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Comparing “insider” and “outsider” news coverage of the 2014 Ebola outbreak


OBJECTIVES: Information provided by news media during an infectious disease outbreak can affect the actions taken to safeguard public health. There has been little evaluation of how the content of news published during an outbreak varies by location of the news outlet. This study analyzes coverage of the 2014 Ebola outbreak by one news outlet operating within a country affected by the outbreak and one country not directly affected.

METHODS: A qualitative content analysis was conducted of articles published in two national news outlets, The Globe and Mail (Canada) and the Vanguard (Nigeria), between January 1 and December 31, 2014. Articles available through LexisNexis Academic were sorted by date and sampled using a stratified sampling method (The Globe and Mail n = 100; Vanguard n = 105). A coding scheme was developed and modified to incorporate emerging themes until saturation was achieved.

RESULTS: There were substantial differences in outbreak coverage in terms of the topic and content of the articles, as well as the sources consulted. The Globe and Mail framed the outbreak in terms of national security and national interests, as well as presenting it as an international humanitarian crisis. In contrast, the Vanguard framed the outbreak almost exclusively in terms of public health.

CONCLUSION: Our findings highlight how different geographic contexts can shape reporting on the same event. Further research is required to investigate how the political, social or economic situations of a country shape its news media, potentially influencing actions taken to control disease outbreaks.


OBJECTIF : Les informations fournies par les médias lors d’une épidémie peuvent avoir un effet sur les mesures prises pour protéger la santé des populations. Très peu d’études ont analysé le contenu des articles de journaux portant sur des épidémies et la variation de ce contenu selon la région du journal. Cette étude analyse les articles portant sur l’épidémie d’Ebola publiés en 2014 dans deux journaux: un journal provenant d’un pays directement affecté par l’épidémie et un autre provenant d’un pays n’étant pas directement affecté.

MÉTHODES : Nous avons effectué une analyse qualitative du contenu des articles publiés entre le 1er janvier et le 31 décembre 2014 par The Globe and Mail (Canada) et le Vanguard (Nigeria), disponibles sur LexisNexis Academic. Les articles ont été triés par date et échantillonnés en utilisant une méthode d’échantillonnage stratifié (Globe and Mail n = 100; Vanguard n = 105). Le schéma de codage initial et a été modifié en cours d’analyse afin d’intégrer les thèmes émergents jusqu’à l’atteinte de la saturation des thèmes.

RÉSULTATS : Les sujets abordés, le contenu des articles et les sources consultées variaient d’un journal à l’autre. The Globe and Mail a présenté l’épidémie sous l’angle de la sécurité nationale et des intérêts nationaux, ainsi qu’en tant que crise humanitaire internationale. Par contre, le Vanguard a présenté l’épidémie presque exclusivement en termes de santé publique.

CONCLUSION : Nos résultats indiquent que le contexte géographique peut façonner la manière dont sont rapportées les informations sur une épidémie. Les recherches futures pourraient explorer comment la situation politique, sociale ou économique d’un pays influence le contenu des médias, ce qui peut éventuellement orienter les mesures prises pour contrôler une épidémie.


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Correspondence to Martha Radice PhD.

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Acknowledgements: Brittany Humphries has a scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Fonds d’enseignement et de recherche of the Faculty of Pharmacy, Université Laval; Sophie Lauzier holds a research scholar award from the Fonds de recherche du Québec–Santé in partnership with the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux. No funding was requested for this study.

Conflict of Interest: None to declare.

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Humphries, B., Radice, M. & Lauzier, S. Comparing “insider” and “outsider” news coverage of the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Can J Public Health 108, 381–387 (2017).

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Key words

  • Ebola virus disease
  • qualitative research
  • mass media
  • Canada
  • Nigeria

Mots Clés

  • maladie à virus Ebola
  • recherche qualitative
  • médias de masse
  • Canada
  • Nigéria