During the summer of 2008, a nationwide Salmonella outbreak sickened more than 1,400 people; the initial cause was thought to be tomatoes, but after further investigation, jalapeno and Serrano peppers from Mexico were the cause. The purpose of this study was to examine television news coverage of the 2008 Salmonella outbreak in jalapenos with case study methodology, through the scope of framing theory, to gain an understanding of how reporters’ ideologies, attitudes, corporate pressures, and interview sources influenced the frames that were reported on national television news networks. The reporters revealed they would like to see changes within the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food investigations and communications system, they had confidence in the U.S. food supply, and corporate policy did not influence news coverage. Reporters used the agency that issued the recall for an interview source; however, they also used consumer watchdog groups, industry organizations, and university researchers. This study concluded that in some instances, television news frames are influenced by the reporters’ attitudes and ideologies, and in other instances, they are not. Agricultural communicators should be proactive with the news media — ensure they know about the organization, periodically offer information, and be willing to be interviewed — so that if a crisis does occur, it is much easier to get a message out.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.