitality Special Interest Group of the Council for Australasian University Tourism and Hospitality Education. Her specific teaching and research interest is tourist behaviour from a Critical Tourism approach, focussing on equity and social justice issues in tourism. Her research publications relate to embodiment, gender, disability (vision impairment), obesity, age and the life course.

Date: Wednesday 17 Oct 2012, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: City - Broadway, Mary Anne House
Audience: All Welcome
Contact:   Min Li ,
Cost: no cost