May 28, 2009

Swine Flu Coverage around the World

Methodology

As a special report, Swine Flu Coverage around the World is based on the aggregated data collected by the Project for Excellence in Journalism from six international newspapers during the period April 27 to May 10, 2009, three Spanish-language newspapers in the U.S. and three English-language papers in the U.S. This timeframe includes the week where media coverage of the H1N1 virus peaked and the week immediately following. Data on the English-language newspapers in the U.S. was based on PEJ’s weekly News Coverage Index.

Sample

For the daily newspapers, PEJ studied the period April 27-May 10, 2009. In selecting the countries to include in the study, PEJ aimed to obtain a diverse worldwide perspective on coverage of the virus. The choice on which papers to code was based both on the paper’s popularity within a country and availability of an e-paper version of the newspaper. The full list of papers is as follows:

El Dario/La Prensa (Spanish Language U.S.)
El Nuevo Herald (Spanish Language U.S.)
La Opinion (Spanish Language U.S.)
El Universal (Mexico)
Toronto Star (Canada)
La Vanguardio (Spain)
People’s Daily (China)
New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Le Figaro (France)

During this period all stories that were at least 50% about the H1N1 flu virus were captured for analysis.

Story Capture

All of the international newspapers and the Spanish-language U.S. papers except for the People’s Daily from China were available online at Pressdisplay.com, a Web service that provides exact digital copies of each newspaper, and all relevant articles were obtained. PEJ archived all relevant articles Monday through Friday of each week and Sundays for papers that had an available Sunday edition. The People’s Daily e-paper was obtained on the newspaper’s website.

PEJ conducted both quantitative and qualitative analyses of H1N1 flu coverage in some of the most popular papers of Canada, China, France, Mexico, New Zealand and Spain. Because the formats of some of the newspapers varied, in cases of tabloid newspapers with headlines referring to the H1N1 virus, the article corresponding to the headline on the front page of the paper was coded.

Stories appearing in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times were obtained either by hard copy (New York Times and Washington Post) or by a Lexis Nexis search (Los Angeles Times) to determine placement and access to the text of the articles.

Coding Design

Once the stories were collected, PEJ used the content analysis method employing software designed to organize the stories according to specific variables. We selected several different variables that would allow us to measure each article quantitatively and qualitatively. For this project, the English-language stories had already been coded and identified in the News Coverage Index as being on theH1N1 virus, and PEJ went back in the database and isolated those stories and combined them with the Spanish-language and International stories in the database. Key variables include:

  • publication
  • date
  • story format
  • frame
  • geographic focus

The qualitative aspect of the project focused on examining the articles for tone, language use and any other similarities or differences found across newspapers. The stories were analyzed and coded in their respective languages.
The complete methodology of the NCI is available here.