For the past year, most of us have developed a fatigue when it comes to COVID news. Deena DeVore, a doctoral student in UNLV’s department of criminal justice, bucked this trend and spent hours poring over CNN’s and Breitbart’s coverage of the global pandemic. To be more specific, she analyzed 716 news reports.
“Our understanding of ‘facts’ and ‘reality’ are actively constructed through our consumption of the media, our interpretation of it,” DeVore said. By analyzing two ideologically opposed news outlets, DeVore hoped to better understand how and why Americans across the political spectrum learned about and talked about COVID-19.
“News reports were examined through three key perspectives of framing,” DeVore explained. The three dominant themes she looked for were severity of the virus; medical or scientific facts about the virus; and responsibility, or a focus on who – whether that be a country or government body – was responsible for the virus.
“I think a more responsible framing of such a serious event like COVID-19 should matter because it is all part of the everyday collective understanding of what COVID really is,” DeVore said.
DeVore often encountered xenophobic slurs and messaging while reading through COVID-related news.
“The xenophobic undertones seen in some of this reporting may be a contributor to the recent violence against Asian Americans, demonstrating how important it is to understand how news media constructs ‘reality,’” she said.
This most recent research project stems from an earlier project in which she collaborated with UNLV professor Hong Lu, fellow UNLV Ph.D. candidate Sinyong Choi, and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley professor Yudu Li to comparatively analyze COVID news coverage in China, South Korea, and the United States.
“While working on the larger project, I thought it was interesting that the differences in the U.S. outlets along the xenophobic tone was so extreme. These differences were less pronounced in the Chinese and South Korean outlets,” DeVore said.
This comparative project began just as UNLV made the announcement that campus would be closing, but DeVore found research a way to cope with the strangeness and scariness of the pandemic.
“I knew the huge impact that the pandemic was having on me, in my own personal struggles, andmso the opportunity to really get into the topic of the pandemic was a way for me to constructively channel my anxiety,” DeVore said.