Documenting the Response to the Ebola Epidemic in Liberia through the Perspective of the Local Press

News QuaranteenJoin Kwame Sakyi and William R. Brieger of the he Johns Hopkins University at ASTMH Annual Meeting Afternoon Scientific Session #87 on Ebola on Tuesday at 1.45 pm to learn more about how the Liberian Press portrayed Ebola as seen in the Abstract below.

Mass media play an important role in documenting national responses to crises like Ebola. Reviewing media documentation helps a country better prepare for current and future public health challenges. Ebola articles first appeared in the Liberian press in March 2014. Our objectives were to determine the frequency of newspaper accounts and the major issues covered.

We conducted content analysis of Ebola coverage in three Liberian newspapers from March through December 2014. We reviewed electronic publications of three main newspapers by searching for the term “Ebola”.

Cases deaths articlesData collected for each article included date of publication, and topic. Data were compiled in Microsoft Excel. After reading the first 50 articles, we inductively generated codes to capture the news content and compiled these into a codebook. The codebook was constantly refined as additional articles were read. Codes were organized into major themes.

A total of 1,793 articles were published across the 3 newspapers over the 10-month period. The frequency of publications on Ebola ranged from 27 in March 2014, but increased to 95 April. Coverage dropped to only 15 in June, but began to rise sharply in August (227), reaching its peak in October (345).

Major ThemesNews reports frequency paralleled the incidence pattern of the disease. Major themes included the state of the epidemic, health care, psychosocial issues, international aid, political response, prevention, and local support. Overall political response to Ebola and the impact of Ebola on health workers received the most attention. In the early days common themes were border security and requests for aid.

At the peak key themes were health worker problems and political responses. A review of the national press during a crisis like Ebola provides a valuable overview of the response of the different players ranging from health services and NGOs to international partners and government. It reflects political will and conflicts and can help a central operations team better coordinate resources and responses of partners.

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