‘Meat gives you cancer’. The popularisation of scientific news with public health relevance


Early in October 2015, the International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC 2015a) evaluated the carcinogenicity of red and processed meat. On 24 October, the World Health Organization (WHO 2015a) issued a statement reporting the IARC press release on the subject. On 22 October, the Daily Mail (2015) anticipated these results, giving rise to the latest ‘meat-cancer scare’ on the international media.

This case study analyses a small corpus of institutional documents and English-language press articles, collected in the eight days following the publication of the news.

Based on a sociological model of public vs popular communication of science (Bucchi, Neresini 2008), integrated with methodological tools from critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 1995, 2003; Eisenhart, Johnstone 2008; Wodak 2013), argumentation theory (van Eemeren, Grootendorst2004), and making reference to science popularisation studies (Calsamiglia 2003; Garzone 2006; Caliendo, Bongo 2014), the qualitative analysis shows how the pattern of diffusion of scientific news with public health relevance is changing. No longer following a top-down approach, power relations at work in this type of communication are changing, being increasingly affected by bottom-up interference and feedback, in a progressively more dialogic and negotiated scenario of communication.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v26p357

Keywords: health discourse, institutional discourse, online media, discourse analysis, science popularisation


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