The world has experienced global pandemics, just to mention a few such as H1N1 Influenza Virus of 1918, H2N2 Flu Virus of 1957, H3N2 Virus of 1968, HIV/AIDS of 1981, H1N1pdm09 Virus of 2009. By the end of December, 2019, the unknown virus which appeared in Wuhan, China as cases of pneumonia was finally identified on January, 2020 by Chinese authorities as a novel coronavirus initially named 2019-CoV by the World Health Organisation (WHO). On January 11, 2020 China had recorded its first coronavirus death, followed by other recorded cases in Japan. USA, on the other hand recorded its first coronavirus case in January 30, 2020, followed by Africa’s first coronavirus case in Egypt on the 14th of February, 2020. Subsequently, the WHO declared the novel coronavirus as global pandemic by March, 2020. In West Africa, Ghana recorded her first case on March, 12 2020 followed by a national lockdown from the 30th of March till the 19th of April, 2020.
Global pandemics are always seen as threats to human existence and hence the maximum attention from media. The role of the media in shaping and influencing social behavior, attitudes and direction cannot be ignored. As a social force, the media through its news selection processes, its able to assigned degrees of high and low importance to issues in society. Furthermore, the media has consistently been playing an effective social mobilization role in informing the public on pandemic outbreaks, and on the prescribed protocols for pandemic management.
Pandemic and Public Sensitization
During pandemics, the media act as the trusted public source for information and knowledge, it manages public anxiety and act as the custodian between scientific sources and government interventions. Notwithstanding the role each media segment or type plays during pandemic, the public reposes higher degree of trust in printed news as compared to web pages. A study, conducted by Ipsos Research Advisor revealed. Mobilizing the public towards the management of pandemic depends on how the media sensitize the public and subsequently shapes their perceptions. An example of media sensitization article is: “COVID-19 real” (Daily Graphic, 08/02/2021:1). The critical importance of media sensitization is what introduced this study. Daily Graphic was selected for this pointer study since it is a highly respected medium within the Ghanaian media ecology and is read by the larger population, opinion leaders and it also champions national discourses. The period for this study is: 27th January, 2021 – 28th February, 2021 marked as Ghana’s second wave of COVID-19. This pointer study used quantitative news content analysis to measure the level of sensitisation and non-sensitization news stories as expressed through straight news, editorials, column news, and features. Furthermore, it looked at the salient thematic contexts from which sensitizations evolved as revealed in the results below:
The data results showed that 49% of the news were public-sensitisation oriented as against 51% non-sensitisation. In terms of contextual themes, the media focused on the impact of COVID-19 on health facilities, donations of PPEs and even the proper way of wearing face masks. Although the data population may not be large, this study serves as a pointer towards public-sensitisation reporting during pandemics such as COVID-19 and as a way of drawing the media attention towards its public sensitization efforts. Similarly, this study could spur interest in COVID-19 news reporting studies.
The writer is a lecturer at the Communications Studies Department of the University of Professional Studies Accra (UPSA) and Founder of the Institute of Brands Narrative Analysis (IBNA) a strategic media intelligence agency: Email- [email protected]