How Do Top Cable News Websites Portray Cognition as an Aging Issue?

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Exercise Science


Purpose of the Study: We examined messages that the websites of the top cable news companies (MSNBC, FOX, and CNN) conveyed about cognition between January 2007 and March 2010. Drawing on agenda-setting theory, this work assessed the frequency, prominence, and attributes of cognitive topics in messages targeting an aging audience. Design and Methods: We used quantitative content analysis to examine the frequency and prominence of cognitive topics and cognitive goals, as well as how the cognitive discussions were framed. Chi-square analyses were conducted to compare cognitive health information discussed in news items that did and did not target an “aging audience.” Qualitative analysis of the aging audience subgroup was used to further examine age-associated cognitive messages. Results: Within the 229 cognitive items identified, we found significantly more coverage of cognitive functioning and unspecified dementia and significantly less coverage of cognitive disease not dementia, specified dementia, and accidents or injury for the aging audience. Our qualitative analysis of news items aimed at an aging audience documented a focus on maintaining functioning and avoiding decline through various individual lifestyle behaviors. However, contextual information about level of cognition to be maintained, particular cognitive functions targeted, specific norms about cognitive aging, and how cognitive function is determined was lacking. Implications: Our research points to a communication gap in the delivery of academic research findings to a lay audience through online journalism. We suggest more clarity by researchers in defining cognitive concepts and measurement of cognitive function for journalistic translation and public consumption.



Vandenberg, Anna E., Price, Anna E., Friedman, Daniela B., Marchman, Graham, Anderson, Lynda A. "Title:How Do Top Cable News Websites Portray Cognition as an Aging Issue?" Gerontologist 52.3 (2012): 367-382.