This study is examined Nigerian newspaper coverage of coronavirus in Nigeria. Also to know the prominence attached and how intensive the stories were written. The objectives of this study were to examine the frequency of newspaper reportage of coronavirus in Nigeria, to ascertain the prominence given to the issue of coronavirus, in term of news placement by the selected newspapers, to examine the space given to the issue of coronavirus by the selected newspapers. Content analysis was used based on simple random sampling for newspaper coverage on coronavirus in Nigeria by Daily Trust, The Punch, and The Nation newspapers for the period of six months each, i.e. between March and August, 2020 where a total of 270 editions were selected for the month of March, May and July, 2020. The findings revealed that Nigerian newspaper gave adequate coverage to coronavirus in Nigeria because the number of stories used reporting the issues were high. It recommended that the media should always continue to sensitize the general public on the negative effects of not adhering to safety measures against coronavirus in Nigeria.
1.1 Background to the Study
In late December 2019, an outbreak of new coronavirus strain was identified in China. By 2 February 2020, the World Health Organization reports, 14,557 cases of the strain had been confirmed worldwide, with 304 deaths in China and one outside China (AfricaCheck, 2020).
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans (World Health Organization, 2019).
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans (WHO, 2019).
Nigeria joined Algeria, Egypt and other countries in the African region for the case of COVID-19 following the confirmation of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in
Lagos – Nigeria by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) on the 27th of February
2020, as a result of return of an Italian citizen from Milan-Italy, there is an emergency towards prevention, control and containment of the dreaded coronavirus disease that was discovered to have emanated from Wuhan China (NCDC, 2020).
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (2020), the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) appears to cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms like cough, fever and breathing difficulties. From current evidence about 98 persons out of 100 persons with the disease recover, and it appears that death is not a common outcome, mostly in patients with underlying health issues. The FMOH (2020) advised all Nigerians to take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect selves and others, including their families.
The media have the power to direct our attention towards certain issues; they can do this by setting agenda through repetition of health crisis reports. According to Cohen (1963), the media may not be successful in telling their readers what to think, but are stunningly successful in telling their readers what to think about. Considering the power of the media to give prominence on an issue, the awareness of the people about things around them can be reactivated by the media.
In promoting the ethical value of health communication, The World Health Organization (WHO) states that ‘information is a basic right and health for all is a priority throughout the World. The combination of the two elements ‘health’ and ‘information’ from an ethical point of view is more than the arithmetical sum of the two factors (Miranda et al, 2008). Mass media information on health-related issues may induce changes in health services utilization, both through planned campaigns and unplanned coverage. The current emphasis on consumerism in the delivery of health care highlights the potentially important role of mass media in increasing the public awareness of research findings and promoting the utilization of effective and efficient health services (Grilli, Ramsay and Minozzi, 2009).
Abone (2013) also assert that the mass media are referred to as a key component of global strategy for sustainable health issues. The media play vital role in every society as they shape culture, influence politics, affect people’s attitude, play important roles in health and business as well as affect the daily lives of millions. This explains why Mustapha (2014), avers that without the media, it would be impossible for health promoters and stakeholders to disseminate information as well as monitor and coordinate the activities of the various countries on health issues.
Dzeble (2006) noted that the press has a responsibility of originating opinion on vital issues and the provision of information to people to enable them make vital decisions that affect their lives. Admittedly also, the way newspapers frame issues in their coverage has a strong bearing on the kind of information they provide and how the information is appreciated and understood by the general public.”
The press play significant role in shaping society’s perception and opinion on societal issues. They are one of the major avenues through which people depend on for social, political and economic news. As Lipmann (2000), quoted by Eklu (2004) rightly pointed out, “it is very difficult to know everything through direct experience but we largely depend on pictures in our heads, which are conveyed to us by the news media, to get information.
Paimre and Harro-Loit (2011) also contend that events, social problems, people or facts become significant only as a result of media coverage. It is for this reason that newspapers, since their inception, have been regarded as the mirror of society, reflecting the images of societal happenings. Indeed, much of our knowledge on issues relating to politics, economics and society in general is made possible through newspapers. Consequently, the ways in which newspapers choose to cover social issues can have important ramifications, influencing how individuals in society perceive those issues and their response to them.
Modern society does not only depend upon mass communication, but the process itself defines the nature of mass society where more citizens will depend on the media for much of what they know. This is because (the coronavirus disease and other) emerging health diseases can only be made known by the media. The media have a big role to play in such conditions noted above. Since the media is relied on for the reportage of accurate and trustable information on topical issues like on health related matters, it is believed that the mass media has important roles to play. In the event of a public health emergency or a natural disaster, coverage of risk is influenced by the level of importance journalists give to it. The importance of an event or occurrences is also a selling point for newspapers. This is seen on the front pages of newspapers (Aliagan, 2014).
Basically, one of the functions of the media is surveillance of the society by unearthing potential and present dangers and pointing the way forward. This study, therefore, is on content analysis of coronavirus coverage by Nigerian newspapers.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
With the speed at which the recently discovered coronavirus is spreading there is a need for everyone to be at alert to avoid contacting the disease. Moreso, the submission of the World Health Organization (WHO) that while the present type of coronavirus was transmitted from cat, several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. This shows that without proper awareness and care, especially keeping hygienic environment, there could be outbreak of coronavirus in Nigeria just like the case of Lassa Fever.
The mass media is expected to be at the forefront of educating the masses that personal hygiene, hands hygiene and personal protective equipment like nose masks, eye goggles, face masks, hand gloves, etc. provides safety to all who are disciplined and committed to such practices in a time like this. This is because reporting cases of coranavirus is not enough but also emphasizing personal hygiene and other safety measures in various reports should be media business in such health emergency time
However, figures released on daily basis by the NCDC show that the
coronavirus is fast spreading among Nigerians. As a result of this, there appears a need to assess how newspapers have played their roles in setting agenda on it by content analyzing selected national newspapers.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study are:
- To examine the frequency of newspaper reportage of coronavirus in Nigeria
- To ascertain the prominence given to the issue of coronavirus, in term of newsplacement by the selected newspapers
- To examine the space given to the issue of coronavirus by the selected newspapers
1.4 Research Questions
- What is the frequency of newspaper reportage of coronavirus in Nigeria?
- What prominence is given to the issue of coronavirus, in term of news placement by the selected newspapers?
- What is the degree of space given to coronavirus in the selected newspapers?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The study would help to reveal the role of media in educating Nigeria on how to curtail the spread of coronavirus. This is because the media is expected to set agenda around such issue.
The study also find significance in the sense that the results could serve as reference material for researchers, civil society organizations, government and other agencies in making policy decisions regarding outbreak of pandemic in Nigeria.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study is on Nigerian newspaper coverage of coronavirus in Nigeria. This study is limited to three national dailies (Daily Trust, The Nation and The Punch newspapers).
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Newspaper: This refers to any unbound periodical publication containing items such as news, features, editorials, sports etc that operates in Nigeria. The newspapers here are Daily Trust, The Punch and The Nations newspapers.
Coverage: This referred to news reports in the newspapers, especially those in The Punch and The Nations newspapers on coronavirus.
Coronavirus: This is a pandemic disease that causes mild to severe respiratory symptoms like cough, fever and breathing difficulties. It can also lead to the death of a patient.
Nature/kind of Coverage: This has to do with the level and type of coverage The
Punch and The Nation gave to coronavirus.