Media representation of COVID-19 pandemic: An Australian perspective

Mr Modhar Al Miqdadi1, Dr Stephane Bouchoucha2, Mrs Oraib Almegdadi, Dr James Lucas2, Professor Marilyn Cruickshank1

1University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, NSW, Australia
2Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

Background: Previous overseas studies demonstrated news media can play a role in disseminating information to the community during pandemics that is timely, informative, and leads to acceptance and translation of public policy.

Method: Our study provides insight into Australian media through an investigation during the COVID-19 pandemic between December 31st, 2019 – May 31st, 2020 using mixed methods of temporal, thematic, and discourse analyses.

Results: After removing duplicates, irrelevant headlines, and those dealing with events outside Australia, we found 11684 headlines. Using a constructed weekly sampling approach, we analyzed 2043 headlines.

The number of headline reports generated by the media increased as the number of cases in Australia increased and decreased as the number of cases diminished: the most common headline words changed over the months as the pandemic matured with notable shifts according to events affected as the virus took hold in Australia; the alignment of the Australian media with World Health Organization ‘Effective Media Communication during Public Health Emergencies’ was notable with only some exceptions, where 80% of headlines were assessed to inform and educate the public about the pandemic.

Conclusion: Newspapers are regarded as an effective tool in the communication of complex information during public health emergencies since it usually widely read and able to cover the story in depth. Our study indicated that although there were some headlines considered inflammatory or causing panic, most of the print media in Australia during the first months of the COVID-19 demonstrated appropriate information to the public.


Biography: 

I am a recent graduate of Master Student of Public Health at the University of Technology Sydney. I also hold a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering from Philadelphia University (Jordan). In terms of experience, I am currently doing an internship at Life Without Barriers. My medium-term goal is to do a Ph.D. in the field of public health.

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