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Comparing "insider" and "outsider" news coverage of the 2014 Ebola outbreak

Brittany Humphries, Martha Radice, Sophie Lauzier

Abstract


OBJECTIVES: Information provided by news media during an infectious disease outbreak can affect the actions taken to safeguard public health. There has been little evaluation of how the content of news published during an outbreak varies by location of the news outlet. This study analyzes coverage of the 2014 Ebola outbreak by one news outlet operating within a country affected by the outbreak and one country not directly affected.

METHODS: A qualitative content analysis was conducted of articles published in two national news outlets, The Globe and Mail (Canada) and the Vanguard (Nigeria), between January 1 and December 31, 2014. Articles available through LexisNexis Academic were sorted by date and sampled using a stratified sampling method (The Globe and Mail n = 100; Vanguard n = 105). A coding scheme was developed and modified to incorporate emerging themes until saturation was achieved.

RESULTS: There were substantial differences in outbreak coverage in terms of the topic and content of the articles, as well as the sources consulted. The Globe and Mail framed the outbreak in terms of national security and national interests, as well as presenting it as an international humanitarian crisis. In contrast, the Vanguard framed the outbreak almost exclusively in terms of public health.

CONCLUSION: Our findings highlight how different geographic contexts can shape reporting on the same event. Further research is required to investigate how the political, social or economic situations of a country shape its news media, potentially influencing actions taken to control disease outbreaks.


Keywords


Ebola virus disease; qualitative research; mass media; Canada; Nigeria

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17269/cjph.108.5904