News Coverage of Religion, Sexuality, and AIDS

Diane Winston

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195395068
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

News Coverage of Religion, Sexuality, and AIDS


On November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson stunned fans with the news that he was retiring from basketball. Just days before, during a routine blood test, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar discovered he had contracted the AIDS virus. This article examines how the first decade of AIDS coverage at three large metropolitan newspapers (the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Dallas Morning News) was bound up with issues of religion and sexuality. It explores the what, when, why, who, and how of news coverage to ascertain patterns in framing, sourcing, and contextualization. It argues that, by 1983, a medical/moral frame for the disease made religion an integral part of the story. Subsequent coverage reflected three dominant tropes: AIDS as a punishment for immorality, as a pastoral challenge for denominations, and as a spiritual trial for the afflicted. The article concludes by considering the impact of AIDS coverage in general and on reporting about sexuality in particular.

Keywords: AIDS; newspapers; religion; sexuality; news coverage; New York Times; Los Angeles Times; Dallas Morning News

Article.  6450 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies

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