ISSN: 1550-7521

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Research Article Open Access

Print Media and Global Pandemics: A Look at the News Reports in the Kenyan Press during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract

This paper sets out to gain insight into the reporting by print media during a period of a global pandemic. Print media has long been described as powerful based on its potential to bring about desirable change in our societies - especially by how it presents its news. However, even though various commentaries acknowledge this power, there are growing concerns that this news media is failing to meet this potential, more so during an event of a large-scale outbreak of an infectious disease. The core text of this paper explores these concerns based on the kind of reporting of the coronavirus pandemic in Kenya, by the country’s leading newspaper: The Daily Nation. It focuses on two copies of this newspaper which were published on July 16 and 19, 2020. These newspapers are selected based on having several news articles on the impact of this pandemic in the country. These articles are analysed by way of qualitative content analysis, where the theorisation of what media ought to be and how it should function, which forms a part of this paper’s core text, provides a vital backdrop for conducting it. This analysis establishes that these news articles tend to generate a lot of fear and uncertainty, and for this reason, are thought to be mostly sensationalist in their reports about the pandemic. These reports are by large developed from the government’s official statements on the pandemic and interviews with high ranking government officials and other prominent individuals in the civil society. It is proposed, in light of such findings, that Kenya’s print media should uphold objectivity in the presentation of its news, especially at a time of a global pandemic. This can be achieved, in part, when it organises frequent workshops where its journalists are trained in the area of health reporting. Its editorial team should also encourage its journalists to conduct extensive research in the build-up of news stories, which would mean avoiding overreliance on official statements and interviews with prominent individuals. It is assumed that insights from the not so prominent can also be illuminating, and should therefore be considered in the production of news at a time of a pandemic.

Geoffrey Korir

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