Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelli Burns

Keywords

ALS, disease in mass media, Lou Gehrig's Disease, media representation, patient message perception, terminal illness

Abstract

This study examines the attitudes and opinions of ALS patients toward mass messages about their condition. Six focus groups of ALS patient support groups viewed and responded to public relations messages, charity advertisements, and a news story. Results suggest that mass messages remind participants of the need for public ALS awareness. Participants also said they shared in the narratives and identify closely with the characters in the messages they viewed, and participants expressed concern with disease depictions. These concerns included a tension between positive and realistic portrayals, identification of message inaccuracies, and a desire for more specific disease information. The ALS disease as it relates to mass communication has not yet been explored in scholarly literature. This study highlights the importance of the thoughts and opinions of ALS patients toward mass communication about their disease, and it provides a rich understanding of the participants' desires for their disease experience to be recognized and understood.

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