News Media Models

Models of Narrative Themes about Disability in News Stories

Traditional Categories

Medical Model: Disability is presented as an illness or malfunction. Persons who are disabled are shown as dependent on health professionals for cures or maintenance. Individuals with disabilities are passive and do not participate in “regular” activities because of disability (Clogston, 1990).

Social Pathology Model: People with disabilities are presented as disadvantaged and must look to the state or to society for economic support, which is considered a gift, not a right (Clogston, 1990).

Supercrip Model: The person with a disability is portrayed as deviant because of “superhuman” feats (i.e. ocean-sailing blind man) or as “special” because they live regular lives “in spite of disability” (i.e. deaf high school student who play softball). This role reinforces the idea that people with disabilities are deviant — that the person’s accomplishments are amazing for someone who is less than complete (Clogston, 1993).

Business Model: People with disabilities and their issues are presented as costly to society and business especially. Making society accessible for people with disabilities is not really worth the cost and overburdens businesses. It is not a “good value” for society or businesses. Accessibility is not seen as profitable (Haller, 1995).

Progressive Categories

Minority/Civil Rights Model: People with disabilities are seen as members of the disability community, which has legitimate political grievances. They have civil rights that they may fight for, just like other groups. Accessibility in society is a civil right (Clogston, 1990).

Legal Model: It is illegal to treat people with disabilities in certain ways. They have legal rights and may need to sue to guarantee those rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws are presented as legal tools to halt discrimination (Haller, 1995).

Cultural Pluralism Model: People with disabilities are seen as multifaceted people and their disabilities do not receive undue attention. They are presented as non-disabled people would be (Clogston, 1990).

Consumer Model: People with disabilities are shown to represent an untapped consumer group. Making society accessible could be profitable to businesses and society in general. If people with disabilities have access to jobs, they will have more disposable income. If people with disabilities have jobs, they will no longer need government assistance (Haller, 1995).

References:

Clogston, J. S. (1993). Changes in coverage patterns of disability issues in three major American newspapers, 1976-1991. Paper presented to the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Kansas City, Mo.

Clogston, J.S. (1990). Disability Coverage in 16 Newspapers. Louisville: Advocado Press.

Haller, B. (1995, Spring). Rethinking Models of Media Representation of Disability, Disability Studies Quarterly, 15:2.

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