An examination of the portrayal of the social work profession in three New York City newspapers' coverage of children's social welfare issues

Maureen E Carey, Fordham University

Abstract

The public image of the profession of social work is created by a variety of forces. The newspaper media is one such force. This study examines the portrayal of the social work profession by newspaper coverage of children's social welfare issues utilizing a content analysis methodology.^ One hundred fifty randomly selected newspaper articles from The New York Times, Daily News, and Newsday chosen between 1987 and 1993, were studied to determine positive, negative, or neutral portrayals of the social work profession.^ Two indexes were developed to systematically examine the image of the profession. Negative, neutral, or positive ratings were analyzed in terms of portrayals of: (a) workers, (b) agencies, (c) clients, and (d) policies. These were then examined in relationship to five major independent variables: (a) the type of newspaper, (b) focus of story, (c) type of agency, (d) year of publication, and (e) size of the article. Significant relationships were found among the variable using one way ANOVA or Chi Square tests.^ The major hypothesis of this study was substantiated--the portrayal of the social work profession as reported by newspaper coverage of children's social welfare issues is more negative than positive. Other important findings include: The New York Times was significantly more likely to provide positive worker and policy coverage than the tabloid papers; system-focused articles and articles describing the public agencies contained the most negative portrayals.^ Positive portrayals are found more frequently in The New York Times, in policy-focused coverage, in stories about private agencies, and in earlier (1987-1989) rather than recent (1990-1993) reporting.^ An ANOVA tested the combined and interactive effects of all variables. It was determined that "type of agency" was significantly more likely to be associated with negatively written paragraphs (p =.001) than the type of newspaper, year of publication, or the focus of the story.^ This empirical study verifies that the profession is portrayed poorly in the reporting of children's social welfare issues. Further research should examine public social work portrayals in other areas. ^

Subject Area

Journalism|Social Work|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare

Recommended Citation

Carey, Maureen E, "An examination of the portrayal of the social work profession in three New York City newspapers' coverage of children's social welfare issues" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9529888.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9529888

Share

COinS