Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication

First Advisor

Lulu A. Rodriguez


This study aims to evaluate the quantity and quality of crisis communication efforts during one specific type of public health emergency, beef recalls due to E. coli O157:H7 contamination. A content analysis of 452 US newspaper reports within 30 days of a beef recall was conducted to determine the sources cited and the messages communicated to the public. The analysis involved a total of 36 recalls issued from 2003 to 2008. The study found the sources cited by reporters include two of the major stakeholders involved in the crisis - government agencies and meat companies who processed or sold the contaminated product. Messages regarding information the public needs to know about the threat were found at a high frequency in the coverage. Self-efficacy messages related to how to control or manage the threat were less common. Messages communicating measures to safeguard against future threat and those that indicate the recall has ended were scant, suggesting areas for improvement in crisis communication. Over the six year time span, there was only a moderate to slight degree of message consistency. This study concludes that the type of media coverage, the sources used, and the messages communicated led to the attenuation of risks associated with beef recalls. Over all, the findings indicate the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship between the food industry and the media, especially during instances that threaten public health and well-being.


Copyright Owner

Jennifer Marie Scharpe



Date Available


File Format


File Size

66 pages

Included in

Communication Commons