News media coverage of U.S. Ebola policies: Implications for communication during future infectious disease threats

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The Ebola outbreak of 2014–2015 raised concerns about the disease's potential spread in the U.S. and received significant news media coverage. Prior research has shown that news media coverage of policy options can influence public opinion regarding those policies, as well as public attitudes toward the broader social issues and target populations addressed by such policies. To assess news media coverage of Ebola policies, the content of U.S.-focused news stories (n = 1262) published between July 1 and November 30, 2014 from 12 news sources was analyzed for 13 policy-related messages. Eight-two percent of news stories mentioned one or more policy-related messages. The most frequently appearing policy-related messages overall were those about isolation (47%) and quarantine (40%). The least frequently mentioned policy-related message described dividing potentially exposed persons into distinct groups based on their level of Ebola risk in order to set different levels of restrictions (5%). Message frequency differed depending on whether news sources were located in an area that experienced an Ebola case or controversy, by news sources' political ideological perspective, and by type of news source (print and television). All policy-related messages showed significant increases in frequency after the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in the U.S. on September 30, 2014, with the exception of messages related to isolation, which showed a significant decrease. Results offer insight into how the news media covers policies to manage emerging disease threats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-120
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive Medicine
Volume93
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

Keywords

  • Disease outbreaks
  • Ebola
  • Hemorrhagic fever
  • Mass media
  • Policy
  • Public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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