How global media is covering & framing COVID-19 globally

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As we speak, there are over 105 million coronavirus cases globally and over 2 million deaths. Though the deaths are high, there is hope as over 58 million people have recovered globally and the media has been vocal in covering the pandemic especially its origin, the conspiracy theories around it, social distancing measures and the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Though covered by media across the world, two researchers Margrit Betke and Lei Guo both from Boston University decided to launch computer algorithms to determine what aspect of the virus received the most coverage.

The two, in partnership with the  Artificial Intelligence & Emerging Media (AIEM) research group, focused on China, South Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom and these aspects might be important too to all of us globally.

According to Guo, BU College of Communication assistant professor in emerging media studies. “COVID-19 is a public health crisis on a global scale. It serves as an ideal case study for communication researchers to examine how different countries around the world report the same issue and how the reporting reflects each country’s cultural and political context.”

The team’s algorithm crawled articles from around the world and analyzed headlines and lead paragraphs to identify the 10 main weekly news topics in the country’s selected. From those 10, the algorithm then breaks down into 20 associated terms such as “government responses and actions” or “frontline healthcare,” and calculates the percentage per topic covered.

“Our dynamic data visualizations are surprisingly powerful and they reveal the emergence, prevalence, or lack of discussion of certain topics in certain countries during certain periods of the pandemic,” says Betke, BU College of Arts & Sciences professor of computer science.

According to the researchers,  between January and early March 2020 at the start of the outbreak, global media attention focused on the virus’s spread in China, the later there was a shift to scientific research, frontline healthcare workers, and the intensifying domestic and global outbreaks. Them later, the focus shifted to domestic and international economic consequences and financial fallout which is still ongoing.

For the US, greater focus was on the domestic economic consequences of the pandemic to up to around 26 percent of all coronavirus-related coverage. The articles also covered topics like how to take personal preventive actions, social distancing, and encouraged people to obey stay-at-home.

According to the team, stay-at-home orders were a bit controversial and saw thousands come out in protest in streets of states like Michigan, Georgia, Massachusetts, and others due to the fact that it was against their individual freedoms.

In May, there was a shift towards “personal preventive actions,” “domestic economic consequences,” and “government responses and actions.” in both the US, UK, South Korea, and in greater China-where the narrative was government-controlled urging people to wear masks and social distance and stay at the home of possible.

Guo says the data could reveal best practices for news organizations and journalists to bring adequate awareness to future public health crises. Did framing stories around government advisories, economic consequences, or the extent of the global COVID-19 outbreak raise the most public awareness of the pandemic, thus reducing the infection rate?

“News media can influence public opinion and even behavior, and previous research has found an association between news media reporting and health-related consequences,” Guo says.

With over 9.4 million people infected globally, and over 487,000 dead. COVID-19 has been the major focal point of the news for most of 2020. But just a few aspects of the pandemic have received the most media attention.

With this in mind, media has enabled organizations, healthcare workers, scientists among others to make important decisions concerning education, vaccination, transport and trade among others.

Cases
Total

Worldwide
Cases

105,000,000
Recovered

58,600,000
Deaths

2,300,000
Location Cases Recovered Deaths
Kenya

Kenya

102,000
+195

84,268
+125

1,776
+3
United States

United States

26,900,000
+130K

459,000
+3,570
India

India

10,800,000
+11,713

10,500,000
+14,488

155,000
+95
Brazil

Brazil

9,450,000
+50,872

8,400,000
+29,951

230,000
+1,239
United Kingdom

United Kingdom

3,910,000
+19,114

111,000
+1,014