Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelli Burns, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Mitrook, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kelly Werder, Ph.D.


Lou Gehrig’s Disease, terminal illness, disease in mass media, media representation, patient message perception


This study examines the attitudes and opinions of ALS patients toward mass messages about their condition. Six focus groups of ALS patient support groups viewed and responded to public relations messages, charity advertisements, and a news story. Results suggest that mass messages remind participants of the need for public ALS awareness. Participants also said they shared in the narratives and identify closely with the characters in the messages they viewed, and participants expressed concern with disease depictions. These concerns included a tension between positive and realistic portrayals, identification of message inaccuracies, and a desire for more specific disease information. The ALS disease as it relates to mass communication has not yet been explored in scholarly literature. This study highlights the importance of the thoughts and opinions of ALS patients toward mass communication about their disease, and it provides a rich understanding of the participants' desires for their disease experience to be recognized and understood.