Australian letters to the editor on tobacco: Triggers, rhetoric, and claims of legitimate voice

Katherine Clegg Smith, Kim McLeod, Melanie Wakefield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


News coverage of tobacco issues influences both individual behavior change and policy progression. Thus, media advocacy is increasingly recognized as important for promoting public health. Letters to the editor (LTE) are a basic form of media advocacy, serving to demonstrate community sentiment on a given issue. Such letters are yet to receive systematic analytic consideration. The authors conducted an ethnographic content analysis of LTE on tobacco issues from a sample of 11 Australian daily newspapers over a 3-year period (2001 to 2003, N = 361). They argue that letters are artifacts of active engagement in a public debate and note that various stakeholders adopt similar strategies to pursue their objectives. They illustrate how identifying personal and collective identities is crucial in the assertion of legitimacy of voice in LTEs. Better understanding is needed of both the particular issues that spark public engagement, and the salient rhetoric employed by advocates of disparate positions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1180-1198
Number of pages19
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2005


  • Letters to the editor
  • Textual analysis
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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