Local newspapers, community partnerships, and health improvement projects: their roles in a comprehensive community initiative.

To understand local media’s role in a community health initiative, a content analysis of 1,709 paragraphs from 173 news articles and editorials was undertaken. The articles were from three local newspapers, one in each of three communities. Analyses focused on article content combined with reflective personal interviews with local campaign directors. Results suggest that local campaign staff can be successful using commercial media to achieve objectives. Surprisingly, most coverage was not about projects with observable and easily identifiable benefits for local residents, but rather partnerships among influential residents engaged in decision-making about such projects. We conclude that the politics of resource distribution is more newsworthy to local journalists than tangible topics like access to health information, insurance coverage, and service provision.