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Media Framing of COVID-19 Racial Disparities: Lessons from Memphis, Tennessee

Media Framing of COVID-19 Racial Disparities: Lessons from Memphis, Tennessee COVID-19 has impacted millions of people in the United States, but Black individuals have been disproportionately burdened by this disease. Researchers find that individuals have used news media, especially local news media, to inform themselves about the coronavirus pandemic. Because of this, media has power in shaping the way we see and understand unfolding events related to COVID-19. Using framing theory and critical race theory, we conducted a thematic analysis of 59 Memphis news stories printed or aired between April 2020 and June 2020. We were interested in understanding how local media framed racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths. We find that local media relied on individualist or biological explanations for why more Black Americans got COVID-19 and died from it. In addition, while some journalists acknowledged the role of systemic racism in COVID-19 health outcomes, most reaffirmed racial stereotypes grounded in cultural racism. Health inequities due to structural racism are persistent, yet local news overwhelmingly reported COVID-19 race disparities as an outcome due to individual health behavior instead of acknowledging the contemporary and historical systemic barriers that produced racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes. The consequence was a public health response that relied on individual responsibility instead of proactive approaches to mitigating the spread and negative effects of COVID-19. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sociology of Race and Ethnicity SAGE

Media Framing of COVID-19 Racial Disparities: Lessons from Memphis, Tennessee

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Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© American Sociological Association 2022
ISSN
2332-6492
eISSN
2332-6506
DOI
10.1177/23326492221099248
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

COVID-19 has impacted millions of people in the United States, but Black individuals have been disproportionately burdened by this disease. Researchers find that individuals have used news media, especially local news media, to inform themselves about the coronavirus pandemic. Because of this, media has power in shaping the way we see and understand unfolding events related to COVID-19. Using framing theory and critical race theory, we conducted a thematic analysis of 59 Memphis news stories printed or aired between April 2020 and June 2020. We were interested in understanding how local media framed racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths. We find that local media relied on individualist or biological explanations for why more Black Americans got COVID-19 and died from it. In addition, while some journalists acknowledged the role of systemic racism in COVID-19 health outcomes, most reaffirmed racial stereotypes grounded in cultural racism. Health inequities due to structural racism are persistent, yet local news overwhelmingly reported COVID-19 race disparities as an outcome due to individual health behavior instead of acknowledging the contemporary and historical systemic barriers that produced racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes. The consequence was a public health response that relied on individual responsibility instead of proactive approaches to mitigating the spread and negative effects of COVID-19.

Journal

Sociology of Race and EthnicitySAGE

Published: Jul 1, 2022

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