Milken Institute School of Public Health Poster Presentations (Marvin Center & Video)

Title

How the Media Frames a Crisis: Emotion of Ebola in Liberia

Poster Number

99

Document Type

Poster

Status

Graduate Student - Masters

Abstract Category

Prevention and Community Health

Keywords

emotions; behavior; health crisis; Ebola virus disease; risk communication

Publication Date

4-2017

Abstract

Liberia made headlines in 2014 due to the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic that recorded over 11,000 confirmed cases and 4,800 deaths. The crisis was sudden, unexpected, and threatened the stability of a country that was recovering from a decade of civil unrest. In this context, local populations mainly relied on traditional media to obtain news information and learn about health behaviors. Risk communication research has shown that emotion affects attitude, which in turn influence behavior. It is known that during crises such as health emergencies, members of the public display a range of emotions that can affect their level of action toward the adoption of prevention practices. Yet, distinct emotions yield distinct outcomes; for instance, fear increases risk perception while anger decreases risk perception. Moreover, previous research has estimated that emotional frames used by news media can cause similar emotions in their audiences. Positive emotions tend to calm anxiety and reduce perceived threat. This study assessed the range, frames, and intensity of emotions communicated by news media during the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. The analysis is based on a large random sample of newspaper articles from Liberian dailies (n=745) and local radio programs (n=182 audio files) from January 2014 to December 2015. Six coders, deemed to have high inter-coder reliability, K≥.85 coded communication materials produced in English and based on definitions drawn from a theoretically-guided codebook. Results showed that hope and fear were the main emotions expressed in both radio and newspapers. More than 70% of radio programs and about half of newspaper articles communicated hope as the primary emotion while fear appeared as the primary emotion in about 30% of print articles. The analysis suggests that the media had a large imprint on the emotional tone of the crisis; and understanding of emotional responses can potentially inform the design and implementation of risk communication efforts during crises that are supported by the public and thus, become more likely to yield harm reduction. Therefore, the design of effective risk communication tools can be enhanced by efforts that utilize an emotion-based perspective to decode the emotional states different publics are experiencing during any given crisis.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Open Access

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Poster to be presented at GW Annual Research Days 2017.

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How the Media Frames a Crisis: Emotion of Ebola in Liberia

Liberia made headlines in 2014 due to the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic that recorded over 11,000 confirmed cases and 4,800 deaths. The crisis was sudden, unexpected, and threatened the stability of a country that was recovering from a decade of civil unrest. In this context, local populations mainly relied on traditional media to obtain news information and learn about health behaviors. Risk communication research has shown that emotion affects attitude, which in turn influence behavior. It is known that during crises such as health emergencies, members of the public display a range of emotions that can affect their level of action toward the adoption of prevention practices. Yet, distinct emotions yield distinct outcomes; for instance, fear increases risk perception while anger decreases risk perception. Moreover, previous research has estimated that emotional frames used by news media can cause similar emotions in their audiences. Positive emotions tend to calm anxiety and reduce perceived threat. This study assessed the range, frames, and intensity of emotions communicated by news media during the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. The analysis is based on a large random sample of newspaper articles from Liberian dailies (n=745) and local radio programs (n=182 audio files) from January 2014 to December 2015. Six coders, deemed to have high inter-coder reliability, K≥.85 coded communication materials produced in English and based on definitions drawn from a theoretically-guided codebook. Results showed that hope and fear were the main emotions expressed in both radio and newspapers. More than 70% of radio programs and about half of newspaper articles communicated hope as the primary emotion while fear appeared as the primary emotion in about 30% of print articles. The analysis suggests that the media had a large imprint on the emotional tone of the crisis; and understanding of emotional responses can potentially inform the design and implementation of risk communication efforts during crises that are supported by the public and thus, become more likely to yield harm reduction. Therefore, the design of effective risk communication tools can be enhanced by efforts that utilize an emotion-based perspective to decode the emotional states different publics are experiencing during any given crisis.